A plea to pastors: be real

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I recently wrote a post that got some folks pretty fired up.

I wrote my 7 reasons for why nobody really likes cats. Turns out, that’ll get some people pretty angry. And how I think that “the only good cat is a dead cat.”

I made it clear that it was just a joke post, and that I was just having a bit of fun. I don’t really want to kill cats. If I see one in the road, I swerve to miss it. If I’m at your house and you have a cat, I’ll sneeze and scratch my eyes, but I’ll pet your cat. And I’ll talk to it in that little baby voice we talk to when we communicate with small animals.

I was having a bit of fun with my post. Why?

Because not everything that comes out of my mouth is a Scripture reference and a word of wisdom.

Confession: I am a real person.

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It’s okay for you, too, if everything that comes out of your mouth is not be spiritual. You have my permission. Especially if you’re a pastor.

In fact, I believe that’s one of the reasons why Grace, where I was on staff, was successful: our pastors were real people. That’s one of the reasons why I believe Long Hollow is successful, too: our pastors are real people. With real struggles. Real pain. Real shortcomings. Real victories. Real families. Real hobbies.

When pastors talk in King James and end their every sentence with, “thus saith the Lord,” it gives the appearance that they’re perfect, inadvertently preaching that they have nothing wrong, struggle with nothing, and have every answer to every question ever asked.

Pastors: please be a real person.

The danger of detachment

You have a different calling, with higher responsibilities. There are certain expectations placed on you by God Himself, and God will hold you accountable for the way you taught and led. But that doesn’t mean you have to abandon everything in life except your Bible. The more you detach yourself from regular life the more you’ll find yourself detached from the people you’re called to lead. If the people you lead are in to football, you need to be in to football. If they’re in to raising pigs, you need to be in to raising pigs. If they’re in to hiking, you need to be in to hiking. Paul says it like this: “I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.” (1 Corinthians 9:22)

If you don’t have that thing that you enjoy, you’ll burn out, too. You can’t be a spiritual superhero all of the time. You’ll burn out and break. You need a release, and a chance to unwind. Find a TV show you and your spouse can watch together. Go golfing with the guys. Take your kids to a baseball game. Take off your pastor hat.

The more you share about who you are, even the parts of you that aren’t perfect and polished, the more you’ll be able to show people just how big of a God you serve. If you’re broken, you show people just how much you need Jesus. If you’re a mess, you paint a picture of a King that is full of grace.

It’s easier to relate with a real person that with one who doesn’t encounter regular life issues. It’s easier to connect with a pastor who follows Jesus but admittedly doesn’t have it all figured out. Why?

Because you don’t have it all figured out, either.

There was only one perfect man. And He’s the one I point people towards.

Which doesn’t mean that I don’t like football. Or golf. Or that I’m not going to say something dumb some time.

I’m sorry that I do that. I’m human. I don’t like that I’m still fallen, and still struggle. But offer me some grace.

And laugh at my jokes, even if you don’t think they’re funny. Please? 



Christ follower, husband, father, writer, small groups pastor at Saddleback Community Church. Communications director for the Small Group Network.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • http://www.jasonvana.com Jason Vana

    I love that you wrote on is topic, Ben. It’s something we tend to ignore or push aside when trying to be good leaders. We have to be real. The students and other leaders in my ministry know that I have shortcomings, that I have hobbies and that I have a definitely weird side when I don’t get enough sleep (gotta love weekend retreats). It makes me more approachable and takes me down off any pedestal people try to put me on. Good word!

    • http://www.benreed.net Ben Reed

      Yes…that approachability piece is huge!

  • Margaret

    great topic– so true and needed. don’t worry. I’m not a cat person, either

    • http://www.benreed.net Ben Reed


  • http://www.facebook.com/kerri.archer Kerri Archer

    This reminds me once of a conversation I was having with a young man at the grocery store. He was telling me a story, and it included some ‘colorful’ language. One of the ladies from our church overheard him speaking with me. She ran over to him, grabbed him by the arm, and chastised him, “You can’t use those words around her; she’s my pastor’s wife!!” I just chuckled and assured the young man that I had heard those words before and I would have stopped him if he was offending me.

    • http://www.benreed.net Ben Reed

      I’m sure he felt comforted knowing you weren’t offended.

  • http://bit.ly/hWr7Cw Rob T

    you should have written this whole post in the KJV. :-)

    • http://www.benreed.net Ben Reed


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