Pastoral Confessions: Being Ourselves



Do you know your pastor? I mean, do you really know your pastor?
There is a serious disconnect with the public recognition and expectations of the pastoral office and the family life that comes along with that. Sure I can understand the congregational psyche of looking to the pastor as the “one” as if they’ve achieved some level of holiness. Someone’s gotta be able to show that this Christian life is possible. Is that realistic?

Yes, possible while stumbling through all the way to those pearly gates.
Thankfully, our hope is not in a sinner that’s been called out to be called “pastor”.

The playing field has leveled out. People are people regardless of rank and gender. We’re in this together. We’re all together on a mission to heal the world. We are the priesthood of believers. The way we think and talk about individuals has to be retooled. I’d like to think we’ve changed and have come so far as the church but I guess that’s why we’re always 20-30 years behind the times. Same old thinking about roles, gender, sin, mission, evangelism…I could go on.

Pastoral authenticity is so crucial to today’s sensibilities. We’ve got to be real and discerning not talking heads. Not someone who’s out of touch with personal pain and suffering. Not someone who thinks they’re always right and they’ve got all the answers. Yes, above reproach but not infallible. Jesus-ish just not Jesus.

We’re not the standard for living. If that’s the case then why don’t members in our congregations take a serious pay-cuts? Don’t use us as the standard for what to watch and read, asking if we read Harry Potter or watch this show or movie.

Then add in the mulit-dimensional factors like marriage and parenting as if any of us have done this before we’ve been married. My boys will be boys. Perhaps like me and perhaps not. For their sake, better not.  Include the nuances of Chinese culture and you have foreboding doom following overhead. With all these unrealistic perceptions and expectations, being a pastor in the Chinese church or not is a nearly impossible task. Pastors are destined for disappointment, implosion and isolation. There’s so much inner turmoil with no outlet for confession because of shame and honestly, pride. Ah, to be merely mortal.

“The Church can be a thankless employer, with poor boundaries between private and public space, vague practices about holidays and days off, laughable job descriptions and few opportunities to congratulate oneself on a job well done and completed.” – Jane Williams

I’ve always appreciated Archbishop Rowan Williams but I think I loving his wife more right now. She just outted us all in a new book called, “Marriage, Mitres and Being Myself.” Amen and thank you.

She writes how the spouses of church leaders are expected to entertain guests as well as raising children and following their own careers, and admitted visitors to Lambeth Palace are sometimes “shocked” at how untidy it is.

In the Chinese church there’s this thing about pastor’s wives, it’s like having a two-for-one deal. They’re expected to serve almost just as much without the pay and recognition. It’s interesting that she is also called not by name but a title, “See-Moh”, literally, “pastor’s wife”. My church doesn’t practice this ;).

Is it too much to ask to simply, be myself? or at least for my wife to be herself?

How appropriate that I’m writing this as The Dark Knight is being released today. There’s a narrative in there for us as pastors. We are our own dark knights struggling with inner conflicts. We know about shadows and light. I want to be Superman but I’m more Bruce Wayne than Clark Kent.
I love the marketing campaign…Why so serious?
We really do need to take ourselves less seriously and just live.

Also related
Pastoral Confessions: Should I stay or Should I go now?
Pastoral Confessions [i]


6 Responses to “Pastoral Confessions: Being Ourselves”

  1. July 18, 2008 at 11:57 pm

    LT — Yes! Thank you again for writing with such honesty and clarity.

    You’ve just described our EM perfectly and what my wife and I are trying to do as we pastor them. Our EM members have been raised as total church consumers — show up (sometimes), consume some religious goods and services and then head back into “real life.” Transitioning from just attending a church location to *being* the church looks like a long-haul proposition for us.

    The priesthood of all believers is our rallying cry these days. Instead of being the pastor/shaman with magical powers, we’re trying to build a community of friends and, as pastors, we want to encourage and empower these friends to live out whatever dreams God has for them. This is shaping up to be a painfully slow transition though.

    On top of that, factor in the gender struggles — my wife and I have the same education and experience in ministry, but it’s uphill all the way for her. So frustrating.

    Dude, whatever conclusions you draw, I’m just going to point our people to you and tell them, “Just do what he says.” 🙂

  2. July 19, 2008 at 2:18 am

    Wow….awesome post…and so timely! thanks for the fresh word and view within the glass house!

  3. July 19, 2008 at 4:23 pm

    LT, I think you have highlighted an important issue not just for ABC Pastors, or even Pastors in particular. We’re all vulnerable to this once we make a stand on who we aspire to be in our lives. Sometimes there are external observers condemning us, and sometimes we are our own worse enemies, criticizing ourselves unmercifully when we fail to live up to what we want from ourselves.

    I find it refreshing when a pastor’s wife prays through her own calling and holds true to it, even if it doesn’t fit the “mold” of what a church expects from her. My niece, for instance, continued a modeling and acting career while her husband was pastoring. She took some heat for it, but she knew who she was and stood firm.

    A little understanding goes a long way.

  4. 4 Jas
    July 22, 2008 at 4:10 pm

    Yessiree! Now what do you do if the wife is the Mok-C and the husband is along for the ride, like in my case? Do you call him C-Fu?? See? The Chinese dont even have a real title for ‘pastor’s husband!’ >_< That sux.
    Yes – must cut thru these highly unrealistic cultural expectations. I must teach my congregation to be Christian first — humble, lowly, meek, genuine; and not Chinese first — face, honor, shame, appearances. You get the idea.
    Love your blog, LT! ^_^

  5. 5 L T
    July 24, 2008 at 7:36 am

    hmmm. good question jas…i don’t know what they call a pastor’s husband.
    we should ask sandy moy-liu at cbcgb…

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[american born chinese pastor]
seeks to be that third place for those who are american born chinese [abc] in ministry.
here we may explore issues unique to the chinese church and doing ministry in that context
expand the intersection of asian american culture and christian faith
or simply expose what goes on in the mind of this abcpastor

this may be a bit ambitious or even naiive but i do hope that through the posts we can bring together different faith communities, passions for the advancement of the Gospel and the equipping of the body of Christ.

if you are an abc pastor or have any suggestions or would like to contribute to make this space evolve, just comment.


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