Wounded Healers: Give our Church Leaders the Grace to Find Redemption

Wounded Healers: Give our Church Leaders the Grace to Find Redemption

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In today’s church culture, you will overhear people who want to be real, transparent and vulnerable. They want to be known. It is only by being raw with each other, they say, that we can truly be in relationship with God and one another. We are all about relationships.

I love that the church desires this level of truth. I hope all God’s people reach this place of great courage and honesty; but let us be clear; this invitation is not often extended to the pastor and his or her family.

There is a double standard. If a church member (a nurse, plumber, florist, or accountant) gets a DUI, he or she might lose some public standing, incur a fine, and be faced with legal proceedings. If a pastor gets a DUI, he or she will not only face these troubles but may also be forced to find a new church—if one will accept a pastor with a blemished reputation.

A pastor does not have the same freedom to be real or vulnerable about his or her battle with porn, lust, drugs, or pills. It is acceptable, even inspiring, if a pastor dealt with these demons pre-Jesus and pre-ministry. In this case, the story is a testimony of triumph! But when these addictions are current, most pastors will keep their struggle a secret, hiding it from the church that is all about the truth.

Our expectation of how pastors should be elevates them beyond their humanity. When pastors realize this expectation, they step upon a shaky pedestal knowing that sharing their struggles could jeopardize their careers and destabilize their families.

Many professions have advocacy boards that provide a process for employees to get treatment, re-enter the workplace, and receive ongoing care so that the employee’s struggles can be overcome. Ironically, this intentionally redemptive process is yet to be offered to pastors in most protestant denominations.

How might our clergy be healthier if we offered them the space and freedom to admit they have a problem and the grace to receive help? The impact on their families, churches, and communities could be astounding.

I still have hope, but for today, the wounded healer remains wounded. Even sadder, he (or she) remains silent listening to others in the church be real and transparent.



2 Responses

  1. Peter,
    You are right on the mark. My husband and I have been in ministry for over 25 years. We still marvel at how it seems everyone wants authenticity- especially from the pastor/wife- but when they get a taste of it they don’t seem to like the feet of clay. Sometimes to the point of kicking them out completely. People forget: there is only one God, and we pastors are not Him! it’s so hard to find people we can trust and be vulnerable with and sadly, safety usually only occurs with people outside our immediate church.
    Most people can’t seem to separate the humanity of the pastor/wife from the perfectionist pedestal they put us on… and worse, their children. I long to see the day when congregants understand that God calls flawed human beings into ministry- just like them- and works to embrace their humanness with real love and grace, just like they would like for themselves.
    Thank God that He treats all of us so much better- no matter who we are- instead of rejection God chooses infinite love through Christ. Amen!

  2. Amen!

    Michelle, I really appreciate your response!

    My wife found it so hard to just be herself at the church…what was worse is when
    she would overhear people criticizing me; she got to the place where she did not
    want to go to church.

    I understood completely. I dreaded putting on the fake smile every week.

    I hope people like you will continue to tell the truth of their experience and maybe people’s eyes will be open.

    Thanks again, Peter

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