I was sickened yesterday morning when I read the headlines of our local newspaper about a pastor from a neighboring town being arrested on child pornography charges. I live in a small town. He lives in an even smaller town. In the cliched words of every 10 o'clock news sound byte, "You just don't think that would ever happen here."
This turn of events is just another in a long line of atrocities and indiscretions perpetrated by men of God. One of our former pastors boasted from the pulpit weekly that he had accountability partners--Men who could ask him at any given moment, "How's your spiritual life?" and "How's your personal life?" But at the end of day, he answered those questions the way he knew he should, but not necessarily truthfully. Our next pastor struggled with issues of integrity. I'm not sure even he knows the truth about who he is.
And so, now we are in an interim period yet again. I cannot even begin to describe the toll these men have taken on our church. Yet, they are not solely to blame. How many Bible study leaders, deacons, laypersons, etc. are just like them? How many of us get up on Sunday morning, fight with our kids all the way to church, and then put on a happy face and pretend like everything is alright? How many of us feel the need to hide our hurts and struggles for fear that others would think less of us? How many of cannot even be truthful with ourselves about who we really are?
This past Sunday night, when our interim pastor took the pulpit to bring his message, he was visibly struggling. He tried to regain his composure, but to no avail. He finally apologized for bringing his personal life to the pulpit and sat down. His son was ill and the burden had become too heavy for him to bear. We had a time of prayer for him and his family. Not the kind where people take turns praying out loud with their Thees and Thous. Not the kind where you don't hear what others say because you're trying to think of what you want to pray. And not the kind where you're nervous because someone else might start speaking at the same time you do and that would be awkward. No, this was the kind of prayer where we fell silent on our knees before the Lord, pleading and agonizing for our brother who was hurting. Genuine intercession.
I have been thoroughly blessed, challenged and even chastised by this man. He has spoken truth to us every single time he has stepped into the pulpit. He has exhorted us and reprimanded us. But most importantly, he has been authentic, transparent and real with us. He has shown us that he has nothing to hide. He's "one of us". He does not claim to have all the answers. But he lays claim to the One who does. He's not necessarily the most eloquent or polished man I've ever heard, but he's definitely one of the most genuine. And I will take that over a flashy, well-packaged, self-proclaimed hero anyday. Pastors talk all the time about "leading by example". Dr. P set an example of the kind of vulnerability and transparency that I hope to find in our next pastor, as well as in myself.