Another church I visited was led by a very mild mannered gentleman. I met him first in the lobby and we chatted for a few minutes. He was quiet and seemed genuine. I was happy that I had the opportunity to get to know him a little bit before the service started. The church was small. And when I say small, I mean less than a dozen people. The service was being telecast to some 15 countries, I was told, so when the pastor spoke he was addressing a much bigger crowd than the one I was sitting in. It took a little getting used to; the pastor mugging for the camera most of the time. I didn’t really mind that though. It was the total shift in personality that shook me. When the camera was on, the pastor was all fired up; jumping around, shouting, and telling bad jokes…. But the thing that drove me crazy was that every time he said something that he felt was profound (and it seemed he deemed most of what he said to be profound), he would shout at the audience “Do you hear me!?”. Not just once, but over and over again. It felt like a threat. Like your dad being really ticked off at you and lecturing you on how to walk the straight and narrow again, “DO YOU HEAR ME?” Yes!!! We hear you; stop yelling at us!
There was definitely an air of arrogance while he was speaking from the pulpit that I didn’t sense when we spoke in the lobby. I was disheartened by that.
How many pastors blow a hole through their credibility by being one way face to face and a very different way from the pulpit?
There is tremendous tension for church leaders in this regard. Most want to be casual and relaxed in both the personal and public arenas. The problem sometimes is that the church expects them to behave in a certain way. There are traditions. The pastor is supposed to appear confident, composed and all-knowing all of the time. They aren’t supposed to have the sort of relationship problems that everyone else does. They aren’t supposed to have questions or doubts about their faith.
The first time I ever heard a pastor admit to his own frailties I nearly fell off my chair. I was a young Christian still. I loved this pastor. I really looked up to him as a leader. When he shared that he felt like he was “never more than 2 steps away from being face down in a ditch” I panicked! I thought geeze, if the guy driving the bus is falling apart what’s going to happen to US??? We don’t want our leaders to show signs of weakness, but then we resent them for not being more “like us”. It’s a really tough road to walk. But that’s not really what I’m talking about.
I’m talking about the slick showman persona that draws people into to believing something because the pastor is so passionate about it. Pastors who inspire people to action, or decisions because they wept as they implored us to believe; only to meet up with them after service and encounter someone who seemed like they were a completely different person.
There is nothing worse, in my opinion, than the sort that gets gooey and emotional… all for show. I used to work with a pastor who had a reputation for that. I overheard people make fun of him and place bets on how many times his chin would quiver when he spoke or how many minutes into the sermon before he shed his first tear.
Let’s face it, you know when someone is sincere, right? You can tell because you listen when someone is speaking truth to you. Even if you don’t like what you’re hearing you listen. When someone is BS’ing you your mind wanders away. You stop listening. You start making your grocery shopping list or you try to remember which shows are on tonight. We hunger for what is true because what is true leads us on to something better than what we have today.