The Bravery of Imperfect Pastors

Several years ago I was talking with a woman who was troubled by the hypocrisy she felt she saw in her pastor's life. He encouraged the members of his congregation to live in ways she thought he did not achieve himself.

I suppose this is not an unusual criticism, but it is one I have thought about many times since our conversation. My response to her would be along the following lines:

Pastors continue to go public with God's ways, standards, and norms—even when they know you know they are inconsistent. That is very courageous indeed—and humbling.

I think pastors are some of the bravest human beings in the world—biblically-based, sincere pastors, that is. They go before their congregations week by week and plead with them to make consistent choices in areas where they themselves are lacking. Listen to your wives and love them. Win the hearts of your children through spending regular time with them. Be gentle and kind to those within and without the Body of Christ.

And they often miss the mark. Their families know it and their congregations do, too.

But they continue to go public with God's ways, standards, and norms—even when they know you know they are inconsistent.

That is very courageous indeed. And humble, and humbling, I imagine.

But the part of this equation that moves me the most is this: As they share their hearts and aspirations in their preaching, you see their desire to please the God they love. They just can't do it with anything close to perfection any more than the rest of us can. It is so beautiful to see their desire for holiness—and so poignant to compare their desire with their reality.

That is real life in this age.

May we be gracious with the men who stand before us in integrity and human frailty every Sunday.

I thank God it will not always be this way. And I praise Him that, in the meantime, He rejoices with all of His great fatherly heart over the holiness we do achieve.

He is aware of our sin, yes, but that is not what is "most real" to Him about us. Our Christlikeness is growing, and it is forever; our sin is on its way out, being put to death. In the meantime, our God is anything but a faultfinder with His children.

May we be just as gracious with the men who stand before us in integrity and human frailty every Sunday.

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About the Author

Barbara  Challies

Barbara Challies

Barbara Challies is mother to five grown children (including prolific author/blogger Tim Challies) and grandmother to eleven grandchildren. She and her husband John live in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

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