Over the nearly two and a half years that I’ve been contributing articles to Project Inspired, I’ve heard many of you girls mention that you’ve been hurt by churches you’ve attended. I sympathize with you; I’ve been hurt by churches, too. (Note: When we say we’ve been hurt by a church, what we mean is that we’ve been hurt by certain people in the church. I’m not talking about abuse–if you’ve experienced abuse at the hands of any person, please tell someone you trust and get help immediately).
I’m talking about common hurts that we experience. We’re human, and sometimes we say or do things that hurt someone’s feelings. These hurt feelings can be amplified if the person who hurt us is someone we admire or look up to, like church or ministry leaders.
Girls, I’m going to share one of the biggest secrets in professional ministry, are you ready?
We’re not perfect! We don’t have it all together. We still struggle with sin. We make mistakes. Sometimes we don’t even know what we’re doing. We’re human.
There’s a lot of pressure on people who work in church leadership to look like they’ve got it all together. Behind the scenes in many churches, staff and leaders are encouraged to always act joyful. We’re supposed to look like we’re always happy about what God is doing in our lives.
Let me ask you a question. Are you always joyful and excited about what God is doing in your life? Is it fun when God is teaching you to have patience or to forgive someone who hurt you? Most of you would probably say that those things don’t always make you feel joyful.
Well, they aren’t joyful experiences for church leaders, either.
Because of the pressure put on church leaders to seem “perfect,” people who aren’t in church leadership begin to subconsciously put their pastors and other leaders on a pedestal. People begin to see these church leaders as people who really do have it all together, who never sin and who are able to be closer to God than the average church member.
When we look at our pastors and leaders that way, we expect them to be people who never make mistakes. Then, when they do make a mistake (and believe me, we make tons of mistakes!), it hurts more because we thought they were better than that. We don’t expect our feelings to be hurt by someone we perceive as being more godly than us.
I’m not trying to downplay any hurt that you may have received from a pastor or church leader. When someone hurts our feelings in some way, it’s real; the pain is real. What I want us to realize is that we forgive some people more easily than others. The closer we expect someone to be to perfection or godliness, the harder it is to forgive them when they mess up.
Remember girls, the person behind the pulpit on Sunday mornings, the person leading your youth group and the people on the worship team at your church, they’re all only human. They’re just like you, trying to follow God, fight temptation and love others. Sometimes they fail, and they need forgiveness and love too.
A dear friend of mine who has an online ministry posted this on Facebook a few weeks ago, and I think it’s a perfect reminder for each of us.
“One thing I’ve learned in ministry is that people like to put me on a pedestal. My ministry may not be offline but there are a lot of people who know me personally/offline and there’s you, my online friends. See, I’m not perfect. I’m a sinful person. I will say mean, hurtful things unintentionally. I will do things that may catch you off guard. Why? Because I’m human. I make mistakes. And guess what? I’m just like you! No one is higher than the other. We are all servants, brothers and sisters in Christ. If I’ve failed and you correct me privately. I’ll accept it. No offense taken! Just do me a favor? Look at me as a friend, not someone more superior.”
Girls, have you ever caught yourself thinking that someone in professional ministry is more “together” or more “godly” than you?
“But now, apart from law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:21-23).
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