Your Pastor is Petrified
Your pastor lives in fear everyday.
Most likely he, or she felt called to the ministry early in life and when it was time to choose a college, they had already known for a long time that they wanted to shepherd people. They love the process of seeking God, discovering what they should preach on, the energy of standing before their congregation and preaching. They love the idea that their life and service helps people encounter a deeper relationship with God, that the ideas that they share matter. Unless you come from a big church, they’ve given up many financial comforts to follow this calling like nice clothes, fancy vacations and big homes.
But more than life’s comforts, they’ve given up the ability to share their authentic process of growth, failure, change, and the need for openness to new ideas.
What I mean is that most pastors feel they have to hide their struggles for fear of losing the thing they’ve worked so hard for – their church, you, the spiritual space they have worked so hard to develop with you. It’s not only their personal failings they have to hide, or even the failings of their family. It’s any belief that develops and changes over the years that might differ from their congregation. Pastors have been kicked out of their churches and denominations, losing everything over beliefs such as when should someone be baptized!
Can you imagine if you always had the threat of losing your job and the ability to provide for your family because of a difference of belief with your co-workers? This kind of thing breaks my heart because what it does is cause good-hearted men and women, who devote themselves to spiritually empowering others, to live out of fear in their own lives. This fear rules their world and, with time, becomes an iron fist in which they rule themselves and their families. They have to become one person at home and another at church to live this kind of double life is incredibly painful. One major place this tension occurs is when it comes to the topic of homosexuality. There are of course plenty of exceptions to this, but your pastor is beyond terrified when it comes to homosexuality for two reasons.
The first is that they are actually okay with homosexuality and don’t see it as a sin, but are afraid to tell you what they really think because of your reaction or that of the entire congregation. They fear a mutiny would occur if you knew they wanted to welcome the LGBTQ community to worship openly at your church.
The second reason is that they have their own sexual shame and are beyond terrified they will be exposed in their sin if they open the dialogue for homosexuality. I don’t even mean more sexual shame than you and I, but they feel that somehow they are worse because they feel they should be able to withstand temptation better than those they shepherd.
It’s human to have sexual shame. Perhaps you look at pornography and feel badly about it, but if your pastor looks at pornography, I guarantee they castrate themselves daily for it. They mentally whip themselves for being such a sick, sinful person. If they find themselves being attracted to someone who is not their spouse, they are overcome with guilt and hate the part of themselves that is sexual. They try and kill their desire so as not to fall into sexual sin. To be face-to-face with those who are discussing their sexual desires exposes the secret they are trying to keep within themselves; that they too have sexual desire and sometimes give into it. They have to become a spokesperson strongly opposing homosexuality because they can’t risk the exposure.
It’s tragic on all accounts.
The latter issue is that they feel torn and heartbroken that the LGBTQ community has been demonized, and very much don’t see homosexuality as a sin, but fear you will leave the church if you knew their true beliefs. They don’t want to upset their congregation and thus stay silent, or give into the pressure to stand against it so that you don’t come close to the truth that could bring down the church.
Answer as honestly as you can, Would you leave your church if you knewyour pastor fell into either of these categories?
If your answer is “No,” your pastor desperately needs you.
Your pastor need to hear from you that you support them and are committed to your church community. They also need to hear your true beliefs about homosexuality. Maybe you have a gay brother that your pastor doesn’t know about and you’ve always wished you could invite him to your Easter service, but think he’d feel uncomfortable and so you hold back the invitation. Your pastor needs to hear this. Find the courage to “come out” to your pastor about your real beliefs around this topic because you have far less at stake and he, or she needs your leadership in this. Can you imagine if your pastor had the majority of your church giving to them in this way? How beautiful. Maybe you’re a part of a small group at your church; write the pastor a letter of support signed from everyone in your group. They’ve given up so much hoping to be the person God called them to be and they need you in this.