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Take the pastor off the pedestal

What would happen if we gave every preacher the freedom to be real?

I still remember the day my pastor admitted to being human.

Now, I am a pastor’s kid. I know pastors are human. But I didn’t know they could admit to it from the pulpit.

I grew up seeing the pressure the pulpit put on my dad and mum, feeling the pressure it put on us as kids, and I developed an eating disorder because of it. Because kids are very aware of hypocrisy and know that only God is perfect and yet for some reason, congregations seem to have this expectation of their pastors as well.

No doubt there are professions which God calls to a higher standard of moral code, like teachers and preachers, yet this only increases the temptations these positions face and we should be all the more gracious. We should be all the more willing to offer accountability partners and space in which to admit wrong and to invite the real stories so that men and women in these roles are not forced to break—and eventually sin—in private.

A pastor is no more perfect than any of us who have been saved by grace. We all have a past. And it’s this past that gives the present credibility. It is our human moments that make us need Jesus. If our pastors aren’t free to need Jesus, they’ll stop being effective.

I still remember the day when I sat in that pew and listened to my pastor tell us he’d been a single dad for years before going into seminary. How he’d made some choices he wasn’t proud of but how God had caught hold of him.

And every Sunday I listen to him pray before he preaches, asking God in front of the whole congregation to not let him stand in the way of the word God wants to speak. To be a vessel for truth and to forgive any sin which stands in the way of him being this vessel.

What would happen if we gave every preacher the freedom to be real?
Michele Di Trani/Flickr

Would we still have those like Mark Driscoll losing their licenses and churches falling apart for the fraud done in dark places?

Would we still have 50 per cent of preachers admitting to a porn addiction, as some studies have found?

Would we still have burnout and anxiety and stress disorder and affairs at the skyrocket rate we do now among those in ministry?

Or would we have a body of believers that, instead of simultaneously worshipping and judging its spiritual leaders, lifted them up on penitent and compassionate prayers and banded around them in accountability and care?

Would we have Aaron and Hur holding up Moses’ arms so that he didn’t tire in battle (Exodus 17:11)?

Would we have the church of Acts meeting together regularly and not only worshipping together, but sharing all of their possessions? The congregation serving as ministers instead of an audience?

For this is what we all are. 1 Peter 2:9 says we are a royal priesthood, saved from a sordid past not by our good deeds but purely by the love of Jesus. Beggars, who have found the bread and are now leading others to it.

So let’s stop seeing the splinter in our preacher’s eyes and instead, beg God to remove the log in our own. One church body at a time.


Emily T. Wierenga is a pastor’s daughter. She’s an award-winning journalist, blogger, commissioned artist and columnist, as well as the author of five books including the memoir Atlas Girl: Finding Home in the Last Place I Thought to Look (


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About the author


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