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Church, Fundamentalism, Grace

On the humanness of pastors


I do not consider the “job” or role of a pastor to be an easy one.

Some pastors lead small churches and work outside the ministry in order to make ends meet. Others struggle to balance family time with what their ministry demands of them as pastors.

Additionally, Scripture places higher expectations on pastors than on lay members. This often leads to church members expecting more of their pastor and his family. Pastors are expected to be the example in all things, whether it be parenting, finances, etc. Unfortunately, what can happen is that some people end up validating their decisions against those of their pastor’s opinion instead of going to God’s Word for guidance.

I believe this is common in fundamentalist churches, as well as evangelical ones.

Is it wrong to expect so much of our pastors? I believe it is.

Why? Because pastors are human, just like we are. Additionally, many jump into the pastorate fresh out of a Bible college setting with textbook scenarios in their heads, not ready for real-life situations. Few have real training in counseling people (for most Bible colleges, psychology is taboo), yet most have been taught that the church is THE place to seek help on a professional level (again, because psychologists are anti-God, or so they’ve been taught).

Now many of us know this. And yet we continue to believe that pastors are, no matter their age or experience level, to perform perfectly. There is no room for error.

Really?

Here is the reason for my ramblings.

Like many of you, I am weary of The Chuck Phelps Debate. By this, I am referring to the incessant blog posts and comments regarding his involvement in the Anderson/Willis trial, etc.

Here are my thoughts, simply,

He could have done better than he did. Would I have liked him to have done better? Yes. Can I change what he did do? No.

We can tear apart everything we’ve heard happened or know happened according to transcripts, etc. but that won’t change anything. But we can learn from it, and I believe pastors should learn from it, and I would hope Chuck Phelps has learned from it.

What speaks volumes to me is not what he DID back then, but what he’s doing now. Remember, HE is not Ernie Willis. HE was not the perpetrator. Willis is now in jail, albeit many years later, but the point needs to be made.

What drew me out of fundamentalism was not hatred for fundamentalists, but the realization that God’s grace had been extended to me, a sinner. I strongly dislike the decisions Phelps made back then, but as a fellow believer, I can extend grace to him.

However, that does not mean that I need to agree with any current line of thinking that I find contrary to Scripture or the law, for that matter. If he still views a situation like that in the same way, I cannot agree with that.

Again, what matters to me is not how he thought and lead back then, but how he thinks and leads now.

Let us remember that our pastors are not God. Instead of placing them on pedestals, let us come alongside them, keeping them aware of resources out there, like G.R.A.C.E. Ministries that can help them deal with difficult issues like that.

** This thought of extending grace does not excuse sin or condone any cover-up of sin or illegal activity.

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