Tuesday, December 31, 2013


I'm not into New Year's resolutions, in fact, I'm not even pastoring anymore. But were I to be, I think the number one resolution I would make for the New Year as a pastor would be to____


Pedestals create problems. There is no doubt about that. The dictionary definition for 'Pedestal" the way I'm using it is.."A position of high regard." Granted, there is a rather innocuous, even scriptural way [think double honor] a pastor may be thought of with high regard. But here I'm looking at a different sort of thing, even a lie, that people and pastor may believe that can effectively ruin a ministry if not addressed.

I became aware while pastoring that people in a church may put a pastor on a pedestal in a way that's very unfortunate and even dangerous. It is one of having it all together spiritually or being more committed to Christ than anyone else. But my issue is more with the pastor who tries to place himself there or tries to maintain that position, than with others who have put him there. 

Pedestals are not the best position for real people and to be on one takes too much hiding or being secret about one's self to effectively remain in that exalted position. When a fall comes, and it will, the pain is great and often disillusioning.

I know there are those who don't like knowing of the struggles of ministers because, their argument goes, if THEY [ministers] don't have it together how are we to trust ANYTHING they say? It's almost as if they [ministers] are that person's last bastion of hope for everything to be as it should be in some body's christian life. 

It might should be mentioned at this point that only our Lord deserves to be on a pedestal with that criteria anyway and that is because He is the only one who has it all together in terms of life. 

In fact, to look at a pastor in this manner could make an idol of him were one not careful. [Or maybe just the pulpit or position of pastor is the idol in that person's mind. Who knows!!]

Those who do wish preachers would remain silent about their own struggles sometimes use Ephesians 5:12 as a biblical basis for their objection. This is a verse that says it is a shame to speak of those things done in secret. So, their argument goes, preachers should keep their mouths shut about their own secret struggles or failures. It's a shame for them to mention them from the pulpit the bible says.

It would be good for those folks to actually understand that verse in context I would think. It's speaking of the secret things unbelievers [those in darkness] are presently [present tense] doing and how those things should not be spoken about with affirmation but confronted with light [as children of light] giving direction out of such things.

So unless you believe your pastor to be an unbeliever, the things he might share about his struggles and how God has given grace in them are not the subject of that passage at all.

I believe a major weakness of the modern pulpit is the LACK of identification of the one in the pulpit with those in the pew anyway. [This is that pedestal thing] This weakness may be the single greatest failure of the pulpit. The only greater failure would be to NOT preach the text of scripture itself.

So, how was this pedestal thing corrected in my own pulpit through forty years of pastoring? Whether I was successful in correcting it may be for others to say, of course, but I can give you what I used in my attempt to correct it. Several things were involved and this isn't a complete list at all.

One___I made a commitment within myself to be truthful and express what I really was, not what people wanted to think I was. An example is when I would preach/teach on having intimate time with the Lord, I would be honest about my own struggles and failures in doing so with any solid regularity. This was before I realized the truth that every moment of every day I'm in union and fellowship with Him and special times are good but not essential for fellowship. That is an atmosphere not an activity. 

In the same manner when teaching on not letting the sun go down on anger in James, I would honestly confess that anger was a problem area in my own life. My control struggles were in that category as well. So when I would teach about God being the blessed controller of every event, I would use my own struggle with a need to control as an illustration of the battle that often takes place in a believer.

Earlier in my ministry I was honest with struggles about impure thoughts or actions that were debilitation to my walk with the Lord and I shared how I learned, as a result, ways of focusing my attention on Him during those struggles that led to cleansing and even hope.

So you can see that, in my ministry at least, the people were aware that their pastor was, in reality, a fellow struggler, as evidenced by control issues, anger issues, impure thought issues and a general inability to practice ALL I preach about what a Christian should be and do.

You say, "But doesn't Paul say that the Corinthians should imitate him? Doesn't that mean Paul HAD to live what he preached if he said such a thing?" No__ it doesn't have to mean that at all. In fact, remember that Paul regularly told of his personal struggles, [Romans 7-8] but always found in the Lord what was needed and we ARE to imitate him in that. I say the same to those I pastor. Follow me as I deal with my issues of the flesh and learn to see the work of the Cross of Christ as it does it's true work in deliverance and victory. That's the ONLY way any person other than the Lord can ever recommend himself as one to be followed.

Remember, no one is speaking about details that are salacious in nature. I've found that is really more a matter of a choice of words and an overall willingness to recognize the nature of an audience. On the other hand some people think the word "sex" IS salacious and should never be spoken in public. You can have peculiar people both in the pulpit AND pew remember.

Two___I made a commitment to drop the pomposity and self-righteousness that can come from thinking I'm better or even different than the people served by using the personal pronoun "we" instead of "you." Too much preaching/teaching, IMHO, is crouched in words like___"God wants you to know you will have no victory over sin if you play games with it privately"___instead of__"God wants us to know we will have no victory over sin if we play games with it privately." [If you don't believe the first is often used listen to sermons on the Internet.] 

Let's face it, preachers are ordinary people and face ordinary problems and challenges that other people face. I haven’t “arrived”; I don’t have an exclusive path to God; I am a student of life and not a graduate of life, just like other ordinary people. To pretend otherwise by leaving myself out of the pulpit language used is unworthy and simply the height of spiritual arrogance it seems to me.

Three___I made a commitment to practice what I preached. It was my desire to convey to the people my own hope of BEING what was taught scripturally about behavior. This is NOT a retraction of what was previously stated, but a companion to it. I would often end messages with the prayer that God would deliver me from preaching to others what I refused to have built in my own life. 

The key here is "presently being built." No one of us has arrived at what the Christian life is all about and we're on that journey together. Let's just be honest about that and people will not likely be as tempted to place a minister on a pedestal or a minister will not be as likely to try to climb up there himself.

Besides..spiritual "Acrophobia" [ἄκρον φόβος meaning fear of heights] might be a good phobia to have for any Christian leader.

So with this New Years resolution in mind___I wish you a Happy 2014.


Aussie John said...


And they all said,"AMEN!" Well! At least I did.

You are certainly hitting most accurately of late. I'm glad we are on the same team.

Your words,"But my issue is more with the pastor who tries to place himself there or tries to maintain that position, than with others who have put him there", have been uppermost in my own thoughts of late.

I have young in-laws who think I'm off the planet (to put it mildly) when I try to speak to them about what I call "guru-ism", one, a deacon, simply rude.

I've discovered that, among other important matters, Baptists don't understand an vital truth, that of "soul competence".

Under the guidance of a very special "pastor" I entered the pastoral ministry with the determination of your point One, similar others grew from there.

I believed, as I still do, that no man/woman can responsibly expect people to be implicit in their belief of anything, no matter who the created creature was, unless they knew it from their own study of Scripture.

"The key here is "presently being built." No one of us has arrived at what the Christian life is all about and we're on that journey together".

Far too many folk simply cannot believe the truth of that statement, and settle for guru-ism (many seemingly standing between the believer and their Savior)and the imprisonment it engenders.

Thank you for standing up on these matters!

Paul Burleson said...

Aussie J,


I think it appropriate that on this first day of 2014, I get to wish you a "Happy New Year" in 2014.

Blessings my brother and friend.

Garen Martens said...

It was always easy for me to put pastors onto pedestals. The day that I saw the error of my ways was when a former pastor was mentoring me and several other guys when he admitted his difficulty in controlling his wandering eyes. Suddenly, I had to think about his humanity and how he was no different than me. It gave me a new compassion for folks in the ministry because the parishioners expectations and the standards set for them are unattainable. They are just regular people (saved by grace) who have been given a task by God that is different than the task given to me.

I think the key to avoid being put onto that pedestal is what you have truthfully written - transparency and admission by the clergy that they deal with the same temptations and failures that everyday people face.

One of the reasons I enjoy your teaching so much is that you always proclaim or imply that you are preaching from a personal experience. It is as you are giving yourself a sermon and have invited the rest of us to listen in.

I deeply respect and admire my pastor and many other pastors but I am cautious in the expectations I have for them.

Good blog!

Paul Burleson said...


This statement... "It is as you are giving yourself a sermon and have invited the rest of us to listen in."...is one of the highest compliments that could be given. I appreciate this more than you can know.

Steve Miller said...

Thanks for being honest, open and transparent. I am one of those who has benefitted from your seeking a life with our Lord before seeking a ministry. This truth for all these many years has proven a faithful guide. Happy New Year Paul to you and Mary.


Aussie John said...


Thank you for those New Year thoughts.

They are enthusiastically reciprocated.

Victorious said...

hmmm... Your blog always causes me to do some deep thinking. :)

So I offer a couple thoughts as a result of that. Seeing a pastor as the focal point in every single service at church naturally serves to see him/her as the most important person in the Body. This perception may affect both those in the pews and the pastor as well. It seems to me the obvious outcome of having hundreds or thousands of people focusing their attention on you and "hanging" on your every word.

Second, I've always wondered what would be different if there was a system of rotating speakers/teachers using their gift in the pulpit. This would benefit the members and the pastor in obvious ways but primarily it would eliminate the "one-man-show" atmosphere we see in church and encourage the use of talents from members. Now, I'm not talking about a twice-a-year guest speaker, I mean a regular system of stepping aside to allow others to share from the Bible.

In my mind this would foster greater appreciation for the scriptural mandate to "one-another-minister" when they assemble.

Some might say that this is what happens on Wed. or Sun. night or even the goal of small groups, but I think it would be a big-time blessing from such a system on Sunday morning and at the same time eliminate the tendency to idolize the pastor.

Some of my ideas are out in left field and you may know the reasons why logistically this wouldn't work. But I thought I'd present it anyway.

As always, I appreciate your blog Paul and wish you a very Happy New Year!

Paul Burleson said...


Happy New Year to you and I really enjoy and appreciate all the comments you make. keep them coming.


I could not agree more with ALL the points you make and remember, I pastored 40 years preaching three times or more every week. I now believe I could have shared that pulpit/teaching time and ALL would have been helped and even grown more were it to have been done. Think of the gifts that could have been exercised and the gifted who would have been stretched had I done so. Thanks for your insightful comment.