Thursday, 21 January 2010

To be or not to be real?

I have been following an interesting thread on the Naked Pastors blog, which has also drawn comment elsewhere, about whether pastors should share their true thoughts with others, or whether they have to "keep up appearances" for the sake of their congregation.

It struck me that a lot of the debate centres around people's understanding of truth.  One of the comments was "You can’t lead people in a truth if you don’t know what that truth is" - but that in itself is making an assumption that truth is the same for all of us.  Now I know that that will condemn me in the eyes of many, but whilst I do believe that objective truth exists, I don't think that we can know what it is this side of the grave.  An example of this comes to mind - one person is in Canada and another in England and they ask you how to get to the Naked Pastor's church (say) you cannot give both the same detailed instructions - you either have to get them into the same place to start with (and in a congregation that just isn't going to happen unless everyone becomes a clone) or give some generic description, perhaps like the name of the local airport.  My faith is not the same faith that it was yesterday and it won't be the same tomorrow - so how can I point people to a destination that I am heading towards but at which I haven't yet arrived?

The alternative is that I pretend that I have that certain faith that you want me to have.  25 years ago I was in a meeting where I expressed some of my struggles with faith.  I was firmly told that the church would be better off without people like me, and that I should either believe things as they were or get out.  For over 20 years that memory stayed with me and I kept my head down, building masks and shelters to keep me safe - I knew that there was something in the church that I was searching for, but...   More recently I have discovered that those very masks and shelters kept me further away from God, and that it is the stripping away of all the pretence and being the real me that brings me closer to God - the real me with my questions, my struggles, my sin.  Having discovered that I believe that it would be hypocritical not to share that with anyone, let alone my congregation.

If your model of faith and truth is that it is something that the pastor has and which he is charged to pass on then of course you will find the Naked Pastor a challenge.  If however you see faith as a journey leading ever onwards then a pastor who is journeying too and is prepared to share their journey, with all the nasty bits, is encouraging and one who knows the truth isn't helpful.

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