The pastoral personality choice

hybelsHave you ever noticed that somewhere out there, someone has chosen what the ideal pastor looks like— sounds like— speaks like— dresses like— acts like— or thinks like? Somewhere I am going to open a door and there is going to be a mannequin dressed like the pastor we are all trying to emulate. If you go to a conference, networking event, or any place a lot of church leaders gather you will see and meet a lot of people trying to fit into an ideal that just isn’t them. The simple reality is that each person serving in ministry has to decide… “Am I going to be me or am I going to emulate someone else?

I first noticed it in college when my pastor started dressing like Bill Hybels. He didn’t wear a suit or even a tie to preach in… he wore a sweater. Why? Because he went to a conference and saw that a leader he looked up to dressed business casual. It’s perfectly natural and scientifically proven that you will emulate people you look up to. I’ve known pastors who have changed all sorts of things about themselves because they want to preach like Andy Stanley or wear cool glasses like Rob Bell or tell great stories like Erwin McManus.

The problem is that if you put on a personality that isn’t you, you’re a fake. Hopefully you have friends in your life who will slap you and tell you that you look stupid in that crazy get up. Judging by the sheer volume of emulators out there though… more pastors need friends like Len in their lives. (Yes, his role in my life is  to swiftly kick me in the nuts on a regular basis… whenever I need it. And he’s allowed to enjoy it.)

Today, I watched this video from Ed Young and it really annoyed me. He says that pastors use words like “crap” or “sucks” or “hell” just so they can sound cool. Typically I’m fine with generalizations… and I throw out my fair share as well. But my response after watching his video was simple: It’s more important that I be myself in ministry than that I try meet a standard that Ed Young sets. If I  tried to be Mr. Prim-n-proper– Len would give me a swift kick. Plus, when I’m fake every sees right through it anyway! Prim-n-proper I am not.

If I were submitting myself to his leadership, I’d take notice. Otherwise I took his video with a grain of salt… just another person creating another mannequin of what a pastor ought to do, be, or look like.

But this post isn’t just about the standard that Pastor Ed is trying to set. It’s bigger than that. Plus, I like Ed and I wouldn’t want anyone to think otherwise. He’s just a single voice in a mighty chorus of leaders trying to tell people what that mannequin looks like. I find that so many leaders try to control others based around their personal preferences or convictions. So often leaders in the church are personally convicted about something and they misinterpret that work of the Holy Spirit to include everyone on their staff, all the leaders in their church, or even the people who attend the church. And that is, at its simplest form, where legalism begins. A conviction of the senior leader does not automatically become the conviction of his flock!

Here is the big problem with living your life trying to look like a perfect mannequin. One day you will wake up and realize that you are not the person you desired to be. If you try to take a square peg and jam it into a round hole you will just end up miserable. You may talk right, look right, have the right hair style, have smoking cool Rob Bell glasses… but if your heart isn’t right, you’re just a mannequin and not the man or woman God has created you to be.

I’d rather be a cussing pastor who spoke truth into people’s lives than a fake because I tried to live up to standards that weren’t meant for me.

– If God wants you to be a pastor who wears a tie and keeps the straight and narrow… be that leader!

– If God wants you to be pastor bad gangsta who gets mistaken for Eminem… be that leader!

– If God wants you to be a mom who puts her kids in front of her flock… be that leader!

So, rather than looking to emulate the perfect pastor… Why not just focus on who God is asking you to be today and reminding the people in your ministry that you are just as messed up as they are? You need Jesus every day as much as they do. None of us really has it more figured out than anyone else.

Let’s get busy living that out!







7 responses to “The pastoral personality choice”

  1. Larry Darnell Avatar

    Thanks Adam for your post. I have yet to find a mirror to reflect the “Real Me”. I was listening to Natalie Grant’s song of the same title the other day and it drove me to really think about who I really am in God’s eyes and how to be that man God would want me to be. I have spent a lot of life trying to be somebody’s idea of a mannequin that you lose sight of who you really are….a work in progress for sure.

  2. Len Avatar

    Good thoughts Adam vs being a pure rant. (Which you, I and a few friends are excellent at doing).

    I think we fear being ourselves because it’s a harder journey than just being like someone we admire from afar.

    I also think freedom in Christ terrifies those that love the rules (God’s and/or Man’s) but the danger for us who embrace freedom is to cause others to stumble, so we have to be careful too.

    Thanks for the love and I promise next time I’ll use a pillow covered shoe. 🙂

  3. adam mclane Avatar

    @ larry- I join you. I too have spent too many days trying to emulate someone else when God just wants me to be me.

    @ len- maybe I’m getting wiser in my rants? Nah, prolly not.

  4. danielle Avatar

    Adam… totally loved this. something I needed to hear right now cuz I def need to let my church know that I need Jesus just as much as they do and I’m not perfect!

  5. Andrew Marin Avatar

    Wow…this might be the best post you’ve ever done amongst a bunch of good choices! I think you’re dead on in your assessment of what is cool or right.

  6. Gman Avatar

    I’m just being who God wants me to be.

  7. […] slip into arrogance and think more highly of yourself then you should.  I’m that friend for Adam and he’s that friend for me. I’m blessed, I guess, to have many of those friends but you […]

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