“Hey there! I know you! How are you?” asked the well-known pastor as he passed by me on the way to talk to someone more important. By the look on his face I knew that he didn’t remember my name and probably had only vague recollections of our previous conversations. He knew that we had talked before and that he should remember me but he just didn’t have the recall at that moment.
As a pastor who has been in similar situations in a much smaller church, I didn’t take it personally. I knew he would probably greet hundreds of people there that day, and he would be preaching several times as well, so it was understandable if he didn’t have instant recall of everyone he met. Just thinking about keeping his schedule made my head ache and my stomach churn.
“I don’t know how those rockstar pastors do it,” I thought to myself. “Preaching several times and then running around greeting everyone and acting like you are their best friend, I just couldn’t do it. God didn’t make me that way.” As I continued on my way and drove home, I kept thinking about that more. God didn’t make me that way – He didn’t make me an extrovert nor did He make me a preacher par excellence – but did He make anyone that way? Or do we do it to ourselves? In other words, is it God’s plan that a few rockstar pastors put on a preaching performance for thousands of people who don’t know really know him? Is it okay for pastors to run around pretending that they know people and that they care about them when in reality they have way too many people in their congregation for them to know them personally, let alone care for them?
“Maybe a few are created for that and called by God to do that,” I thought to myself, “especially if they are evangelists preaching the Gospel to people who haven’t heard. But as an everyday church practice, I just don’t see it. I see too many references in the Bible about shepherding the sheep, caring for people, loving one another, empowering all the members of the Body to minister to one another, leadership by a group of teaching elders rather than one man, I just don’t think the rockstar pastor model is Biblical. Where in the New Testament does it talk about putting on Sunday morning performances? Where does it say that one man should do all the preaching and teaching, make all the leadership decisions, and be the celebrity that everyone wants to be seen with? Why do we do church the way we do?”
My thoughts went on along these lines for the rest of my drive home. I didn’t sleep well that night or for many nights to come as I wrestled with these ideas and thought about how we do church and how we should be doing church. I read the New Testament over and over again, looking for direction from the Lord as well as examples and instructions on how church meetings and church itself ought to look like. I became convicted that our Sunday services should not be performances but should be more participatory (see Sunday Morning Performances article for more on this).
What took a while longer, though, was for the Lord to convict me of the personal performances that I put on every Sunday. Even though I didn’t pastor a megachurch, I was like the celebrity pastor that I talked about at the beginning of the article – I would walk around greeting everyone, trying hard to recall names, pretending that we were good friends, asking how they were even though I didn’t take the time to stop and hear the answer, telling them I would pray for them when in reality I would forget.
As the conviction of the Lord came upon me, I began talking to Him. “Lord,” I asked, “Why do I do that? Why have I been doing that week after week for years without ever stopping to think about how two-faced it is? Why do I shift into this “pastor mode” where I feel like I have to put on a performance every time the church comes together? Why can’t I just be me?”
“Lord,” I asked, “Why do I do that? Why have I been doing that week after week for years without ever stopping to think about how two-faced it is? Why can’t I just be me?”
The Lord began talking to me through the Scriptures and in that still small voice within my heart. I know that most readers will know what I am talking about, and He will talk to each one of us if we will listen. So I will let each reader ask the Lord and listen for His voice. But as for me, what I heard came through loud and clear and changed my life.
I realized that the reason I ran around putting on a performance was because I thought it was up to me build the church, not the Lord. I thought that shepherding the church was all on me, not the Lord and other members of His body that He had called and equipped. I thought the salvation of souls in our community was all on me, as if Jesus hadn’t already gone to the cross for them and the Holy Spirit wasn’t already using others in His Body and working in the hearts of people.
In short, I recognized that I put on those personal performances because it was my church and I had to do it all. I didn’t see the church as belonging to God and I didn’t see ministry as something that everyone in the Body of Christ is called to do.
To be fair, and not too hard on myself and the thousands of others who might find themselves in similar situations, the celebrity pastor church model and all the baggage that goes along with it has been around for many years and many of us have grown up in it without really thinking about it. It’s just how we were taught, how we were brought up.
Now is the time, though, for us to start thinking about it. Let’s align ourselves and the way we do church with what the New Testament teaches. Let’s let our love be genuine, not a performance. Let’s take the time to stop and listen and minister to the person who is right in front of us instead of feeling pressure to shake everyone’s hand or greet the most important among us. Let’s share the teaching load, the ministry load, the leadership load, the evangelism and political activism, all the church stuff, so that we can focus on being men and women who love God and love people.
As for me, since I made the decision to trade in my playacting for genuine relationships, I have had a peace about who I am and what God has called me to be. I still have problems, like anyone else, but the church problems are God’s problems, not mine. And personal problems that I used to bear alone, I now share with some close friends who know me well. (It used to be that I didn’t want anyone to know that I was less than perfect; it was a part of the performance mentality). I am now more honest with myself and genuine in my relationship with others and that has made all the difference.
Questions for Contemplation and Discussion:
Do you put on personal performances when you go to church services or meetings? Do you have genuine relationships or is it role-playing? When people ask how you are doing, do you tell them the truth? When people tell you how they are doing, do you really listen and offer consolation, encouragement, prayer, or whatever ministry seems best?
Why do we often put on personal performances instead of fostering genuine relationships? What could be done to facilitate and encourage genuine love rather than superficial role-playing?
Consider sharing this article with a few others and then setting up a time to talk about how to be more genuine in your relationships.
Let’s Pray Together:Father, You know me better than I know myself. You know when I am putting on a performance for others and when I am being genuine. Forgive me for when I am playacting and help me to be real and authentic in my relationships with others. Help my brothers and sisters in Christ to join me in being genuinely loving towards one another. Let us take the time to pray for one another and encourage one another and minister to one another as Your Spirit leads. I pray for the following people as they come to mind….(continue praying as you feel led)
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