Being Real

Pastors and leaders are growing too

It had been a rough week and I was not in the best mood. It was one of those weeks full of challenges—personal and work-related— and I felt God wasn’t answering my prayers and giving me what I believed I needed. I started complaining to my wife about going to church and putting on my “church face.” You know the one I’m referring to—looking happy and giving the impression that everything is good, and my life was just wonderful. Further, I had to preach that day, meaning I felt I had to make God look good when I didn’t feel he was being so good to me at the time.

Cheryl first told me I had to go to church because I was the pastor, and then she said, “Rick, just share your struggles with the congregation. They will see that you face the same things they face, and they will love you for it.” It was just one more of those times the Holy Spirit spoke, and it sounded just like Cheryl. “Don’t focus on your frustration with God,” she continued, “focus on your love for the members.” It was good advice. By the time I got to the parking lot I was very much looking forward to being with my church family. I didn’t have to put on a church face, I sincerely greeted and smiled at the many members I had grown to love.

My topic that day was Jesus telling the disciples about his betrayal and upcoming death. They argued with him—this wasn’t the way they saw that things should be. Peter pulled Jesus aside and chastised him. In the middle of my sermon I realized I was Peter. My bad mood came from God not doing things the way I saw they should be done, so I shared that with the audience. I saw nods of affirmation. I was not alone in my frustration and lack of faith. My way made so much sense, but God had a different plan.

It was one of those sermons that resonated far more than I could have ever planned. Sharing my story and being honest about my angst enabled many to personally relate to what I was saying and to better relate to me. Further, it made it OK to be transparent with each other about our struggles and challenges. I heard a lot of stories that week from the members. A connection was made that I hadn’t planned on. I went home in a much better mood and praising God for the breakthroughs.

It is a misnomer for pastors to believe they cannot be honest about their humanity—their joys, their struggles, their passion, their fears. Pastors are not more spiritual than their members; they do not have a special line to God that is not available to members; they are not more important, more special, more inspired, more anything. They are men and women God has called to shepherd others. It’s a special calling, but that doesn’t make pastors special in the sense of better.

In GCI, we encourage our pastors to be real—to be who God created them to be—and not put on a different persona when they preach or come to worship services. The Bible gives us wonderful examples of the humanity of the leaders God chose to build his church. Moses, Abraham, David, Peter and Paul all had serious flaws that God shared in the pages of his story. Today in GCI we have leaders, pastors, national and regional directors, superintendents and a president, all of whom have flaws. We love the people God has chosen because they are transparent, they don’t put on airs, they are relatable because they know their own humanity and they are devoted to Christ and to GCI.

I still have rough weeks; I still get in bad moods from time to time; and I still have the Holy Spirit speaking through my bride and others reminding me to always look to him, to trust him, to rely on him, and to grow in his grace and knowledge of him.

When leaders do this, GCI grows in grace and knowledge, we become more relational, we live in communion, and we become the healthiest expressions of church we can be.

Being real,

Rick Shallenberger

PS In this issue of Equipper, we continue the Hope Venue. Randy Bloom shares two articles about preaching. In his first article he shares the different between teaching and preaching—an important distinction. In his second article, he encourages us to share stories and our passion for Jesus. Bill Hall wrote about using the RCL (Revised Common Lectionary), and lists a number of resources.

10 thoughts on “Being Real”

  1. That’s how relationships grow!! When we have the courage to be real about out faults and struggles that frees others to be real and adds the furtilizer for growth😁😁😁

  2. This is wonderfully refreshing and a stress reliever. Thank you so much Rick for sharing

  3. Thank you for sharing your struggles and listening to the Holy Spirit.
    As a worship leader I have had days when I felt unworthy to lead worship because of my attitudes about church. Amazingly when I got to church somehow I began to feel focused on others rather than my own problems.

  4. An ever important subject. “Being real” often has a significant cost. Leaders are not competing in a popularity contest. At the end of day leaders must be willing and have the courage to do ”what is right”. In a time when political correctness permeates our culture and society this is often a real challenge. God has created us with different personalities and temperaments and we need to learn to respect those differences while never forgetting to “speak the truth in love”. Our understanding may at times be seriously flawed, but as leaders we will hopefully be known as Christians with integrity and appropriate humility seeking and striving to honor our Lord everywhere, every time and in every way.

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