James H. Gilmore might not be the first person you'd turn to for pastoral wisdom. The business consultant and co-author of Authenticity and The Experience Economy (Harvard Business School Press) is better known for overturning conventional ideas in business and marketing. But Gilmore also has a deep love for the church. In addition to lecturing at a business school and architecture program, he teaches at a seminary. Skye Jethani talked to Gilmore about cultural understandings of authenticity and about how transparent pastors should be with their congregations.
Does a pastor have to be transparent with congregants in order to be authentic?
If people are going to see you as being real, there must be some degree of transparency, sure. But be wary of revealing everything. Pastors who are too quick to divulge their innermost struggles can actually do harm. At times, Jesus was silent. Why? Because Jesus was not always transparent, but he was always honest. He said things only to benefit his hearer. That was his motivation and it should be a pastor's as well. Honesty trumps transparency. Honesty is not unloading everything that's on your heart; it's saying and sharing only that which benefits the other party. I'd rather have an honest pastor than a transparent one.
What do you do with a pastor who is teaching the truth but living a sinful, duplicitous life?
Well, that would be a terrible thing. And given the need to be "above reproach," if truly two-faced, such a pastor probably needs to step aside. The safeguard against such hypocrisy is not for pastors, in the name of transparency, to air every sin in every detail every week just to make sure they're not being hypocrites. Far better to change behavior. And I'd have to wonder why such a pastor might come to live such a life. Is it because he can't live up to some self-imposed works-based standard? Or because he fails to truly grasp the gospel?