TO UNLOAD OR NOT TO UNLOAD

How emotionally transparent can a church leader afford to be?

For Christmas, my kids gave me the Gospel Birds tapes by radio storyteller Garrison Keillor of "Prairie Home Companion." In them, Keillor talks about pastoring, and he mentions that if a pastor stands before the church and says, "I'm a human being just like you," the first questions in the minds of the congregation are Who was she? and For how long?

Their immediate conclusion, Keillor suggests, is that he must have committed adultery. Why else would a pastor admit humanness?

That humorous insight got me thinking about the ways people see us as pastors and up-front Christian leaders. I wondered if most congregations don't assume their pastors are more like Old Testament prophets, who stood apart from the people and judged sin, rather than like biblical priests, who took part in community routines and whose daily behavior and family relationships could be observed. Many people seem to be uncomfortable with even a Christlike priest, as described in Hebrews 4, who can be "touched with the feeling ...

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