Your pastors, elders, and other leaders are just like you. Sinners in need of Gospel Grace, through faith in Jesus. I have struggles, whether spiritual, psychological, emotional, physical, or relational. You may consider me to have strong faith, but that doesn’t mean it never wobbles. You may consider me to be a “family man” but that doesn’t mean I don’t sin against my wife and my children – with anger, impatience, or even a silent self-righteous attitude. You may consider me to know my Bible and have my theology sorted out, but that doesn’t mean I’m always consistent. I’m a flawed man, life’s a battle, but Jesus is sufficient. Can you relate?
It’s one reason I say, “Just call me Peter,” when you ask. (Some of you just can’t help but say “Pastor” and I’m totally fine with that). A title can sometimes create distance between two people. I’m not better than you. It’s the same reason I’m very attuned to any discomfort some of you have in real conversation with me. As if you need to prove yourself before the “expert” or the “moral exemplar.” To put it bluntly: that’s pure trash. It’s unhealthy for you, and it’s unfair to any spiritual leader.
Two more experiences this week connected with this first theme: in my men’s group on Tuesday, one guy shared his struggle with laziness, mental fatigue, physical, and spiritual sluggishness, and the rest of us admitted we each felt some of the same. This morning I joined a ministry webinar at the invitation of a friend and trusted ministry leader. The focus was on vulnerability as leaders in the midst of crisis. Two different testimonies included a spiritual struggle with a variation on “Why, Lord?, Why me?, and Why now?” We had breakout room discussions about the testimonies, and I honestly shared with my group that I don’t tend to struggle with that question. On one hand, maybe it’s consistent faith in God’s sovereignty and love. He’s in control, his purposes are the best for me, and I can’t see what he’s doing, but I’m ok with that. On the other hand, maybe there’s a part of me that feels like asking that question isn’t ok, or would reveal a gap between my theology and my practice. Maybe it’s something I haven’t made enough space for in my heart. Maybe that Facebook post, and the vulnerability that some of you remarked at, was God’s grace to me, to enable a more-honest-than-usual moment that needs to be cultivated. Maybe that little flame needs a little fresh air to really “catch on fire”!
I’m still chewing on these things, and I don’t have great clarity, but I will say this: next time you ask me how I’m doing, don’t settle for the first answer. It’s possible that I don’t really know the answer myself. When I ask you the same question, I’ll do the same.
Peter Wang is the Senior Pastor.