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December 27, 2005


Bob Smietana

I think the Real Live Preacher's a real person.

This whole infatuation with "real" and "authentic" makes me wnat to puke. Real and authentic means messy--and I'm afraid peopel don't want messy pastor or messy churches



I like RLP. You'll remember, of course, that he started blogging secretly. His congregation found out about it later. To their credit, they've grown accustomed to that part of Gordon. I suspect some folks left, and I suspect he's probably okay with that. I do wonder how much of their being okay with it has to do with celebrity. It's far easier to allow celebrities their peccadillos than it is pastors who cuss and aren't famous.


I agree with you Greg, authentic is only has authentic as people allow it to be. It's identify fillers or something like that.
My wife was filling out insurance paperwork the other day and asked my dad if there was anything big she should put down. He quickly said don't write down that he went to therapy for depression. If people find out, he'll get fired or no one will hire because he is weak. Also, members on the personal committee have stated to the senior pastor (not to me) that I needed a mentor to strengthen my weaknesses because anyone who gets up to speak or welcome guests can't have anytype of dyslixa (SP) which I have.
But in short you are absolutely correct. To a point. A pastor can be "real" if they so chose to and to the full extent of being open and honest; but they just need to be prepared for the backlash.
I allows thought we were allowed to be weak expecially in the presence of God.


"To Be Real" was one of the first songs I learned to dance to. I am old (younger than you though) and I still like that song...but I never could really dance.


"Realness" is a piece of evangelical Christian parlance that always makes me gag. Using the term "real" generally ensures that whatever to which you refer is not, in fact, that real.

I totally agree re: the Pastor Persona. I think pastors have self-created personas the way all persons have them, but you're right that those personas are as much in the minds of the congregation as in the mind of the pastor, usually more.

My dad's a pastor, and everyone adores him. I mean, he's a really good guy. But there's an admiration and love there that regular good guys don't get, usually. And it's because that's what they want -- they want someone to admire, to respect.

My dad's only ever pastored mid-size churches (150-450), though, so more people in the church tend to actually know him on a personal basis. I had a friend in high school who attended the local megachurch and she spoke of her pastor with a reverence that was creepy.


Just curious-What kinds of recommendations would you like to hear from your parishoners? "He's prophetic" "He's smart"? This is similar to a recent conversation I had with several pastors who would consider themselves progressive (relatively speaking). They were in a group away from their congregations and the discussions revealed their "progressive" views on several issues- gender, ordination, peace, justice, etc.... Before long, however, several of my questions to them revealed that they'd never bring these up in their sermons. When I asked what it would take to do so, they responded "Funerals". I was a bit stunned. I'm not a pastor, and I must admit I've filtered myself in the past for reasons of self interest. Hearing this from pastors, though, felt anything but prophetic- or REAL!


Don't know about "real". I would like to think the guy who "leads" me is honest, at least honest enough to admit his faults and failures. Integrity is the ingredient, I think. You don't have to tell me all your deep, dark secrets, but I'd like to be able to know you as you are, not who you'd like to convince me you are.......


this is another badass post, greg. i've had this conversation with a lot of folks... people more "seasoned" than i am at the whole pastoring gig. i think you described the whole thing really well... just wondering, as i always am after these types of discussions, what the way out is. is this just the way it is for someone (anyone) in this kind of position (church or not), or is there some other solution... sometimes i think, no, in a house church, in a small church (10 or less) this isnt an issue... but I've seen it and it IS an issue. it has nothing to do with church size.

and so then i think, is it just responsible sharing? is it just that its not responsible to share some things about yourself with everyone, for whatever reason? im rambling on here... i'll stop. loved the post.


I tend to think that pastors' first priority should be their immediate family, in the sense that they should be transparent, but not too transparent. I know two different preacher's kids whose fathers were "open" and "real" enough that their congregations never felt the need to use adjectives to describe them (any more than I use adjectives to describe my family or friends), but their children needed extensive therapy when they moved out of the house to overcome their persistent terror of every last little detail of their lives, however intimate and personal, being shouted from the rooftops. I tend to think that since they were afraid of "everyone" watching them, the real problem was that they didn't know anyone outside the insular bubble of church culture, but some well-advised discretion on their fathers' parts could probably have lessened their pain. Be honest about yourself if you have to, but protect your family's boundaries first.

With regard to bootleg blogger's comment, something Max Planck once said (I've quoted it here before), regarding science but I think it also applies in other realms, is that truth doesn't triumph by persuasion or reason; it waits until its opponents are dead and then a new generation arises that is familiar with it. An idea I've been playing with that I absolutely hate but can't seem to stop using extensively is that truth is on a need-to-know basis. It seems to be a pretty popular rule, almost everywhere. I wish I knew a way around it; it's just too damn handy. Keeps families together sometimes.

Dallas Tim

I think "real" might be better termed "approachable." In other words, He/She will talk to you (especially one on one) without pretense, in normal terms. Not some glossed over, candy-coated, cookie-cutter, "Christianese" that sounds rehearsed or like they have no clue what your really talking about or going through.

I remember talking to my pastor once in his office and he was telling me about how much pot he smoked in high school and about the first time his son came to him and said "Dad, I tried some weed." He kind of laughed, because even though he felt it was wrong, at least his son was able to confide in him and you could tell that was far more important to him. To me that's "real." That's a guy who isn't trying to make everyone think he's got all his crap together or that his family is bulletproof.

We all have baggage. The church isn't full of "good" people, it's full of "broken" people who need to be shown the love of Jesus and who need help with their problems, not condemnation. Sin is sin (remember, I'm a right-wing fundamentalist, inerrantist, evangelical). Sin should be pointed out as dangerous and urged to be avoided, but never from a platform of self-righteousness.

I've never told anyone that my pastor is "real" or whatever, but he is, I think, a good example of whatever it is that we're trying to nail down in this discussion.




Finally, an evangelical that will admit to being a fundamentalist.

Dallas Tim

...and a beer-drinkin' fundamentalist at that.

keepin' it "real,"


Just wanna drop in to say "word up" to Leighton and also to Dallas Tim.
As a recovering "PK" I believe my dad and I have a number of points at which we relate on the "well, this shouldn't have happened but it did only because we're a pastor's family" side of things.
Incidentally, my father once apologized to me publicly in front of an audience filled with his peers while teaching a lesson on filling ministerial roles at a church camp. It was one of the "realest" and most moving moments of my young adult life.

Scott Jones

See I try to be real now. I've even made an ass of myself in front of congregants at times. I always feel bad about it and don't plan it, but I think most of my regular, active people have seen a lot of me, though I do agree about the constructed persona. I just use that more in public than at church now.

Tim Sean

Wonderfully written, Greg.

I think I've described ministers as "authentic" before, meaning considerably less amounts of pretense than say the pastor up the street. But its all relative.

It's just a goofy job. Ministers are supposed to be "close friends" to however many people are active in their church. And then to those who are not so active when something bad happends (death, crisis, etc).

When I was a hospital chaplain this was the order of the entire day. Now that was some tricky shit! Usually, it was the folks who had bought into the culture of a clergy-parishnors that "put-up" with you and let you "minister" to them. Those who were not privy to this little dance usually thought you were visitng them because the doctor was getting ready to tell them they were going to die. So being "real" then was always a real crap shoot and nearly put me in a mental health facility. I hated the job.

I much prefer being a minister to people I at least have some common community to share.

More and more I am convinced that authentic spiritual community can only happen in small circles of friends where no one is getting paid. It does happen in churches, but it will always be tainted.

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