A myth is “an unproved or false collective belief that is used to justify a social institution.” Several of the assumptions I embraced at one time about ministry have turned out to be “unproven or false.” Many of these myths hold fragments of truth, but eventually break down on the frontlines of ministry.
Last week I asked my pastor friends on Twitter to submit ministry myths that they experienced, which I included with my own. Last week we debunked these myths: pastors only work one day a week; pastors are on call 24/7; pastors can’t befriend members; missionaries live somewhere you don’t; statistics about pastors must be true. My desire to debunk these myths is fueled by a love for pastors and desire for them to lead healthy lives and ministries.
Most pastors are in it for the money
I am not exactly sure when this beast was born, but I suspect it was in the 1980s when several televangelists were exposed on national television for their embarrassing greed. I started pastoring in 1987, and each headline hurt more deeply as they cast more doubt on the integrity of the clergy. Until that time we had at least been given the benefit of the doubt about financial integrity.
Until those scandals, even the IRS was reluctant to audit a minister or ministry. Skepticism grew with each headline, unfairly affecting guys like me who scraped by on $1000 a month for my first two years as a full time pastor. Even as I send the IRS a big fat check today, I wonder how many ministers lied on their tax return this year. Sad, I know.
I was not alone in wondering if Atlanta based televangelist Creflo Dollar really needs to replace his old Gulfstream 3 with a $60 million dollar Gulfstream G650. He suggested his followers each commit to giving “$300 or more.” I would, but you know…the IRS cleaned me out Mr. Dollar.
If, indeed, “most pastors are in it for the money,” then most pastors are idiots because there are easier and more lucrative ways to make a living.
“It is necessary to silence them; they overthrow whole households by teaching what they shouldn’t in order to get money dishonestly” (Titus 1:11).
Pastors are more godly than other believers
This myth has biblical roots, so we must tread more carefully here. The baseline expectation of pastors in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 suggests a higher standard (“above reproach”) for church leaders than for church members. Additionally, all throughout Scripture teachers and preachers are reminded that they will be held accountable for every word they speak.
“Not many should become teachers, my brothers, knowing that we will receive a stricter judgment” (James 3:1).
A closer inspection of Scripture will find that God did not raise the bar for pastors’ godliness any more than He lowered the bar for non-pastors. All of those who follow Christ have fallen short of the glory of God and are saved by the same grace of God. From the moment of our rebirth, all believers will reap in proportion to what we have sown, regardless of our gifts, titles, or positions.
Pastor’s wives need to have a ministry job description
Expectations for the pastor’s wife can be confusing for the pastor’s family as well as the church family. My contemporary at Focus on the Family told me recently that pastors’ wives are among the highest risk for depression in the U.S. I wonder how much of this is tied to unrealistic, unbiblical expectations some churches place on these spiritual sisters. The next myth is related to this one.
Pastors live in a glass house
If you are not sure whether your glass parsonage needs to be remodeled, ask your family. Refuse to accept that myth that loneliness and isolation are an acceptable price of pastoring.
Pastor, if you don’t protect your family’s privacy, there is no one to blame more than yourself. Each person in your home has a different threshold for privacy, so customize your family’s privacy settings accordingly.
A good leader won’t have any conflicts
That balloon was popped for me on my first Sunday as a pastor when Johnny accosted me for not having enough baby beds in the nursery. First of all, I was still single and had never been in a church nursery. Secondly, who blames a 23 year old pastor for something he didn’t know about on his first day? Finally, who in their right mind names their daughter “Johnny”?
After about a year in the ring/church with Johnny, I politely called her bluff on one of her many threats to leave the church. It was like a black cloud was lifted from my life and church, which led to a beautiful season of growth. Conflict will happen in every church, just as it did in the New Testament.
This list of ministry myths is certainly not exhaustive or conclusive. I would love to hear from you on the comments section of this blog or send a direct message to @markdance.