Should Pastors Cry?
My dear friend Mark was ordained into the pastoral ministry on Sunday in the Chicago area. As is the custom, the newly ordained pastor speaks the benediction at the end of the service. Just before that, Mark paused: "I'd like to share a few things."
He proceeded to speak words of love and thanks to family, mentors, and those gathered. He was sincere and heartfelt. And in front of the entire congregation, he cried.
There is an unspoken expectation that a pastor is superhuman, somehow above emotion and attachment. In my Lutheran heritage, our traditional models of pastoral ministry are reserved and stoic in demeanor. There is a strong sense duty and service, often at the expense of vulnerability and sincerity.
To be vulnerable is to be open, not only to give, but to receive. Yes, we give: time, leadership, care, counsel, the Word of God, etc. But we are part of a larger body, and we must receive the care, comfort, and gifts of those other parts. Our giving to others is diminished if we are too proud to receive from them as well.
Pastors are not invincible. There are appropriate times for self-disclosure and admission of weakness. This vulnerability is not attention-seeking, nor is it self-pity. Paul demonstrated appropriate times to expose his weakness:
On a recent Wednesday night, I walked a hallway in our church building. Sarah stopped me and wanted me to know about her ailing father's health struggles. He is a mentor of mine, and I welled up with emotion. Standing in the hallway, with others passing by, I attempted to bottle the feeling. But my heart succumbed and tears flowed. She let her pastor cry and gave me a hug.
The longer I'm the pastor of a local congregation, the more I love them. The more they love me. It's a rich experience. Pastor. People. Place. I continue to learn what it means to live together as a local body of Christ. This includes vulnerability. And sometimes, vulnerability means a pastor cries.
5/30/2018 08:06:23 am
Jeff ~ thank you for this post. My husband David (who was a classmate of your dad's ~ we've met you at Mega Church) is a pastor who cares deeply & does cry. He really okay with it but sometimes feels embarrassed by it, but he's an emotional guy so it's really who he is. I've seen him tear up at funerals & at hospital bedsides, but perhaps the most impactful times is when he chokes up & has to pause to gain composure during a sermon - when he's preaching about our messes, Jesus' sacrifice, and the depth of God's love. THAT is vulnerability that is real and relatable and can bless the socks off people! Thanks for your post.
5/30/2018 04:40:35 pm
Thanks, Pat. Yes, such authenticity is honest and powerful.
12/15/2019 10:30:21 am
I personally cannot sit under a pastor who cries all the time from the pulpit. Once in a while is understandable, but I know one pastor in particular who weeps from the pulpit at least once a month. I prefer preachers who are strong and can expound on the word without their emotions taking over. I firmly believe that people in society have come to rely on their feelings more so than truth, and when a pastor is that emotional, it bothers me and distracts me from the truth that is being proclaimed. These are typically the same pastors who hold long drawn out altar calls, appealing to people's emotions to get them to come forward. Any truth that they are expounding on from the pulpit is distracted by the pastor's displays of weepy emotion.
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