Nine times out of ten, the question “So, why did you go into pastoral ministry?” gets some combination of these two responses:
“Because I sensed a call from God.”
“Because I really wanted to help and serve people”.
Those are good reasons, healthy reasons, in a sense really the only reasons.
But danger lurks within those reasons. Light always casts shadow.
“Because I sensed a call from God” can become “Therefore I must be right about this particular issue” or “My calling is really significant and therefore I must be too” or “I have to hide who I really am because I don’t want people to think that God made a mistake”.
“Because I really wanted to help and serve people” can become “I need to be needed” or “My self-worth is tied up in my role as a helper” or “If I focus enough on the needs of others I can deny what is really going on inside of myself”.
Deep inside all of those distorted statements is a common theme: fear rooted in insecurity. But what’s interesting is that usually this theme plays itself out in behavior that seems to be its opposite – grandiosity.
The Super Hero pastor. The leader who can do it all and who can do no wrong and even when he admits being less than perfect is able to cloak that in virtue.
(“I need you all to hold me accountable to work less”, meaning “I really, really work hard and I need you to know it”).
Super Hero pastoring is an enemy of leadership because self-importance cannot co-exist with servanthood.
When I succumb to the temptation of Super Hero pastoring I believe that my perspective is the only right one, that my way of doing things is the one true way, and that I know what’s best in all situations.
Strangely enough, this perspective doesn’t usually arise from bad intentions. It usually grows out of the normal human need to feel important. We don’t know a single human being – even pastor! – who doesn’t want to feel valuable.
But unchecked, this desire to feel important can belittle those the leader ought to be listening to and supporting, even if the leader seems to be solving problems.
The more we demonstrate our capacity to solve problems, the more we take them off of the shoulders of others, the more authority we gain in their eyes. Sounds appealing, right?
Only until that train leads right down the track to grandiosity; until “I want to help” becomes “I have all the answers”.
Which, for a pastor, leads to loneliness and burnout and sometimes a shattered faith.
There’s no news here. Every man or woman who has served in pastoral ministry for longer than six months or so knows the deal.
But the question is what to do about it.
Some of the answers are obvious. Maintain the spiritual disciplines with an eye towards humility and transparency. Surround yourself with people who can both love and laugh at you. Conspire to commit acts of service outside the scope of your formal ministry which no one will ever know about.
Outside of your relationship with God, we believe there is one key ingredient which can be the difference-maker between cligning to your Super Hero cape and tossing it aside like a ball and chain:
Having a trusted, experienced advisor in your corner.
Someone who knows you, is for you, can be honest with you, and who knows you’re not a Super Hero.
Someone who has been there and has the scars and the medals both.
That describes Transforming Church’s roster of experienced practitioner coaches. We coach hundreds of pastors just like you, from all denominations and church sizes. Pastors who are looking to fine tune an impressive run of ministry success. Pastors who need to get unstuck. Pastors mired in conflict and chaos. Pastors who have one final run left in their ministry and want to make the absolute most of it. Pastors whose churches need a new vision and some fresh perspective. Pastors who are on the verge of giving up on the ministry – and maybe God.
Won’t you take a moment and watch the video below hosted by Shane, one of our coaches? And consider whether a pastoral coach just might be the next right step that will help you put your Super Hero cape in mothballs forever.