categories:, communication, leadership, preaching
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April 30th, 2008

by Craig Groeschel

18 comments (+ Add)

Take Some Risks

Most people will see you as a pastor first. I want people to see me as a follower of Jesus who happens to be a pastor. (In my mind, the difference is big!)

Accomplishing this goal takes some work. Many church members see pastors as a “step above” the normal person. (Some pastors even believe this to be true.)

To me, the pastor who is viewed as a normal person has an extreme advantage over the one who is viewed as the “perfect spiritual leader.”

To demystify your pastoral role, you’ll have to take some self-revealing risks. Here are a few suggestions when revealing personal flaws:

  • If you’re courageous enough to expose selected spiritual doubts, people may relate to you as a real person.
  • If you carefully reveal a marital struggle (with permission from your spouse), people may be more likely to listen.
  • When you talk about certain personal failures, many people will feel an increased bond with you.
  • If you are hurting and you express your need, your church family can be aware to pray for and minister to you.

It’s not uncommon for someone to say to me, “Craig, when you shared about your struggle with ____________ (fill in the blank), I knew you were someone I could relate to.”

A few people might reject you for your authentic confessions, but the vast majority will accept, embrace, and trust you as a genuine believer wrestling to grow closer to Christ.

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there are a total of18
  1. 1Steve
    Apr 30, 2008 at 6:03 am

    I will be the first to tell you that your authenticity has shown me that it was ok for me to have made mistakes in the past because God has a plan for my life. I see you as someone I am working to become in my walk with Jesus and thank you for leading me to become a fully devoted follower of Christ.

  2. Apr 30, 2008 at 6:44 am

    Good word, Craig. Not only does is benefit your congregation to have a pastor who is so authentic but I think it builds the honesty and credibility of being Christ followers to “the world” who is quick to point out hypocrits.

  3. Apr 30, 2008 at 7:17 am


    If I understand communicating very much, especially as it relates to preaching/teaching, being “real” is an absolute must…especially to this generation. I once read that they can spot a phony a mile away. Your book “Confessions” inspired me to do my current series on “Confessions” and other than it being an extremely taxing series to prepare, it has been fantastic in rapport. I think people in general want to see their pastor as real and struggling and not “up there” where I can’t relate.

    I really like this post.

  4. Apr 30, 2008 at 7:24 am

    I agree with Lori - if authenticity gets modeled in the pulpit then the congregation begins to model it to the world the we are making positive strides. Lack of authenticity has created the image problem the church has in the world in my humble opinion.

  5. 5tony
    Apr 30, 2008 at 7:30 am

    ths kinda goes back to the issue of ‘pastoral leadership’ and why some pastors are good leaders and some are not. my wife gets asked all the time why she is such a great recruiter of volunteers, why do they seem to line up for her?

    the truth is….she is very,very real. her volunteers are her friends, too - everyone is her friend! they understand she has teenage kid problems (rarely but sometimes), and her houuse floods, and her oven blows up, etc. etc

    the days of ths ‘hide behind the suit of spiritualty’ are long gone - so, get real people!!

  6. Apr 30, 2008 at 7:50 am

    [...] [UPDATE: Craig Groeschel has a post about living authentically HERE] [...]

  7. Apr 30, 2008 at 8:03 am

    Craig, if the truth be told, this may be the strength of successful pastoral ministry. Authenticity and vulnerability are largely lacking from the pulpit. While I recognize the attendant pitfalls in “revealing too much” I also recognize how freeing it is to not have to put up appearances in front of the people you are leading. I have, like you, found being authentic to be the easiest way to demystify my calling as a pastor, so that I can be the servant leader that I’m called to be. Thanks for not just speaking and writing about this, but for living it too.

  8. Apr 30, 2008 at 8:26 am

    Reality brings loyalty. Reality brings honesty. Reality brings life change. Reality fosters grace. Reality allows for transparent leadership. If I wasn’t real I would fail miserably. Thanks for modeling this Craig…it helps keep us all on track with this.

  9. Apr 30, 2008 at 8:34 am

    [...] today I read a great post (click here to read) from Craig Groeschel (LifeChurch) that really resonated with me. I too want to be a pastor that [...]

  10. 10Larry
    Apr 30, 2008 at 9:44 am

    Man this is so true—-not that I every thought you would lie Craig! This also applies to leading LifeGroups and Small Groups. At first rocks people onto their heals but they usually engage quickly after that. The only exception I have found is those with a lot of drama in their life, they tend to hope for a role model of perfection! Sorry to disappoint.

  11. 11Mac
    Apr 30, 2008 at 9:55 am

    I know my own most powerful moments as a preacher and pastor have been when I was willing to be vulnerable and play some of my cards face up on the table, as it were. They have been the most real moments of my ministry, and also on a couple of occasions the most frightening. Public speaking doesn’t give me the jitters–I love it–but when I know I’m about to stand before a crowd and intentionally drop the guard I’ve been keeping over something painful, it’s a totally different situation.

    But now I wonder about how to keep “being real”…*real*. In other words, if I get up all the time and reveal yet one more doubt, worry, flaw, mistake, or sin, over and over again, where does it cross over to melodrama? At what point does it stop serving the Lord and the congregation and start to be just therapy for the preacher? Sometimes this thought seems silly to me, but sometimes not.

    Also, I regularly think about how to serve the congregation without sacrificing my family, and that includes being careful about self-revelations that may be hurtful to your spouse or children.

    Anyway, I’m obviously still working this stuff out. Thanks for bringing it up.

  12. Apr 30, 2008 at 10:24 am


    This post is why I’m drawn to your speaking and writing. I’ve always been a risk taker but got complacent. Then your Practical Atheist message kicked me in the gut. I pray I’m always a risk taker and my kids especially see that in me. Nothing about Jesus was safe.

  13. Apr 30, 2008 at 10:57 am

    It is really an art form. My fear is that in the growing movement to have pastors reveal weaknesses, pastors (including myself) will be clumsy in how they confess.
    A pastor reveals weakness in order to inspire others to become followers of Christ. Revealing too much or too little won’t inspire. The problem is that for every member of the congregation, the amount of openness the pastor needs to show is different.

    For example, a new Christian may be inspired by a pastor who has had to struggle with drinking in his life, but a Christian raised in church may completely lose respect for that pastor.

    What guides you in the art of what to reveal and not reveal in order to inspire?

  14. Apr 30, 2008 at 12:00 pm

    I am always thrilled when I see the human side of pastors. I remember growing up and my parents watched all the TV guys that were larger than life and when they fell it really shocked everyone because these guys were human and flawed after all. I am pretty transparent with my congregation and most people really appreciate it, the ones who do not are people who have been in the church a long time and are looking for “THE MAN OF GOD” who has all the answers and is always Christlike. Like we discussed yesterday, it authenticity not religious airs that resonate with people seeking truth. I am honest when I teach if I am struggling with a truth, or if it took me a while to overcome in an area of my life or if I still struggle. I tell my people “I am not here to impress you, I am here to journey with you, and we ALL have a lot of growing to do.” Those that don’t like the fact that I am honest about the fact that I am not Superman or super spiritual end up going to other churches any way. Great post thanks for this forum.

  15. 15Mark Allen Jr
    Apr 30, 2008 at 3:53 pm

    I’d only say that in my experience, God will test you on what you share and it’s alot easier to do this as the lead pastor. As a youth pastor who gets to fill in preaching about 5 times a year, I shared in a sermon last year that I had to repent after getting angry with a traffic cop and being disrespectful to him. That somewhere deep down I had not quite whipped my issues with authority and that God was still twisting the screws from time to time to show me that. Well, my Lead Pastor made a mental note of it and now brings it up anytime we have conflict, he has sited it about 20 times this year. Talk about God testing my issues with authority! It was a risk and I have had to bite my tongue many times and eat comments from my Lead Pastor but that moment of transparency has lead to some great ministry with a couple of guys who were feeling the same way. It seems like God has tested me in that particular issue this year and brought me through with a feeling of victory. Ohh, and I got out of the ticket in court!

  16. Apr 30, 2008 at 5:46 pm

    Great post. I needed to hear this. I was recently deeply hurt by another team member and my response is to close up and put up the guard. This response is somewhat warrented after stuff I had been vulnerable about was used against me, but…..I can’t live this way. Thanks for the straight words.

  17. 17Bill G
    May 1, 2008 at 5:19 am

    What a great post. The authenticity and transparency that I have seen in you (Craig), Chris Beal and Chris Spradlin is what has drawn me to Lifechurch. You guys talk about and struggle with the same issues that I struggle with. Hearing you guys open up like you do really helps me to face my personal struggles. I agree with you Larry. When I was leading my small group I would open up to them and it was amazing how the would follow. By opening the door it allowed everyone else to go a little deeper.

  18. May 2, 2008 at 7:38 am

    [...] Groeschel från fortsätter skriva bra bloggposter. Den här gången om hur folk ser på pastorer: Most people will see you as a pastor first. I want people to see me as a follower of Jesus who [...]