Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Preaching, Surfing, and Organized Crime

When I see leaders on stage I immediately esteem them. Not everybody does that, but I do. Always have. The way I see it, if pew passengers want you to tell them how to live differently, then you obviously have your junk together. At least most of it.

Maybe that's why I aspired to be one of those guys. My problem is that I'm not that good at life. I get overwhelmed by everything. Ask me to do laundry while I'm already washing dishes and you'll blow my motherboard. Real life for me is sort of... real.

But the guys on stage look so perfect. Bright lights shimmer off their wrinkle-free clothing; subtle symbolism for their wrinkle-free lives. They've never lost their cool. Always react to emotionally charged situations like professionals. They remind me that I too can aspire to a sparkly, wrinkle-free life.

Actually, they never said that. They told me about trials and character. I simply misunderstood because of how easy they made it look. Like those darn surfers. How do they glide on a tsunami like it's a moving walkway? Life never looks difficult for preachers and surfers. They seem to sail along, just in front of the waves. Nothing unmanageable enough to wrinkle pants or cause a splash.

But I wonder about unintended consequences. Like how Prohibition was supposed to suppress the alcohol trade, but essentially funded organized crime. Can that effect happen in church? I wonder if an unintended consequence of polished leadership is hypocrisy/legalism. It's easy to mistake a well-spoken man with ideals for a spiritual specimen. Why not presume he lives life in perfect adherence to his principles? It's easy to imagine him smiling through a house fire. He's perfect.

We rarely see an example of sincere imperfection on public display. But if you're near enough to the leaders, it's often beautiful. In my experience the closer I've gotten to the men on stage the more I've seen their authenticity. It's great to hear them belch after dinner. It's relieving to witness an occasional bad attitude. And it's inspiring to see real character in action.

But guess what I'm learning? They're not going to light farts on stage. They're not going to stub their toe and let a cuss word slip. And they definitely aren't going to stay up till 3am on Saturday night watching Lethal Weapon reruns. They're speaking the next day, for goodness sake!

Maybe that's how it's supposed to be. We want people worth following. We don't need them to expose their issues. Then we couldn't see past their carnality to let them help us with ours. It sucks when a pastor tries to connect with people by painting himself as a jerk. We lose respect for him. Even Jesus didn't let it all hang out. He had different levels of disclosure. John got his breast. The twelve got the rest. And the crowds got blessed. I'm cool with that.

So would Jesus have a problem with my blog? I wonder if He'd think my disclosure could hurt others. Or be concerned that people won't respect me years from now. He didn't bare his soul for the multitudes, why should I? People could easily judge me, and some probably already have. They could decide that because I was a wounded goofball in 2010 that I'm not to be trusted in 2012, or... ever.

Multitudes are finicky I guess. Just look at what happened with LeBron James. With one act of immaturity (publicly leaving his team), he went from being the most lovable NBA star to the most hate-able. And you better believe that 20 years from now people will still be talking bitterly about 'The Decision'. Isn't that crazy? Lifelong bitterness towards a kid for being insensitive? Mark my words, it will happen. Crowds cannot be trusted.

On the one hand, maybe we could use a little more transparency so we don't presume perfection. But on the other, full disclosure seems to create disrespect even more quickly than a good image engenders hypocrisy. And where's the balance for me? I can't go back to pretending I'm wrinkle-free. That facade messed me up. It paved the way for organized crime. I have to slowly iron out my wrinkles. Practice on my surf board in the shallow water. But I may want to reconsider my self-sabotaging strategy. I'm not looking to make the entire city of Cleveland openly root for my destruction. Or all of Christendom. Who knows what the future holds...


  1. So true, Matt. I think people (including myself at times) tend to put Pastors/Leaders on a pedestal thinking they are the epitome of perfection. Then you become a Pastor/Leader (or marry one) and realize that they are a normal person...with a different calling, one that takes them in front of people. I agree with you, I think a certain level of transparency is important. I grew up in the church and at a young age I thought Pastors lived this perfect life...until I saw some close to me fall in a major way.
    I too appreciate when a leader can let his guard down and show he's a real guy.
    Don't be so hard on yourself. God is continuing a work in all of us. :)

  2. Matt,
    I know it's been a LONG time since Elim :) I just wanted you to know I've been stalking your blog, and really enjoying your writing and your honesty. Thanks for sharing :)

  3. I'm sure everyone has a different take, but personally I find it much easier to relate to, and trust, a person with an obvious fatal flaw. I generally feel intimidated by and resentful of people who seem to have it all figured out. That's probably just my insecurity talking. Maybe I'm too honest. I don't know. Right now, though, I would rather have real ugliness than fake beauty.

  4. LOL Deanna! I consider myself a Matt's blog stalker as well....and Elim for me goes back to 1979!
    You have turned a corner, Matt! Different levels of disclosure - without being purposefully deceptive. Should the Holy Spirit allow something to be revealed that we'd rather not have on public display, then, we have to trust Him and that "love covers a multitude."
    Hate to sound like a stuck record but "Truth is the means between excess and defect." You'll hit your own personal balance - which quite honestly, is MORE honest than the "average." But that's o.k. - it's who God made you.
    Keep it up - temper it, but please don't air brush - the world has more than enough.

  5. I'm not going to comment on this blog, even though I really liked reading it.

  6. First of all, I don't want to follow the leading of anyone but Jesus. Leaders don't have to expose their issues because "we" should know EVERYONE has issues.
    As far as barring your soul, yes you should because time is short and the "Christians" need to hear their not sinless. BTW, I think some have forgotten that they aren't.
    Thanks for you transparency.

  7. I'd like to hear someone make a compelling case for why leaders should maintain their image. And... go!

  8. How Compelling is this... Image=Facade! There Is No One Righteous, No Not One. We All Stand On Equal Ground When Compared To Christ... We All Need To Ask For The Power Of The Holy Spirit To Flow Through Our Lives For His Goodness To Flow Through Us. No Good Has Ever Come From A Completely Human Man. Only Jesus, and He Is The Lamb Of God!

  9. Lots of wisdom in your decisions and boundaries in this one Matt.