Let this circle represent a pastor.
Let x represent the reality of his life. X includes the best and the worst in him. X includes his secret sexual fantasies and the most selfish and harmful urges he usually suppresses but sometimes cannot. X is the real person.
Let this rectangle represent the image of himself that this pastor presents to the congregation and to others who see him mainly in his role.
Let Y represent a completely fabricated image that has almost no connection to X, the real person. In the case of some TV preachers and some pastors of very large congregations where many of the people in the pews will never actually meet the pastor, this is often what you get:
Let us agree that when a minister presents an entirely false image, it is hypocritical and as harmful to Christianity as the airbrushed magazine images of women are to real women. In both cases, the image has no connection to reality. The airbrushed magazine images create impossible expectations and terrible self esteem. The fabricated minister image creates congregations who think that the work of Christianity should be done by professional ministers. They are only to happy to sit in their pews, hoping to be spoon-fed by Dr. Wonderful, whose spiritual wisdom and maturity seem utterly unattainable to them.
Let us also agree that this would be undesirable:
While honesty and transparency are good things, some boundaries are in order in every relationship. We all know that everyone struggles with certain issues and “sins,” if you use that kind of language. We don’t need to see every doubt and weakness in the lives of the people standing behind the pulpit.
So the question is, how much of your pastor do you want to see? How well do you want to know him or her?
If very good friends show you .9 of X, let us agree that a reasonably healthy and authentic pastor might show the congregation some lesser part of himself, say .5 or .6 of X. Most congregations don’t want to see any more than that. And since many pastors have little time to nurture relationships outside of the congregation, they often have no one to whom they may show .9 of X.
This is why so many ministers feel lonely and isolated. At church they seem cheerful, outgoing, and winsome. At home, they struggle with depression, disillusionment, and despair.
As Real Live Preacher, I try to show you .9 of X.
For this I am both admired and despised.
Added later after some comments.
note: I know some are saying, “despised?” I understand why that would be confusing because most of the comments are so flattering and embarrassingly nice. The negative stuff usually comes via email.
Generally one a week or so. Outraged and horrified people condemning me to a variety of terrible afterlife experiences. It doesn’t bother me, though it took a little getting used to.