Pastors and comedians

October 28th, 2014

In a recent episode of the WTF Podcast, Marc Maron (the host) interviewed Jay Bakker, son of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker.

The interview opened up with Jay saying that he always wanted to be a comedian and that there's not that much difference between a pastor and a comedian except that “comedians are honest.”

I believe there's a tinge of truth in that comment.

Comedians often experience a lot of tragedy and pain. Cliché as it may be, they do turn their tragedies into something people can laugh about. And the comedians tend to be honest with their struggles, pains and misfortunes.

Sometimes the church hasn’t allowed folks to be open about their struggles. Instead, we’ve often conditioned them to bury their struggles deep inside, hidden underneath their best Sunday attire and an empty smile.

Of course, some people don’t give the church a chance to respond out of fear of being judged. I grew up in a culture where struggle was viewed as a sign of weakness; where doubt was perceived to be a lack of faith; where I had to smile and laugh like a maniac when my world was utterly falling apart.

Sometimes, we (the church) may not feel equipped to help so we give vague, one-size-fits-all remedies to individual problems: “just pray more” or “have more faith.”

When I started working in youth ministry, the mantra with all the young people for their adult youth workers was: Be real.

We were all tired of perfect, cookie-cutter pastors who seemed flawless and whose answer to every question was “Jesus!”

No one’s that perfect.

It made it hard for me to relate to those leaders. They didn’t serve as role models (“I should strive to be like them”) but more as deterrents (“No way I can be like that. Why try?”)

In my early college days, a lightbulb went off in my heart when I saw how flawed Moses and David were. Moses with his insecurity and hot-headedness. David with his breaking of five commandments in one story. Yet Moses was known as the one who saw the Lord face to face and David was known as a man after God’s heart.

The church taught me how great these men (and other folks of the Bible) were and I remember thinking, I can’t ever be like that.

But now I saw that these were ordinary folks and their dependence on God was what made them great. And I realized, I could do that — or at least attempt to. That was around the time when I finally accepted my call into ministry. It wasn’t about David — it was more about what God did through David, even though he was an ordinary man.

I can’t relate to leaders who seem too good to be true. And you know what they say about things that seem too good to be true.

This affected what type of youth pastor I was going to be. I wasn’t going to pretend I was perfect. I was going to be real. And the kids were asking me and the other unpaid servants to be real— to be ourselves.

Jay Bakker talked to Maron about the immense pressure his parents felt to be more perfect than humanly possible. The church expected his parents to be perfect, and his parents felt the need to be perfect.

But, we’re not perfect. We’re broken. We’re human. And there’s no shame in admitting that we need God.

Of course, that doesn’t mean to bare all your scars and wear them like a trophy. We need to pray and discern on what we share and why we need to share it.

Maybe we pastors can never be as honest as comedians, as it may do serious damage to some parishioners.

But the days of the Superman, cookie-cutter pastor are long gone. It seems more leaders are being more open to the fact that they don’t have all the answers and that they are reliant on God’s grace like everyone else — maybe even more.

And I think that’s a good thing.

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