Do You Feel Like a Pastoral Fraud?

by Jim Essian August 18, 2016

Do you ever feel like a fake? A fraud? Like the self-portrait you’ve painted for others is a rip-off of somebody else? Someone more holy, more pure—less Pharisaical, more Spurgeon-esque?

Sometimes I wonder if the preacher/pastor me - the one that passionately proclaims the magisterial glory of the infinite Most High God - looks like a godly man breathing in the goodness of God. Like I have just taken this holy inhale of the great and deep and mighty things of God, and my preaching, speaking, and my theological banter are all just over-inflated wisps of God’s truths from a man so filled up he is spilling over.

In reality, I feel more like a deflated balloon.

Like the ones the morning after your kid’s birthday party, a remnant of joyful bounce, the “Happy Birthday” script no longer a bold statement of celebration and joy, now just a tiny, almost unreadable afterthought. What a bunch of hot air.

You ever feel that way? If you have, it was probably on a Sunday night.

We baptized 45 people recently. For some that’s a lifetime of ministry, for others it’s really cute. For me it was an Elijah-like spiritual high, with an Elijah-like spiritual fall by about 9:30 that night. I don’t remember feeling one inkling of pride that morning. I had not one sense that this amazing, grace-filled, fruitful day had anything to do with me. I was elated, overjoyed, watching God flex—a kite caught up in the Spirit’s wind. By 9:30 that evening, though, I was running the gamut of pastor-divine and pastor-despair.

What a roller-coaster mind-job a pastor’s heart is.

I heard someone quote someone else once that discouragement is the “occupational hazard of ministry.” He’s right, whoever he is. Especially at 9:30 on a Sunday night.

The Serpent-Accuser loves the night. He loves the darkness, doesn’t he? The Most High God rules the night, though:

"At night his song is with me…"

"Yours is the day, yours also the night."

"Even the darkness is not dark to you;"

"The night is bright as the day..."

"...for darkness is as light with you."

"…Your faithfulness by night."

"I bless the Lord who gives me counsel, in the night my heart also instructs me."

—(Psalm 42:8, 74:16, 139:12, 92:2, 16:7)

So, in my Elijah-like Valley of both pity and pride, here is what the gracious God of the universe whispered to me:

“You are a fraud. The old man in the flesh I’m killing? He’s a fake. Oh, but what I am making you! What I am making the lot of you—my Bride! You, her, both of you are going to be something else! A Bride in splendor. Washed and ironed. You will be stunning. You’ll look like the Son.

For now I’ve given the Serpent-Accuser enough rope to hang himself with, but he’ll try to hang you. He’ll come after you, like a thorn in the flesh when you're weakt. He might show up at 9:30. And he will do exactly what I sent him to do: to compel you to come to me.

It will push you to me, drive you to me, humble you before me. I give grace to the humble, and you need more grace.”

“Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.”—2 Corinthians 1:9