When pastors question their faith

"A Pastor Questions His Faith" by nakedpastor David Hayward

“A Pastor Questions His Faith” by nakedpastor David Hayward

Do you like this cartoon? Buy a print of it for 20% OFF with coupon ‘iwant’ (as well as all my other art)!

There are thousands of pastors, active in ministry, preaching every Sunday, who are questioning their faith. I’ve been there, and I’m intimately aware of how painful and terrifying it can be.

If you never read James Fowler’s book, The Stages of Faith, I’d recommend it. In his research findings it is clear that questions and doubt are an essential part of the faith journey. Even if one finds oneself in an atheist perspective, it is necessary and important to go through the questioning stages to get there in a healthy manner.

I have been a part of a congregation who allowed me to question out loud, to be vulnerable and express my doubts and fears. Like in this cartoon, their response was, “Welcome to our world!”… until I went beyond the box’s boundaries that was too uncomfortable or threatening for some.

This is the problem: pastors are expected to be pure and perfect paragons of faith, rather than as struggling human beings in process.

If pastors enjoy a congregation where they can develop out loud, then they are fortunate.
If pastors do not enjoy this, they are in for a very difficult and lonely time.

Actually, I claim that if pastors were allowed to express their struggles aloud and the congregation provided an empathic response, their solidarity would create a powerful dynamic for personal development and communal life. I know this not only from observation but from experience.

Most pastors aren’t this fortunate though, which requires them to either:

  • subscribe to the clergy/layperson split and enjoy this lifestyle as much as possible; or
  • resign themselves to a rather sad and isolated life of traditional ministry; or
  • somehow find the courage and the means to change careers.

Oh… and by the way… The Lasting Supper has some pastors and ex-pastors among its membership. Including me! Those who have been or still are in church leadership: please accept my warm invitation to join us! CHECK IT OUT!

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2 Responses

  1. Lutek says:

    Perhaps clergy should stop seeing themselves as leaders or teachers, and settle into the more appropriate role of facilitators and moderators of the discussions, and of other aspects of the learning process which is the basis of the spiritual quest. Come to think of it, that applies to “leaders” and “teachers” of all sorts!

  2. Mo says:

    It’s got to be a good thing to always question just what you feel the need to believe. Love you Ado. X