Toxic Pastoral Culture

Toxic Pastoral CultureAs a pastoral team we recently read through Paul Tripp book Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry. It was my second time through it and it only was released in the fall. I like to think of Paul Tripp as a biblical counselling Yoda, so it was very exciting when he turned his attention to the unique issues that surround pastoral culture.

One of Tripp’s big ideas is that the culture we have created around pastoral ministry is toxic and dangerous. It forces pastors to put on a persona and to isolate themselves from the body of Christ. Tripp asks, “does it seem right and healthy that in many churches the functional reality is that no one gets less of the ministry of the body of Christ than the pastor does?… Is it possible we have constructed a kind of relationship of the pastor to his congregation that cannot work?… Is it biblical to tell pastors they won’t be able to be friends with anyone, that they must live in an isolation that we would say is unhealthy for anyone else?” (p.69).

Tripp explains how pastors frequently end up isolated from the church, unable to confess sin, having no one in their life to aid them in seeing the spiritual blind spots that everyone has. Pastors feel a pressure to always do and say the right thing and this can lead to a dual life. And so to combat this toxic culture and to find a healthier way Tripp gives eight suggestions for churches to bring their pastors under the ministry of the body of Christ and see them live spiritually healthier lives.

  1. Require your pastor to attend a small group he doesn’t lead
  2. Pastor, seek out a spiritually mature person to mentor you at all times
  3. Establish a pastors’ wives’ small group
  4. Pastor, be committed to appropriate self-disclosure in your preaching
  5. Be sure that your pastor and his family are regularly invited into the homes of families in your church
  6. Make sure there is someone who is regularly mentoring your pastor’s wife
  7. Make sure your pastor and his wife have the means to be regularly out of the house and away for the weekends with one another
  8. Make sure counselling help is always available to the pastor, his wife, and their family.

Together churches and their pastors need to work together to break down the toxic culture that allows for pastors to be isolated from the ministry of the church. Churches need pastors who are first applying the gospel to their own heart and are practicing confession, forgiveness and community.