Isolated On a Pastoral Pedestal

Loneliness in leadership is never fun. It’s also less than necessary when it comes to living on a pedestal.


Pastors are often surrounded by people who elevate them as super Christians. We’re already called by God to live to a higher standard so it’s no fun being judged by one that is entirely artificial.


Are You Causing This?


And this may be your own fault. Pastors sometimes gather unrealistic authority while attempting to protect themselves from toxic individuals. But this easily gets out of hand. We can learn to dominate and manipulate a church board or even an entire congregation. Aside from being ungodly, this serves to isolate whoever does it. Not good!


We often get so busy that we only relate to others professionally. We serve as preachers, managers, counselors, and centers of spiritual knowledge. These roles may be necessary, but they are also isolating, especially when we, or others, confuse them with our personal identity.


One fundamental problem is that pastors too often lack personal friendships. When I was in a Bible college, one professor taught us, wannabe pastors, never to build personal friendships with people in the congregation. Now, I think there’s a certain measure of wisdom in that, but he took it too far and overall, it was detrimental advice. You need to have friends within your congregation and apart from it.


You may feel freer when speaking with outsiders. Because they are not stakeholders, these friends won’t interfere with your goals. You are able to talk freely to think out loud, and then not be held to some judgment over it.


That Clergy-Laity Thing


A major solution to isolation is teaching against the clergy-laity split. As soon as you start to teach it, you’ll have to live it. This presents a mechanism to undermine many of the isolating factors in your life. Eroding the clergy-laity divide reinforces the elements necessary to get you off that pedestal and give you a healthier life.


Standing on level ground with your congregation frees you to be more transparent about your struggles. The more that you expose your heart, the less isolated you’ll become. For me this gets down to confessing a silly outburst of anger in traffic, the bad words I may have said, or, whatever nonsense I’ve been up to. The more that you step off that pedestal the happier you’ll be.


When managing the pedestal, pay strong attention to vocabulary, and process; especially the vocabulary and the process Paul gave us in Ephesians. Jesus placed apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, and teachers for good reason. Those people-gifts are there to equip the body of Christ to do the real work of ministry in and outside of the circle of the church. To invest all five gifts in one person is to build the ultimate pedestal. If your people, or your polity, charge you with the gifts of dozens or hundreds of individuals, you have a very large problem.


A Better Take on Titles


If I were to live my life afresh, I’d manage my leadership vocabulary more carefully. I would insist that people call me the leader of our congregation rather than its pastor. For one person to be “the” pastor of a large congregation cuts a few hundred others out of their perceived gifts. And it nullifies those apostles, prophets, teachers and evangelists among us. Vocabulary shapes culture. Be careful how you use it.


I would, however, accept the title of pastor in a small group or microchurch within the circle of the larger congregation. In my former life, I always led a microchurch and required the same of each staff member. We identified the leaders of all those groups as pastors. And we loosely identified the apostles, etc. among us. Though we were never into titles, we tried to attach vocabulary (form) to function whenever possible.


Leading a microchurch, trust group or whatever you call them is a simple hike off that pedestal. You live among your people and better understand their needs. Importantly, they see you as human rather than superman.


For more about feelings of loneliness click on

Then click the link that reads “Overcoming Feelings of Isolation and Loneliness (preview).”

It’s under the heading “Leadership: Bulletproofing Your Life and Ministry.”




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