Some people think preachers aren’t real people. Some preachers don’t come across as real people. The pastor of my home church always had a suit on. No, really. I mean always. I saw him working on his house one day, and he had a coat and tie on. I prayed (and I wasn’t even saved at time), “Dear God, don’t make me be a preacher. They’re weird.”
Every time he came into my dad’s drugstore, he had a suit on. It could have been seven o’clock in the evening, and he had that suit on. We lived on the Gulf Coast—in the summer it was ninety degrees, and the humidity was higher than that. You could sweat sitting down. He never came in without a suit.
I remember having a discussion with my youth minister, James Miller, about this. I was in the car with him one day, and I asked him if he was really a preacher. When he asked why, I said, “Because you don=t always wear a tie.” He said something like, “So if I don=t wear a tie or my shirt collar backwards, you don=t think I=m a minister?” I wasn’t sure how to respond. I do know that when I was growing up, he was my minister in good and bad times.
Some people expect the preacher to sing psalms all day, read the Bible every waking moment and pray in between times. When I first came to Sherwood, Terri and I went to see a movie. We ran into some young people from the church who were shocked to see me there. They said, “We didn’t know preachers watched movies.” I found that reaction amusing. Had they been taught that preachers weren’t real people?
The facade of perfection doesn’t help anyone and deceives no one. Being known for what you are against more than what you are for is not biblical. For too long, Christians have had this idea that preachers aren’t human. I know why. Preachers have long portrayed themselves as having it all together. The attitude comes out something like this: “If you were as good as me, you wouldn’t have any problems.” Yeah, right. Let me talk to that preacher’s kids, and I bet I’ll get another side to the story.
I believe a pastor (or a Christian, for that matter) needs to be intensely spiritual and completely natural. I don’t understand why preachers change their voices when they get in the pulpit. I don’t understand why we get wrapped up on the externals rather than the internals. God judges the heart, not whether we’re wearing a suit or watching a movie. Of course, there are certain movies we shouldn’t watch, but you get my point.
I remember seeing Adrian Rogers out jogging one day. The pastor who was with me said, AI didn’t know Adrian jogged.@ I’m trying to figure out why that was a revelation to him. I loved to hear Ron Dunn talk about how he and Kaye would spend Fridays going to as many movies as they could. I would imagine it was a good mental break for Ron after being in church four days a week doing conferences. After listening to some church people, you need to go see a good shoot-‘em-up once in a while. Ron was as deeply spiritual as anyone I ever met, but he was down to earth as well.
The key is balance. I know people who are surprised to hear that Vance Havner and Lehman Strauss had a great wit about them. I heard someone tell Warren Wiersbe that they were surprised he used so much humor in his sermons. Apparently, some people think serving God means a sour disposition or a somber spirit. As I’ve thought about it, some of the godliest men I know are great practical-jokers and joke-tellers with an incredible sense of humor.
On the other hand, I know some legalists and preachers who take themselves way too seriously. They look like they are sucking lemons and stuck in a straight jacket. They wouldn’t know how to lighten up if they were on Demerol. Guys like that give me the creeps.
Read the gospels. You’ll never find Jesus wearing a lily-white robe—that’s something Hollywood did. You find him at a feast, at a wedding, at the festivals, being invited to people=s homes. The sinners received him gladly. He was sinless, but he wasn’t a stick-in-the-mud. I think the Lord enjoyed life. Many of his parables are laced with sarcasm and humor.
Have we forgotten that we are to take the Lord seriously and not take ourselves so seriously? Quit trying to look like a preacher or a Christian. Just be like Jesus—people will like you better.
Honesty is good for the soul, but bad for the reputation. But let’s be honest. Okay, I’ll be honest. I get ticked off when I hit a bad golf shot, and I’ve hit a lot of them in my day. I’ve been known to write the name of a cantankerous member on a golf ball and hit it into the lake on purpose. I know that’s not spiritual, and I ought to be better than that. Pray for me.
I like to watch TV and listen to oldies music (I can understand the words). I’ve danced with my wife and daughters and pulled a few practical jokes in my life. I like a good comedy, enjoy a good movie and eat foods my doctor wouldn’t approve of. I’m very competitive and want to win no matter what the game. I’ve been known to read MAD Magazine. I like to see the bad guys get what=s coming to them. I’ve spanked my girls, and Terri and I don=t always agree. I own several pistols. I love Disney World. I like a good Broadway show. And I yell at ball games when I probably should be quiet.
I want to love Jesus more and serve him better. I want to be more like him tomorrow than I am today. I want to keep growing as long as God gives me breath. I’m not perfect, but I do hope I=m real. Warren Wiersbe=s biography is entitled Be Myself. I love Warren because he=s comfortable in his own skin. I’m comfortable in mine. Please let me keep it. If you don’t agree, don’t skin me, just pray for me. One day, I might grow up to be as spiritual as you are.
© 2006, Michael Catt
Michael served as the President of the Large Church Roundtable, the Southern Baptist Convention as an IMB Trustee, President of the Georgia Baptist Convention’s Preaching Conference, Vice President of the Georgia Baptist Convention, and President of the 2008 Southern Baptist Convention Pastors’ Conference. He has spoken at conferences, colleges, seminaries, rallies, camps, NBA and college chapel services, well as The Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove. Michael is the recipient of The Martin Luther King Award, The MLK Unity Award, and a Georgia Senate Resolution in recognition of his work in the community and in racial reconciliation.
Michael and his wife, Terri, have two grown daughters, Erin and Hayley.