I didn’t want to go to church Sunday. And I certainly didn’t want to preach. As I lay in bed comfortable under the covers, I wrestled for 15 minutes with the decision to get up.

I could call in sick.

One of our associates was preaching in our chapel service, and he could preach in the main auditorium too.

I’ve never bailed at the last minute before. Our executive pastor would be OK with it.

It’s not that I don’t feel called to preach. But it had been a heavy week: Sermon planning for all of 2019. A death in the family of a good friend followed immediately by the death of a longtime member in our church. People close to me wrestling with worrisome health issues.

It would be a good morning to sleep. It would be a good afternoon to sleep.

I finally gave in to responsibility and duty, and I’m glad I did. I’m also glad I shared all of the above with the whole congregation at the beginning of each sermon Sunday morning. I told them I understand when they don’t want to come to church, because I didn’t want to, either.

That sharing is what I’m thinking about as I write this. I’ve always tried to demonstrate that kind of vulnerability and I believe the benefits outweigh the risks.  But the risks are not insignificant.


1. Offending people.

Some folks want their pastor to be a super spiritual hero. They’re desperate for perfection, because everything in their life is broken. If their pastor argues with his wife or yells at the kids or breaks the speed limit to make an appointment, they can’t handle it and they leave. Or they write a stern note chastising their pastor for the imperfect behavior he’s confessed from the pulpit

2. Giving people ammunition to hurt you.

I know more than one preacher whose advice is, “Never let down your guard.” Maybe in 20 more years I’ll agree with them, but right now that seems like a terrible way to live.

Jesus said, “The truth will set you free.” This doesn’t mean you must share from the pulpit every truth about yourself. But I don’t see any future in wearing a holy, happy mask that never shows any cracks. If people use your unflattering truths to criticize or reject you, they likely would have done that anyway.

3. Causing others to confront their own truth.

Your honesty may prompt others to think more honestly about themselves. And that may make them afraid. Some of them will squelch that fear by staying away from a preacher who leads them to experience it.



1. Building lasting relationships.

Those with whom I’m most open are the ones with whom I have the best relationships. While some details are always best shared with a smaller group of trusted friends, I want to be as close as possible to my whole church family. Honesty from a preacher leads people to trust him; it fosters a lasting relationship with them. Many pastors seem “down-to-earth.” But that’s not the same as being honest.

I mean it when I repeat to our congregation, “If God can use me, he can use anybody.” I believe people grow to trust me because I’m authentic.

2. Keeping the integrity of the message and the gospel.

The Bible gives us more than the highlight reel of Bible characters’ lives. We’re not reading Facebook posts from David, but instead his bouncing back and forth between frustration and praise and anguish and awe. We’re not seeing Instagram posts from a proud Paul but instead hearing him honestly describe his “thorn in the flesh” and suffering and sin.

The gospel’s message isn’t about how I have it all together but, instead, about what God does when I hand him my brokenness. I’m true to the gospel when I publicly admit some of that brokenness at least now and then.

3. Causing others to confront their own truth.

Yes, this is a benefit as well as a risk. Sometimes people run for years from what they see when they look in the mirror. And then sometimes they find courage to acknowledge their truth when someone else tells the truth about himself. For many, this can be a major step toward growth.

If that happens because I admit some failing from the platform, God gets the glory, and I’m glad.

How do you feel about being vulnerable with your congregation? Which of the above risks and benefits resonate most with you? What’s one step you could take to be more open with the church?

Trevor DeVageComment