The Allure of the Spotlight: Some Thoughts on Why Being an Actor and Being a Pastor are not the Same Thing

I like being in the spotlight.

I’m a thespian.

And just to be clear, I never chose to be a thespian; I was born this way.

I have been on the stage for as long as I can remember. My parents have pictures of me as the narrator in the kindergarten class production. I was in the musical Oliver in Elementary School. I played all the lead roles in my high school drama productions, at the Community College and at the local Community Theatre. For years I really had no idea who I was. My identity was completely wrapped up in my characters. If I went for long periods of time without doing a show I got depressed.

All of those years of dramatic training have formed who I am. I am a pretty good thespian.

I am also a pretty good hypocrite.

The word hypocrisy comes from the Greek ὑπόκρισις (hypokrisis) which means “play-acting.”

I am a pretty good hypocrite.

The problem with hypocrisy is

1.      Jesus hated it

2.      It drives more people away from authentic Christianity than anything else

 Although I am thankful for the training that I received in the theatrical arts, and I look back on my years in the theatre with great fondness, I am a pastor now, and there is really no room for play acting anymore. God’s desire is for authenticity, genuineness, humility and honesty.

This past Sunday we held our first preview service for our new church The Journey. I have been preaching to our team that we are going to be a church that focuses on reaching the hurting and the broken with the life-changing message of hope offered in Christ. I have been preparing them to be outward focused; to think mission and community first. And this is what I want this church to be all about.

But I am a thespian.

And the spotlight drew me in. And we poured ourselves out until we all nearly fell over exhausted after the Celebration on Sunday. I have been saying for months that the church is not the Sunday Celebration; the Celebration is only a part of who we are. And then the first Sunday came, and I acted as if it was the most important thing on the face of the planet. Everything had to be sharp: the music, the lighting, the technology etc. etc. etc.

I spent more time figuring out what to wear than I did about what God was up to.

I evaluated and critiqued my “performance” before ever wondering if there were stories of transformation that came out of the gathering.

I am being really hard on myself here, I know that, but this is so incredibly important to me.

I do not want to be a celebrity pastor!

I do not want to pastor a cool church!

I want to be a servant of Christ, and I want to help hurting people find healing, and desperate people find hope, and lonely people find acceptance, and worried people find peace, and depressed people find joy.

I read a blog post from Shaun King last night that put this all in to perspective for me. He’s been where I am, and has suffered for it. I want to avoid ending up where Shaun ended up. I appreciate his honesty and advice in this post.

I do think that we can still gather and celebrate; I think that we need to.

But when we gather and celebrate, we must do it with genuine hearts of worship and a true desire to connect with God and with each other.

It is not a play, and I am not the leading actor.

If Jesus is not in the spotlight there’s a problem.

The Journey continues …


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