How Can So Many Pastors Be Godly and Dysfunctional at the Same Time?

Illuminating the blind spots in most approaches to spiritual formation.

Pastors can be godly and dysfunctional at the same time. They can be holy and not whole. They can be biblically faithful and psychologically broken. They can be prayer warriors and control freaks, spiritually mature and emotionally repressed. They can sincerely love Jesus yet be addicted to food or porn or pain meds. I know this to be true from experience.

For many years as a pastor, I was godly and dysfunctional at the same time. If you had come to live with me for a week in January 2015, slept on my couch, shadowed me through my day, you would have come away thinking, He’s a godly guy. He loves Jesus. He loves the Bible. He loves thechurch. He cares about his wife and children andmaking a difference in the world for Jesus. But you would have also seen that I was dysfunctional.

In 2015 I was granted a three-month sabbatical. Here’s what I had planned: I was going to finish writing one book, start writing another book, read through Calvin’sInstitutes of the Christian Religion, memorize the Book of James to preach from it in the spring, and brush up on my Hebrew. When I shared these plans with the elders, one of them wryly said, “You going to do anything else?”

But I wasn’t going to dive right in. I was going to take the first week to rest. It was a sabbatical after all! I made it to Wednesday before I started to come unglued. You may know someone with a serious substance abuse issue, a chemical addiction to alcohol or some other drug. Perhaps you’ve seen a documentary on 60 Minutes about people trying to kick their drug habit and going through withdrawal.

That was me in early January 2015. I went through real, physical signs of withdrawal: irritability, uncontrolled craving, edginess, …

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