I'm the Type of Preacher That Makes His Wife Cry

A couple weeks ago, the Cunninghams took a road trip to visit Abby’s family in TX.  You’re not going to believe this, but driving 2500 miles in a week with three boys ages 4, 2, and 6 months is actually pretty stressful.  And not surprisingly the one I love most deeply became the victim of my tension.

At one particularly frustrating moment, when Abby had done nothing wrong whatsoever, I said something that was perfectly worded to strike at her deepest insecurities.  The same linguistic skills I use to preach effectively were used to wound my wife effectively.  It was wicked.  The next day I apologized and through tears she forgave me (I don’t deserve a wife like that) but told me it will be a while before she heals from my words.

Why am I writing a blog post about my own shame?  Why did Abby agree to let me invite you into this deeply intimate moment of our marriage?  We just feel it is really important to resist the celebrity narrative that exists within the Church in our day, and reclaim the Jesus narrative that needs to exist within the Church in our day.

Churches naturally have a proclivity to place their pastors on a pedestal.  That dates back to the New Testament—“I follow Paul” “I follow Apollos.”  This was constantly a threat for these early churches, which is why Paul was always trying to deconstruct His own mystique.  But what is unique in our day is a church culture that seems to indulge this sinful tendency.  Pastors aren’t fighting against their celebrity status; they are intoxicated by it.  Christians aren’t trying to repent of the idolatrous inclination to exalt the leader; they are embracing it.

I’m not accusing preachers of overtly seeking celebrity status.  May God have mercy on them if they are.  I’m just saying that the temptation of self-exaltation lives inside us all, and what is uniquely dangerous about our current ecclesial context is that the temptation is being fed without hindrance.

Now there are so many problems with this nonsense, but the biggest is that Jesus is no longer the celebrity within His own Church!  The only way for Jesus to be celebrated is if His gospel of grace is celebrated.  And if the pastor is on a campaign to construct a narrative where he has it all together and is so impressive, then what’s the need for a Savior?  In a cult of personality community, Jesus is nothing more than a means to propagate the admired personality.

But if the pastor’s duty is to drink deeply from the salvation of Jesus Christ and then proclaim to his people that same salvation, then the pastor won’t impress people but the Savior will.  If the pastor lives authentically before his flock, inviting them into his desperate need for the grace of God, then grace becomes the celebration of a congregation.

Of course it’s not healthy to let a congregation into all of your shame and play the self-pity card on every occasion.  Ironically this can easily become just another form of self-promotion.  But it is important to occasionally remind your people that preachers are just as messy as they are.

Grace is not just something I preach; it is something I must have daily.  I’m the type of preacher that can make his wife cry.  Jesus is the type of Savior who can forgive a wretched sinner like me.  I hope and pray that you see HIM as the impressive One.

Kylie Rennekamp