The lack of trust in preachers is not something that started with today’s modern day preachers, throughout the centuries, people have always had doubts about preachers. While it may seem that it is of epidemic proportion with present day preachers, it only appears that way because we are a very open and connected society. With the advent of social media, things that were once kept private are now a public scandal. The Apostle Paul had his share of critics; listen to what he said in defense of his ministry. “You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed — God is our witness.” 1 Thessalonians 2:5 (NIV)
In this verse, Paul lists two significant character traits that should be absent from the lives of the men and women who are called to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The first one is the use of flattery and the second one is the wearing of a mask!
The meanings of words are sometimes used incorrectly; one such word is flattery. People often say flattery will get you anything! This is mostly true; while flattery works most of the time, it only works with the needed and those with low self-esteem. Flattery is the use of excessive and insincere praise, given to further one’s own interests. Edmund Burke the late Irish statesman, author, orator, political theorist and philosopher wrote the following about flattery: “Flattery corrupts both the receiver and the giver.” Yes, flattery corrupts; it does not get you everything all the time. One of our gifts as pastors and leaders is the ability to use words. However, we should never use words to excessively and insincerely praise people to further our own interests.
The other character trait a preacher should not practice is wearing a mask. When you wear a mask people never see your true identity, and we should never stand in the pulpit and not be ourselves. The problem with wearing a mask is this: “IT’S NOT REAL.” Wearing a mask forces us to “Skate through life, rather than to Relate with people.” It promotes a phony-baloney, make-a-good-impression attitude instead of an honest realism that relieves and frees us. Wearing mask leads us into loneliness rather than love and understanding as to who we really are.
The tragic part of wearing a mask is that the longer we do it, the better we get at it — and the more alone we remain in our hidden world of fear, pain, anger, insecurity, and grief. All of those are normal and natural emotions when we hesitate to admit these emotions we only prove that we are only human.
As preachers and leaders, we should never practice using flattery to further our own interests, and our people should know the real person behind the pulpit, we should never wear a mask!