pastorbarbie

Pastor Barbie & Pulpit Culture

I was asked by Wes to share my story with our community group Sunday night.  It’s been awhile since I’ve done any sort of public speaking and although I think I stumbled through it a little, I feel it went pretty well.

After leaving, I sent a tweet saying Blogging about my story is one thing, sharing it in front of 40 people in my community group is another. Grateful for this journey”. I got a reply from Makeda saying “you sharing your story so courageously is giving others permission to be courageous too so keep telling it.”

Have you ever been around someone who is always full of fear, and before you knew it you find yourself just feeling fearful out of the blue?  What about someone who is just bursting at the seams with faith?  I don’t care how discouraged you may be, you can’t be around that kind of person long without your faith being built.  And what about courage?  If you spend much time in the company of a courageous person it makes you feel brave and courageous.

Fear begets fear.
Faith begets faith.
Courage begets courage.

I’d like to introduce you to Pastor Barbie, however I have a feeling she needs no introduction.  In fact, if you’re like me you have been well acquainted with Pastor Barbie for a very, very long time. I’m really not interested in discussing the theology of the Biblical justification or legitimacy of Barbie’s pastorate or whether or not she should wear make-up, cover her head when she prays or speak in tongues when non-believers are present in the service.  🙂  Just flow with the metaphor here…

Pastor Barbie doesn’t cuss, gossip and covets neither her neighbor’s livestock nor flat-screen HD television.  Pastor Barbie doesn’t speed, listen to secular music and never leaves home without her Bible.  Pastor Barbie doesn’t struggle with porn, has never had an abortion and her husband, Co-Pastor Ken, is the first and only man she kissed, but not until they said “I do,” of course.  Pastor Barbie doesn’t drink, chew or run with those who do. Pastor Barbie has never doubted, always trusted and rarely wondered.

In fact, she’s kind of… perfect. You know Pastor Barbie.

Pastor Barbie has never done ANYTHING wrong, let alone thought about it.  She walks right, spits white and is a pristine model of salvation and shining beacon of the light of Jesus to every one of the perfect plastic people in her church.  Except… *GASP*… the perfect plastic people in her church aren’t really perfect or plastic.  In fact, they are very real, have very real struggles, fight very real battles each and every day and have doubts and questions.  And there, ladies and gentlemen, is where we have a conflict.

You see, when Pastor Barbie’s congregation looks at her, they believe they see what faith should look like.  But they are conflicted, so they struggle, wrestle and feel defeated, confident that something must be wrong with them because, after all, “if Pastor Barbie isn’t struggling, why am I?”  There is a disconnect between what they see and what they feel, so they ignore what they feel and the great masquerade deepens in their quest to one day be as “spiritual” as Pastor Barbie.

I grew up in a “Pastor Barbie” setting where no one ever confessed or admitted to struggling with ANYTHING, especially anyone in any kind of leadership role.  Never. Ever.  This created an environment where we would jump through all kinds of religious hoops and be really good at “church”, but really suck at life.

“Pastor Barbie” churches present a pretense-soaked, dysfunctional and unrealistic PULPIT CULTURE that, in turn, creates and nurtures an equally, if not more so, pretense-soaked, dysfunctional and unrealistic PEW CULTURE.

I’ve been thinking about the whole pulpit culture/pew culture concept lately, and observing the huge difference between what I have spent much of my life accustomed to compared with what I am experiencing at Cross Point Church, where I now attend.

Prior to coming to Cross Point, I had never been part of a church where such a radical and courageous transparency was the norm and so much a part of that church’s DNA.  Earlier this year, when speaking about Freedom From Sexual Sin, Pete Wilson stood in the pulpit and said “there is no other sin in my life that has made me feel more more shameful, more beat up and more destroyed than sexual sin. Nothing.”… and I about fell out of my seat.  Are you kidding me?!?!  I can count on one finger the times when I have heard a pastor be so real and vulnerable, and this was it.  It really struck me and I couldn’t help but wonder, “why is this the exception?!?!”

In dramatic contrast to “Pastor Barbie” churches, Cross Point has created an honest, real-life and transformational PULPIT CULTURE which, in turn, creates and nurtures an equally, if not more so, honest, real-life and transformational PEW CULTURE.

The people you lead are a mirror and the PEW CULTURE at your church or organization is quite often a direct reflection of the PULPIT CULTURE shaped by the leadership.

There is something wildly contagious about the humbly transparent yet courageous spirit of a Pete Wilson… or a Justin Davis to so openly share the testimony about his affair and God’s redemption and restoration of his family… or a Blake Bergstrom being so boldly, unpredictably, uniquely and unashamedly “Blake”… that empowers people to embrace that same courage, step forward and say “here’s my story.” I’m not sure that Sheila, the former crackhead prostitute, would feel welcome at Pastor Barbie’s church.

Whether intentionally or unintentionally, they have created a PULPIT CULTURE that does not claim to be perfect, but is as close a reflection of what I believe to be the heart of the Father than anything I’ve ever encountered.

There is something about giving people permission to be broken that brings healing.

That. Rocks. Me.

…and it scares the hell out of the enemy of our souls!

I am so grateful to God for leading me to Cross Point and for the genuine community I have discovered there.  I am encouraged by each limp that I see and seeing the scars is showing me hope.  It is the fellowship of the redeemed, restored and redefined… and it is healing my heart.  Cross Point truly is a place where “everybody’s welcome, nobody’s perfect and anything is possible”… and for the first time in my life, I truly believe that.

If you are a leader, what kind of PULPIT CULTURE are you creating and how do you see that reflected in the PEW CULTURE at your church?

If you’re not a leader, what kind of PEW CULTURE do you feel has been created as a result of the PULPIT CULTURE at your church?


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Grant JenkinsPastor Barbie & Pulpit Culture
52 comments
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Keisha Cory
Keisha Cory

Pastor Barbie sent me into a tailspin in 07, I started a book on my experience with the pressure to measure up called "Trapped in the Perfect Church". I felt led to stop by your page today and I happened to land on this blog. Im so thankful that God used "barbie" to bring about the death of "me" and the missing link of grace that didnt exsist in my surroundings, was uncovered through my journey. Great blog Grant. Its bigger than a blog, its a book!

Miriam Rehfeldt
Miriam Rehfeldt

I kind of got the feeling your church was like this... so is mine.... I became a Christian later in my life and this is the church I have been going to almost from the beginning... so I have been surprised to hear others tell of similar stories in other churches, where a Pastor Barbie was leading the congregation, when coming to our church and being blown away but the openness.. I only know my very genuine and humble, very transparent pastor... makes for a very real pew culture... grace is being extended and received everywhere... seems to me that's what Jesus came for.....

Morgan
Morgan

This is, by far, the best thing I think I've read from you. You've pretty much summed up what I've been feeling since I started at Cross Point the beginning of May. I've never been surrounded by so many broken people in my life. Broken people that know how to love because they know what it is to have lost. To have REAL pastors like we do, is mind blowing. God led me to Cross Point. Of all places that I could have gone--all the church invites--this was the one that didn't scare me and I didn't know why. God knows where the authenticity is.

On a side note, bummed to have missed your story. Maybe you'll share it with me sometime?
My recent post Conversation With God…

Elaina
Elaina

Great post! I grew up in a church that sounds an awful lot like a Pastor Barbie kind of church. And frankly, during a long, dark night where I wandered and floundered and wasn't walking with God like I'd always thought I would, I would wander into other churches like that and not feel the least bit like I belonged.

I found the courage I needed to go back to church -- to make the effort to become a part of a community again -- because of believers I found online who were real. Their lives & example gave me the push I needed to try again. Your example about Pete Wilson is a perfect example of what I found via a few bloggers and that honesty was very freeing for me. I don't know that where I've been going since, is like Cross Point exactly, but I would say that I see more commitment to being real there then I ever thought possible. I love that.

My recent post Photo (s) on Wednesday -- Randomness

@dustinuga
@dustinuga

Great post. Very challenged and encouraged. Thanks!

Trina
Trina

Absolutely fantastic post. Thank you.

Christy
Christy

I love in a small town and lets just say...the pulpit culture is not one like Crosspoint. I struggle with this because I left my church home last year and have been visiting....yet find myself cringing at times. Of course one day I hope to move...so lets just say churches will be a big priority on that list.

I also read your story and just wanted to say thanks for sharing it....I am struggling with a job thing (as well as an education thing) and it encouraged me...a lot.
My recent post The Importance of Story.

Mela Kamin
Mela Kamin

I love this! And, I wish I didn't know so well that this is TRUE and that plastic is in full force in a lot of places. Sheila Walsh said, "Our brokenness is a better bridge to others than our pretend wholeness will ever be." I try to remember that - to show how His love has provided me with grace and that's for all of us, not just a few good performers. Grace is amazing, but it becomes real when you see it being offered freely to others.

Makeda
Makeda

I loved this post and not just because you mentioned me in it (thanks for that by the way) :-)

"There is something about giving people permission to be broken that brings healing." My favorite line in this post because it is so absolutely true. I appreciate so much the honesty and pure rawness I have seen in your blog and the blogs of so many who attend CrossPoint. It speaks VOLUMES to the authenticity of the leadership. It really is helping to birth courage in those who follow along with all of your stories. In this case courage is in fact begetting courage. Thank you for that.

Monica Watkins
Monica Watkins

Wow, Grant....This is another phenomenal post filled with truth. Please continue allowing the Spirit of the Lord to use you.

JuliaKate
JuliaKate

Grant... this is so good. this last sunday my family went out for the day: breakfast, farmer's market, and then a walk to the dog park. It was refreshing. as we left the dog park, my mom said something to me so brilliant, "i love this day. i love just doing normal stuff. we missed out on a lot. i had an alcoholic dad & you had church-aholic parents." Wow!
the pew culture you described translated in my upbringing to mean, as a child, family was less important than church business. church business took all of my parents free time. they were striving to be something they thought was possible because it was "modeled" as possible. my mom was an associate pastor, my dad a deacon... both were first generation ministers, both thought this was their duty. they broke free of the cycle about 15 years ago & began to set us up to live very differently. neither of them attend church currently, but are devoted christians. they desire to fellowship, but are weary of... so very much, honestly. i am not regularly attending a church (for 2 months) now, but am looking. it's tough, but i know that an authentic church, which seeks to please the heart of God & is completely aware of its humanity & frailty exists... it's just taking some time to discover it.
thank you again for a thought provoking piece, shared in hope & love for the body of Christ.

My recent post Losing Your Religion

Amy N
Amy N

This is such a great analogy. Growing up in a church where you felt like you had to be perfect led to some serious issues for me with my self esteem & feelings of self worth. Like I wasn't good enough for God since I wasn't perfect. The church I attend now is still this way to a certain degree. I don't think I've ever heard our pastor say he struggles with anything. Thankfully our Sunday School class isn't that way & our youth pastor isn't either so slowly it's changing. As a friend of mine put it "I moved away to college & started attending a church different from where I grew up. It was amazing when I realized that God would still love me even when I messed up." If our pastors aren't transparent about their struggles then how are others going to feel about sharing theirs.

Randy Kinnick
Randy Kinnick

Dude...you hit the nail on the head! Being transparent is absolutely what the Body has to be and it starts with pulpit. Our lead pastor is good at doing this...I have learned the value when I speak as well. I'm thankful that I'm a part of a church where we are learning the value of that more and more. I, too, am becoming more transparent in the places where the community provides that opportunity. Thanks for sharing!!

Tracee
Tracee

This is awesome. I crave the raw and unedited versions of the heart. I think that is real church. I think that is the definition of real church. That same church can be experienced with friends as well. Jesus was all about being real and unedited.

Thank you for your risks
My recent post A Story of Forgiveness

JasonWert
JasonWert

I spent many years in churches with Pastors Barbie and Ken. I'm convinced more harm than good comes from those churches. The pastors who moved me the most...and led me to grow the most in Christ...are the ones who are like Pete, Blake and Justin.

Great post man. Keep 'em coming!
My recent post Human trafficking isn't just for Moldova anymore

ineffablegod
ineffablegod

Dude, wow...completely blown away by this post. I, too, love the when you said:

"There is something about giving people permission to be broken that brings healing."

Because that is where it starts. People don't want to come to a church where they feel like they don't measure up to a certain standard. Pastor Barbie is great, but she's not real. We're all human, all flawed, and we all have sinned. I firmly believe that testimonies transform lives--not only are we being healed through sharing, but, we are helping others within that process.

I'm a small-group leader, and I try to make it a point to constantly explain that I'm not perfect, and that I don't have all the answers. God has been slowly but surely allowing me to share my testimony to others, and it's a beautiful thing. Being transparent, being honest, being real--that's how we all grow in our faith. One verse that always sticks out to me is the one in Revelation 12:11: "They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death."

Sorry for the lengthiness, but great post!

jennyrain
jennyrain

this is officially my new favorite post - wow! The metaphor so perfectly describes what happens in Pulpit/Pew culture churches.

"There is something about giving people permission to be broken that brings healing."

That is so true...I think the biggest gift we can give to another person is sharing our stories of brokenness with them. So much of the courage I've been able to find in the last several months on my blog has come from others "going there" courageously with their own brokenness. Knowing there are other people taking this same broken journey is refreshing, encouraging, and uplifting.

Great post.
My recent post Will They Laugh if I Call You Daddy? Growing Up With a Gay Father: Day 2

kelli
kelli

This is an incredible post for many reasons. When we lived in Michigan and visited our church; the 1st thing that grabbed my attention was a man who stood up before the congregation and testified of how he'd embezzled money from his job, and had multiple affairs. He said that in the previous year he had lost his job, his reputation, and almost his marriage; but our pastor and the men of the church stepped in and counseled & prayed him back to restoration. You dont hear that often.
I have followed Pete Wilsons blogs for 2 or 3 years now, andit blesses me to know that the "conclusions" Ive drawn about him in my mind, really do add up. I love to hear that Cross Point is a place where you can be free like the Bible says. It really grabs my heart to hear this. I hope to visit Cross Point one day

Lindsey @ A New Life
Lindsey @ A New Life

All you Cross Point people are making me want to move to TN!!! :-) Seriously, this is an amazing post-- I love what you said about creating a pew culture--people jumping through hoops to try and be the "perfect blemish-free idea" they have of the people they put on pedestals.

It's like we forget (or try to deny or even ignore) that we are all sinners waging a war against Satan every single moment.

I've found in our short experience with church is that brokenness in front of a church body (especially when your story is played out in a very public way like mine) is one of the most impactful, redemptive experiences. I dealt with a lot of judgement and being ignored because people didn't know what to say; but I knew I couldn't run away; that I had to stay and fight for a true relationship with Christ no matter what others thought of me. I've been told years later that my brokenness and transparency in my struggle to really believe in God has been a inspiration to many. While it absolutely sucked to crawl through the mud and muck of the last few years, I am so glad that God's promises were exemplified to others in my darkest moments-- He can and WILL turn darkness to light, ashes to beauty, and shine His light through even the most tragic, horrible, embarrassing, shameful situations. And on a side note, I've always felt those stories are amazing tales of consequences--of the damage you to do your Father and the others around you, by giving in to the temporary false high or sense of pleasure.

We just have to have the courage to allow His light to shine despite what we have done or what others have done to us.

Blessings~
Lindsey
My recent post Confession

aboynamedtracy
aboynamedtracy

For a while I was on track to be a Pastor Ken (without the devastatingly good looks unfortunately). Thank God I saw the light! The thing with plastic is when it gets hot the melts and there's nothing left except a bad smell and the memories of how it used to be so perfect.
My recent post My Priorities Are Out Of Whack

Lindsey_Nobles
Lindsey_Nobles

I'm with you on this. I didn't realize how much I NEEDED brokenness and transparency until I was at Cross Point. Finally I can stop beating myself for not being perfect, finally I can stop rebelling against a place where I don't fit in, and finally I can start enjoying the freedom that a life with Christ allows.

nikkitaylor
nikkitaylor

"This created an environment where we would jump through all kinds of religious hoops and be really good at 'church', but really suck at life." - That will preach all by itself!!!!!! Love this blog, Grant!

bluegoose
bluegoose

Umm, yeah! I don't learn much under Pastor Barbie...but show me the deep issues of the heart and I can so relate! Great post!
I found your site from my daughter's...Lady in Waiting.

Grant Jenkins
Grant Jenkins

I think it's great that you're on a journey to find a healthier church environment. Thanks for sharing, Elaina!

Grant Jenkins
Grant Jenkins

thank you Trina. Thanks for visiting the blog.

Grant Jenkins
Grant Jenkins

Thanks for your comments, Christy. I'm glad my story encouraged you.

Grant Jenkins
Grant Jenkins

Wow! I love that quote! Thanks for sharing that, Mela.

Grant Jenkins
Grant Jenkins

Thought you'd enjoy the little shout-out. haha! :) Thanks so much for your kind comments. The way I figure, I'm all the way out here now. So there's no sense in trying to posture at this point. :)

Grant Jenkins
Grant Jenkins

Thank you so much, Monica. You know I always greatly appreciate your comments and feedback. :)

JuliaKate
JuliaKate

i think i'd feel right at home with some good & broken people;)
My recent post Church Rehab with Dr. Drew

JuliaKate
JuliaKate

i think i'd feel right at home with some good & broken people;)
My recent post Church Rehab with Dr. Drew

Grant Jenkins
Grant Jenkins

"Church-aholic"... wow! What a picture that paints! The heart of your story is unfortunately all too common, and it is heart breaking. Keep looking, my friend. There is no perfect church, but there are ones that are good and broken, just enough to feel at home.

Grant Jenkins
Grant Jenkins

Me too, Amy. I felt like I could NEVER measure up, and even though I've been out of that particular church I grew up in for about 10 years now, I have carried that feeling of constant inadequacy with me ever since. It overflows into every area of your life and because your "God picture" is warped, so is everything else.

Grant Jenkins
Grant Jenkins

You're right, Randy. It just amazes me that transparent pulpit cultures are so much the exception these days. Thanks for your comments, bro.

Grant Jenkins
Grant Jenkins

You're right, Tracee. The real church should be raw and unedited. I just hate that isn't the picture of church most of us have. That sucks. It sucks even more when we begin to subtly believe that God looks at us like the church does. Thanks for commenting! :)

Grant Jenkins
Grant Jenkins

Me too, Jason. And I concur on all levels. Thanks for the love, bro.

Grant Jenkins
Grant Jenkins

You're right, she's not real. Keep being open and sharing your story, bro. Sometimes there is as much healing in the telling as there is in the hearing.

Grant Jenkins
Grant Jenkins

wow! Officially your new favorite post, huh? That's impressive! haha! :) I'm glad you get the metaphor, and yes, it describes SO SO much. Thanks for being one of the "brave ones' also, and for giving people a place to know it's okay to be broken.

Grant Jenkins
Grant Jenkins

Wow, Kelli. What a story! That is so powerful to hear something like that. I'm glad that it's "adding up" for you. :) If you get to come visit sometime, be sure you reach out and say hi!

Grant Jenkins
Grant Jenkins

Thanks so much, Lindsey. I really appreciate your comments and you sharing what you did. Are you familiar with Justin & Trisha Davis' story? If not, you should definitely check it out. I think it might encourage you as well. They blog atwww.refineus.org.

JD in Canada
JD in Canada

Brilliant analogy of what happens to plastic under pressure!!!
My recent post In His Time

Grant Jenkins
Grant Jenkins

You make a great point, Lindsey. When in "Pastor Barbie" church environments, folks just beat themselves up for not being perfect, which is actually why we need grace and brokenness, because we can NEVER be perfect. It becomes a never-ending sick cycle.

Grant Jenkins
Grant Jenkins

thanks for the comment. Glad you found the blog. :)

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