The Fear of Killing Superpastor

The RevGals are discussing Rob Bell's Velvet Elvis, and several people have already mentioned Bell's admonition to kill the "Superpastor" ideal that lives in our heads. His passage about this was so striking that I read it aloud to Mr. M-- especially the part about our being called to live into exactly the specific person God created us to be, and that anything apart from that is sin.

I was reassured and uplifted by this, but I felt like I was lifting a rock and trying to see all the creepy-crawlies that live underneath. Because the truth is, there are an awful lot of persons in ministry already saying this. But I know only a very few whom I see putting it into practice.

We talk about self-care. We want to attend workshops on self-care. But we don't want to get caught on our back porch, drinking a 'rita and reading silly novels. Our complaints about feeling overwhelmed look less like a search for a new way of doing things, and more like bizarre one-upmanship.

One of the best things I learned in my internship was that this resistance to take yourself out of the equation really means you don't believe God can get things done without you. I suspect it also means that we don't want people to think we don't care about them, and in ministry we would have to be ON all the time (and then some) to give all the care people want/need.

Can we look deeply and honestly about what keeps us from a Sabbath? Can we please try to open up about what's keeping us bound our work? I don't mean as a society; I know about workaholism and people-pleasing and whatever else. I mean personally. Why do I, Mrs. M, feel like I'm not doing enough? Why do you, Jane Blogger, feel like you're not?

I find that I am able to say no, but I'm embarrassed when I do. I feel quite a bit of peer/supervisor pressure to do everything-- including taking care of myself and family-- but I feel like we have unrealistic expectations about what can really fit in a 24-hour day. I feel like even other people in ministry are very resistant to boundaries.

What are your thoughts?


  1. Yes, we need to kill the superpastor! I've worked with too many of them and I get sick of looking "less than" in comparison. I mean, I want my kids and husband to know my name. Also, I don't want my kids to resent the church for taking Mama away from them. I will choose them every. single. time.

    Anyway, the fact that this discussion is even ocurring is a miracle in itself! Change is in the air and, I believe, women clergy are leading the way.

  2. Hmm....women may lead the way in this discussion sometimes, but Iris - I have to add that women can also be the worst offenders when it comes to overworking. And being guilted into working more. I know I can. I think part of that is the never-done aspect of ministry, though there are certainly plenty of other callings in life where the same is true.

    Dorothy Bass has a line about Sabbath in one of her books: to paraphrase, that breaking Sabbath is breaking a commandment, yet we not only break it, we brag about how much we do - how busy we are. And who would do that about any other commandment? "Man, you would not believe how many people I killed yesterday." "I am committing so much adultery that I can hardly stand it!" We forget that Sabbath is not just a good idea, it is a COMMANDMENT. We are to do it. We are not to argue about it or try to prove why we, as pastors, don't need it.

    Boy, I sound like I have it all together when it comes to this stuff, right? And I thought I was really pretty good about boundaries (I still think I am, compared to colleagues) until I got married and my husband started telling me that I work too much. The best laid plans...

  3. Oh, I've definitely known many women who have fallen into this pattern, too. There are times when I do, too. I just can't help but notice that the conversations about sabbath and self-care have become more common in recent years as more and more women have become clergy.

    I love what DBB has to say about this. You'd think that we as pastors would be more careful with adhering to one of the Commandments, but instead, we are just downright prideful about our sin! hmmmmm......

  4. I realize I am coming a little late to the party as far as the discussion, but haven't had time to finish the book (yes I get the irony here). This particular part of the disucssion brings to mind BBT's book and the "super" she tried to be and how that seemed to be part of her downfall.

  5. I'm just reading VE as well. But I too can "say no but feel guilty when I do." Ack!


"So keep fightin' for freedom and justice, beloveds, but don't you forget to have fun doin' it. Lord, let your laughter ring forth. Be outrageous, ridicule the fraidy-cats, rejoice in all the oddities that freedom can produce. And when you get through kickin' ass and celebratin' the sheer joy of a good fight, be sure to tell those who come after how much fun it was."
-Saint Molly Ivins