Dispelling the Myth of the Magic Pastor

flightattendant.jpegIf you want to see an instant eye roll, ask a flight attendant if he/she knows Sherry or Diane or whatever flight attendant you might know. “Oh, so you’re a flight attendant? How cool. Do you know my cousin Sherry? She’s a flight attendant too!”

Instant eye roll of disdain.

What, there are only about 300,000 flight attendants, so the odds are HUGE that since you’re one, you know the one I know.

That merits an eye roll, don’t you think?

Okay, now to the Myth of the Magic Pastor. Confession time: some of this is venting. I admit it. And what you will read I have experienced since I became a pastor, many years ago. I accept it. I deal with it cordially, politely, lovingly, and yet firmly.

To me, there are 3 levels of issues going on in what you’re about to read: Relational, Personal, and Theological.

Last weekend (Sat and Sunday) I preached at 4 services and was seen on video at two more services and in one overflow cafe. There were well over 2,000 people roaming our campuses over the weekend.

So can you understand my eye roll when I get…

satellite.jpeg“Bill, do you know where my father-in-law is?”

Uhhh… [Me, thinking] I’m sorry, but you’ve only been here two or three times and I barely recall the first letter of your name (so sorry) and even if I’ve met your father-in-law, to me he was a guy named Tom and he didn’t give me the rundown of the family tree… and there are hundreds of people here… and I’ve been a little focused on something else… and… it’s a very big building… and… uhhh…. I forgot your question…

Because the Magic Pastor has PEOPLE LO-JACK and can the pinpoint precise location of everybody on the campus at any given moment.

“Bill, are they going to make more CD’s of last week’s message?”

Uhhh… Oh… So we’re still making CD’s?

“Bill, what room does Skippy go in?”

Skippy? Who’s Skippy? Your dad? Your dog? Your third-grader? Your junior-high student? Your grandpa?

“Bill, what time does the Three Stooges Concert start?”

We’re having a Three Stooges Concert?

magichat.jpegBecause the Magic Pastor has omniscient awareness of all that happens in every ministry including room assignments and starting times and has the bulletin and church calendar memorized.

“Bill, did you get my email?”

Uhhh… who did you say you were? Which of the hundreds of emails I viewed this week are you talking about?

Because the Magic Pastor is always attentive to you and you alone.

Or my all time favorites…

yoda.jpeg[regularly, via email] “Bill, I know we have a counseling staff at our church, but when I listen to you preach I know that [ONLY] you really understand my situation, so I’d like to make a counseling appointment for me [and my spouse who doesn’t know I’m writing you and refuses counseling anyway]. Pleeeze. I really think that you have the answers for us… And I really think my spouse will listen to [ONLY] you.”

“Bill, I know that we have a trained Prayer Team standing right over there [but I don’t want them because their prayers are inferior to your magical prayers] but I want you to pray for me right here right now… ]

Because the Magic Pastor has counseling and prayer powers far beyond those of mere mortals.

Listen, I totally understand it, and totally accept it when visitors or people who are new to church approach me with these questions. I’m genuinely open and not at all bugged. But when it’s a long-time member, what’s going on? I expect something different. So I said there were three levels of issues going on:

guys.jpegRELATIONAL. Normal friendships are formed in the course of doing things together. Serving, working, playing. But something magical happens when a preacher stands behind a microphone week after week. It can be good and bad. What happens is the formation of a SYMBOLIC relationship. The listener begins to identify with the speaker and form a bond. Healthy people understand that so far it’s only a ONE-WAY bond. You know the speaker, but the speaker doesn’t know you. And that’s okay. As long as you realize that we don’t have a relationship or true friendship until we have served, worked, and played together.


So part of the Magical Pastor myth is that a relationship exists where none really does. My responsibility is to be kind, respectful, and gentle. Yours, as a worshipper in a large church, is to understand and respect personal boundaries AND to satisfy your relational needs IN A SMALL GROUP, which your pastor has expended all kinds of prayer, labor, and love to create just for you.

Any pastor that nurtures the myth of the Magical Pastor is not doing you (or his attention-starved family) a favor.

PERSONAL. The second layer of issues have to do with personal matters. Did you know that most large church pastors tend toward INTROVERSION on the Myers-Briggs personality indicator. THIS DOES NOT MEAN UNSOCIAL. (Click here for more clarity). Introversion in this context means that the pastor’s energy is depleted by large-group interaction, and needs to be restored in quiet, solitude, and reflection. Extroverts, who tend to pastor smaller churches, are the opposite. Solitude and reflection wear them out, and they get recharged in the context of a large group.

lifeofparty.jpegPersonally speaking, I am highly relational, and highly sociable. I deeply care about my friends and family. I love going out and hanging out with people… as long as we can all fit in one car. But I am an INTROVERT.  So once the numbers grow bigger than a carful, my emotional tank empties fast. I’ll hunker down with a handful of people (3 or 4) rather than run around shaking hands with dozens or hundreds.

Two-thirds of Americans are Extraverts (that’s how it’s spelled in Myers-Briggs), and they spend two-thirds of their time judging, condemning, and trying to change Introverts.  Especially introverted kids (if you label them shy, I’ll punch you… in Christian love).   They are creative and have a large interior world where they need to spend lots of time without you griping at them.  

You do not have a MAGIC PASTOR if you attend Neighborhood Church. Sorry. Hope you’re not too disappointed. You have a normal guy with feet of clay who loves Jesus and loves God’s Word. Take what I’m willing to give you without griping about what I can’t give and refuse to try to give.

My simple point is this: if you are in a larger church, odds are your pastor is an Introvert (again, not socially–we’re talking about the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator ONLY). He is not magically capable of being friends with hundreds or thousands of people, EXCEPT SYMBOLICALLY, SUPERFICIALLY, OR DYSFUNCTIONALLY… and that would involve a great cost to his wife and kids.

lifeofpart21.jpegDo not expect him to include everybody in his circle of friends. Do not insist on joining that circle. Do not judge him for not knowing your son’s position on the high school football team. Receive from him what he has to offer you: the fruit of a profound reflection on God and his Word… and don’t condemn him for what he doesn’t have.

Say hello. Say something nice. Don’t tell him the men’s room needs toiletpaper. And don’t drain him during a very hectic weekend of services when he’s fighting hard just to spare his energy for the next service. Build him up. Don’t deplete him.


THEOLOGICAL: Church is a body. God insists that his people act like a body. The pastor is NOT the head, hands, mouth, feet, and ears. The pastor is not janitor, counselor, Bible-answer man, or buddy. The pastor is not social club. The pastor is not visitor, shoulder to cry on, perfect, omni-competent, or any of that for the vast majority of people in his large church.

He is a man with a focused set of gifts whose task is to get YOU TO RECEIVE MINISTRY FROM THE BODY OF CHRIST. Without whining that “the pastor didn’t call me.”

bennyhinn.jpegTHERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A MAGIC PASTOR. God hears the prayers of my four year old EQUALLY as he hears my prayers, or the members of our prayer team. When people come to me for prayer after a service, and we have dedicated prayer team members standing fifteen feet away, I send them to the prayer team. Why? It’s theological. I don’t want to feed into the myth of the magic pastor. I don’t want to discouraged motivated prayer warriors who’ve been trained standing there doing nothing while people who believe in the magic pastor line up in front of me for magic prayer. I won’t do it. It’s wrong. I don’t believe in it. It robs my brothers and sisters of an opportunity for them to pray.

Same with counseling and answering Bible questions. There are countless people in our church who are better than me at each of these things. And even if they’re worse, so what? It’s a body, right? Let’s act like one.

I am passionate about this. You need a body. If you’re in a big church, that means a group. One of my friends was the executive pastor of a megachurch in Chicago. He told me that his church simply offers NO ministry to people who will not join a group. Our church hasn’t gone that far, but it is that important.

I feel like a magician who’s breaking the oath of secrecy.

There are no magic pastors. I’m not one.

And even though your nephew is a pastor in Arkansas, sorry but I’ve never heard of him.



14 thoughts on “Dispelling the Myth of the Magic Pastor

  1. I went to a big college and people are always asking me if I knew their friend who went there. I graduated like 10 years ago and sometimes they’ll ask me if I’ve heard of or know someone who goes there now. It’s like . . . jeez! The irony is that when I went to Cal, I didn’t really know more than a hand ful of people anyway. You gotta love it though.

  2. Whoa – sweet venting! 🙂 And if anyone wants to know more about us mysterious Introverts, ya gotta read ‘The Introvert Advantage’ by Marti Olsen Laney. So there.

    P.S. Websters has Extrovert; MB has Extravert – what’s a good English Major MB junkie to do?!?

  3. In North Carolina this past weekend I met a woman from Chicago. Her name was Jane. She has red hair and stands about 5’4″ and is a little on the heavy side. I was wondering if you know her…

  4. You should check out Greg Ogden’s ‘Unfinished Business’ great read on how we as pastors have actually created the problem you are bemoaning…

  5. Jane, I think I know Jane. I am Sherri the Flight Attendant and I live in Chicago. Wow what a small world Donny. But you know all us flight attendants we look alike. A little on the heavy side. 🙂 Praise the Lord Bill for your Dad’s healing. What a man of courage he is. We sure do Love him and has been showered in prayer coast to coast.

  6. I’m confused??? Does this mean we are not exchanging Christmas presents this year? I want a 2008 Ranger Bass Boat…

  7. It’s too funny…I remember talking about this attribute of yours years ago when you were our pastor in Chicago. Denise, Sue, Steve J and the rest of us knew that if we loved you we would respect your (introvertedness??) and in no way ever get offended.
    It was good…you taught us good boundaries just by being yourself and we loved you for it.


  8. OK, Bill; I understand that you can’t know all 2,000 people in our church by name–nevertheless, I want you to know ME 😉

  9. Dang, that Myers-Briggs comment about the spelling of “intravert.!” I read the resume entry first tonight about spelling. I was all ready to write a “gotcha” entry here. That would have started a whole new interesting line of comments, considering how people are reacting to that one.

  10. 😆 “If you call them shy, I’ll punch you..In Christian love..” Where do you preach at, again? I gotta love a guy who actually gets the difference between shy and introvert. I mean, seriously, I can’t /stand/ the extraverted, extremely social atmosphere of most churches. It’s like spirituality on speed. hard core, x-laced speed. Makes me twitch like nobody’s business. Strangely enough, I have no problem discussing the bible with one or two people, but will promptly clam up like a turtle when asked to read in Bible study or during worship services. No way. Uh uh. Not doing it, and you can’t make me! heck, /God/ probably would have a difficult time making me. He’s bigger than me, but he’d sure have a fight on his hands.

    But anyway, /loved/ this!

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