One of the Most Dangerous Things Pastors Do

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Are you derailing your leadership by practicing this subtle-but-dangerous ministry mistake?

The worst thing pastors can do is not be themselves!

Forgive me in advance for using language some might find offensive, but let’s face it: People have built-in crap detectors. Some have better detectors than others, but everyone has one.

The one thing these detectors sniff out faster than anything else is in-authenticity.

I think there are four major ways pastors fake it and set these detectors off:

1. We clone our preaching

I’ll admit it: I sometimes use other pastors’ sermon outlines. In fact, when I was a church planter I learned to preach by downloading Rick Warren sermon outlines. I was swamped as the only staff person in a new church, and Rick’s outlines saved me tons of time (which also saved my sanity and probably my marriage). During that season of my life,

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I learned two things about using someone else’s sermon outlines: 1) I’m not Rick Warren (although, for a time, I was guilty of trying to be), but 2) It is possible to “own” an outline I didn’t write. I learned I should never try to clone another preacher’s style, tone, rhythm or inflection because I’m not him! It took me a while, but over time, I’ve learned to leverage messages written by other pastors by filtering them through my own uniqueness and context.

2. We hide our quirks

I’m a geek and I’m proud. Yet, while I’ve always been a geek, I wasn’t always forthcoming about it. Getting bullied in junior high taught me to hide my geekhood. I’m a rabid Star Wars fan, but in the past, I didn’t reveal that to people up front.

My office used to look like most pastors’ offices. I had pictures of family and paintings of Jesus, lambs, lions and Bible verses hanging on my wall. I had tons of books people had passed down to me (too many for me to read in one lifetime).

Truth be told, I didn’t like or enjoy my office. Now I have pictures of family and tons of Star Wars memorabilia in my office—and only three bookshelves with the books I actually read. Now I love my office! People seem to enjoy it, too. They get a good laugh and learn a little bit about me.

Pastors, let’s own our quirks. They make each of us unique! Owning your quirks makes you more self-aware, more transparent, more fun and more authentic.

Alan Danielson Alan Danielson is the Senior Pastor of New Life Bible Church in Norman, Oklahoma. Previously he served as Central Team Leader for LifeGroups at in Edmond, OK, where he led over a thousand small groups on LifeChurch’s thirteen campuses in six different states. He then founded to help leaders master three essential leadership skills: vision-casting, creating strategy and fostering relationships. Alan is a popular conference speaker and consults regularly with ministries and leaders on topics relating to small groups and leadership. Learn more from Alan at

More from Alan Danielson or visit Alan at

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  • Albert

    I think you hit the nail on the head when you said,
    “We live in the age of the personality cult, so it’s easy to pretend we have it all together and let people put us on a pedestal”
    It is so important to teach others to follow Jesus.

  • Eric

    wow a great awakening! thanks

    • Noel Valdez Wakat

      Yap! Let us be who we are, but let us not forget if who we are in Christ and what He wants us to be. And in our sermons let us not forget who must be the center of it. What kind of preaching or whom we introduce to people.

  • Grace E. De Polonia

    thanks pastor. . .so real. . .so true! Lord bless!

  • Elias

    This is really the truth about some pastors-thanks for this post Sir.

  • bill

    this is self examination.It is a call to ministerial attention.Thanks.

  • Bow

    I think all pastors must hear this. Yes! we all have stories……

  • amazonian

    I agree we should be ourselves, including decorating our offices to reflect who we are. I would say, though, that sometimes we should ask God to change who we are, so that we can reflect Him. We must be careful that our own attractions to certain TV shows or movies do not reflect badly on Christ. Be who you are, but be like Christ! Thanks for the post.

    • inHIM

      While I can appreciate this article, I soooo agree with this post! Yes, it is authentic to demonstrate the love and calling of God to His people, in our unique style. But, we must also reflect His redemptive power by displaying HIM and not ourselves. In a day where everyone is “keeping it real,” as pastors we must temper our “realness” with what the Word of God has called us to be…which isnt “ourselves” as much as our lives should mirror HIM. —
      John 3:30 – “He must increase and I must decrease.”

  • amazonian

    In continuation to my previous post, I don’t mean to imply that any of us are perfect, or reflect Christ perfectly. I just want to try to be like more like Him in every way, and if there is a certain taste, like, or dislike that I have, which may not reflect good on Him, I ask God to change my taste in that, so that I can be myself, honest with myself, with others, and with God, and not have anything that might hurt the cause of Christ in my life. Other than that, this post has great advice.

    • DaveEkstrom

      Thanks, brother. Of course, you’re right. But we have divorced “sacred” and “secular” and live isolated lives–actually phoney lives because at home we don’t act the same way we do at the office. If a film or whatever reflects biblical values, even if it isn’t “Christian,” then what’s unspiritual about it? We are so inconsistent with this. I had a friend who was condemning of all non-Christian music–except Mozart which he listened to all the time. God created us–the people we are–in His image, geek or jock or whatever. I happen to love latin jazz. Why should I pretend I don’t or hide it?

  • Bobby Minor

    Alan you have the coolest office I’ve ever been in! If you remember, I even took pics to show my son. On a serious note, great post and something we all can learn from.

  • jmahan723

    …as to quirks, that’s why within the past 60 days I dusted off my 3 Stooges Clock that plays “3 Blind Mice” on the hour and have it proudly hanging in my office. It also keeps us appraised when an hour has passed (good for meetings that drag on). Also, I think it’s important to let the congregation know when I struggle with a passage, either in its application, or even in digging in and understanding it. It’s so easy to read scripture through the eyes of our predispositions that we automatically evaluate it along the “party line.” For instance, in Luke 17 Jesus speaks about the “Day of the Son of Man” (and even “ONE of the days of the Son of Man.” I’m a 54 year old seminary trained pastor who’s been in the ministry foo over 30 years. NO ONE has ever mentioned anything about the Day of the Son of Man. The congregation needs to know that we struggle for understanding the word as well as applying it.

  • Robert B

    In my office I have Three Stoogies Christmas tree ornaments on my shelf. Their pic are on my wallpaper computer. Being a Jewish believer, Southern Baptist Preacher I have a mizzuzah on my office door along with my tallit and yamulke. I have a very strange pastor’s office.

  • Bala Samson

    What makes us unique is not revealing the weakness in us and display that we are ‘quirks’ indeed, but pointing out to the congregation that we were a crazy lot before but God has ‘transformed us’ – that’s what awes people. As Pastors, people expect us to be on a higher spiritual level in all spheres of life. Having a ‘divine atmosphere’ in the office room certainly touches an unbeliever who walks in rather than look at some TV show pic and feel comfortable. I am from India, we have our own church, and I feel we got to get over this stuff of ‘not being able to pray more’ but raise our bar and be able to confidently address the people and command them to grow having done the home work ourselves.

    Let us overcome this mediocrity in our spiritual life.

    • Rachel

      Revealing our weakness is not something that should detract from the transformation He has done in our lives. Instead, it should point directly TO Him.
      This concept of having a ‘divine atmosphere’ (something that I have experienced in many churches) is a very interesting concept.
      Firstly, because it’s completely unbiblical.
      Secondly, because people who trust this “atmosphere” do not walk away feeling compelled to become more like Jesus. They usually feel condemned because they are not as “righteous” as the pastor seems. And the rest of us, who see straight through these lies, are completely put off.
      It is His kindness that leads to repentance. Not people who pretend to be perfect.
      During the times in my lives that I have spent trying seem perfect to others, people felt condemned by me. The times that I have been authentic, I have been able to point to Jesus and say, “anything good is because of Him”. And instead of making mini clones of myself, I can start to make disciples on One much greater than myself.
      Redemption has already happened for us, brother. But sanctification is a lifelong process. We, the church, need to start being real with people. It’s the only thing that really works.

  • Victor

    One of the great posts I have read here. Thanks, God bless you Sir

  • rod

    What we say, do and show is what we promote. We have to be of a higher standard than the average joe.

  • PkDeacon

    Preachers/pastors should embrace the preaching of God’s Word and less extra-biblical material, especially Rick W.’s convoluted style and direction. Finally, the need to love the people like Christ loves the Church by ministering to them is excused, “by being too busy”.. Most, by trying to make too many changes in procedures etc., create divisions instead of unity. A lack of administrative experience compounds their problems. Sam

  • jefferson

    it is not ease to be real but it pays to be.Thanks for this reminder.

  • Carl


  • Anthony

    helpful staff it makes us Pastors to seek Gods power of understanding his word

  • John

    I know I DON’T WANT to BE on a pedastal. And the church to whom I preach has consistenly expressed their gratitude that I try to keep it real with my own struggles in intepretation and application. Thanks for a good article.

  • sinner saved by grace

    Everyone has a soul. They are all similar, but not identical. Your soul is peculiar to you and it includes your personality but is more than that. It is the essence of who you are. God made it that way so His relationship with you is different than it is with any other soul. I have 4 children and I love them all the same. Each relationship is intense but pecuilarly different than the others. I would never want to be anyone different than God made me to be except when He transformed me to look like Jesus. He is the only person I want to copy. Be yourself, in Christ.

  • Islanderwaab

    Very good article! Thanks for the post Pastor Danielson! I say that it’s okay to have Star Wars stuff in your office, just don’t turn on the lightsaber. I heard that its pretty hot and it can cut through steel:-)

  • Brother LOVE

    I think you could also add respect. We receive what we give and we should always give love.

  • Pastor Jim

    I like westerns; I had a grandfather that just loved watching John Wayne movies. Now I play Gangs of Boomtown. I use a picture as my profile of Doc Holiday. I cannot find things to decorate my office that is western motif but I do like playing games with a western flare.

  • Annointed

    Are we really being directed by the Holy Spirit of God, and are we the musician or instruments to be used? Between the musician and instrument who knows the music? Am sorry to say this God forbid, we have lost the track, lets start form the beginning when we recieved Christ Jesus and let His Holy Spirit guide us. Be Blessed.

  • PottersClay

    Great insight and honesty. I was told by my son, Dad, people are not themselves around you. What does this say…I must be myself around them…there can be a friendliness without there being a familiarity….thank you for the article.

  • Real

    Star wars?? Really?? Repent!!!!


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