Masks in the Ministry
By Sande Pederson Langager
Masks hide truth. When truth is held secret, life becomes shallow. Reality hides under masks when the life presented is not the same as the life a person lives.
Masks are donned simply enough—at times with the best of intentions. However, complications resulting from them are not often understood, nor even considered, when the first mask is put in place.
Most people do not intentionally lie but maintain mind-sets of preservation—preservation of the gospel and the family. Thus if the truth carries with it the potential to tarnish a polished image, preservation calls for a mask; or if truth prompts the perception that God is not big enough to carry the minister, preservation calls for a mask.
Preservation is not negative. Life must have definition; its foundation must be integrity. The question is not so much removing the mask that calls for true confessions but, rather, taking care of the secret.
Psalm 32:2* reads, “How blessed is the man … in whose spirit there is no deceit.” Moses wore himself out by taking the entire role of judging alone. Jethro, his father-in-law, instructed him to get help by selecting “men who fear God, men of truth” (Exodus 18:21). The Hebrew word used here for truth describes a person of stability, certainty, and trustworthiness. Moses needed men on whom he could depend—men of character.
Churches and society need ministers who have stability, certainty, and trustworthiness. Those characteristics cannot exist behind masks. They exist only for those who “fear the Lord and serve Him in sincerity and truth” (Joshua 24:14). Sincerity in the Hebrew refers to integrity, without blemish, sound, and whole. Wholeness brings freedom from the temptation to wear masks.
Not only Scripture calls for a life of truth, but also the prospect of painful consequences beckons each one to come out from behind masks of preservation. When respected individuals, leaders, and loved ones can no longer keep up their carefully portrayed images, wounds ensue. Yet the hurts resulting from immediately dealing with the issues involved behind a facade cannot be compared to the effects of a long-term disguise. To deal with deception, take personal steps for the healing of a mask-covered, self-preserved ministerial image.
No problem is ever corrected without first recognizing the need. It is easier to recognize another person’s mask than one’s own, for ministers concentrate on others’ needs. Yet each must search his life, heart, and home to see if there is anything inside that he would not want disclosed.
Jesus taught that what comes out of a man defiles him, and from within—out of his heart—proceeds many evils, including deceit (Mark 7). Paul instructed, “Let no man deceive himself” (1 Corinthians 3:18). Self-deception lies behind most masks; in the heart a person denies unhealthy emotions, relationships, habits, and sins. The solution: Be brave enough to face yourself, strip away motives of preservation, and find reality hidden there.
Facing life in one’s own strength would be depressing, at best; however, every problem has a solution. Facing reality in God’s presence provides a haven of unlimited power, unconditional love, and acceptance. God, whom you trust for your eternal destiny, is the same God to trust to carry you into a life of sincerity, integrity, and wholeness. Fear is the opposite of faith, and when you choose to hang onto masks—no matter the motive—you choose a potentially desperate and dangerous situation. Have enough courage to face God and recognize His call to truth.
Face a Friend
The closer the correlation between life on the inside and life on the outside, the stronger your character will be. A friend can help bring those two lives together. The instruction to find a friend, a confidante, and someone to whom you can be accountable is not new. Yet it bears repeating in taking steps to live a life without masks. Choose friends wisely and let them help you find the needed help for complete wholeness.
Along with personal reinforcement, ministers can look to their districts for consistent support. Be willing to be vulnerable and open to prayer and encouragement, or sicknesses and secrets will continue to be hidden behind masks. Working together to create atmospheres reflecting the acceptance God offers gives opportunity for expression in a profession where confidantes are hard to find. Find and face a friend, humble yourself by admitting a need, and gain the desired help and support.
Jesus was the supreme example in all ways of life, especially in His consistency of character. That same sense of character can be achieved only by completely opening yourself to the One who is “the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). His faithfulness and transparency stand on the foundation of His identity: He is Truth. Look for absolute truth from the only source. Seek power and wisdom to confront truth in yourself.
Jesus said, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). Freedom is found with His help, for He gives the courage to face yourself, to face God, and to face a friend. Masks will fall away, leaving the full potential of life without deceit, life completely whole. Integrity will not only be a fundamental value but also a way of life. The ministry that is so passionately preserved will stand on the reality of God’s grace alone. With the Psalmist say, “I have chosen the way of truth” (Psalm 119:30, NKJV).
Sande Pederson Langager is a freelance writer who lives in Wenatchee, Washington.
*Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible unless otherwise noted.