I’ve long admired pastor, blogger and cartoonist David Hayward, aka The Naked Pastor. (That’s Naked. Not “Nekkid.” He’s not up to anything.) I’ve been excited about this interview and it’s proven to be everything I hoped for.
David has a fascinating journey and a point of view the IM audience will appreciate. I’ve already gotten one email telling me I should have nothing to do with him, so he’s good people.
David pastors a Vineyard in Canada, and he will give you the whole story. And those of you who like a little Vineyard excitement, don’t give up before the last question!
1. Thanks for doing the IM interview David. Tell us about the name “The Naked Pastor.”
Thanks for inviting me to do this interview. My first post on nakedpastor was on February 3, 2006. I wanted to lay my life out there as a pastor. I wanted to bare my soul. Many pastors hide behind a wall of illusion that we co-dependently create with our communities. We try to act as if we have it together and people like to think we have it together just like they want us to think that they have it together. Thatâ€™s a debilitating lie. I think my blog helps to dispel that. Which is why I think it is offensive to some. Some read my blog and say: hereâ€™s a guy who struggles with the same things I do and heâ€™s a pastor of a church! Some see that as dangerous.
But it isnâ€™t like a mission. Itâ€™s not like an agenda. Iâ€™m not really trying to do anything. Iâ€™m just being me. Iâ€™ve kept a personal journal for decades. This is just an extension of that. I want to, in the Spirit of Jesus, free people from their suffering, especially in the church. Maybe, just maybe, my blog helps.
2. What have been the significant events and influences in your own spiritual journey?
Most significant events for me have been traumatic, but important in shaping my mind. In 1985, when I was assisting in a large Presbyterian church, one winterâ€™s day a street person came in for food and I treated him poorly. I was in a rush to get home and he was in my way. He was drunk so I tried to rush him out the door saying, â€œCome back sober and weâ€™ll talk business!â€ On his way out he turned and looked me in the eyes and said, â€œYouâ€™ll never be a minister the way you treated me today!â€ It was like a shotgun blast to my chest. I drove home through my tears and holed myself up for days, absolutely devastated. I searched through my books and found one a friend had given me for my graduation, Reaching Out, by Henri Nouwen. That pivotal book eventually lead me into mystics like Thomas Merton, prophets like William Stringfellow, philosophers like Krishnamurti, theologians like Abraham Heschel, and essayists like Wendell Berry. I found myself a Roman Catholic spiritual director. That began my spiritual journey that continues to this day.
Another turning point was in 1995. I had been in the Presbyterian church for years. I loved reformed theology. A sign of my enthusiasm for it was that I surprisingly won the Reformed Theology prize in my Masters of Religion degree at McGill University in Montreal. Barth was and still is a huge player in my brain. Eugene Peterson articulated so much of what I cared about. But Lisa and I were starving for an integration of theological depth with a passionate inner and community life and worship. I was invited to plant a Presbyterian Church in a rapidly growing area in eastern Canada. I accepted, excited about the possibilities of starting with a clean slate to create the community I longed for. It rapidly fell into the same old rut Iâ€™d been in for years. I became totally disillusioned, depressed and felt hopelessly trapped. One night I had a dream in which I heard a voice say, â€œItâ€™s time!â€ I woke up the happiest, freest man in the world. I realized I wasnâ€™t trapped at all. I shared my dream with Lisa and within a week we made the decision to quit, sell what we could and move away. We moved to a town weâ€™d never heard of called Quispamsis, New Brunswick. We started going to this church that had what we needed. I met the pastor. I became friends with the pastor. Within a year he felt God calling him to his hometown to plant a church. He asked me if I would pastor this church when he left. I became the pastor in 1996, the same church I pastor today.
In 1997 the church split right down the middle. That was the most horrific thing thatâ€™s ever happened to me. Iâ€™ll save this story for your last question.
In 2002 I was invited to the States to join a large international ministry. The leader of the ministry had visited my church a few times and we developed a relationship. He wanted me to plant a new church there. In the summer of 2002 we left our church in good hands. Almost immediately I knew it wasnâ€™t going to work. This is almost always the case concerning my church and ministry: people initially like the idea of authenticity, honesty, openness, freedom, creativity. What they donâ€™t see is the grueling commitment it takes to get there. My pastoral style and his leadership style instantly clashed. It was getting more and more difficult for me to pastor that community as it was getting more and more difficult for him to control this arm of his ministry. What a complicated mess! Now, Lisa and I had left our beloved community, transplanted our kids to new schools in a new country, as well as took in her ailing father, bought a house and car. On December 22 I was fired. On December 23 Lisaâ€™s father died in our home. We moved back to Canada to this community we had left just months ago because they implored us to return. I went into the home renovation business. Four years later I was invited to pastor the church again.
These events taught me the true importance of community, the value of authenticity, the beauty of freedom, and the worth of the church. But theyâ€™ve also taught me the rarity of true community, the persistent resistance to authenticity, the cost of freedom and the price of creating and nurturing community. We all talk it. My observation is that very, very few walk it.
3. What led you to pastor in the Vineyard Movement? (That’s a denomination, not a winery, just in case some of our Southern Baptist readers are upset.)
The reason I came to this church was because of renewal. At that time the Vineyard and the renewal movement were still closely tied and even inseparable. This church was a renewal type church adopted into the Vineyard family. So when we moved here it was our attraction to the passionate inner and community life that we longed for. We knew we were home. The fact that it was a Vineyard was incidental to me. But the Vineyard family has become just that: our family, even after renewal in its publicized form has passed. Vineyard churches are generally very autonomous and I think that is important. It gives me a culture I feel very free to work within. The boundaries are broad. Our Vineyard church is very different than the next one. That diversity is rich and I value that.
4. Your blogging is incredibly honest and vulnerable. What’s the place and risks of pastoral vulnerability?
I never think of my blog as honest or vulnerable. Going through disillusionment in the Presbyterian church, weathering a church split, getting fired from a ministryâ€¦ these things have taught me that thereâ€™s no use pretending. Iâ€™ve had people suggest to me after each of these traumas that I just needed to work harder, re-cast my dreams, think more positive thoughts, or compromise enough to change the system. Instead what I learned was that we are all master pretenders playing on a street of facades with prepared scripts. Whatâ€™s the point of tweaking all that? I want to cut through all that and get to the root.
â€œThe place of pastoral vulnerabilityâ€ has a functional ring to it. It sounds measured, tactical and purposeful. I reject all that. Either you are vulnerable or you arenâ€™t. If itâ€™s premeditated then it isnâ€™t vulnerability. But Iâ€™m an adult. Thereâ€™s etiquette. But never at the cost of truth or freedom. I often think of Jesus when he says something to the thousands of people who are following him that totally freaks them out. He spoke his mind and they all left. Incredible risk. Incredible cost. His disciples are mortified: â€œWhy did you have to go and say something like that?â€ Jesus asks, with a vulnerability that typified his life, â€œAre you going to leave me too?â€
So there are risks, but they arenâ€™t calculated. My blog has invoked some pretty nasty comments and emails. I canâ€™t believe what some people feel free to say to other human beings. There have been times when Lisa has wondered if Iâ€™ve gone too far. There are crazy people out there. We have kids. They know where we live. Iâ€™ve received threatening phone calls. People have come to my office and chastised me. Others have reported me to Vineyard headquarters.
Some people say they would love to move here and be a part of my church. Or they would love me to move there and plant a church in their area. No you wouldnâ€™t! Thereâ€™s nothing to see. Sure, we are intrigued by the honesty and vulnerability, but itâ€™s another thing to live it. Thereâ€™s no wow factor. Itâ€™s like investigating a marriage that has lasted over 25 years, such as Lisaâ€™s and mine. You could come and study us and leave after a week wondering what the fuss is about. Thereâ€™s no magic. No tricks. The beauty of our relationship is beyond analysis. The love is deeper than scrutiny. Itâ€™s the subtle rhythms of mutual respect, wonder, familiarity, trust and commitment. Itâ€™s the same with our church community. The luxury is that you are allowed to be you. The cost is that others are allowed to be them. I have a little motto: â€œAuthenticity with accountabilityâ€. You can be authentic, as long as you accountable for it. Thatâ€™s what relationship is. People are attracted to authenticity. People are repelled by authenticity.
5. What’s the view of the church and the Christian life that’s behind the cartoons?
I think itâ€™s my understanding of the principalities and powers and how the church is susceptible to falling under that. I hope my cartoons unveil hypocrisy, deflate arrogance, uncover abuse, unmask manipulation, and expose exploitation. Thatâ€™s lofty, but I suspect they behave as whistle-blowers on the principalities and powers that we are susceptible to. I believe one of the ways the principalities and powers claim dominion over the church is through visionary thinking that attempts to steer people in a certain direction. I question that. I believe in the church. I love the church. Itâ€™s is the body of Christ, the localized manifestation of his body in the world. Which explains why I am so intent on critiquing that which I think compromises that. And then some of my cartoons are just silly or poignant. Others they are just images from a warped mind that no one gets but me.
6. What are some of your personal favorite cartoons? (Links if possible)
Recently I posted one in response to some comments I was getting that argued different sides of one issue. What caught my attention was that both sides sounded exactly the same. Itâ€™s like Chris Hedges in his book, I Donâ€™t Believe in Atheists, stated, it was the fundamentalist mindset that dominated the scene. So I did the both sides of the same coin cartoon here. Another cartoon around the same time addressed the same idea, but under the theme of the first few minutes of heaven . The pastorâ€™s dream pokes fun at how pastors would sometimes love to control people. Many of my readers are aware of my serious problems with visionary thinking and agenda-driven ministry. My vision-casting cartoon addresses that. This one made me laugh to think of how pastors always have to be on their game. I like this one, my kind of church. This one asks a good question with an obvious answer. This one here is frightening in its possibilities. And this one got some of the most comments and is probably my most poignant. This one stirred up a lot of controversy. Thatâ€™s a small sample.
7. What kind of reactions and responses do you get to the cartoons?
People are going to interpret it according to their own paradigm and I have absolutely no control over that. Itâ€™s amazing the variety of reactions my cartoons evoke. Sometimes a reaction to my cartoon is more comical than the cartoon itself. And sometimes a comment reinforces the idea Iâ€™m actually attacking in the cartoon.
When I posted this one I had no idea that it would cause the discussion it did. I was aware of overtones because of bows and arrows. But when an online friend and fellow blogger who is a First Nation person started reading some of the comments, it lead to an incredible debate. I try not to enter into the comments section but leave that up to my readers. Only once in a while when I feel someone is purposefully trying to speak on my behalf and derail the meaning of the cartoon do I step in. But that is rare. My cartoons make many people angry and I usually hear about it.
But some of the emails I receive are very powerful, claiming that my cartoon has articulated something very meaningful for them. Whereas before all they had experienced was division and alienation that lead to them questioning their identity as a Christian, here they might find solidarity with others. Thatâ€™s cool.
8. What does David Hayward have to say to those in the IM audience who have been hurt by the church?
Welcome to the neighborhood! I say that not to diminish or demean our experience, but to place it within the broad spectrum of the human struggle. It is a human problem. When we elevate the institution we call church as a place where this shouldnâ€™t happen, we are only setting ourselves up for incredible disappointment. This happens across the human landscape, including the church. Wherever people gather in an organized fashion the danger becomes very real and in my experience probable. My life in the church has been a long hard struggle but also rewarding. But these friends of mine are my fellow pilgrims. Theyâ€™ve all been hurt by the church too. But Iâ€™ve found them. Or theyâ€™ve found me. Or God has found us each other. I can only hope that everyone finds a place that they can call home for the long haul.
I recommend people get out of abusive relationships. Find relationships that are healthy for you and where your contributions as a human being are received. If you can, find a place where you arenâ€™t abused, manipulated, or coerced and where you can contribute. Then stay! I donâ€™t care about music styles or preaching styles or any other elements of style. Style is secondary. If you find a community of people where your freedom is not compromised and you are at liberty to be you and explore, grow and contribute, hang in there. Thatâ€™s rare!
9. Should Christians be appreciators of modern art? Why or Why not?
My tag line says I am an artist trapped in a pastorâ€™s body. I love art of all kinds. But the root of that love is the love of creativity. Thatâ€™s the key behind the appreciation of art. When you love the creative spirit then you are automatically amazed at its expression. I read the 12 Million Dollar Stuffed Shark by Don Thompson. What an amazing world contemporary world is! He exposes some of the â€œcurious economics of contemporary artâ€, but it is a intriguing tour of a fascinating world, like Damien Hirstâ€™s stuffed shark. Is it art? Well, thatâ€™s the debate. Is it creative? I say yes. Is it worth 12 million? Depends. The questions for me arenâ€™t â€œIs it art? Is it modern? Should I appreciate this?â€ What captivates me is the creative impulse in the human heart and mind and what it produces. Sometimes it is the tower of Babel. Sometimes it is the Temple. But it is always creative. And we can always be amazed, positively or negatively.
Someone asked me how to get the arts appreciated in her church. I suggested that she start by encouraging people to appreciate authenticity in people. Encourage it and embrace it. The arts will automatically happen. It is oppressive regimes that persecute artists because they represent the freedom of the human spirit, and this is dangerous. Remove oppression and the arts will instinctively manifest.
So, I think Christians will appreciate modern art if they appreciate human creativity and the freedom of its expression. You canâ€™t make someone appreciate art. You can encourage them to be free. And in their freedom they will do something creative. Promise. Iâ€™m reluctant to call any art bad. I have my tastes, but thatâ€™s all it is: taste. Iâ€™m not saying I like 12 million dollar stuffed sharks, and Iâ€™d never want one in my home. But the creative spirit that would come up with such a thing fascinates me. By the way, the title of the stuffed shark is, â€œThe Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Livingâ€. That title put together with a huge tiger shark is creative.
10. Thanks for taking the time to do the IM interview David. One last question. What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever seen happen in church?
Sunday, May 25, 1997. Iâ€™d been pastor of this church for less than a year. There was a group with growing disagreement in my pastoral style. The previous pastor was also concerned. I knew something was coming down but wasnâ€™t sure what. That morning the leadership teamâ€™s intent was to read a letter stating that we were going to place ourselves under the leadership of the Vineyard and no longer accept oversight from the previous pastor. We tried the apostolic model with him and it just wasnâ€™t working. All the leaders signed and were in agreement with this necessary step. My leaders were going to stand with me as I read the letter as a gesture of unity. Just before we were to go into the meeting one of my leaders, who was the previous pastorâ€™s best friend, said he wouldnâ€™t stand with us. That was it! The look on my leadersâ€™ faces in my study that terrible morning was one of absolute dread.
When we went out I tripped over some wires. I was too absorbed in the ensuing crisis to pay them any mind. They were connected to a video camera set up to record the event. We were being ambushed. We had some worship, which was like singing in the caldron. We had a couple of announcements. I gave a short message on Godâ€™s grace. Then I asked the leaders to come up and stand with me as I read the letter. The one who declined didnâ€™t. The rumbling started. When I read the letter all hell broke loose. Iâ€™ve never experienced such massive confusion in my entire life.
A woman came up and took the microphone. She took over the service demanding a congregational meeting to overturn this decision. This was all rehearsed. People stood and heckled me and the leaders and cheered her on. Another man came up and took the microphone, praising the previous pastor and criticizing me. Another woman started yelling out in tongues. A man fell over as if struck by an electric bolt and flung chairs all over the room. A woman fell on the floor tearing at her clothes and crying out, â€œRend your hearts and not your garments!â€ Children were crying. My mind was completely paralyzed. I couldnâ€™t think. I didnâ€™t know what to do. The congregation sat completely traumatized. A friend came up amidst the hysteria and whispered in my ear: â€œYouâ€™re the pastor! You and the team made a decision! Now stick with it and finish this!â€ The woman leading demanded that people stand if they were in favor of overturning the decision. Only about 20 people stood. I took that as a sign that we were to stick with our decision. The people who took over orchestrated another wave of hysteria throughout the congregation. I finally said we were finished and we went home. That was the day our church started growing from 400 to less than 200 over time. Now, that was the strangest thing Iâ€™ve ever seen happen in church. Itâ€™s also available on DVD.