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7 Lies Even Good Pastors Tell

7 Lies Even Good Pastors Tell
  • Name
    Carey Nieuwhof
I’m a pastor, and, I hate to say, I sometimes tell lies. Don’t get me wrong, I hate lying. And I try very hard to live a life of integrity. I’m guessing you do too. But do you ever let a lie…slip? Pastors are under relentless pressure to be ‘on’ all the time. As a result, it’s way too easy to shade the truth in ministry. I’m not even good at lying; my wife and kids tell me I’m a terrible liar. They can tell within seconds if I’m trying to pull one past them (practical jokes are really hard to pull off because of this). But sometimes, as a byproduct of what I do in ministry, I say things that aren’t 100 percent true. And I’m not sure I’m alone. In the hopes of keeping me honest (and maybe helping non-pastors understand a pastor’s world), here are seven lies I’ve caught myself telling. See if you have too.

1. I’m Doing Great 

That’s what I say to almost anyone who asks me how I am. But it’s not always true. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think you should burden strangers or Sunday morning guests with the ‘real’ answer, but sometimes I’ve said this to people close to me when I haven’t been great. The point is not to tell everyone when you’re struggling, but you do need to tell someone. Just because you can’t tell everyone when you’re struggling doesn’t mean you shouldn’t tell anyone. If you don’t, your days in ministry are numbered. Here’s how to be an appropriately transparent leader without oversharing.

2. There Were X Hundred (Thousand) People at the Event

There’s even a name for this—pastor math. I have a tendency to round attendance up if I don’t watch myself. Maybe it stems from insecurity. Or a sense of inadequacy. Or insanity. I don’t know. But I have to check myself to make sure I’m accurate. Why do I feel the truth is inadequate? Anytime you feel the truth is inadequate, it’s a sign God wants to drill deeper into your character.

3. It Was Awesome! 

Sometimes I’m tempted to spin events as better than they really are. It’s a much better practice to pick out specific things that were genuinely wonderful and leave things that bothered me to a private debrief later. And if you make it a pattern to say things were awesome when they weren’t, people know. Fortunately for me, I’m part of a church where things are actually awesome a lot of the time. But I need to make sure my vocabulary matches the experience.

4. It Was Awful

And other times I can write something off as terrible, when the truth is that it had redeeming characteristics I’ve missed. I have to discipline myself to call it what it really is. Things are rarely as awesome or terrible as you tell yourself they are.

5. Yes

Sometimes I say yes when I don’t mean yes. I say yes to make someone happy or to get someone off my case. That’s not good. Being nice is a poor substitute for being honest.

6. No

Sometimes I’ve said no when I don’t mean it either. Sigh. For example, in a larger church, for years I had to selectively choose which weddings I’d do. Otherwise, I’d have almost no family time. Sometimes it was just easier to say I didn’t do weddings. Even when it’s more complicated, it’s good to give the full answer, such as, “I do weddings occasionally…let me explain how that tends to work,” rather than to simply say I don’t do them.

7. I’ll Pray for You

This one hurts the most. I know I have sometimes told someone I’ll pray for them, and then I forget. And sometimes (man, I’m trying to banish this tendency), I’ll even say “I’ll pray for you” because I know it’s the ‘pastoral’ thing to say. To combat this, sometimes I’ll pray for people on the spot as I walk away so I don’t forget. These days I have a prayer app I use to help me remember to pray for specific things. And I do try to bring to mind people to pray for when I pray. I’m also comforted by the hundreds of people at our church who are praying for each other. But I want to be 100 percent certain that when I say I’m praying for you, I am.