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7 Lies Pastors Tell

7 Lies Pastors Tell

I’m a pastor and, I hate to say, I sometimes tell lies.

Don’t get me wrong, I hate lying. And I try hard to live a life of integrity.

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 by-product of what I do in ministry, I say things that aren’t 100% 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 7 lies I’ve caught myself telling:

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 that you tell everyone when you’re struggling, but you do need to tell someone.

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 I the truth is inadequate?

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 it had redeeming characteristics I’ve missed. It’s rarely as great or as awful as I think. I have to discipline myself to call it what it really is.

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 just not good. Nice is a poor substitute for honesty.

6. No. Sometimes I say no when I don’t mean it either. Sigh. 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. And then I forget. To combat this, sometimes I’ll pray for people on the spot as I walk away so I don’t forget. 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% certain that when I say I’m praying for you, I am.

Jesus’ words are clear; let your yes be yes and your no be no.

If you want to continue to build your integrity (like I do), here’s a post on 5 practical ways to build your integrity. And if you want a quick test on your integrity level, here’s a post outlining 5 signs you lack integrity.

Pastor lies need to go. Even the innocent ones.

How about you? Ever catch yourself in an ‘un-truth’? Any others lies you’ve noticed?

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  • pacgolfer

    “Pastor math” = “Evangelically speaking”

  • jjjjk

    ok so i was talking with my neghbor he is christin and tries to get me to go tp church but i have my own personal religon how come u preechers say gays always go to hell when it says noting about homosexuality in the bible? god made us all even the homosexuals really to say ur going agenst god by condeming people to hell and saying their going to hell itswrong gods job is to judge people not any one else on this earth n ur probably saying well they are they dont go to church well maybe they would go if u ppl would stop slandering them and stop lieing about it ur useing gods book in the wrong way i dont go to church but i pray every day almost and i belive god i love god so if a gay guy loves god prayes to him studies the bible and dose good threw out his whole life he still gose to hell i dont think so god would welcome him with open arms all i see in religons is hate covered up by a book wich has no context of the matter in it just like ppl saying watching tv is a sin its bs n u all know it stop hateing just cuz ur scared of the unkmowen dont mean u can put words in gods mouth and then judge a person and say its god will cuz its not god is about love and forgiveness and compassion you people are not even ur churches are are color seperated i have not seen blk and white ppl worship together nor commuine tpgether i was put on this earth to open up the worlds eyes so many sins even by holy men its disgusting and shameful and back in the old days kids had respect for elders they didnt have sex or do drugs or drink nowadays there are pregnant 12 year olds who party drink have sex with multipul guys and do drugs maybe the church shuld be focusing on real sins people are doing and try to fix them along with their parents insted of bashing and condemming people to hell based on their sexualorientation by race and etc. hello world wake up am i the one of a handful of ppl in this world that have a brain and pure heart if my son ever did things kids do today id be ashamed its not bormal andbitbinmoral stop judging and open ur eyes ppl grow up i did why cant any one else?

  • pastor king reid

    you need to be born again its important if you lie your are evil the devil is a liar and the father of it you shouldnt be a pastor unless you are called of god

    • newzgerlzrus

      I think we all lie in one way or another, and I don’t think we’re all evil. We wouldn’t need a bible or Jesus if we were perfect. The bible is the instruction book, and it was provided so that we can look at what we do, compare it to what God says about it, and then try to do the right thing to the best of our ability. We all do things that disapoint God or go against him commandments or instructions, we’re fallible. God knows that. Sinning doesn’t make us evil, per se, it just makes us folks who need Jesus and what He did for us. Pastor King Reid included.

  • Mary Hewlett

    You’ve always held my admiration because of your uncanny ability to ‘turn over every stone’ of questioning in your sermons. Now you have my respect, because of your courage in stepping up to the plate and admitting to us ALL, that you too are human, and quite capable of making the same ‘choices’ we all make on this journey through life. Kudos to you Carey.

  • Les Tilka

    Was gonna ask if I could translate that to use here. But then read it and realised it doesn’t need any translation at all. Carey I’ve been pushed by your posts recently in specific ways. Now I just gotta work on the lying! Thanks man.

    • cnieuwhof

      So glad Les. Thank you. I’m pushing myself, and it’s good to be able to share that experience with other leaders.

  • Wow Carey, you painted a pretty accurate picture of the inner world of many of us in Christian leadership. (“I’ll pray for you…” Ouch!) Sometimes the first step towards change is just recognizing the issue at hand. I think you’ve done that for a lot of leaders with this post.
    Oh, and by the way…I’ll pray for you. 🙂

    • cnieuwhof

      Thanks for the recent comments. This post was tough to write. But I think you’re correct Scott, naming the issues is a first step toward change. Appreciate the support, and prayers. 🙂

  • Todd

    Uh, yeah. Nailed it.

  • Doug Schonberg

    pastor-math! lol!! ‘Sunday afternoon he was caught up in the pastormath of worship.’ Blessings!

  • Breen

    Thanks for your honesty.

  • cnieuwhof

    Jonathan. Good to hear from you. We Canadian church planters have to stick together. Applaud what you’re doing! Come visit some time.

  • jonathan manafo

    Thanks for these Carey. Sometimes I say, ‘If I remember I’ll pray for you’ or I say, ‘I’m going to make it a point to remember to pray’ I think it relays that I’m human and can’t remember to do everything.

    Enjoying your blog. Thanks for sharing. I’m a church planter in North Whitby. We should have coffee some day so I can pick your brain 🙂