I read an excellent blog entry this past week entitled 5 Lies Pastors Are Tempted To Tell – And How To Resist Them. If that title doesn’t catch your attention, I don’t know what will. It is an excellent read but it was the concept that really caught my attention.
I believe that for the most part pastors are honest people. They don’t deliberately lie about things and yet the author of the blog is suggesting that for all of us who have ever served as the pastor of a church, there is a temptation to lie about certain things. I will let him expand on that but I do believe that what he says is true.
The problem is that sometimes reality is difficult to face. There are both internal and external pressures that make us wish that our reality was different from what it is. The temptation is to distort that reality a bit so that things look different from what they really are.
Henry Cloud, author of Integrity, says that reality is always our friend. He points out that anything other than reality is fantasy and living in a fantasy world is an unproductive place to be.
While this is true, it doesn’t alter the fact that some times reality isn’t easy to face.
If I don’t take attendance on a Sunday morning, I can make my church to be any size that I want it to be so that when someone asked the size of my church I’m not bound by actual numbers.
If I never consider whether anyone is coming to Christ through the church’s ministry, I don’t have to admit that our evangelism efforts aren’t working.
If I never talk to my spouse about the pressures that my job is putting on the family, I can live with the belief that everything is fine.
A few years ago I assisted a church that was looking for a pastor. It gave me the opportunity to look at a number of resumes from people hoping to fill the position as pastor in this church. One of the interesting things that I noticed as I looked at these resumes was that every person from whom I received one considered preaching to be one on his strengths. I did not receive even one I don’t believe that did not have communication skills at the top of the list.
The perspective pastors had varying degrees of ability and some would even have qualified as good speakers but some did not communicate well at all. They very much needed someone who would be honest with them and tell them that their preaching skills needed work.
Many of the applicants were younger men and women who would develop into good speakers but they had not arrived there yet. They were probably a few hundred sermons away from being good.
One of the dangers of preaching is that there is always someone who will tell us that we are the best speaker that the church has heard in a long time. Over the years I have had people who told me that they loved hearing me preach.
The danger comes when we start listening to our fans and thinking that all that they say is correct. I would much sooner listen to the person who loves my speaking than to the person who has constructive criticism that could help me become a better communicator.
This illustration focuses on just one aspect of church life. The temptation to not face reality applies to every facet and to every person – to the pastor, the leadership board, the members and the person in the pew. We all are tempted to avoid reality.
My personal challenge
I love to encourage small-church leaders. I believe that most of the people providing leadership in small churches all across Canada are special people. They have a love for their churches. They are concerned for the people who attend those churches. They are willing to sacrifice time and resources to serve those people.
I believe that small churches across Canada can make a powerful impact on their communities. I believe that this is true for all small churches but is probably even more true of churches in small town and rural settings.
Small churches are part of the means that God is using to carry out his mission across this country. Don’t let anyone tell you that your church doesn’t count because it’s small. It is part of Christ’s body, part of the temple that he is building, part of God’s chosen people, his royal priesthood, his holy nation, his unique people (1 Peter 2:9). You are part of God’s means of spreading his message in Canada from coast to coast to coast.
I believe that with all my heart and I want to encourage you to keep your eyes fixed on that truth but I also want to have a firm grasp of reality. There are problems that the church is facing and these problems are true for churches in Canada from the smallest to the largest.
In everything that I do I want to try to strike a balance between offering encouragement on the one hand and facing reality on the other.
Over the next few weeks I want to look at some problems that exist in the Canadian church. I want to take a small-church perspective but I want to be very clear that these challenges are there for churches of every size.
I want to take a hard look at reality with the clear understanding that while it can be difficult to handle at times it also is an essential part of positive change.