Just Be Honest

I was able to catch some of the replay of “The Nines” – an online church leader conference featuring a ton of speakers each talking for just a few minutes. To my surprise, my favorite talk was by Elmer Towns.

Towns talked about the inclination for pastors to be dishonest. He gave several examples. Preachers who exaggerate stories in their sermons to make them more sensational or hysterical. Pastors who exaggerate their numbers to make their church seem more successful. Towns implored pastors to just be honest.

Thank you Elmer. (Half my reason for doing this post is that I’ve always wanted to say, “Thank you Elmer.”) Obviously it’s always wrong to lie (which is what these pastors are doing) but I think these particular lies are especially insidious. The role of a pastor is to glorify God, but when we aggrandize our stories or numbers we’re seeking to glorify ourselves. I can’t even imagine how a pastor who does this will explain himself when he stands before God.

Some of the things we do at Verve to make sure we don’t exaggerate our numbers is (1) not count children’s ministry volunteers, assuming they will go to an adult service, (2) subtracting people from our adult count each week, knowing that some people (staff, band members) will get counted twice, and (3) not counting groups of out-of-town visitors (we can’t do this with an out-of-towner here or there each Sunday, but when we have a whole group, like a mission team, we don’t count them).

If you’re a pastor, where are you prone to inaccuracy or exaggeration or dishonesty? Your role is to glorify God, not yourself, and you can glorify God much better by the integrity of your character than by making yourself seem more sensational or successful.