In over 35 years of pastoral ministry, I've known and worked alongside hundreds of pastors. I've met thousands.
I can count the dishonest ones – the wolves in sheep's clothing – on one hand. With fingers left over.
But there are some lies that even the 99+ percent of honest pastors have a hard time resisting.
Here are five of them:
1. How Big Their Church Is
We live in a church growth culture. Bigger is better. Even if we don't say it that way, we believe it.
The pressure to perform tempts us to lie about our attendance figures – especially to other pastors. And denominational officials. And visiting preachers ("The attendance is really down today!").
One of the main reasons we do this is found in the title of this point. Too many pastors see the church as "their" church. So they see the growth (or lack of) as their responsibility.
We're always striving for more. And when we don't hit those goals, we pad the books – in our heads and our conversations, if not in the actual reports. Although sometimes we do that, too.
2. How Healthy the Church Is
No one wants bad news. So we're tempted to downplay the negatives, up-sell the positives and call it faith.
It's been said that the first job of leadership is to define reality. I believe that to be profoundly true.
A big part of defining reality is to acknowledge our weaknesses as well as our strengths.
Leaders lead. But we can't get there from here if we don't have an accurate picture of where "here" is.
3. How Spiritually and Emotionally Strong They Are
Most churches are too pastor-centric. Including the church I pastor.
Too many churches rely far too heavily on one person to cast a vision, preach the Word, visit the sick and so on.
When the pastor is seen as a proxy for Jesus, we're taking on a burden no one was ever meant to bear. So we're tempted to lie about it. To ourselves and others. We present ourselves as paragons of spirituality and virtue. And by doing so we set ourselves up for failure.
Even if it doesn't lead to a moral or emotional flame-out, this over-reliance on the pastor sends the wrong message about who the church is supposed to be focused on and led by.
We need to point to Jesus. Lean on him. And equip the saints to follow him even when we're not around.
4. How Strong and Stable Their Marriage and Family Are
If the pastor is supposed to be near perfect, then so is their marriage and family, right?