Things a pastor does not tell

I had a phone call from my insurance man the other day.

Jim lives in another city and we never see each other, but his company is national and I saw no reason to switch homeowners insurance when he moved away.  He’s a solid Christian and I like him.

When Jim believes something, he can be tenacious.

He called urging me to vote for a certain candidate for the U.S. Senate.  I listened to him and when he insisted that I go to a certain website and watch a video, I made no promises.  That did not please him. Frankly, listening to claims and arguments and promises from political candidates is not on my list of favorite things to do.  The attacks and disclaimers are so arbitary and voters are rarely treated as though they have a lick of sense and the judgment of an adult that I try to skip them as much as possible.

Jim called later to see if I had listened to the tape.  I forget what I told him, but I tried to say gently that he had done quite enough.

A couple of days later, I went to the courthouse and voted absentee since I’ll be in another state in revival on election day.

I did not say and would not if asked, how I voted.

It’s no one’s business.

1) Pastors should not tell their people how they vote.

We have greater issues to deal with, bigger fish to fry, as the saying goes.

It’s best if people do not know your politics, your favorite sports teams, and a few other things.

2) Pastors should not tell anything received in confidence.

If the time ever comes–perhaps in another church and years later–when that story can be told, the minister would do well to turn it into a parable, changing enough details to camouflage the reality.  I would not be surprised if this is where our Lord got some of His story-parables, although there’s no way to know.

3) Pastors should not tell what their wives or children said without their specific and enthusiastic permission.

If they hesitate and have to be persuaded to grant permission, a wise pastor will back off and respect their privacy.  And, even if they grant permission,  that permission may be withdrawn at any time without having to justify it.

I suggest recording those great lines in order to use them years later when they become ancient history.

4) Pastors should not tell anything off-color or crude.

Want an example? Sorry, charlie. lol.

5) The pastor should not disparage the president of the United States, no matter how much he finds objectionable about the present occupant of the Oval Office.

I’ll never forget my elderly dad, a lifelong coal miner and thus union member, being offended at the Bill Clinton jokes an evangelist told in a church where my brother was pastor.  Dad was a Democrat, as union members tend to be, but his sensitivity was not personal. He said to me, “What if some lost person were in the church, a Democrat who loves Bill Clinton.  He would not have heard another thing that preacher said.”  He was exactly right.

Leave politics out of the pulpit, pastor. To be sure, there are times to preach issues and values which tie in with national events and current debates. Even then, God’s messenger must be wary of personal attacks or endorsements of certain candidates.

6) Pastors should not reveal their personal finances or “poor-mouth” from the pulpit, playing on the guilt and generosity of his members.

No one wants to hear that things are tough at your house, pastor.  I guarantee you that some sitting in front of you could out-do your tales of woe, and they’re faithfully serving God. Follow their example.

If it becomes necessary to make certain members aware of your financial need, surely your church has a means for this.

7) Pastors should not lie.  And most exaggerations are lies.

To our shame, “ministerial exaggeration” has entered the lexicon to represent gross misrepresentations of the truth.

Over the years, we would hear Billy Graham describing the response God’s message generated. “Hundreds of people received Christ as their Savior.” He could just as easily have said thousands, but he understated it, thus setting a great pattern for the rest of us.

Are there other such things pastors should not reveal? Oh yes.

I know stories about church members that would make Peyton Place seem like a child’s book. But, even if the principals are now off the scene, their children are adults and we are in contact. To tell their story a) is not my place to do and b) would revive the most painful memories of their lives.  So, it’s not worth it.  Such stories will not even show up in my memoirs, even if I ever decide to write such a thing.

The simple fact is I hope some of the things out of my past will never show up to inflict pain on those I love.  Sometimes I pray for people who I may have injured with a harsh word, a wrong act, or worse, that the Lord will protect them from hurt and bless them in every way they need blessing.

I want grace and therefore, want to extend grace in every direction for as long as the Lord enables me.

So, I will pray this little prayer almost every day of my life:  “Set a guard upon my mouth, O Lord. Keep watch over the door of my lips” (Psalm 141:3).

Let the minister of the Lord pray this prayer before opening God’s Word to proclaim His message.  Let Him speak the truth in love, and only bless everyone involved.

There is too much pain in the world today. Let’s not add to it.

5 thoughts on “Things a pastor does not tell

  1. I agree with everything, except for the favorite sports teams. That one didn’t make sense and wasn’t explained.

    Having said that, I really enjoyed this article…

    I would close by suggesting an addition: Never tell people what kind of foods you despise. If you do, you are liable to get Brussels Sprouts the very next time someone has you over.

    • I didn’t explain the sports thing because this article is one of over 2,000 on our website and we’ve dealt with this repeatedly. About the Brussels Sprouts thing. Many pastors would say not to tell the congregation your favorite dessert because you will be inundated by it. I once told my church I loved banana pudding. Big mistake. 🙂

  2. I think a pastor should not disparage the prime minister of Canada, or the prime minister of Aruba. However if a president promotes something immoral he ought to speak out, just like Bonoeffer did against “president” Hitler.

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