Why Your Pastor Can’t Always Tell You What You Want to Hear

I have a confession to make. Usually, I don’t like to speak for other people, but for this post I am making an exception. Now, I’m not claiming to speak for all pastors/clergy/speakers. That would be ridiculous. However, I am speaking for people like me who have some explaining to do. 

So, here’s the confession: Sometimes your pastor can’t say the things you want him/her to say. I know this is disconcerting and alarming. I know there’s a comfort that comes from going to church and having the interpretations and understandings of God/Jesus/the Bible you’ve always held or assumed to be true reaffirmed. And when we can, we do just that. 

The problem is that we aren’t static beings, frozen in time. On the contrary, we are dynamic, living human beings; human beings that grow, learn, and change our interpretations. We, just like you, are on a journey with God–a journey that is anything but a straight line–and this journey demands an openness to rethinking and changing our minds when the evidence and Spirit insist it must happen. We don’t do this because we’ve decided that we don’t like the Bible and we need to change it to match our politically correct, culturally sensitive opinions. We don’t do it because we feel a pressure to capitulate to whatever it is that happens to be en vogue at the moment. Actually, to be honest, the pressure we feel is to just tell you what you expect to hear. After all, our very livelihood often depends on it. Yet, we also have this pesky problem called “integrity.” We have a deep need to live congruently, for what we hold to be true at the deepest levels and what we say to actually match. We aren’t trying to change the Bible; we are often saying, “Maybe we’ve totally misread and misunderstood the Bible in places. Maybe we need to go back to the Bible and wrestle with it afresh.”

Last week Tony Jones put up a post about an important public speaking lesson he’s learned from Rob Bell. Tony writes,

Rob’s main message, however, was this: Live a singular life. That is, if you don’t believe it, don’t say it. Be unified in your message and your life.

Sometimes we can tell you what you want to hear, because we believe it to be true in the depths of our being. Other times, we just can’t. We can’t lie to you, even if it means that you become frustrated, angry, and disappointed with us. We care about you enough to be truthful about our journey. We also care about our own growth and transformation too much to live compartmentalized lives that believe one thing and say another.  We aren’t intentionally trying to mess with your head or heart, or contradict what you’ve heard. We are simply trying, as best we can, to follow Jesus, be transformed by the work of the Spirit in our lives, and live with integrity–and to help others do the same, as we are able.

And, we are grateful to have this opportunity–this calling–to be on this journey of transformation with you. We take our role in your life seriously. We actually believe it’s a sacred responsibility we’ve been given.  So, thank you. Thank you for journeying with us, supporting us, and being willing to hear some things that, sometimes, are a little less than comfortable. Thank you for struggling and wrestling and being open to disagreeing and still loving one another. We are in this together. We need each other. That’s the truth.

Grace and peace.

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