One of my favorite bloggers, Ben Reed (@BenReed), recently posted an article called “What Pastors Really Mean When They Say…” This post provided a fresh, sometimes hilarious, insight into what pastors say versus what they mean.
The post immediately prompted me to flash back to my days as executive pastor of a large church and had me reflecting on a related theme: What pastors think but can never say.
Here is my top 5 list of things we think but never say:
1. The way things were done in your former church really doesn’t interest me.
“You know, Pastor, at my old church, our pastor always had a special story time for the children before dismissing them to Sunday school.”
What are we thinking that we simply can’t say? “So what…”
2. The reasons I fired your favorite staff person are none of your business.
“Pastor, you fired one of my favorite people. Why did you do that?”
What are we thinking that we simply can’t say? “I’m not about to disclose the details of someone’s personnel file with you.”
3. I just finished preaching—I just can’t deal with your problem right now.
“Nice sermon, Pastor. But I need help with a marriage issue.”
What are we thinking that we simply can’t say? “I don’t have an ounce of emotional or spiritual energy for this right now.”
4. I’m sorry…What’s your name?
“Pastor! Fancy running into you here at the grocery store!”
What are we thinking that we simply can’t say? “I know I’ve seen you every Sunday for five years, but frankly, I just don’t know who you are.”
5. Your giving is really more of a bribe.
“Pastor, until the music volume is toned down, I won’t be tithing to the church.”
What are we thinking that we simply can’t say? “Until you stop attaching strings to your giving, just don’t give.”
My point is not that we should actually blurt out everything we’re thinking. That can be incredibly cruel. It’s simply that in church leadership, we must constantly manage the tension between appropriate truth telling and wise discretion.
How do you know if you get this wrong? Oh, you’ll know. Believe me, you’ll know…