7 Innocent Lies Pastors Tell

Carey Nieuwhof: “Sometimes, as a byproduct of what I do in ministry, I say things that aren’t 100 percent true.”

I’m a pastor and, I hate to say, I sometimes tell lies.

Don’t get me wrong: I hate lying. And I try hard to live a life of integrity.

I’m not even good at lying; my wife and kids tell me I’m a terrible liar. They can tell within seconds if I’m trying to pull one past them (practical jokes are really hard to pull off because of this).

But sometimes, as a byproduct of what I do in ministry, I say things that aren’t 100 percent true.

And I’m not sure I’m alone.

In the hopes of keeping me honest (and maybe helping nonpastors understand a pastor’s world), here are seven lies I’ve caught myself telling:

1.”I’m doing great.”

That’s what I say to almost anyone who asks me how I am. But it’s not always true.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think you should burden strangers or Sunday morning guests with the ‘real’ answer, but sometimes I’ve said this to people close to me when I haven’t been great.

The point is not that you tell everyone when you’re struggling, but you do need to tell someone.

2. “There were ‘X’ hundred (or thousand) people at the event.”

There’s even a name for this—pastor math.

I have a tendency to round attendance up if I don’t watch myself. Maybe it stems from insecurity. Or a sense of inadequacy. Or insanity. I don’t know. But I have to check myself to make sure I’m accurate.

Why do I feel I the truth is inadequate?

3. “It was awesome!”

Sometimes, I’m tempted to spin events as better than they really are. It’s a much better practice to pick out specific things that were genuinely wonderful, and leave things that bothered me to a private debrief later.

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And if you make it a pattern to say things were awesome when they weren’t, people know. Fortunately for me, I’m part of a church where things are actually awesome a lot of the time.

But I need to make sure my vocabulary matches the experience.

4. “It was awful.”

And other times I can write something off as terrible, when the truth is it had redeeming characteristics I’ve missed. It’s rarely as great or as awful as I think.

I have to discipline myself to call it what it really is.

5. “Yes.”

Sometimes I say yes when I don’t mean yes. I say yes to make someone happy or to get someone off my case. That’s just not good.

Being nice is a poor substitute for honesty.

6. “No.”

Sometimes I say no when I don’t mean it either. Sigh.

Even when it’s more complicated, it’s good to give the full answer such as, “I do weddings occasionally … let me explain how that tends to work,” rather than to simply say I don’t do them.

7. “I’ll pray for you.”

This one hurts the most. I know I have sometimes told someone I’ll pray for him or her, and then I forget.

And sometimes (man I’m trying to banish this tendency), I’ll even say, “I’ll pray for you,” because I know it’s the ‘pastoral’ thing to say. And then I forget.

To combat this, sometimes I’ll pray for people on the spot as I walk away so I don’t forget. And I do try to bring to mind people to pray for when I pray. I’m also comforted by the hundreds of people at our church who are praying for each other.

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But I want to be 100 percent certain that when I say I’m praying for you, I am.

Jesus’ words are clear; let your yes be yes and your no be no.

If you want to continue to build your integrity (like I do), here’s a post on five practical ways to build your integrity. And if you want a quick test on your integrity level, here’s a post outlining five signs you lack integrity.

Pastor lies need to go. Even the innocent ones.

How about you? Ever catch yourself in an ‘untruth’? Any others lies you’ve noticed? 

Carey Nieuwhof is the founding and teaching pastor of Connexus Church in Toronto. This post was originally published on CareyNieuwhof.com.