By Mark Dance
A pastor’s calling is to speak the truth, not stretch it. Yet ironically, ministers are prone to see things as better than they are.
Researchers and surveyors call this “the halo effect.” God calls it “lying.”
Even one of the Old Testament fathers of the faith, Abraham, struggled with shooting straight. Known mostly for his bold obedience to God, he twice exaggerated his relationship with his beautiful wife to ensure his safety.
By introducing Sarah as his sister, he conveniently left out the fact they were married! Abraham stretched the truth by revealing only part of it.
God didn’t give up on Abraham, but neither did He give him a pass on his problem. We, too, must face up to this potential blind spot so that it won’t hurt our family, our testimony, or our ministry.
Rounding up attendance and baptism numbers may be among the most common temptations for pastors, although there is an endless number of opportunities for us to manipulate the truth.
I want to suggest five ways exaggeration can hurt your ministry.
1. Exaggeration offends God.
Exaggeration is nothing less than lying, which offends God since it’s still number nine on God’s top ten don’t do this list. We’d be wise to take it as seriously as God does since our lies will sabotage our lives and ministries.
Those of us who teach and preach will experience an even “stricter judgment” because God has entrusted us with the truth of His Word.
2. Exaggeration erodes trust.
Exaggerations are boomerangs that not only affect our relationship with God but also with those in our family and ministry who trust us.
Although we’re left to speculate how Abraham’s exaggeration played out with Sarah at home, we know his son Isaac heard about his deception since he did the same thing with his wife.
We must be cautious not to add or withhold details to make ourselves look better. You may see a difference between bragging on your church and bragging on yourself, but I assure you others don’t see that subtle distinction.
3. Exaggeration exposes insecurities.
When people ask pastors about our families, we tend to point out the highlights while skipping the lowlights. The pressure to “manage our homes well” never goes away, so neither will the temptation to mask our vulnerabilities.
We’re not always “fine,” nor are our families and ministries. On the contrary, we’re called to preach “in season and out of season” because both seasons are guaranteed.
4. Exaggeration hurts our testimony.
Abraham’s legacy of faith isn’t in question today because his exaggerations were exceptions to his faithful norm. If you continuously struggle with stretching the truth, don’t abandon your calling, run back towards it.
If this post has exposed a blind spot in your life, repent and return to your first love, and to the ministry He has called you.
Someday God may use your testimony to warn other ministers about the dangers of this trap, as well as the grace that keeps you from returning to it.
I only thought of four ways exaggeration hurts our ministries, but couldn’t resist the temptation to exaggerate my content in the title.
In all seriousness, the only real path to integrity comes through the resurrection power of Jesus Christ.
Please take some time now to ask Him to expose any pattern of exaggeration in your life, home, or ministry so He can conquer and cleanse it.
We must be careful not to allow our optimism to grow into a dangerous mix of fact and fiction.
MARK DANCE (@markdance) speaks at churches, conferences, and retreats—often with his wife Janet. Mark has contributed to several books and offers weekly encouragement at MarkDance.net. He’s currently serving as director of pastoral development for the Oklahoma Baptist Convention.