My heart had become full. Of criticism. To my shame, it was criticism of a fellow pastor. He was a friend, a godly man who loved his family, preached the gospel, prayed regularly, never gossiped, and always believed the best about people. But I began to struggle with something about him. It wasn't some secret sin. It wasn't a double life. It was nothing “scandalous” at all, really.
It was that he lied.
When asked how he was doing, he always replied, “Great!” When asked what he needed prayer for, he always offered some generic request.
He kept things guarded, impersonal, and close to the vest, even when others around him shared the depths of their heart. I don't think I ever heard him apologize to anyone for anything, ever.
Yet he smiled a lot. He laughed heartily and kept things as “positive” as possible. But I saw how the people closest to him were positively crushed by his lack of vulnerability. I was one of them.
Please don't misunderstand: I believe pastors have the right to protect their privacy, to keep some things personal. They don't need to lay everything on the table under the microscope of the entire church. They can be less emotive and steer toward the quiet side. They should not blab on about their sins and shortcomings. They must exercise honest discretion.
And I certainly don't expect pastors to give in to the spirit of the age, where trend-setting church staffs and members demand “transparency” and “vulnerability” from their 55- going on 35-year-old pastor. They want their Senior Revs to be down-to-earth conversationalists, honest Joe's who've traded in their gaudy vestments for chucks, slim fits, and hearts-on-sleeves.
But here's my concern: are we being honest enough with others to let them bear our burdens? Or does outward silence indicate inward boasting? When burden-bearing only goes one way, it ceases to be burden-sharing. Inevitably, we will fail to carry this weight on our own. I believe my friend succumbed to this temptation. But I didn't realize it happened to me, too.
During this season of life I met for coffee with a young man I mentored at the time. By God's grace, he offered a simple comment that humbled me.
“Whenever I ask how you're doing, you say 'Great!' and then turn everything back to me as soon as you can. I never really know what's going on with you.”
I was crushed. But he was right. And I repented to him, praying that God would destroy the pride that kept me from sharing my heart to others. Pride is always the root problem. I wanted people to see me as someone who didn't need the gospel as bad as I was telling them they needed it.
Of course, the incident caused me to see how hard I'd been on my friend. How easy it is to judge a brother's heart while your own heart is lying to you about yourself! Praise God that the Holy Spirit faithfully reveals what our hearts conceal. Praise God that those no one hidden in Christ needs to hide anything any longer.
So pastor, stop lying. Your congregation needs to know Jesus. And they need to know you need him, too.