It was the Wednesday after a weekend full of powerful worship services. I sat in a room with our weekly production team to debrief services as we always did over a hearty catered lunch. Compliments and critiques were being shared as we looked back over the course of what transpired over the weekend. Lives changed, lines of people ready to talk with the pastor after services, spontaneous uproars of congregational worship. It was a powerful weekend and I was honored to have been a part of it.
As we shared our learnings, I looked at our teaching pastor, having personally been so moved by a story he divulged in his message. I thanked him deeply for sharing it. A coy smirk popped up on his face as he cocked his head to the side and shyly said, "Well, it was a bit of an exaggeration but it made the story more compelling."
"Wait, what? You mean you told a white lie up there?" I asked.
"Well it's not so much a lie, just making the story a bit more." he replied.
The room felt awkward. I made it awkward. But my world was rocked. The tint of my glasses changed from rose-colored to clear. Wait, is it a thing to exaggerate in church messages?
I wish I could say this was a one time occurance. But multiple times I was somehow roped into a lie, or a bend in the story in order to create deeper impact.
I stood in the shadows on stage behind the pastor as he set up the big Easter finale. I was honored to have been asked to sing the big number, if you will. As I waited for my cue to walk up to my spike mark, I heard him set up the song with a fable, ending with him having called me on the phone about the song and my saying, "yes I love this song, let's play it for Easter!" I stood in the dark, mind spinning, confused and then boom, spotlight went up on me and the song track started.
Another time I was asked to introduce Matt Redman's beautiful song, "Bless the Lord (10,000 Reasons)" to our congregation. The set up of it mattered greatly, as it did everytime we introduced a new song. I was communicated to by a messenger on what the teaching pastor wanted me to say for the song introduction. I had the choice of either telling a joke (oh geez, I am not a good joke teller!) or sharing a story about a phone call I had with the teaching pastor saying we just have to share this song to our congregation. Neither option was something I would have done, nor was the latter a truthful story. My options for the introduction left me a bit in a conundrum. All I wanted to do was lead people in worship.
Years later at another church, the same thing happened! In a smaller congregation but a similar setting, I heard a beloved teaching pastor and friend share exaggerated details to a story in his sermon. He later admitted he knew it would more emotionally connect and land the sermon theme with his embellishments. The end justified the means.
WHAT'S THE BIG DEAL?
Now here's the thing. Some of you read this and go, "What's the big deal? It matters to tell compelling stories! Jesus told parables all up and down the Bible."
Why yes, yes He did. But He didn't claim them to be truth. To the best of our understanding, Jesus did not try and elicit an emotional reaction out of someone who believes a story to have truly happened in order to draw them into a right relationship with Him. Something in me cannot stand the fact that within the one place that should be the most honest, authentic, trustworthy, we tell lies. Big or small, all the same.
As if the gospel of Jesus isn't enough.
After only one or two instances, the value of ruthless honesty took root in me and itself buried deep in my core. If a story I share is less compelling than some, at least I may stand on it being ruthlessly honest and unexaggerated.
Our world begs for ruthless honesty. Our sniffers are way too developed and can smell any photoshopped, curated and commodified people or product in ministry. I want to challenge us to fight for a world where we are ruthlessly honest in our storytelling to the best of our ability as communicators.
I believe there is goodness to be found on the other side of honesty.
The Lord detests lying lips,
but he delights in those who tell the truth.
The wise don’t make a show of their knowledge,
but fools broadcast their foolishness. Psalm 12:22-23 (NLT)
I want the Lord to delight in what I say, how I present myself, how I live and inspire my little bubble on this planet earth. I want God to say, "you are wise, not a fool."
Will you join me in cultivating a world where we sacrifice a few followers or dollars because we chose to maybe be a little more basic? I believe we can cultivate a world where honesty is enough and nothing beyond the truth is needed to let light shine.