(Each Thursday, I write particularly for church leaders. If you are a church leader, hopefully this post will connect with you. However, the post may be relevant regardless of ministry role.)
I knew a man who was a good preacher and overall minister. He was well-read and had a good seminary education. He continued to grow in his ministry skills and in his knowledge. Various congregations perceived him to be a valuable resource in their region.
There was one problem.
He didn’t always tell the truth.
I don’t think he perceived himself as one who lied or was untruthful. Yet, I remember the evening, years ago, when he and his wife had dinner with us. We ate and had an enjoyable meal together. After dinner, we went to an ice cream place for dessert.
He told a story about a sermon that he had preached one Sunday. As a part of the message, he used an illustration that seemed fitting. After sharing that illustration with us, he said, “Of course this is one of those stories that you tell as if it really happened to you.”
I was a young minister and shocked by what he admitted to practicing. Surely he did not say what I think he just said. Did he really say that he told the story as if it happened to him but it didn’t? Yes, I had heard him correctly.
This was sad.
It was also unethical and even unnecessary. Not only was this wrong but he could have easily used the story ethically by saying:
“I heard the story about a couple who one day . . .”
“I have a friend who tells the story about a couple who one day. . .”
“William Willimon tells the story of a couple who one day . . .”
Truth telling includes paying attention to the little things. Accuracy and speaking truth really do matter.