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Speaking Honestly Requires Courage

We left chastened by one man’s honesty. And one among us left deserving of more credit than he will receive from us. But I have a feeling his reward comes from Someone else.

How refreshing it was, then, to be sitting in a meeting of pastors and have one speak his frustrations honestly, watching them land like a bombshell among the astonished and hearing the silence of introspection that followed.

This meeting was to plan jointly sponsored revival services for the coming fall among our churches. The pastor leading the meeting was introducing the proposed preacher by reading his resume, naming his awards and accolades, and trying to impress us with the man’s position and status. <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />

All to be expected. A story was then shared about how, tired from traveling, this preacher on his last visit had filled the pulpit of our church and praised the pastor as someone he knew well, even though he obviously did not. A small warning bell sounded in my head, but I remained silent.

Other stories emerged about how this pastor commanded great authority at his church. His word was followed without question. Important people showed up to worship unannounced and were given places of honor. Everyone seemed impressed by this man’s importance, his grand accomplishments and the stature of his name.

At this point, the newest pastor in our midst, the pastor of First Baptist Church, could hardly contain himself. “I’m just completely frustrated. I don’t know if I want to support someone who seems to be so much of an elitist.”   
Uncomfortable silence followed, until still more honest yet critical words filled the air. Once again, honesty left only silence among those who had perpetuated the elitism. Perhaps in the silence, we all felt the weight of elitism that many preachers wish they still held. Honesty exposes our pretensions.

It is unfortunate how often Christians remain silent when we should exercise honesty instead. This pastor’s courage brought the meeting back to a better place. These worship services were not about one man’s authority and status in society. They were about the people in our churches.  
Servanthood, especially among preachers of the gospel, is more important than awards from the mayor of New York City. And someone needed to say it. I only wish it had been me.

We left chastened by one man’s honesty. And one among us left deserving of more credit than he will receive from us. But I have a feeling his reward comes from Someone else.

Jeffrey D. Vickery is co-pastor of Cullowhee Baptist Church in Cullowhee, N.C.