My secretary stopped me in the hallway. She was obviously upset.
I asked what was wrong. She began to weep.
This was one of the most godly women I knew. And I couldn’t handle it when she cried. She often wept for others, rarely for herself.
I pressed her to talk, only to discover she was weeping for me.
The rumor about me she shared was really bad, heartbreaking, and absolutely not true.
Another church employee supposedly witnessed to my wrongdoings. He knew me since I was a boy! I couldn’t understand why he would make up such a story. But I was determined to find out.
Before I could question him, someone arrived at the office to talk to me. He had family in the church, though he was not a member. His family had become caught up in this foolishness. I was devastated. I was trying to reach this guy for Christ. He was now turned off by church rumors.
As a young preacher and rookie pastor, I was getting my first taste of slander.
I drove to my pastor’s office for advice… kind of. On the way there, I determined what I would do. I was going to directly address it from the pulpit Sunday morning. I just needed my pastor to co-sign my great idea.
He did not.
My pastor’s counsel was clear, repeated, and emphatic. Do not say a word!
In my mind, this was the worst advice in the history of civilization. Even crazier, I was moved for some reason to follow his advice!
It still ranks as one of the hardest weekends of my more than twenty years of pastoral experience. I don’t know if I have ever dreaded a Sunday more.
I just knew I would be confronted with questions the moment I got out of my car. I just knew there was an emergency deacon meeting in my immediate future. I just knew the congregation would sit with their fingers in their ears as I preached.
I never heard this lie again. The employee cited had nothing to do with it and made that clear. Something was being said. But, apparently, no one believed it. So things remained business as usual.
You can’t imagine how glad I am that I followed my pastor’s advice and did not take this rumor to the pulpit to defend myself.
This experience taught me an early lesson that has served me well over the years…
Don’t try to put out every brush fire that sparks up. Some things will put themselves out if you just leave it alone.
Of course, this is not always the course that should be taken. There are 2 Corinthians moments in ministry when you are compelled to defend your authenticity and credibility. Wisdom is knowing when to speak and when to hold your peace, when to move and when to keep still.
But these hills to die on are few and far between.
In most instances, my pastor’s “bad” advice is the best practice.
- When you are lied on…
- When your name is being slandered…
- When you are falsely accused…
- When your motives are questioned…
- When you good is evil spoken of…
Don’t say a word.
Don’t start playing defense.
Don’t be afraid.
Don’t respond impetuously.
Don’t take matters into your own hands.
Don’t create a real issue by how you react to a non-issue.
Don’t try to put out every brush fire.
Editor's Note: This originally published at HBCharlesJr.com