In my twenty years of being a pastor, there are three things I’ve learned not to say.
1) “I’m busy.”
I hate these words. I hear these words so often, there’s no way I can possibly say them to another human being. No one is ever available for anything because they are “busy.” I later find out ”busy” meant doing something they thought was more fun, which is just about anything other than doing something associated with church
I also don’t say “I’m busy” because I’m not. I can make time for pretty much anything I want to do. I have gotten more used to simply saying “no” to things, rather than giving stupid excuses. I attempt to never give excuses. If I forgot to do something, I will say, “Oh, I’m sorry.” Rather than “Oh I didn’t do that because I was so busy.” Constantly getting blown off by people because they are “busy” makes a guy feel like a pile of mud. I don’t want to do that to other people.
I am also the pastor. If I tell people in my church I am too busy for them, that sort of defeats the purpose of my job. If the church keeps you too busy to be with the people in the church, things need to change. It also sounds like I’m complaining about my job, blaming the church for my busy-ness. That’s not a good look
2) “You’re saved.”
People want the assurance of salvation. The Bible pretty much says you will have the assurance of salvation to the degree your life is changed, new, becoming like Christ. 1 John hits the point pretty clearly. Seeing sin decline in your life is a great sign you’re saved. If you tell that to people, they will charge you with being legalistic and promoting works righteousness. People do not want to hear this.
So, what do most Christians base their assurance of salvation on? Whether other Christians tell them they’re saved. Pastors are Group #1 they want to hear this from. They bring their doubts to you in hopes you’ll say, “Ah, don’t worry about it. You said the prayer, right? I baptized you didn’t I?” Then they can carry on in their sin-filled lives with peace and comfort. Until the next crisis of faith comes next week when they get high again.
Pastors are under huge temptation at funerals to declare the eternal state of the deceased. I did this a few times. “We know they’re in heaven with their Savior now.” Or, “their suffering is over.” I’ve gotten to the place where I cannot say such things anymore. I do not pronounce people saved. How do I know? God is the judge, right? Declaring people saved is a great way to ensure more people stay unsaved.
3) Doctrinal theories
When people ask me theological questions, I’ve learned not to pontificate and theorize, but instead to quote a verse. Now this requires me to have memorized verses. It also requires an ability to recall these verses at the time. These are not easy things to do. But answering theological questions with verses is the best way to answer them
There’s too much pontificating and theorizing and repeating what other people say. Look, if you can remember what your favorite theologian says about this subject, I’m pretty sure you can just remember verses that God breathed. We’re too dependent on people’s words. Stop it. Quote Scripture.
More and more my language is infused with Bible verses. I pray this continues. It keeps me dependent on the Bible and not on me. It protects me from getting sucked into false teaching. It shows the people that I value God’s Word, that I know it and use it. They need to see that in their pastor.
The older I get, the more dumb I look in the past. I’ve learned to not trust me as much. To let God do the talking by quoting His words. By avoiding clichés and excuses that get thrown around too easily that show complete disregard to others. When I hear lame excuses I think, “Wow, I don’t even mean enough for them to think creatively for a second.”
The Bible has a lot to say about the words that come out of our mouths. The man who can control his tongue is perfect. I endeavor to be that man. That being said, I will stop talking now.