Most of you reading this will be familiar with what is probably Joshua’s biggest mistake as a general and leader. If not, you can read it in Joshua 9. Essentially the Gibeonites deceived Joshua into thinking they did not live in the promised land and make a peace treaty with him based on deception. They pretended to be Joshua’s friends when in reality they were his enemies.
I have seen whole churches fail because the lead pastor could not tell the difference between a friend and an enemy. Joshua was deceived because he did not do a little bit of praying and a little bit of thinking, and therefore had no discernment on an issue in which he should have had discernment on. You must pray about the people around you. I am not saying create a culture of fear and suspicion, I am just saying before embarking on a major project with anyone or putting a responsibility on someone, you as a leader should be discerning.
Many people do not tell the truth to leaders. I was talking to a pastor friend of mine a few months ago – he was not part of Tree, he is the senior pastor of several churches like I am, and I knew one of his leaders was being deceitful because that leader had contacted me and said some things that were clearly wrong. The other pastor said to me “they never acted like that to me” – and they didn’t, because he was the leader and sometimes people lie to leaders! Sometimes people deceive leaders to gain favour and position, and we need to be aware of that. I know someone who got a job with a major ministry because of a CV that had blatant outright lies on it! These things do happen, we need to be diligent!
Lies are the most surefire sign that someone is working with satan. Jesus told us that satan is a liar and the father of lies (John 8.44) and when there are lies in any church or organization, satan will always have a place in that church or organization. When there is deception and lies, there satan is, causing trouble! If you are a pastor, a leader, an elder, be very very careful about telling lies – you step into satan’s fatherhood when you do!
It is a tragedy to see how many pastors and travelling ministries lie. I went to a meeting with a American minister in London, and the room seated 5000. Although the room was mainly full, it was not packed full, and not utterly full. What a surprise I had when I read the man’s prayer letter the following month to find that there were 15000 people crammed into the room every single night, and every night at least 5000 people were getting born again. That is just a total lie. There was no truth in that statement at all. That man is siding with the father of lies by allowing that to be printed!
So, the first category of people that you must discern to win every battle is you – discern when and where you are tempted to lie and deceive, and deal with your heart. Ensure lying and deception are not part of your ministry.
The second category of people that you must discern to win your battles is those close to you. Again, do not become the next Miss Marple or Jessica Fletcher, but just be aware sometimes an innocent face hides a guilty heart. Be aware if someone tells you something that you know not to be true. The Bible does not have soft, kind, sweet words for those who lie. Some people are experts at lying, and just because they go to church, that doesn’t change things. I have known pastors who can look you in the eye and tell you something that is utterly not true. I had a pastor recently tell me another minister had asked him personally to check up on me, and I said “really, shall I call him and ask him?”, and it turned out to be a lie that was made up so that minister could get some information from me that he wanted. Expert liars are difficult even for the trained to detect. All politicians can lie to a certain degree, Hitler’s lies caused millions to die. His chief of staff, Hess, said that if you tell a big enough lie frequently enough people will believe it.
Why did the Germans invade Poland? Because Hitler lied and told the German people over and over again that Poland was about to invade. The average German soldier thought he was acting in self-defence because he was lied to over and over. Hitler told the Germans that Britain was looking to invade, and that they must be attacked, he just made things up.
Today, in the UK, the media tell all sorts of lies, the BBC deliberately stirring up police investigations of innocent figures like Cliff Richard to deflect questions from their ignoring the clear danger of the evil Jimmy Saville. If you get your facts from the secular media, you are one of the most deceived people there can be!
We have to be discerning if we want to win the war and make disciples of all nations.
Here are some warning signs that as a pastor you should listen to and contemplate before appointing someone to leadership:
- They expect others to behave in ways they do not. To assume they are immune from the same expectations as others, they have lied to themselves and are probably fairly good at lying.
- They do not want any accountability. They do not want you to look out for them or confront them ever.
- They have favourites and it is obvious to everyone
- They are saying one thing to some people, and something else to others
- They are not making disciples. They are not investing themselves into people.
- They will try and make you feel guilty.
- They are vague about things they should be specific on
And what can you do about it as a leader, if someone lies to you:
- Keep your heart clean. Don’t take it personally, get angry, get carnal. You should deal with it, but not until you understand this has impacted you and you are acting as a pastor, not as a furious wronged person!
- Speak directly and clearly to the person who has lied. Now, you do not want to attack the person, but you want to address the behaviour. Focus on the person, not the behaviour. “What you have said here, does not match what you have said to this person, and does not help our church walk in love and transparency with each other” is better than “you are a liar!”. If you say someone is a liar, you will put their back up. If you confront the behaviour and explain you expected better, you are walking in love, expecting and hoping the best. Your goal should be a resolution at this point.
- Do something to back up your words. Speak to someone first – pastors should never shoot the gun until you have tried to talk someone down! Now, here is the truth you should know – the person may accept your words but then get upset at the action. But you cannot allow someone who is lying to run a small group, for example. They need a time off to heal and change and fall in love with the truth. That action may really upset someone, but you need to be firm as well as kind.
- Make Sure Everything that is Redemptive. Your goal is to have the situation in the rear view mirror as soon as possible. If the person accepts your words and actions, move forward. Do not get emotionally attached, and learn to forgive. People may have to do things to rebuild trust, but as a spiritual leader your job is always to restore people (Gal. 6.1).
I hope this post helps you, and again – I am not interested in creating a culture of suspicion, just making sure you use your discernment and win plenty of battles and lead your church into victory and making disciples and changing the world.