Honesty is the best policy?

Should we be “nice Christians” or “honest Christians”? Is it possible to be both?

A group of us from our church attended a seminar this week where the presenters argued that we believers need to be honest with each other. In fact, one presenter said the Canadian tendency to be nice to each other can sometimes lead to failed churches.

The seminar was put on by the Canadian branch of the Willow Creek Association, a group affiliated to the Willow Creek Community Church in Chicago which promotes good leadership.

Bill Hybels, lead pastor of Willow Creek Church, said in a video interview that he has practiced honesty with his staff, his leadership team, and the church for many years. He said leaders tend to avoid talking about 10 per cent of the things they see in each other – out of fear of offending or for other reasons.

But that can lead to problems. Issues that are swept under the carpet have a tendency to reappear at awkward moments. Or, people leave.

Yet if people are brutally honest, they can create just as serious problems. No one likes to be attacked and denigrated.

So, Hybels repeatedly tells people in his congregation that they must ask permission before sharing difficult things. And they must couch their statements as positively as possible – looking to help others improve and grow as individuals.

There are some things, he said, that need to be shared – no matter how hard. But you can give the other person time to prepare himself or herself by asking permission and saying that you will share it with them at a later date.

A key to dealing with these difficult problems is a “culture of honesty” in the church. If the pastor and leaders constantly talk about this and practice it, the idea of loving honesty will take roots in the church as a whole.

Practicing honesty in the church takes skill. But I believe it is possible to be honest and loving at the same time.

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