A couple of nights ago I was speaking with a new man in our church. He and his family recently moved to town and he happens to live just up the hill from me, so I have been trying to get to know him. “You aren’t like most Baptist pastors.” he said.

“I’m not? How so?” I didn’t tell him that this struck me as a compliment. When I was in seminary, I sold computers on commission. There were certain types of customers you never wanted and you learned to spot them as soon as they came in the store. Pastors were in that group and I could spot one from 100 yards away, even without the pastel suits and comb-overs.

“You are much more open about yourself than most pastors I’ve met,” he said.

Bulls-eye! That’s exactly what I wanted to hear. I’ve always tried to be real, open, and honest as a pastor. I listened not long ago to a pastor on a podcast talk about the dangers of this. That pastor is well known for a lot of things, the least of them is an occasional foul mouth. Being honest has its drawbacks, he warned. It gives your critics a lot of ammunition. On the plus side, his church is thriving. It practically bursts at the seams with non-religious curious young adults clamoring to know more about this thing called The Gospel. Practical warnings aside, I want to be open, honest and real.

This desire of mine has freed me up a little. I have learned to laugh at myself in the pulpit. I have learned to say “I don’t know” and occasionally, “I’m sorry. I was wrong.” Its been fairly easy and very freeing, but recently its been trying as well.

I have recently been preaching a sermon series on biblical stewardship and financial freedom. We’ve got some great programs lined up to help people in this area and we’re kicking it off with a sermon series. Here’s the problem: I’m not financial expert. I’m a financial failure. I’ve made all the dumb mistakes, and I’ll pay for them (literally) for many years to come. Everything I have to preach, I’ve had to preach to myself. My family and I have had to come to terms with this and make some big changes in order to really get on good footing. We’re excited about this. Its working for us, but preaching it is something different.

Granted, I don’t preach my advice. I preach God’s Word. In that regard, it doesn’t matter if I’ve got two nickels to rub together or not. I do preach towards application. I don’t preach empty lectures on Bible history, I preach God’s Word and how it applies to lives today, here and now. That’s where things can get sticky. I had a decision to make. Do I preach it out to the people and let them assume I am above them, clear of their problems, barking directions like a spiritual traffic cop? Or, do I come clean and tell them how it is?

I chose the latter. I have been brutally honest with the congregation regarding my situation and how we’re getting out of it. I’ve even made promises to reveal any information about our balance sheet, budget, and goals if it can help someone else. That has been really strange. It leaves me completely open for judgment. Anyone in the church can easily say that I don’t know what I’m talking about or they can make the easy jump to assume I must be a mess everywhere else too. What can I say? I am a mess.

In a way, its like coming down from the pulpit to sit with the people. I’m not the one standing in the Promised Land hollering directions to the lost masses. Instead, I’m wandering the wilderness with the rest, gathering us up to move toward the right path. I’m convinced there is something to it. Its humbling, and when we’re humble, we just might notice what God is doing.