In another community, my husband and I attended the installation service for a pastor of a neighboring church. The church was of another denomination so I was interested to see how the service would go. The sanctuary was full, both of the parishioners of that church as well as people from the community like me. When we went in an usher handed us a program and we read through it prior to the service beginning.
We nudged each other when we got to the promises the congregation and their new pastor would make to each other. The congregation was to charge their new pastor to “speak the truth as we see it.” I thought that sounded a bit odd. “Preach the truth as WE see it.” Perhaps more honest than most churches, but still surprising.
Sure enough when the moment came in the service, the congregation dutifully read the charge as printed: Preach the truth as we see it. A few moments later, a denominational official spoke. She said, “That charge is supposed to read, ‘Preach the truth as YOU see it.’” I did not know the members of that congregation well enough to see if they squirmed, but they well might have.
Many churches long for their pastor to preach the truth as they see it, but the trouble is that even in a fairly homogenous congregation, there will be dozens of versions of the truth. Each of us, whether we are pastors or members of a congregation, understands the truth in slightly different ways. And that is why I must preach the truth as I see it, supporting my understanding as clearly as I can. And then each person who hears me must discern the truth as they understand it. Every one of us must pray and study to discern truth and then share it with others. I do not expect that every person in the congregation will automatically agree with me every time. I would be disturbed if they did because that presents a dictatorial aura I do not want or like. It may be uncomfortable for me when someone says to me after a sermon, “I disagree with you,” and in another way I am pleased because it means that person has thought hard enough about what I said to struggle with my words. I can learn from them even as I hope they learn from me. Together we come to a deeper understanding of the truth. That is the truth that will set us free.