5 Arguments That Don’t Pass The Smell Test


Pass the smell test

To be trustworthy, credible, authentic.

. . . . .

To a reasonable degree, I think I understand ministry.  After years of teaching in Christian colleges, pastoring, and even sitting in the pew upon retirement, there are a few ministry maneuvers that I have seen and all-too-well understand. [1]

However, some may not sufficiently realize that the members and friends of a ministry or local church have also seen them and understand them as well!  Given time, they are seen as disingenuous as indeed they are.  They also know that they don’t pass the “smell test.”

#1) Family Time: “We are canceling the service [2] because we want to encourage you to spend time with your family — to have some additional family time.”

First of all, let me suggest that if any family needs more “family time,” they can shut off the television and shut down social media.  Preach a message on that subject if you want to encourage more family time.

Second, the family is allowed to attend church together for an hour at most all churches (TIC- tongue in cheek).  Since when is going to church together as a family, not family time.

Lastly, too often, these decisions to cancel this-or-that are not about the sheep but also the shepherd.  He wants that day off — not having to tend the sheep.  Over time, the sheep get it when service after service is canceled — Mother’s Day. Father’s Day, Memorial Day, July 4, Labor Day, Christmas week, Easter week, Super Bowl Sunday, during VBS week, et al.

. . . . . . 

#2) I’ll Be Praying For . . . :  “I will be on vacation this coming week and praying for the leaders and workers at VBS as I am away.”

It is easy to purposefully schedule a vacation around an upcoming ministry or church event (And yes, that is true for church leaders, as well as members and friends).  Sometimes, that can’t be avoided because of legitimate factors that operate with all families.

Nevertheless, there are times when taking a vacation is an easy way to “kill two birds with one stone.”  If we are honest, we know and understand that!  Personally, I never left during Summer VBS.  People understood that VBS meant forgoing their vacation schedule, and it meant me doing the same!  Some even used their vacation days to work at VBS!

Over time, taking a vacation (or absenting yourself) while others work at a primary church activity or event will communicate — “Me, But Not Thee.”  God’s people do get it!

. . . . . . 

#3) There Are Other Who Said . . . : “I have had some people tell me that they really like it.”

There are numerous times in a ministry when the suggestion is made that this-or-that is not a good idea, at least not as good as it could or should be.  Nevertheless, the argument that I have often heard made is . . . .

Well, there are some people who really like/liked it.

The argument is a subtle way of saying . . . “Your opinion is as valid as that of others when it comes to evaluating that.”

That is not true!  Some opinions are better than others, and some are even informed opinions — “opinions” from those who have better insight, experience, and awareness.

I am sure there is someone, or even “someones,” who have said that they like this-or-that.  No matter how bad a presentation, event, activity, or message, someone will have liked it.  That hardly means that the ministry, event, program, series, approach, activity, or ministry direction should be kept alive and breathing.

. . . . . . 

#4) It’s All Sinful . . . . : “They are sowing discord.”

There is far too much to say about this maneuver! While “sowing discord” is a legitimate biblical issue, it is also a defensive posture.  This is the “go-to” argument of those who justify wrong-doing.  That reality is easily supported by a cursory examination of ministry and church scandals of our day (RZIM).

Check out the previous and more extensive post on this subject.

. . . . . . 

#5) I Didn’t Know: “I wasn’t fully aware of that.”

At times, we are asked if we knew about this-or-that.  Of course, if we were unaware, then we are exempt from almost all responsibility for what was happening! – ??

  • Many times, we were “aware” of this-or-that, but the comment is nuanced by including “fully” or even whatever the word “aware” means.
  • Other times, we should have been aware of it because that is our responsibility.
  • Sometimes, “willful ignorance” is the reason one is unaware. They do not want to know because they have a responsibility to act or speak to that issue if they know. This is all too typical in politics.

Ignorance by a leader as to what is happening in the operation of a ministry is indefensible!  The members and friends of that ministry or local church expect you to be on top of things while they work in the world to support you and your position as a supervisor!

. . . . . . . . . . . . 

If those in leadership and ministry believe that God’s people (and the world) don’t read what is actually happening as they hear these arguments, they are either naive, self-deluded, or disingenuous!  God’s people read it all too well!

In fact . . .

Some of the arguments used by those in ministry don’t even pass the “sniff-test.”



1. Please, be assured that I am not exempt from any criticism regarding ministry maneuvering.  It is not that we are not guilty of excusing ourselves through varied manoeuvers, but that we have come to realize, more and more, the need to be above-board.  Excusing making is seen and recognized by those within and without the ministry.

2. Sometimes it is an evening service during a holiday week, on Super Bowl Sunday, a mid-week service, a youth group night, or during VBS  —  et al.

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