Review of The Truth Shall Make You Odd

Frank G. Honeycutt.  The Truth Shall Make You Odd: Speaking with Pastoral Integrity in Awkward Situations.  Brazos Press, 2011.  ISBN: 9781587432637.

Meet the Author

Frank G. Honeycutt is an ordained Lutheran (ELCA) pastor with twenty-five years of parish ministry experience who currently serves as Senior Pastor of the nearly 900 member Ebenezer Lutheran Church in Columbia, South Carolina.  He is the author of six books including Marry a Pregnant Virgin: Unusual Bible Stories for New and Curious Christians (2008) and Preaching for Adult Conversion and Commitment: Invitation to a Life Transformed (2003).  Honeycutt earned his Doctor of Ministry in Preaching from the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago (LSTC) in 1998 and is “especially interested in issues surrounding adult Christian conversion and how skeptics and others outside the church think about God.”

Book Basics

Pastors feel constant pressure to be “affirming, understanding, loving, and always gracious listeners, nodding and mumbling niceties at all the appropriate times,” which can tempt even seasoned clergy to tell half-truths or outright lies (p. 89).  In response, The Truth Shall Make You Odd: Speaking with Pastoral Integrity in Awkward Situations addresses the challenge of pastoral integrity through a consideration of the tasks that consume much of a minister’s time: preaching, pastoral care, teaching, funerals, and working with council/session/leadership team.  Written by a master story teller who shares his own experiences, including his mistakes,  the text invites pastors to reflect on their experiences.

Given the author’s interest in adult Christian conversion and formation, it is not surprising that the chapter on teaching is a strength.  Calling into question the practices within his own tradition he asks (p.109), “When our expectations of participation are so low, is it any wonder we have raised several generations of lukewarm Christians?”  Rather than finding fault with the denomination or pointing the finger at those outside of his parish, Honeycutt explains how he seeks to create a different kind of culture.  This renewed emphasis on lifelong adult Christian formation is intended to enrich the life of the individual believer, the Christian community, and the wider geographic community with the recognition that “what the church needs most today are Christians who are so well formed biblically and theologically that they naturally and nonthreatingly engage the city around them . . . (p. 115-116).

So What?

Pastoral ministry offers many temptations to do the easy rather than the right thing.  Honeycutt’s focus on truth telling provides a solid foundation for the larger issue of pastoral integrity by exploring an issue most face on a daily basis.

For those who are in pastoral ministry: What individual and/or group do you meet with on a regular basis for support and accountability?  Are these relationships such that you can and do speak openly about your current struggles?

For those who are involved in a local congregation as an active member or participant: Have you said or done anything of late that suggests you view pastoral ministry as providing you with religious goods and services on demand and to your liking rather than allowing for the open and active work of the Holy Spirit?

Note: For more on the idea of  living authentically and intentionally in the larger community, I recommend Alan J. Roxburgh’s Missional: Joining God in the Neighborhood (click here to read my review).

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