“It’s not about the nail” — Yes, it is. And it might be time to mention it.

A brilliant little video went viral a couple months ago. It’s titled “It’s not about the nail.” If you haven’t yet watched it, you really should.

If the video upsets you, my brief disclaimer: it’s promoting a stereotype that’s not totally fair or true. But it’s a good and funny depiction of said stereotype.

Dear pastors and leaders in the church,

You have people with nails in their foreheads and snags in their sweaters. And yet my experience is that a lot of you are making excuses rather than telling people about the nail.

A rather superficial, but common example. Someone wants to sing a “special music” piece in worship, but you keep putting them off. “Just not a good time, we’re already scheduled out for the next several months, let me run it by the worship committee…” When the real reason is that you’ve heard them sing, and it won’t go well. The audition tape went like this:

This person shouldn’t be put in front of a crowd to sing. For their sake and the crowd’s. But you don’t have the heart to say it, so you make excuses.

Something a bit deeper. This might happen with someone who wants to lead a small group, but you know they have some serious psychological problems, perhaps some psychiatric things that need attention. The kinds that can blow up without notice and do a lot of damage to everyone around. The person needs to see a counselor (and perhaps a psychiatrist). Most of the people around them know they need to get help, but again, no one seems to have the heart/guts to say it.

One final, most important example. Someone wants to join your church, but he’s in an adulteress relationship. Oh, and just for fun, let’s say that he’s a pretty successful businessman and writes sizable checks (yes – a real situation a friend had). When he joins, you’ll stand in front of the congregation with him and ask if he earnestly repents of his sins. It’s too uncomfortable to bring up and might scare him off, so you don’t say anything about it and go ahead with it.

Insert your own situation. The possibilities are endless. Someone has a problem, but you don’t want to say it for fear of offending or causing a disturbance. So instead you work around them. Or perhaps just as bad – you put them in a situation destined for failure, then let them fail.

Sometimes it really is about the nail, and you need to say so. You have a duty to say so. It’s the most gracious and loving thing you can do.

You’ll want to tell them about the nail with grace and tact. But if you’re any kind of real pastor — charged to care for people’s souls and lives — you really need to address it.

Another disclaimer: telling people about the nail doesn’t guarantee success. I’ve encountered acceptance and change along with denial and anger. I think it was important I at least told them about that nail, though.

We laugh at the “not about the nail” video because we all know that it’s about the nail. And the obvious correct answer is to deal with the nail. I’ve found that too often in church world, we let someone walk around with that big nail jutting out of their forehead and never tell them.

not about nail

3 thoughts on ““It’s not about the nail” — Yes, it is. And it might be time to mention it.

  1. Thanks Teddy for having the courage to speak the truth with love!!!! Especially with regard to the prospective member. Maybe if more Pastors had the gumption to take their orders seriously the Church would not be in the condition it is in. Brother you are a better man than me. I have left the UMC ministry because after 26 years I am tired of all the battles. Guess I am just a big weenie (hopefully beef but maybe turkey!!!)

  2. good post. however, if you know someone is in an adulterous relationship, or can’t sing, other people probably know, too. even the person themselves may know. tact sometimes requires us to overlook something to maintain a relationship. sometimes we need to bring it up and sometimes not.

    1. Hi Jeff,

      You and I either have misunderstood each other or disagree. If someone asks to join a church (i.e., they want to be recognized as a professing Christian) and is in an adulterous relationship, I think there’s a pastoral obligation to discuss that. Yes, relationship maintenance is important, but it is not our first responsibility. I’m sure Paul was considered tactless by some for pointing out sinful behaviors in the Corinthian church — and for telling them to expel the immoral brother! — but I think his example was a good one for us to consider.

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