Is Your Pastor Polishing A Turd?

Is Your Pastor Polishing a Turd

Have you ever heard that saying?

“You can’t polish a turd.”

It’s always made me laugh.

The visual imagery of polishing a turd is just ludicrous – and certainly disgusting!

But we all know circumstances in life where this saying is sadly all to applicable.

The biggest one I can think of is the way many leaders run their churches.

I’ve had the privilege of traveling to several hundred churches over the last couple of years.

What I’ve found is that many pastors are aware of the radical message of grace.

They know that the New Testament teaches grace is God’s only answer to sin.

Yet they find themselves terrified of actually putting all their eggs in that basket.

Many find preaching true freedom too scary an idea.


Because there is a prevailing belief that when you preach living by grace alone, people will start sinning.

Far too many pastors have “tried” grace and seen a few people sin and quickly slammed the door on the experiment.

A message of law, sprinkled with a little bit of grace, produces a much cleaner looking church (in their opinion).

But freedom doesn’t cause people to sin.

The law does.

Rom 5:20 states – “the purpose of the law was to increase sin”

Rom 7:13 states – “the law makes you sinful beyond measure”

1 Cor 15:56 states – “the strength of sin is the law”

(For more on the law check out “What’s the Role of the Law in the New Covenant”

[Tweet “People don’t start sinning because of grace. Grace just exposes the sin that was there all along.”]

They might not have outwardly shown it but it was in their hearts all along.

What Jesus had to say

Jesus talks about this in His sermon on the mount.

He challenged people by saying:

“You probably think you are doing well not committing adultery… but if you’ve looked at a woman you are guilty of adultery.”

“You might think your doing great having not killed anyone… but if you get angry in your heart with someone you are just as guilty of murder.”

He exposed that while the law might appear to hide sin it doesn’t deal with it.

The issue is still there and just as bad whether there is an outward manifestation of it or not.

My question

I often ask leaders, what would you prefer?

  • A nice and squeaky clean looking church that is rotten to the core.
  • Where people seem great on Sunday morning but are hoping nobody finds out about their darkest secrets.
  • Where people talk of love and honour but have hatred in their hearts and lustful wondering eyes.
  • And worst of all – they have to deal with it themselves because we don’t want to know!


  • A messy appearing church where some people make mistakes and sin.
  • But the people are honest.
  • They are open about their failings and on a journey with God allowing His grace to transform them from the inside out.
  • Not only that but you can see what’s going on in their lives and come alongside them practically where they need help.

What would you pick?

The truth is that far too many leaders – for fear of the consequences of having a “messy” church opt for the first option.

There are hundreds of reasons behind this.

Many of them genuinely feel they are making the right decision for the church.

Many others however know the truth but aren’t willing to lose face over having a church that doesn’t fit the status quo.

Ultimately though it boils down to this:

We don’t really believe what Jesus said – that sin in the heart is as bad as sin in the “flesh”.

We would rather people had sinful hearts so long as it didn’t spill over into our lives and we had to face it.

Back to the “turd”

Paul in his letter to the Philippians said:

“I consider all that the law has gained me to be skybalon”

What does skybalon mean?

It means crap, dung, rubbish… that’s right “turd”.

In fact – many manuscripts show us that it was an expletive… it’s even found in ancient graffiti!

It would be our equivalent of… well I’ll leave it to you to figure out as I’ve already probably offended some people by saying “turd”.

Paul says to the Philippians that the things the law gained him are what He counts to be crap.

You’ve two choices

Leaders in the church, we have two options before us:

We can pretend that our churches are Christian and keep peddling the law as if Jesus was nothing more than a piece of duct tape to Judaism.


We can embrace the gospel and actually step into what Christ has for us as a church.

It’s our choice…

Will we stand up for what the gospel teaches and embrace the mess that might come when broken people are allowed to be broken before God that He might help them?

Or will we pretend that our churches are full of perfect people while behind the scenes they waste away in sin?

Will we keep polishing that turd?

Enjoy the post? Share it…


  1. Excellent! So true. That’s partly why I left church! Sunday faces and Sunday graces! Was there 20 years. Message never changed. God seldom showed up. And there was always a gnawing realisation you’d never measure up to the rigid plastic stereotype of what a Christian ‘looked like’! This is life. But NOT as we know it! Thankfully Jesus shows us another Way! Truth! And LIFE!

    • Love you Maggie – thanks for sharing.

      I think there is a growing number of churches who are presenting the gospel more accurately and just as the printing press made way for the reformation in the 1500’s the internet is massively accelerating a reformation that is happening in the churches today.

      I have great hope for the church but I do hear you! haha

    • So the answer is that we all stay home and be honest alone? Got it. I’ve seen many in our church use that same reason even though our imperfect church struggles as a body.

      • I think there are many many different expressions of Church – I’m sure Maggie doesn’t just sit in a room all on her own every day.

        I know people that go to “church” several times a week and never have real fellowship with other Christians.

        I also know people who never go to “church” and yet throughout the week have real, raw, meaningful fellowship with other believers.

        So while I see that some people might run from “church” I see very few who actually run from real relationships with other believers.

        The problem is we think that “church” is the be all and end all.

  2. Phil, I’m a bit thrown by your Tweet in this. “People don’t start sinning because of grace. Grace just exposes the sin that was there all along.” Isn’t the law what exposes sin? “What shall we say, then? Is the law sinful? Certainly not! Nevertheless, I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” ~Romans 7:7

    • Hi Kevin,

      I knew that was going to be a question when I wrote this. I really meant it in the immediate context.

      Grace enables us to be raw, to be ourselves with all our faults and failings and rest in our identity in Christ, not our current struggles and failings trusting that God will work that stuff out in us as we rest in Him.

      But in the freedom to be real, raw and expose ourselves we expose all that’s going on. People see the real us and our very real struggles and failings.

      Grace doesn’t cause sin. But it does give us freedom to be real with our struggles with sin.

      The purpose of the law is to reveal sin, as you quote Rom 7:7. Another great passage that jumps to mind is Rom 3:20 – the law reveals our sin as a mirror but cannot fix it.

      I guess that I’m not saying grace exposes sin per se. It just gives us a freedom to talk about the stuff that has been going on all along.

      You see the law exposes our sins… but in an internal way – a way that convicts the heart as we realise our failings.

      Grace exposes our sins in a corporate way, not grace itself but it gives us room to talk about our struggles and the journey we are on seeing God change those things.

      Hope that helps clarify. Thanks for asking!

  3. When I read you first line i thought to myself. “Phil you must have been a naughty little bugger at school & driven your mom & teachers crazy”
    Be Blesssed

  4. With the law we are constantly in the dock, but under grace we are set free from its claims upon us.
    law accused us and kept a record of transgression but love keeps no record of wrongs. Though our sins be as Scarlet under the disclosing power of the Law, yet Jesus Blood has washed us white as snow.

    Where there is no statute working and indicting behaviour there are no penalties.
    Where there is a New Nature of desire for only “legal”
    Or legitimate things there is no law against you.

    The Grace Nature doesn’t make us better law keepers, as some would have it but it redefines our parameters by freedom, we are under grace, free to live from within from The Life indwelling.

    Grace is the only legitimate means of relating to God since the finished work of the cross, anything else is like fare dodging or climbing over the wall to gain access to what is not rightfully yours.

    Law has become illegal in order for Grace to be utterly Grace.

  5. Love this analogy. My first message of the year was exactly this. We are choosing to be a messy church, warts and all.
    There is such freedom in Grace and we get to live the love we so often speak about. Authentic.

    • Love it Yorick! Thanks for creating a place were people can be vulnerable before God and one another and give people room to grow and experience all He has done for them.

  6. Thanks So much Phil, many believers have not read Galatians contextually because That’s Where The Gospel is & Galatians differentiate between The law & Grace. Galatians 1:8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. 1:9 As we said before, so say I now again, Galatian 1: If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. 1:10 For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ. 1:11 But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. 1:12 For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *