I didn’t think that the lady was bitter, resentful and mean-spirited. When I walked into the room, I don’t guess that I really thought anything about her. Just another lady. But then she started talking. And that told me all that I needed to know.
I was the new pastor of Towaliga Baptist Church. I had been on the job for less than a month. It was my first time being a senior pastor.
Our church was collecting clothes for a local outreach and I was dropping them off. That’s when I met the lady. The bitter, resentful and mean-spirited lady.
She found out that I was the newest pastor in town and then proceeded to expose all of the dirt on the church I had just begun pastoring. The same one that she used to attend. It was like TMZ. Only more bitter. She shared the rumors she had heard, the rumors she had started and the people she didn’t particularly like. Nice to meet you. Welcome to town. Via con Dios!
I dropped off the clothes and walked back to my truck. One thought kept running through my mind. It’s still there today.
Man, I’m glad that lady doesn’t go to our church anymore.
Call me non-missional. Whatever. Just a little pastoral honesty.
Much like that bitter lady, we tend to use the church for our own personal gain. We speak of getting fed and “getting something out of the service” but we rarely consider what we can do for the church.
Those with aspirations for public office treat it like a campaign stop. One that they never visit again once the elections are over.
People bad mouth it when none of its members stop by for a visit, forgetting the fact that it’s been ten years since they stopped by the church for a visit.
It doesn’t matter how good a church is. It could be the most biblical and compassionate place on the planet but there will always be at least one person, usually a loud person, who thinks that that particular church is just a little too ____________________.
Pastors are no exception. Rather than training up disciples, it’s easy for us to fall into the trap of building up our own kingdom. As if every idea and vision we have is directly from the heart of God and all of those standing in our way are calling down the Lord’s wrath upon themselves. And when our personal kingdom building stalls, we take the construction somewhere else.
Church folks love to be appreciated. And when we’re not, we’ll let you know. But we are a little slower to show our appreciation for the church.
In my case, there’s a lot to appreciate.
Like the deacon’s wife who pulled me aside one year after I got back from vacation. While I was away, something happened that required my presence. I didn’t come back. I stayed with my family. She thanked me for being an example of putting family before work. I really wasn’t expecting to hear that one.
Or the people in my church who call, write and visit the sick. Even people who are new to our church. Even people who haven’t been in ten years and lean a little on the bitter side.
I appreciate our men. Men who pray with my two young sons every Sunday morning. Men who pray with their own families. Men who sing in church instead of just looking down at the ground while thinking about chicken and how bad the Falcons are going to get beat.
I appreciate the families who open up their homes to dozens of people, some of whom they barely know, for no other reason than just to share a meal and a few laughs.
And I appreciate teenagers who take their faith seriously and the adult volunteers who serve them as teachers and examples.
I haven’t seen that bitter, resentful, mean-spirited lady since our first encounter. I can’t even remember her name or what she looks like. But I wish that I could talk to her today.
I would probably ask her how things are going at her church.
And then I would tell her how wrong she was about mine.