Confessions of a Worship Pastor:
The Time I Got Yelled At
A number of years back scientists found what they said was another planet beyond Pluto; ironically, neither of these orbiting bodies are planets anymore. However, back then they were both planets. I remember being so amazed at our Creator. There’s so much that we don’t know about our universe, yet God knows it all.
One Sunday I was leading my community in worship and began to encourage them that God is so much bigger than we know, using this example. Before I could get all the words out I was cut off by someone in our congregation. He said, “STOP IT! STOP IT! We’re trying to worship God and you’re talking to us about a planet.” Mind you, he cut me off before I could get to the punchline.
Well, as you can imagine, to say I was shocked is an understatement of gigantic proportions. I’ve been around church for a long time, and have seen my share of things, but I had never seen that before. So to cut to the chase and make what felt like the longest 10 min of my life a bit more brief, eventually my pastor came up on stage and cuts the man off. The man then took his shoes off, slapped them together — I suppose as if he was shaking the dust off his feet — and walked out the door, in his socks.
I have told this story many times over the years anecdotally, but believe me, as much as I can laugh about it now, I was not laughing then. But looking back there are some lessons to glean from this experience.
Keep Your Composure
This event happened towards the beginning of the service. There was still much to be done before we could all go to lunch — and talk about it. We still had to receive the offering. Our pastor had not taught from God’s Word yet. I’m sure there was still an invitation or challenge to be given with closing music. As much as I wanted to leave, I couldn’t.
I’m sure you’ve experienced situations that were disheartening, embarrassing, frustration — probably stuff that has ticked you off — but you cannot give up. You can’t throw in the towel. That’s not the way the Kingdom works.
In sports there is a phrase, “Play through the whistle.” It means don’t give up too early or your opponent will get the better of you. Our adversary is just waiting for us to give up, to call “uncle”, but God is saying don’t give in. Don’t give up!
There are times when these situations are on a large scale, like my example above. However, there are other times when small things, like messing up a lyric or chord badly, will be embarrassing. I have literally not looked at the congregation for a song or two after I have done that. It can be embarrassing. What I have found is that keeping your composure will be a mark of your maturity. Acknowledge the mistake as much as you need to — I sometimes visibly laugh it off — but get right back to the work of leading people. No matter where your situation is on the continuum, keep your composure and keep leading!
Forgiveness is Necessary (Even If It’s Never Asked)
How do you forgive someone who has, so publicly, done something like this to you? I wouldn’t want trivialize your situation by simply saying, “it’s not easy.” For many of you, the wrong that has been done to you is so hurtful it may be the hardest thing you go through. I have been deeply wounded by congregations and pastors that I have worked for. In some cases the hurt was worse than I thought and it took years to get over. One of the books that was so helpful in my journey towards healing is A Tale Of Three Kings. I strongly recommend this book and suggest that everyone reads it.
Healing is hard enough when someone seeks forgiveness. In the story above the man called me the next week to apologize. I told him I forgave him, but that he needed to call my wife and apologize to her too. To his credit, he called her. I think this is part of the reason I was able to get over this situation pretty quickly. However, there have been other incidents where no apology was offered. Let me plead with you to stay away from cynicism. Don’t let friends/family become offended for you. Don’t let the scenarios that play out in your head lead you down an unhealthy path. These things will only slow down the healing, keeping you from the freedom you want and desperately need.
Don’t Count the Holy Spirit Out
So, the same Sunday that this event happened there was a new family in church. There always is, isn’t there? After months of talking with your neighbor, they finally come with you to church and the pastor speaks about tithing. You finally get your gay relative to come to church and the pastor mentions homosexuality in the sermon. 51 weeks of the year he doesn’t mention it, but the time you bring someone, he does. If you’re like me, you spend the rest of the sermon thinking about what you’re going to say to soften the blow.
Every situation is different — I don’t believe one answer can fit for every situation. However, in this case, and many, many others, the Holy Spirit does His job better than we can — so let him! This young family, for whatever reason, came back the next week and the next. They became very close family friends of ours and even though we no longer live close by, we still make a point to see them when we can. One of the things the Holy Spirit does so well is reveal truth. Sometimes we need to let Him do His job and trust that God can work these situations out for His glory.
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