I’ve fought a lot of battles in my last 25+ years of ministry, and I’ve learned a lot of lessons as a result. As a student minister, most of these lessons were pretty harmless, though certainly helpful.
Think twice before showing that movie clip. Don’t cut the donut budget. Let kids choose their own roommates for camps and retreats.
So when I got more than a few complaints about our worship pastor leading from the stage with his shirt untucked, I was reluctant to bring it up with him. It didn’t really bother me all that much, for very little about the church was traditional or formal in nature. The church office was in a doublewide portable building that shook violently in moderate thunderstorms. We gathered in a barebones multipurpose building that, like most “cafegymatoriums,” failed to support any purpose very well. Worship music was contemporary in style, and it wasn’t uncommon for our worship pastor to lead from behind the drum set. Taking all these things and more into consideration, the untucked shirt actually fit in better than the alternatives.
Contrary to my presumption, our worship leader wasn’t rebelling against tradition, but concealing a gun: a Glock model 22 .40 caliber in an “inside the waistband” concealment holster. So to keep the peace with our critics, he settled on a Ruger LCR .38 caliber special in an ankle holster. I was surprised to learn that he carried a concealed weapon, but I was shocked to learn that many more members carried as well. An employee of a local shooting range once commented that our congregation was the most secure in the area because so many members carried guns.
With all the “peacemakers” tucked away on any given Sunday, one might expect congregational life to have been free of conflict all together. This, of course, was not the case.
Less than two months into my pastorate, I received a relatively long, typewritten letter from a member that detailed all of the reasons three of the other ministers on staff should have been fired. The allegations were not broad or generic, but specific and detailed. With the letter in hand (and copies for them), I met individually with each staff member and went through his or her version of events. Each of them agreed to meet with the accuser, so I took my notes and the letter back into my office and called the church member.
The conversation that ensued was not a pleasant one. This person had no interest in resolving the issues, nor did they desire to live in biblical community with church leaders. The purpose in writing was to equip me with the “truth” so that I could do their bidding. This individual was aggressive in writing the letter to me, defensive when confronted, evasive with every attempt I made to reconcile, and pretended like nothing happened for a few weeks before leaving the church.
For many weeks now, we’ve been working our way through the Beatitudes and looking at the core values of those who are of the Kingdom. Blessed are the poor in spirit (with a sense of awareness and helplessness before God). Blessed are those who mourn (with “good grief” over their sin and the sin in the world). Blessed are the humble (shift to relationships). Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness (moral and social). Blessed are the merciful (showing compassion for people in need).
In our next post, we’re going to look at the peacemakers.
Rob is Teaching Pastor at Blackman Baptist Church.