Protecting Sunday mornings is a challenging responsibility for any pastor. Managing people is often a distraction from more important things. It’s even worse when what Marshall Shelley calls “Well-Intentioned Dragons” show up, too. This description from the book by that title makes it clearer. “Every church has sincere, well meaning Christians who leave ulcers, strained relationships, and hard feelings in their wake. They don’t intend to be difficult; they don’t consciously plot destruction or breed discontent among the members. But they often do undermine the ministry of the church and make pastors question their calling.”
I hope you enjoy this guest post by Rev. James L. Sparks, Pastor Emeritus of North Avenue Church of God, Battle Creek, Michigan, as he share how he went about protecting Sunday mornings.
The lady approached me with her finger wagging in my face and I knew I was in for a lecture. It was a Sunday morning with only a few minutes before I was due to meet with the worship team and enter the sanctuary. It was very tempting to pretend I didn’t see her, but I was an instant too slow and she began her tirade. “Dennis just walked past me and didn’t even speak to me,” she said. “I want you to tell him not to ignore people.”
Now I was faced with a problem. It was easy to say, “Yeah, sure,” and walk away, but she needed to learn a lesson, so I said, “Dennis is our Children’s Pastor. It’s Sunday morning and he’s probably doing his job: caring for children. Unless you’re three feet tall or smaller, he’s being paid to ignore you in order to focus on children.” I paused. “Not everything is about you.”
I leaned over, kissed her cheek, and said, “Now I have to gather for my thoughts for worship. I suggest you do the same.” And I walked away.
I can’t count the times my mentor reminded me of the importance of Sundays. He had me memorize the mantra: “A preacher who approaches the pulpit without meticulous preparation of himself and his message is guilty of a blasphemous dereliction of duty.” As preachers, who are also pastors, guard our approach to that task zealously. And it’s not always easy.
One Sunday morning, the praise team was leaving the chancel and I picked up my Bible and prepared to preach. A young lady in the praise team leaned into my ear and said, “I want to talk to you this week.” I quietly said, “Just call me for an appointment.” Then, as she passed by, she said, “I want to tell you why I’m leaving the church.”
The next words out of my mouth were supposed to be the opening words of the sermon. But I couldn’t speak for several minutes. I was flabbergasted. When she later called and came in to see me, I told her why her remark was not only unkind, but rude.
Here’s my point: people need to be taught. No person enters a group knowing the rules of community; a club, a school, a group…or a church. Far too many folks have been allowed to speak without understanding how their words affect others. They need to be taught.
I’m not convinced that every person needs to be confronted about every inappropriate behavior, but the pastor who doesn’t protect himself and his congregation during the act of worship is “guilty of a blasphemous dereliction of duty.”
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