Church People Say the Darndest Thing: They REALLY Didn’t Like Me

A little while ago, I had the opportunity to preach at another church.
I think I really upset this person, and I probably pushed the buttons of other folks. But this person sent an email to my church office to voice her displeasure with me.

Dear Joseph,

I come to [this church] because we believe God’s Word as our rule for faith and practice and we have a Biblical commitment to Truth. And I find His Sabbath Rest, His Word and Reverence on Sunday morning in Church; a retreat from a very irreverent world in which we have worked 9-5 jobs and tried to raise godly children and grandchildren and all their care and needs and education and activities in the midst of a hostile world against Jesus Christ, The Word of God. And our High Priest Jesus Christ “is able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and going astray, since he himself is subject to weakness…And during the days of Jesus life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission” Hebrews 5:2,7

Yet as a guest speaker you were intent on venting your anger and contempt upon us, without ever even knowing us. Your arrogance was breathtaking and your knowledge of His Word lacking as you started your vent by warning us to “turn down our hearing aids and try to keep up with you” (?!) attempting to justify your behavior by making an analogy of our church to the synagogues that Jesus Christ confronted. But the synagogues were of the Old Testament Covenant Jewish people, trying to earn God’s love by the Old Testament laws and rejecting God’s Son Jesus Christ. Not Christians full of God’s Grace and Mercy having come through the veil of Jesus Christ and His Blood into the presence of God. A little more look at scripture and you will find your venting at us to become “barbarians”, “uncivilized” and “wild” like you, is in direct opposition to the fruits of our Holy Spirit. God says “But the fruits of the Spirit is Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self-Control. Against these things there is no law”. Galatians 5:22-23

I just hope there were no new or hurting people in church that morning trying to find a retreat from a hostile world into God’s Word and Social Grace which are our norm on Sunday morning. Thank you for your flamboyant display of your opinions and emotionalism, but your spirit is one which is foreign to me and to the Word of God and has no Truth for me.

[Contact info]

Ps. Please. Please. I pray you not squander your privileges as many have laid down their lives and finances for you by creating and maintaining the church structures, funds and Gods Word from which you operate from today. And you may even consider getting a 9-5 job in the world and raise a family and grandkids and deal with a competitive, hostile world against Jesus Christ, day in and out in order to empathize with our needs of Gods Word and Truth and Reverence and a safe retreat in which to fellowship and worship God and be healed on Sunday, the only day many of us have access to Church; the Body of Christ.

I obviously pushed her buttons and hit a nerve. But I actually had a grand time reading this.
Btw, I didn’t tell people to “turn down [their] hearing aids and try to keep with [me].” For starters, that simply doesn’t make any sense. Wouldn’t you want to turn your hearing aids up if you wanted to keep up with what I’m saying?

I did say that the biggest complaint that people throughout all my churches had about my preaching was that I spoke way too fast. I said that I have a little caffeine in me and I’m a bit nervous — and I may talk a lot faster than you’re accustomed to, so you may need to keep up. Then later in the sermon, I said something about how in other churches people begin complaining about younger families coming into the church and wanting more contemporary style of worship that incorporates “the devil’s instruments of drums that hurt our hearing aids!”

Anyway, no one has ever referred to my arrogance as “breathtaking” (actually, no one has ever described anything about me is breathtaking) and for whatever reason, that thoroughly tickled me, flattering even — to which my wife responded that perhaps my hubris is out of control. This is also the closest I’ve gotten to being called a heretic. I wondered why it took me so long to be called one. I feel like I’m in good company…

I was sincerely grateful that the person left their name and contact info. I did follow up and simply apologized for offending and that wasn’t my intent. That while church should offer retreat, too many of our churches are doing that and taking a very passive role in our community and our world. I wrote that some people need to be Peter-esque while others need to be Paul-esque. But, we are still all part of the body of Christ and though we may have different approaches, we have the same goal.

They never wrote back, and I suspected they never would.
But you can’t please everyone and I stand by the words I preached from that pulpit — that we can’t spend our time and efforts on just maintaining a building, that we need to step out of our comfort zone; our church buildings and  serve the community in God’s name. That we need to have less meetings about church facility needs and more meetings about the needs of our community and how God can use us to meet them. And that we’re a little too obsessed with being safe that it ultimately gets in the way of fulfilling God’s purpose in us.
Which always reminds me of this exchange:

“Aslan is a lion—the Lion, the great Lion.”

“Ooh!” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.”

“That you will, dearie, and make no mistake,” said Mrs. Beaver, “if there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly.”

“Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy.

“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver. “Don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about being safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

God isn’t safe, but God is good.

4 thoughts on “Church People Say the Darndest Thing: They REALLY Didn’t Like Me

  1. Right on, Joseph. Make us uncomfortable, challenge us, inspire us. A sermon we hear on Sunday should do more than make us feel good. In order to bring about God’s kingdom on earth (whatever that means) we Christians must not retreat from the world…even on Sunday… we must engage in the world. Is there a better place than the church to have our thinking challenged, to hear a message that helps us evaluate our actions in light of God’s word and the example of Jesus? I, for one, want to leave church on Sunday inspired to think, inspired to act, inspired to look at what is and make changes.

  2. Wow, talk about constructive criticism. I believe that truth can be confrontational. Many congregations want to be lulled to sleep instead of enduring sound doctrine. Sunday morning can be the most wasted hour of the week if you are confronted with truth but not changed by it.

  3. We obviously only heard your point of view here, and I have gotten some doozies from church people here, but when it’s not the truth that is confrontational but the presentation, then there *is* a problem. And the presentation of the church person’s complaint does seem pretty arrogant from this end of the internet. I’m on your side, Joseph; there are many people in congregations who just *want* to be “offended” but our job as pastors is to lovingly move them into discomfort so they can grow. And that’s a Holy Spirit task.

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