Lessons From A Sunday Night

Just a week ago I wrote about how awesome the Sunday experience was. Of course, I had to open up my big mouth as that was followed by one of those not so great nights this week. All in all, I'm sure everything went well [props to Scott Duebber for being awesome and filling in while Tye was gone]. I had a message I was excited about and was just ready to hit the home stretch when a guy came in off the street.

Readers note: Whenever I refer to said "guy came in off the street," I define it as an individual who is merely looking to for money. Before I proceed I should also explain that this may come off as calloused to some of you; and it might actually be.

In the past year plus I have yet to encounter someone requesting funds from us who have honestly been in severe need. In Walnut Hills there are not many homeless people. It is an area where many of the needy are on various of forms of government assistance and live in Section 8 type housing. So if someone is able to get money from you, it's an icing on the cake type deal.

This being said, we have yet to refuse someone a first time asker; we believe that if you're willing to lie to Jesus' church just to get some cash then it's on you. That doesn't disqualify our need to be benevolent. And since the majority of monetary requests are accompanied by an offer for remittance, we usually never see the people ever again.

Sorry about the sidebar. Back to the story.

So guy from the street comes in about two thirds of the way through my message I notice something happening behind me. The sanctuary at Walnut Hills is set up that there's a hallway at stage left that leads to the back entrance. This guy is now standing in the doorway just checking out what's happening. I stop speaking and ask, "can I help you" and he says something about he's just waiting to ask for help. I'm a tad annoyed that he thought a doorway at the front of the church was a good place to wait, but Tim Tucker went out to talk to the guy. Tim tells him he'd have to wait until after church and that he's more than welcome to stay. The guy agrees and comes in to have a seat. Fine.

As I'm talking about the virginity of Mary, guy from the street thinks it's a good time for Q&A and stops me to ask a question. I'm not too thrown off about it because it's not the first time that this has happened while at Echo; it has, however, been long enough that it broke my flow and I struggled through the rest of the message. No biggie there, except that I'm disappointed that I didn't recover well; the minute you start letting the little distractions affect you, you're Kramer yelling racial slurs into the audience.

After the service I go over to talk to Kevin [he did have a name] and find out his story. It's the same as most stories: ambiguity concerning every facet of his life except that he needs funds. I decided in advance that he'd get some cash [he did help me preach my sermon] but he insists on finishing his spiel.

This is the point in the conversation that many guys from the street go for the gold: they try to assure me that I was helping a Christian guy out so that talk about faith or the Bible. I always laugh at this, as if it makes a difference to me whether you're a believer or not. But it happens very frequently that someone asking for money will try to convince me that they're incredibly spiritual.

Kevin tries to accomplish this by asking me a theological question. He just stopped at a church up the street to ask them for money [admitting to me that he's working all the neighborhood churches but he has cash in hand so he's feeling pretty good now so he hits the gas] and he met the pastor there. He looks at me straight-faced and says, "It was a WOMAN pastor," as if I should be shocked. Kevin then proceeds to tell me of the trend in the city of black women pastors and can't comprehend how these woman have the gall to go against Scripture and try to preach. He now wants to know my perspective on the matter.

Now perhaps you don't fully appreciate this but I wanted to laugh out loud. Here's a guy who obviously grew up in church and had a decent knowledge of church-ese. And instead of wanting to discuss the ways that he could correct his own life he wants to rant about how unBiblical churches with women pastors are. Classic.

I told Kevin that perhaps these ladies are in communities where the men haven't stepped up to lead in the way that Scripture commands and that these ladies have recognized that if they don't step up, no one will. I was subtly trying to suggest that he should be part of the solution. At this point, Kevin was no longer interested in playing hack theologian. What's more ironic is that very subject he talked about was part of my message; but Kevin, instead, decided to ask a question about Mary's virginity.

So trying to deconstruct last night, I have a few thoughts this morning I want to write down. In no particular order:

Dialogue preaching is dumb. It's now cool and hip to interact with people during your sermon time. This is derived from the understanding that everyone in your worship gathering has something applicable to add to conversation. While it sounds like a good idea I just can't buy it and last night was the perfect example why.

I've been called to be a pastor. I've spent the past week [or even longer] struggling through a text or an issue to teach on a Sunday. And I've dedicated years of my life in study and preparation to lead a church and teach Scripture. Why, then, are you just as qualified as me to give your two cents? Preaching, as seen in the Bible, is authoritative.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying I know everything, nor am I saying that I'm perfect by any means. And I'm not implying that other opinions aren't important. But when it comes to teaching, this is what I've been called to do. And my butt's on the line if I screw it up. So I'm perfectly fine with being the guy who does all the talking.

Your lifestyle should reflect your theology. Before we feel fit to criticize other issues such as female pastors, perhaps we should make sure the rest of our beliefs are in line. This was the whole plank and sawdust issue Jesus addressed in his sermon on the mount. Kevin felt empowered to critique the way someone else was practicing their faith but he is part of the problem contributing to it. If we're going to be critical, we should critically examine ourselves first. It's a good reminder to me to "chiggity check myself before I 'reck myself."

There's always next week. I do my best not to live for Sundays; it's how I keep my sanity. This last week didn't turn out the way I planned it, but there are now six days until we do it all over again. Every day is a new day. That's why I was up at 5:30 this morning to get a jump on things.

Never a dull moment at Echo.