Thursday, March 15, 2007


Every February one of our WMU circles (Women's Missionary Union, for those outside the Southern Baptist tribe) hosts a staff appreciation dinner. This dinner is not just for the "ministerial staff," it's for the whole team (preschool staff, nursery workers, custodians, support staff ... everyone). The dinner is their way of letting us know that what we do is appreciated. It is a wonderful ministry to the staff and we appreciate it more than words can express. They always include some games as a part of the evening. Sometimes the games are just silly things that remind us not to take ourselves too seriously. Sometimes they help us to get to know each other a little better.

This past February, one of the games was an "identify the person" kind of thing with us having written down interesting or little-known facts about ourselves on cards, then everyone trying to identify who wrote it as they were read. One of the identifiers was "What are you afraid of?" I wrestled with what to put on mine. Not knowing the kinds of things everyone else was putting (snakes, rodents, driving off of a bridge, water, stinging insects, etc.), I wrote something a little more personally revealing: "being misunderstood." I work very hard at communicating clearly and at trying to understand what the other person may be saying as well. More important, I guess, is trying very hard not to say what I don't mean, or what I don't want to mean, and I think there is a difference (and some psychologist would have a field day with the id, ego, super-ego implications of that statement). If you don't understand what is meant by that parenthetical, just forget it and read on.

If you read my blogger profile, you understand that I serve in a multi-congregational church divided by preference of worship style (most easily identifiable in the style of music preferred by our two congregations). Ministry in a situation with multiple services with multiple worship styles is a minefield for being misunderstood ... and the mines go off even when you don't step on them.

Last night (3/14) after choir rehearsal, the chair of our Worship Committee approached me with a question. One of our 11:00 traditional worship attendees told her that someone told her that I had said (can you tell the rumor mill generated this one?), "The 8:30 (contemporary) congregation comes to worship, while the 11:00 (traditional) congregation comes to complain." I am as grateful as I can be for the maturity our Worship Committee chair showed in response to such a rumor. After I responded she asked for permission to call the individual she had heard it from with my response. I am frustrated that someone would misunderstand me so. I am heartsick that someone would believe that I would say such a thing.

As I have thought about the situation, I have a vague recollection of hearing that sentiment voiced in a conversation. Whether it was a conversation that I just overheard or one in which I was involved (however marginally), I cannot say for certain. My memory for details of conversations (even important ones) can be rather foggy. I am certain, however, that I did not say what I was accused of saying. Truth be known, both congregations complain equally -- only about different things. It's enough to break the heart of God. People are going to hell without Jesus and we are fussing about furniture ... or musical style ... or whatever else we get upset about.

I guess one of the things that bothers me most is that my heart in this thing is all about bringing the body of Christ together. I have a deep love for heartfelt worship in many style contexts, not just the two that we use most often where I serve. I want to see our people honor and respect each other regardless which service they prefer. I want to see our people open their eyes beyond themselves and see the world through God's eyes with God's heart (and lest I be misunderstood here, I'm not that good at doing that myself).

Jesus said that one of the things that will show people that we belong to Him (and that belonging to Him is a very desirable thing) is how we treat each other. When we say stupid stuff about others in the body, the world outside the body hears it loud and clear. Our actions (and our words) are screaming stuff that is not true about what it means to follow Christ. We are being misunderstood ... and it's probably our own fault. Maybe we need to think about not saying what we don't want to mean. May God grant us grace and redeem our thinking (renew our minds) so that when we talk we actually mean what He wants us to mean. May God also grant grace to those who have decided, based on what they have seen in us, that Jesus Christ is not for them. Heaven help us all.

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