During my time in college and seminary, I was a church hopper. I’d go from church to church, usually where there was a need, or at least a place for me, in their music ministry. I can think of six churches off the top of my head that I attended on any given Sunday, at least for a little while. One of the biggest problems I had was that I didn’t feel like any of them were a place I could settle down long term and really feel as though I belonged.
In the case of one church, I remember vividly when I knew that it certainly was not home. The first time I heard the assistant pastor preach, it was quite… accusatory. In fact, I noticed it even before he was offered the position! The best way to explain the preaching is in the technical sense — it was all second person, virtually little first. And very condescending, at that. In other words, “You need to do this.”
“What is wrong with you?”
“If you are not living such a such, then you are living in sin.”
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of encouraging, exhorting, and sometimes generically exposing (this would be an example of non-generic). I just prefer to do it in first person: “We need to make sure we are doing this. What is wrong with us?” Or even in third person: “If a believer is not daily submitting their lives…” Regardless of what person he utilized, it always seemed so angry and condescending. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he meant it to spur and convict.
But in reality, it was a big turn off.
In my years in the secular job world, I’ve come to realize that employees tend to get a lot of condescension thrown their way. A verbal dressing down. As an employee at 7-Eleven, I’d have customers regularly berate me, whether it was over the availability of coffee, or the inability to buy cigarettes with a food stamps card. (My favorite in the latter cases is when they would then set down their iPhones, pull out a wad of benjamins, and buy $50 in lottery tickets, only after visiting the casino down the road.)
In other jobs, I’ve worked for very exacting men, who would tell you to do something a particular way, only to cuss you out for following their instructions exactly. Men and women who will focus on the 0.1% wrong with a completed task, instead of being pleased with the 99.9% and offering constructive feedback going forward.
(For the record, I’ve also worked for great men — godly men — who were an utter joy to work for. Here’s looking at you, Drew Hoober.)
And it got me thinking. Surely I am not the only one who has had jobs where our work, our fruit, even our very selves are constantly belittled. Why would we want to go to church only to be further accused, chastised, and marginalized in a similarly harsh fashion? I’ve come to realize that, when I arrive at church, I’m looking for living water to soothe my battered soul. I’m looking for friendships that build up, offering encouragement where it is needed, and loving accountability out of concern for my fellowship with God.
As much as I need that from other people, I pray that I am that healing balm to those I come in contact with. That my teaching, my worship leading, my conversations are so grace-filled, so Christ-centered, so saturated in the Word of God, that those I come into contact with feel an insatiable desire to grow closer to God, and to worship Him accordingly.
I agree wholeheartedly. Dan goes by the Red Green philosophy of “We’re all in this together.”
i so enjoy reading your philosophy. You are so young to know all this already. Love you,
Haha we had a soundbyte of Standridge’s rant on the last Confessing Baptist “Headlines from the Dunker Bunker” podcast: http://confessingbaptist.com/dunker-bunker-headlines-oct-week-2-podcast/
On a more serious note, you highlight why it is absolutely necessary to preach both Law and Gospel. If all we do is give people Law and tell them what they ought to do, and what they’ve failed to do, and we never balance that with the good news of Christ’s work, and the encouragement of the Father’s love and Spirit’s help, we will do nothing more than drive poor souls into the ground.