Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Cheap Seats in the Church

I earned a Bachelors degree in Emergency Administration and Planning. Think FEMA. Most graduates from the EADP program go on to be Emergency Managers for cities or companies. I didn't. I found a job in an insurance company, then became a pastor. Emergency Administration and Planning was probably good training for being a small church pastor.

It's pretty interesting work, emergency planning and administering; pastoral work is too, for that matter. In the emergency stuff, you spend most of your time and energy thinking about what might go wrong, how to mitigate the damage if it does go wrong, and then praying it never does go wrong because you weren't given the budget to bring all of your solutions to life.

One of the big reasons why I never really got into emergency management, apart from the fact that I would have needed to leave the metroplex and with it the young lady I eventually married, was the fact that it seemed like a losing scenario.

You spend all your time getting ready for something that no one wants to happen, and then spend all your time dealing with the fall out when it does happen. Everyone on earth has retrospective ideas how you should have prepared. Who wants the stress of a city or company full of Monday morning quarterbacks?

Yes, becoming a pastor was a much better decision.

Oh, who am I kidding. Being a pastor is probably worse. An Emergency Manager only has to deal with Monday morning quarterbacks after a disaster; a pastor has to deal with them constantly. For all the hours you put into preparing a sermon, there's always ready criticism. For all the struggle of making decisions, trying to get help in the decision-making, and then following through, it's amazing how quickly the criticisms come.

If person A is happy with you today, person B thinks you should have done it differently. When person B thinks you were brilliant, person A has a few choice words for you.

It seems, sometimes, that the church is full of cheap seats. Not the ones getting dirty next to you in the dugout, not even very many behind the dugout supporting you, but plenty that like to jeer at you from afar.

Why do we rip each other apart? Why do we only criticize and not assist?

One of the things I continue to try and instill in our congregation, and also work hard to live out myself, is a spirit of grace. By this, I mean that we nurture an environment where a person's failures, limitations, and even sin may be confessed and forgiven in hope and love.

I know that my personality affects how I preach and the decisions I make. I expect people to accept me along with my preaching. Because of this, I try to extend a similar grace to other people. As we ask different people to be involved in our worship services, we aren't just asking them to fill a hole, but to do a task as they would do it. So, their personality is part of how they do that task.

I know I mess up my sermons regularly and goof up my announcements quite a bit - I say too much or I don't say enough. In those situations, I look to the church to forgive me and to extend me grace for these failures and limitations. In turn, when someone in the church shares too much or blabbers on when we really need to be moving on, I figure we better extend them some grace and forgive them for who they are.

One of the benefits of sitting in the cheap seats in sports is that the players usually can't hear you and what you have to say doesn't really have any bearing on the game. Sadly, the cheap seats are right near the action in churches and families, so we might want to watch what we say from them.