Pastors can offend in many ways. I know I have.
One Sunday when preaching on reaching out to strangers I noticed a student who looked distinctly international to me. Swelling with love for foreigners, I gushed, “I’m so glad to see we have someone from another country with us this morning. Sir, what country are you from?” He looked around, unsure if I was addressing him. “Yes, you sir, what country are you from?” He replied loudly, “McKeesport, Pennsylvania.” End of sermon.
I once asked a lady when she was due. She wasn’t. I’ve failed to appreciate people for serving, failed to visit people when they were sick. I’ve called people by the wrong name – I guess I really shouldn’t guess at people’s names, but when they’ve told me 20 times I hate to keep asking. “So, ummmmm…..Chhhhhelsea, how are you?” “It’s Bernadette.”
At times I’ve offended by my preaching. Sometimes because the truth is offensive. Sometimes because I just say stupid things.
If your pastor offends you, what should you do? Hang a Michael Bolton poster on his office door? (I probably just offended someone). Stew in resentment? Leave the church? Here are a few suggestions:
Next ask yourself, what does this offense reveal about my heart? What am I craving? Honor, recognition, or approval? Sometimes a strong reaction can indicate sin in our hearts. James 4 says the root of all anger is our cravings – we want things and don’t get them. What is it you’re wanting and not getting? Sometimes we have unmet expectations we’ve elevated to idol status. The pastor should visit me when I’m sick. He should notice when I’m absent. He should consult me before making decisions.
Ask, is this one of the “multitude of sins” love covers or a serious sin or pattern of sin that God wants to help him with?
If you can’t cover it in love, go to him. But before you go, ask, what are my motives for going to him? Do I want to help him or blast him? Am I going out of genuine concern for God’s glory, his good, or the good of the church? Am I going in anger or love?
Try to believe the best. Maybe he just forgot. Maybe he didn’t get your message. Maybe he didn’t mean it that way. Maybe he just didn’t think that comment through.
Forgive him in advance.
Go humbly. Go with thankfulness for the grace you see in his life. Go in a spirit of inquiry. Don’t come in accusing. Assume that you might not see the whole picture or don’t see the situation correctly. Try to get the facts. Find out if he actually said what you thought he said. Ask him to help you understand why he made the decision he made. Then speak the truth in love.
And tell him your name is actually Valerie. And that you’re from Belize.
How about you? What other suggestions would you add?