Pastors are Humans Too
Well, this lesson changed my life. As some of you know, I lived in Los Angeles and Seattle before coming to Norman. I was in ministry in both places and I really thought I had life figured out. I was wrong. I'm not sure if you ever "figure it out". When you think you have, then you're probably further from the truth than the people who are still asking questions. When our willingness to learn fades away; we open the door to pride and ignorance.
One thing that was stressed in my time in Seattle and in Los Angeles was the importance of correct teaching. Every Thursday in Los Angeles at Angelus Temple (the church I was a part of) my friends and I would listen to guest speakers from all over the world. Then afterward we would dissect their messages and compare it to our own interpretations of the Bible and discover if we thought they were teaching correctly. We'd ignore the fact that the speaker had devoted his entire life to ministry and judge him based on what he said in the thirty minutes he spoke. I’m not proud of this, and its somewhat embarrassing to even write, but it helped me learn a valuable lesson.
I’m sure there are people reading who do the same thing, and I don’t think it’s wrong in theory. The problem was my heart. I was building a wall with theology. I thought I was "testing the spirit", but I was actuallly judging those people based on their understanding of the gospel. It got to the point where I was either frustrated by their lack of understanding or I thought they were good teachers because they taught what I believed.
I believe this way of thinking is dangerous for two reasons.
The first and most obvious is that I wasn’t having grace or retaining the message someone else was trying to get across because of the language they used to convey it. I shut myself off to the truth they brought because of the way they presented it.
The second and less obvious reason was that I thought I was better than other people. I thought that because I had arranged thoughts and theology in my head about God in a way that made sense to me; that I was superior to people who were “ignorant”. It created division in my heart toward other people who served the same God that I did.
It’s been a long road to realize this stuff, and it took a lot of healing to break the down the walls. I’m still letting the Holy Spirit chip away at them every day. I actually wrote my book and created this website as a way to hopefully create unity between denominations and theological differences through acts of love and charity. I believe if we can attend a church service from other denominations or theological backgrounds with grace, admiring their sacrifice and realizing that we are all part of the same body, then we might work together to actually bring Heaven to Earth.
Here are a few tips that have helped me grow in this area:
Look for the truth in a message. This goes for what I watch or read online as well. My pastor might not say much that I disagree with, but if I look at my social media feed there are a ton of things that I could let bother me.
Try to put yourself in other people’s shoes. Unless you’ve watched someone’s entire life, you aren’t equipped to judge their understanding of the gospel. God see’s everything, and that’s why he is the ultimate judge.
Realize that we are all Christ’s bride. He looks at his bride with love and affection. Rather than pointing out parts that are fake or ugly, try to bring healthy solutions to the table that can bring unity instead of division.
Don’t discount someone’s whole message because of their misinterpretation of one scripture. Most likely we are all going to figure out that we were wrong about something or another at the end of our lives. (If not sooner) We will be judged with the measure that we judge. Hopefully we can be graceful.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. If something doesn’t make sense, it’s okay to approach people in confrontation as long as you are graceful and humble. Sometimes people are going to be wrong. Sometimes they won’t care about what you have to say at all. None of that matters in the grand scheme of things. Don’t get bogged down with other people’s reactions to your point of view. It’s always better to love than carry the weight that comes with being offended.
If we continue to separate ourselves from believers who don’t totally agree with us, then satan will continue to create division in the church. We gotta move past this, and I believe it starts with putting ourselves in other people’s shoes and trying to see why they believe the way that they do. Not through closing ourselves off to other believers that are just trying to figure stuff out as well.
Do you ever catch yourself judging people based on the flaws in their theology? Are there any tips that help you maintain grace? Let the community know in the comments below. Don’t be afraid to speak your mind. If you’re wrong, then this will be a great opportunity to practice love and acceptance.