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People Say the Darndest Things

We’ve had a great week of watching God’s plan for Your Church +Portland unfold. We’ve made some new friends in the Christian community and we’ve discovered some sad realities about our community. This week we will be launching our first digital newsletter revealing more of what I’m referring to – and making some changes to the website design – please stay tuned!

Following the service a preacher was standing in the foyer greeting the people who had attended. A six-year-old boy ran up to the preacher and said, “Your speech stunk.” Embarrassed and shocked, the preacher asked the boy to run along. But the boy ran right up to him again and said, “We’ve heard all your jokes before; they’re not even funny.” Embarrassed and somewhat upset, the preacher told the boy to run along. But he ran right up to him again and said, “I bet you they vote you out!” Just then the boy’s mother, who was standing a short distance away, saw what was happening. She ran up to the minister and quickly said, “Please forgive my son. I have no idea what he said to you. But he is only six years old, and he is just at the age where he repeats what everyone else says.”

As Art Linkletter said, ‘kids say the darndest things!’ It’s a humorous little story, but after several years of being in the ministry I have found adults also say and repeat some of the ‘darndest’ things!  I remember my mom saying once, “The more people I meet, the more I like my dog!” (Yes, I still laugh when I hear that line!) We can laugh because we identify.  Sometimes it seems like some people were created to make life difficult! Do you know what I mean? You work so hard to explain your heart or motives, but some people just don’t get it because they don’t get you…or hear you. When you’re in any line of the people-business you know what I am talking about. It’s like you want to crack open somebody’s head and force feed your perspective, angle or heart into them because you KNOW that if they saw it your way they would get it. You know that if they took the time to hear you out they’d understand. But they don’t…and that’s frustrating! As pastor I used to say something like, “But this is God’s Word I’m preaching so you need to change the way you see to the Word I’m preaching!” Now there is Truth in that, but in all honesty I had to look at my motive. I was frustrated and sometimes to the point of anger with people who didn’t see or get it…so I used my position as my platform.  There was a part of me that wanted so badly to write them off or categorize them as hard hearted, selfish, carnal, blind, stupid sheep, goats, or that they were most likely wolves in sheep’s clothing. I had some sort of whacky sense of self-justification in labeling people like this, but in all honesty most of the time the problem wasn’t them…it was me. A few years ago this frustration with people hit an all time high. Nobody listened to anything I said. Nobody really wanted to change. Nobody wanted to escape the ‘caves’ of Abdullah. I was Elijah sitting under the tree and ready to die – I was the last one who cared about God’s work in my neck of the woods!  Yeah, I was there. It was a scary place of self-inflicted isolation.

Then I heard, “I’m not interested in you changing their hearts. I’m interested in changing yours.” It wasn’t them who didn’t see it. It was me. I lacked empathy. Hearing to the point of understanding. I had to put myself in their shoes, again. That was painful for me. The truth was, I needed that congregation. There were lessons of love, lessons of empathy, and lessons of forgiveness I needed to learn. I needed to hear them more than they needed to hear me. Whether I learned all I needed to, I don’t know for sure, but my ‘graduation’ came earlier this year when the Lord said, “Now I want you to love the people of the Northwest.”

19 Even though I am free of the demands and expectations of everyone, I have voluntarily become a servant to any and all in order to reach a wide range of people: 20 religious, nonreligious, 21 meticulous moralists, loose-living immoralists, 22 the defeated, the demoralized — whoever. I didn't take on their way of life. I kept my bearings in Christ — but I entered their world and tried to experience things from their point of view. I've become just about every sort of servant there is in my attempts to lead those I meet into a God-saved life. 23 I did all this because of the Message. I didn't just want to talk about it; I wanted to be in on it! (1 Cor 9:19-23 of THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language © 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson. All rights reserved.)

- Pastor Shian

 

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