Service by a Comedic Pastor

I picture pastors as very serious individuals. Suits, ties, and extremely composed. Well, the pastor at the church I attend doesn’t fit into any of that!

They open the service with a lot of singing. Their band is great and surprisingly, I can enjoy the music for the sake of music. While looking around, to my surprise, I found the pastor jumping around to the music. The expression on his face said he was singing along at the top of his lungs. It was nice to see a pastor not putting on some uptight image, he was really getting into the music and the message! As the music died down, he took his place on stage to lead the church in prayer. Of course, I don’t pretend to pray, so I was watching as he spoke. He had this giddy, happy looking smile on his face like he knew every word he spoke was true.

I don’t have to believe to appreciate a pastor that truly believes what he’s preaching. I think it’s gives him an edge on delivering his message to those of his congregation. He can connect with people, he can put it in terms everyone can connect with. He talked a lot about not questioning God’s plan. He said God has never been taken by surprise. He’s never “just thought of something.” He’s simply always known. He said there’s simply some things you’ll never understand on this side of heaven. This is where the pastor included his seemingly signature humor. Unfortunately, the only example I had room to write down was – Why are things you mail using ground delivery called shipments and things taken by boat called cargo? You’ll never know and you’ll also never understand God’s plan for you until you’ve made it to the other side of heaven.

The focus of service today was the book of Job. Now, if you’re absolutely not familiar with the Bible, Job was a “blameless” man. He lived his life in service to God and was rewarded for it. He was wealthy, had a wonderful family, a lot of land, and livestock. One day Satan approached God and presented the argument that it’s easy for Job to be blameless when he’s never had his faith tested. God believed Job to be unshakeable in his faith, so, he allowed Satan to test him. Satan wiped out Job’s livestock, killed his children, and his crops. Job maintained his faith. Satan once again approached God and was granted permission to “touch” Job. He was cursed with boils and some other afflictions I don’t remember. After thirty-something chapters of his friends and family telling him to curse God for abandoning him, he finally asked why. Ultimately, there’s a happy ending, but I don’t remember the details of it.

So! I have a couple take aways from today. To be honest, none of them resonate as deeply as last week’s take away, but they’re still worth sharing.

Knowledge of your ignorance is the first step toward true wisdom: In the case of religion and the focus of today’s service, the point is that you need to accept that you’re ignorant to God’s plan for you. So, stop asking why and accept God’s plan as it’s revealed to you. I think as a practical lesson, if you think you’re all-knowing, you’re probably more ignorant than you know. We all have room to grow.

Maybe your pain is so you can come out on the other side and help someone else: I guess, religiously, it’s just a suggestion for why you might be enduring your current situation. Something to toss around in your head instead of questioning God’s plan for you. As a non-believer though, I can see it. You can’t truly empathize with someone unless you’ve endured pain yourself. You’re also more likely to accept help from someone who has been at a low place in their life rather than someone who’s been living large their entire life. It’s a positive take on “misery loves company.” Not so much dragging someone else down into your misery, but sharing the misery you’ve endured and persevered through so someone else can see it can be survived.

Think eternal – Your bad day is just a moment: Out of everything today, I think that’s the most profound take-away from the service today. No matter what it is, a terminal diagnosis, laid off, or whatever… It’s temporary. I’m not saying it won’t take effort to overcome and maybe death will be your escape from it, but in the grand scheme of timelines, your suffering only happened for a moment. Look forward to the time after it!

God speaks during storms so you listen: I think this resonated the least for me. I’ve been through some pretty crappy storms and still haven’t been spoken to. I think I would’ve listened. I think for those that may have had faith and lost it somewhere along the way, this could truly be meaningful. God could be your eye of the storm, a calm moment to let you know you’ve got support to get through the rest of the storm.

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A Church Even an Atheist Can Endorse

I was at the dollar store one day and overheard a man tell the cashier he was a pastor at a local church. I had been looking for a church for my son to attend, but I had to be comfortable with the message they were giving.

I asked the man where his church was and while he was telling me about his church I politely explained I don’t “have the faith,” but my son does. “Jesus loves you anyway” was his response and yet another church was crossed of the list of possibilities.

Last Sunday, March 15, 2015, I finally took my son to church! I found out about the church through PANCAKES! The church has “Serve Saturdays” once a month. This particular Saturday they were going around offering pancakes to everyone in my neighborhood. Like always, I politely explained that I don’t believe and wasn’t interested in listening to their pitch (I’m not a fan of doorstep preachers.) They said that’s ok and they still wanted to give me pancakes. No “Jesus loves you anyway,” no nasty looks, no immediate tangent on their personal testimony to God’s existence…

My friend and her sons attend the church, so last weekend I dropped them and my son off at church. I went a little early to pick them up and spoke with some people about the church. I explained I wanted a place for my son to worship. The ladies I spoke with were very friendly, never skipped a beat even when my dirty non-believing secret came out. We were still invited to the church. Again, not a single person tried to shove it down my throat!

So, I went this Sunday. I have to say, I was a little creeped out. I get it, these people are deeply convinced that God exists, but I was half expecting people to start going into convulsions and fall on the ground (No one did.) The pastor made the sermon entertaining. He joked, he was serious, he was personable, and I think, if you believe in it, he probably delivered a powerful message. They’re doing a series on how to live through a bad day.

The pastor asked everyone to write a secret they’re keeping on a portion of the paper they provide and put it in the offering bucket as they pass it around. My secret: I’m envious of people who believe and have faith in God. I think it’s extremely intriguing that some how they know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God exists. I don’t think I even have that much faith that I’m awake and not dreaming all of this!

If there was any chance of me believing, I think today would’ve done it. I know, cliche, my first time attending church as an adult and getting filled with the spirit of Christ… Well, it didn’t happen, but if it were ever possible, it would’ve happened today!

My friend had been taking notes on the sermon the entire time, I even gave her my paper for sermon notes because she ran out of room on her own paper. At the bottom is a perforated portion where I suppose you’re supposed to write comments on the sermon and drop it into the offering bucket. This is where the pastor had asked us all to write our secret. We weren’t prepared for it so the note that ran onto this portion for my friend was “You’re only as sick as the secrets you keep.” She tore this portion off anyway and wrote her secret on it. Then, the pastor asked that we share our secret with someone we know. Like he had been preaching, you can’t get help when you’re struggling unless you’re transparent enough to ask for help. Her secret… She relapsed. I felt honored she had shared her secret with me. I think she’s an incredible person, even while struggling with drug addiction. She’s gathered the strength to face it and she’s been working on her recovery.

After service let out she asked if I thought she should talk to the pastor. If you’re a part of a church and you believe, I say use your church! Not in the selfish, narcissistic manner of abusive use, but it’s a resource to be used! I reminded her of the sermon he had given. He’s there to help, but can’t if he doesn’t know you’re struggling. I was extremely impressed that she took my advice and his sermon to heart when she asked the pastor for help. It was also truly impressive to see he never seemed to judge her. He immediately offered the aide of Christian counselors and told her about a recovery group the church plans to start later this year. I have high hopes for her with the spiritual portion of her recovery being fulfilled!

Afterward, we got the kids from children’s church. My son came bouncing out of the room. He said they talked about worshipping God. I haven’t really gotten into asking him more questions about it. I’m not comfortable with an in-depth religious conversation with him yet. I really want religion or a lack thereof to be his choice. When I have more answers from attending church, I might ask more about his day at church. Until then, I’m satisfied he enjoys the experience and he’s excited for next Sunday.

My take away from the day: You’re only as sick as the secrets you keep. You don’t have to believe in God to know that. Your friends and family are just as much of a support system as a church is. They don’t know you’re struggling unless you’re willing to make yourself vulnerable and ask for the help you need. Don’t drown when the life raft is within reach.