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Students at commencement

Ministry in Context

Everybody loved it ... Not!

Pat and I are not huge movie-goers, but I had read a number of enthusiastic reviews for “Beasts of the Southern Wild” and the trailer caught my interest, so one day this summer we packed ourselves off to a matinee. I am admittedly obsessive about getting places on time or, ideally, early, so we were there to see all the pre-movie ads that flash up on the screen while you are finding your seat and opening the popcorn.  As a matter of fact, we saw several of them twice. Then the standard 12 minutes of trailers for coming attractions.

Then it was time for the actual movie to start. The lights faded. The theater was dark. And so was the screen.

After a few minutes the lights came up and a young man came out and said they were having a little problem but it should be fixed within ten minutes.

Twenty minutes later he came out and said they were still working on it.

Thirty minutes after the movie was scheduled to start he came out and said that they weren’t going to be able to repair the problem quickly, so we could either have a pass for a future show or our money back. We chose the money. (This, by the way, was the second time this has happened to us in the last year.)

When we got home I posted a brief report on this experience on my Facebook page. The next time I checked Facebook two comments had been made on my report. Comment one came from a pastor in Pennsylvania, a wise, well-educated, sensitive woman: “Go back tomorrow when the projector is fixed. You have to see this great, life-changing movie, one of the best I have ever seen.” Comment two came from a pastor in Kentucky, a wise, well-educated, sensitive woman: “You really dodged a bullet there. Probably the worst movie I’ve ever seen. A complete waste of time and money.”

We haven’t made our way back yet, but we still might. I want to decide for myself.

Two points:

  1. Wise, well-educated, sensitive people will still disagree with each other some of the time.
  2. You can’t please all of the people none of the time.  (I know, I know, this is a double negative, but I think you understand the point.)

I hope that our interns are in the process of keeping their tender hearts but developing thick skin. Say you give a sermon, and 11 people tell you that you did fine, but one dude says he didn’t like it. This is not a surprise. He might be worth listening to, but don’t let him sink your ship. Same thing holds true for your adult Bible study or your confirmation small group or your new tattoo of the face of Philip Melanchthon. There will always be disagreement.That’s the nature of life in community.

I spent 38 years as a parish pastor, and I don’t think I ever gave a sermon that everybody liked or made a decision everybody agreed with. The people who disagree with you are not necessarily bad people or hostile people; they are just people who disagree with you. This is allowed.

As you serve the congregation of God’s people that is your charge for this year, give it your best shot. We’re confident that you will do well.  But there will still be times when people don’t like the sermon or the decision or the activity or the Bible study or the tattoo. Don’t let that throw you!

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