I suppose there is always a risk when a pastor airs his own dirty laundry for all to see, but hopefully there are lessons for both this pastor as well as for the congregation of which he is the under-shepherd.
Everything began earlier in the week. All week I had been wrestling with my message on irresistible grace and kept sensing that there was something else I needed to address. With this coming Sunday was our first communion service of the month, as well as the first for the year and so I began exploring the Biblical texts concerning this blessed ordinance of the church. By Friday I had to make a decision on which direction to go and chose the message on the Lord’s Supper. Two of the key themes that emerged for me (along with the more typical understandings of the Lord’s Supper) were that of our common UNITY in Christ along with the expectation of FELLOWSHIP that both Jesus and Paul express in the Biblical texts.
While I worked on the message, my heart was heavy with the significance and importance for the body of Christ to gather and participate (rightly prepared) to partake of Communion. There was a restlessness in my spirit; a conflict; a battle that seemed to be raging. Little things were discouraging me, but I pressed on.
I went to bed on Saturday night a bit later than usual for me; it was past 11 pm. I did fall asleep fairly quickly. Then I WOKE up. I don’t mean just a little bit awake. I WOKE up at 3 am in full gear; mind racing; thinking through things. I spent 30 minutes praying about all that was on my heart for the service; praying for our people and by 3:30 am, I had to get up.
So I crept through the quiet house, turned up the heat (it was about 62 degrees in the house); made myself a cup of coffee; turned on my computer and prepared myself for some study. Reviewing the notes of my sermon, I was praying I would be clear; that God’s people would be encouraged and inspired by the teaching to have a high view and regard for the Lord’s Supper that we would partake of. Before I knew it, it was 5:30 am and I began my “normal” ritual of getting ready for church. By 7:30 am I was ready to go and started up my truck for it was way cold outside (it was 34 degrees when I got up at 3:30 am and 18 degrees at 7:30 am).
Having just said good bye to my wife to head to the church, I got a phone call from our elder who faithfully loads up the trailer at the office to bring it to the school where we meet (along with the help of our resident police officer). Our elder informed me that the key had broken off in the pad lock on the trailer and was looking for options. We discussed a few, one of which included me driving over with my grinder in case the key would not work. I quickly gathered everything I needed and sped away in the truck toward the office thinking how frustrating this circumstance was for our elder along with me. About half way to the office, I got another phone call; they got the key to work and would be loading up and heading toward the school. I turned around and while heading toward the school was thanking the Lord for the key working and hoping that there would be no more distractions or discouragements.
They whole key and lock incident put us about 20 minutes behind an already tight schedule. We set everything up as usual. Part of my routine is to set up the keyboard and run through the music, warming up my fingers. Today’s set also had me playing guitar. As I tuned up my guitar, I realized I had not played in about a month and my fingers and hands were not cooperating. So then, back to the keyboard to loosen up the fingers.
We began worship practice with prayer and then began to work through the music. As we worked through the second song (with me now on keyboard), the circumstance of the sound reared its ugly head. It seemed that no one was hearing things well, right; it being too loud, not loud enough; not hearing this; hearing too much of that. I could feel myself getting frustrated and proceeded to verbalize it. Now we have always struggled with the sound and I have come to the conclusion that I too often let this circumstance get the best or me, but today I was especially “frustrated.” And the thing is, if one or more persons are frustrated, distracted, or discouraged on the worship team, well, it has a negative effect on the rest of the group. This morning I caused the group to be frustrated right along with me (misery loves company). It made for an even more difficult morning and all of this just before I was to preach on our common UNITY and FELLOWSHIP around the Lord’s Supper.
Well, consistent with how we tend to deal with these things (the show must go on!) – the worship team got up there and we lead the congregation in worship. Things went much better “live” than in practice. Then I got up and preached on the Lord’s Supper, convicted the whole time how I had frustrated the group; realizing that I should have expected a hard morning for I was delivering a hard message; calling the congregation to be truly devoted to the practice of UNITY and FELLOWSHIP; something most wonderfully expressed in the Lord’s Supper. Of course the enemy would do what he could to bring to me and others discouragement and frustrations. I don’t know if the enemy woke me up at 3 am or if it was the Lord. I don’t know if all that went “wrong” this morning was just my flesh, or a combination of my flesh, the flesh of others and the wiles of the devil. What I do know is that neither a bad situation or Satan are to dictate to me my joy, my commitment, my patience and my RESPONSIBILITY to be right with God and right with God’s people. We cannot give the devil an opportunity to sow the seeds of disunity, distrust, discontent, or discouragement. If we do, then everyone suffers all the more. Whether the enemy woke me up or just used the circumstance of my tired flesh to egg me on, it does not matter. We are called to resist the devil and to deny the flesh and that, my friends, is a hard thing to do.
Beloved, it was a hard morning. Perhaps some of you sensed that. Perhaps some of you did not. I have already apologized to those on the worship and set up teams. I apologize to the congregation as well. Indeed we are all human and we will all fail one another at times (sometimes more often than we care to admit). In the end, ALL of US have a responsibility to be patient with one another; to love one another; to seek the best for one another; to forgive one another; and --- AND to be right with one another. We cannot afford for there to be anything standing in the way of our right relationship to both God and to one another. And for this reason, I once again apologize for allowing a hard morning to cause frustration or discouragement to anyone.
Please continue to pray for your pastor as I continue to pray for you! I love you all with the incorruptible love of Jesus Christ.