Today I am running a post from an EFCA pastor in the Texas and Oklahoma District. Dave Smith is one of the good guys and his blog has some real gems. This is the second time I am featuring Dave’s work. This deals with pastoral malapropisms and the honesty is beautiful and refreshing.
“We must not say every mistake is a foolish one.”
“To avoid situations in which you might make mistakes may be the biggest mistake of all.”
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,
James 1:19 NIV
There is one thing that baffles me that I was talking about with a pastor on the phone the other day. And as it hangs in my mind I want to write about it in this post. I do not understand why so many people want to be pastors. For the life of me I just cannot understand it. I think many go that route without thinking it through or contemplating the reasons or issues. One should not became a pastor unless they know what they are doing. I view becoming a pastor kind of life a person going into the military, being a teacher, working for the CIA, and so on. People should know what they are getting into as they are making a major career decision. What also is troubling is that in many cases there are some pastors who forget that its all about serving and loving. By loving and serving they point to the Lord. A pastor who visits the sick, tends to the lonely, walks with a family when a kid is bouncing off the walls, those are people who make the Christian faith shine. I’ve interacted with a lot of pastors in my lifetime. Very few stick and make a major impression. But man, when you come across one how blessed are you for having such a man as a teacher.
Sometimes people accuse me of being negative and just on focusing on the difficult or bad stuff. Its true that there is a lot of difficult situations I write about. But for all the difficult pastors and the corrupt ones I write about, that makes the few amazing pastors stand out when they do something noticeable. I just laid out my goals of the proposed reforms I am hoping that the EFCA adopts in the course of time. You can read about it in “First Free Wichita Wants to Introduce you to the EFCA; Plus The Wondering Eagle’s Long Term Goals and Agenda with the EFCA.” I believe it is important to stress and write about the positive aspects of the EFCA when appropriate. I firmly believe that a good pastor should be supported and commended. Its with that said that I want to transition into the following post which comes from Dave Smith, a pastor in an EFCA Church in the Texas and Oklahoma District. Dave Smith went to college at Stephen F Austin State University in eastern Texas. He describes himself as a Texan and attended Dallas Theological Seminary. Dave was one of 5 couples who launched Northwest Community Church in 1982. You can read much more about him in his biography page here.
This is the second time I am featuring something from Dave Smith’s blog. You can read the first post called “Dave Smith of Northwest Community Church of San Antonio on Serving “The Least of These.” Right now he is not writing and I hope this encourages him to start to write again, What I love in Dave’s “Pastoral Malapropisms“is his humility and humanity. Dave reveals his human nature in the below post. From talking about his mistakes as a pastor to accidentally swearing in front of the youth group. I find it deeply beautiful that Dave can be Dave. Pastors, I believe should be shown grace in many situations. Its the ones mired in corruption that are a different beast in itself that the church needs to worry about. I am not going to comment below in Dave’s post as I think its solid in many ways. Dave Smith, when you read this I honestly hope you resume writing and blogging. I think you have one of the better blogs in the Texas and Oklahoma District of the EFCA.
James writes, [3:1] Let not many of you become teachers. He is warning of a stricter judgment on those for whom excessive gum-flapping is a vocation. Over the years, I have had occasion to wonder if I should have taken James’ counsel to heart…
There was the time when I was describing from the pulpit the attire of the High Priest when he went in to the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle/Temple to offer sacrifice on the high and holy Day of Atonement. Part of his dress included bells attached to the hem of his robe, the silence of the bells being a signal that God had judged him and struck him dead. What I said was, “The people listened for the sound of the High Priest tinkling in the Holy of Holies.” Nice turn of phrase, that.
Or the time just recently when I was describing the empires that had occupied the land mass that is currently Iran, mentioning Assyria and Babylon and the “Peeds and the Mersians.” Nice touch.
More troublesome was the time that I was describing the leadership roles that Jesus’ disciples were to have in the coming Kingdom. I intended to tell the congregation that Jesus said, “You shall sit on twelve thrones…” I got my mords wixed up and said something more like, “You sall sh** on twelve thrones…” Needless to say, I pretty well lost the teenagers at that point. (Shall sit. Shall sit. Shall sit. Shall sit.)
There is no question that teachers and preachers need to be careful about what they say. My propensity for malapropisms prompted me to manuscript sermons many years ago. While not totally eliminating blunders, I can only imagine how I would have mangled things had I not become more intentional about word choice.
However, word choice in messages and silly mistakes in a sermon are not what James had in mind when he issued his warning.
In a number of places in his short letter he writes about using the words we choose to bring blessing to those around us.
Any observer of human interaction could come up with a list of examples of people using words to curse (James 3:9-10). Sadly, that’s easy, like shooting fish in a barrel and I could join the party with a few illustrations of curse-words.
But from the observation deck of serving as a pastor I’ve had the privilege of seeing words bring great blessing, too. I’ve listened in on conversations where someone was blessed because of the words a speaker used, as in the time when:
a recently widowed mother of four knelt at the bedside of another young mom and tenderly urged her to trust the Lord in a season of despair;
a group of Elders prayed in the home of a family suffering from diseases and other hardships, anointing members of that family with oil as they spoke words of genuine encouragement;
a leader of youth used his position to mentor those in a Sunday School class in the things of God;
another youth group leader used her words to bring hope to a hopeless young man;
a woman offered a sincere apology for an unthinking remark that caused pain to someone she dearly loved;
a group of people wisely “ganged up” on a pastor (yes, that would be me) to lovingly confront him about his workaholic ways;
On and on and on I could go and not even scratch the surface of the times I’ve listened to the power of words bring refreshment to weary souls, exhortation to rebels, and instruction to the naive.
You are aware that there are lots of ways to express love and care. We could offer financial assistance to the poor, help someone with a move, offer the gift of childcare and/or meals when a family is overwhelmed – and more. But we are missing a huge opportunity to bless if we neglect the way we use words.
I take advantage of the time I’ve been given to manuscript the messages I bring on the weekend to the church I serve. But nobody has the freedom to manuscript the chance conversations that come our way every day. What we can do is enter each conversation with a heart eager to bless, with an aim to encourage, with a desire to do good.
Over and over again I’ve proved James comment that [3:2] we all stumble in many ways. (Amen!)
By God’s grace may we all be those who [3:3] do not stumble in what [we say], proving to be agents of grace to those who hear.