What Do You Do After the Fact?

criticismI came to manhood in the military—a place where being speaking your mind was a virtue.

These days, I’m a civilian…a civilian who’s in seminary, no less. While the church may be a lot of things, it’s not exactly a place where speaking your mind is considered a virtue. More often than not, speaking your mind is what will get you run out on a rail—especially if you’re young and in seminary.

I found out tonight that apparently I’ve completely offended (perhaps even alienated) one of the largest families in the church where I’ve been acting as pulpit supply. It wasn’t intentional. What’s worse is that nobody thought to bring it to my attention for over three months.

About three months ago, I preached a sermon wherein I dropped the hammer pretty hard on the subject of abortion. (Since I believe that abortion is an unmitigated evil, it’s fair to say that I get very fired up when I’m on that subject, and I tend to preach quite passionately to start with.) In doing so, I made a couple of statements that the party in question took to be completely political, and took grave offense.

I’m incredibly sensitive to the fact that this church is extremely fragile. I have endeavored, in all things, not to exacerbate that fragility, and yet managed to do so anyway. Furthermore, I’m heartbroken that anything I said wounded this gentleman’s conscience, and has created a rift (apparently) between us. I’ve never wanted to be the guy that hurt a fellow believer. And where that has happened, I’ve always been very quick to repent, apologize, and take every reasonable step to repair the damage.

My frustration here is that this offense was communicated to the temporary session overseeing the church right after it happened, and nobody thought that I should be made aware of the situation. Not only that, but I’ve interacted with this session no less than half a dozen times, and an integral part of every conversation is my asking them for feedback. “Is there anything I need to know? Do you have any criticisms that I need to be aware of?” In every case the answer has been in the negative.

It frustrates me to no end that the individuals charged with my oversight, and the oversight of the church, didn’t tell me about this, which ultimately let the situation fester for three months, and deprived me of the opportunity to try to restore my relationship with this man.

So now I desperately need to call the offended party, and have a serious conversation with the session.

How would y’all handle this situation if you were in my shoes?

Leave your answers in the comments section below. I’d appreciate your advice!

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"I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naïve." (Romans 16:17-18) Please read "The Comments Policy."

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