When I was a 20-year old rookie pastor, an older pastor told me, “I couldn’t make up the stories I’ve experienced in ministry.” I didn’t know what he meant then, but I do now. Here are a few statements I never dreamed I’d hear in the ministry way back then:
- “We’d rather spend all our church’s money on ourselves than open our doors to ‘those people.’” Their community was changing, and the church did what they said they’d rather do. Until they died.
- “He belongs to my church, so I’d prefer you not visit him again while he’s here.” “He” was a hospitalized patient who happened to be a relative of my church member, I was “you,” and the speaker was another pastor who didn’t want me stepping into his territory. Seriously.
- “Don’t you ever do that again, boy.” I was young and unwisely zealous at the time, but the church leader’s calling me “boy” crossed the line.
- “I hope that never happens again.” “That” was a mother so overwhelmed when her wayward son repented that she hollered loudly with joy when he was baptized (and to be honest, she did holler so loudly I almost dropped him in the baptistery—but even a small shout would have been too much for my church).
- “This is my church.” I’d heard stories like this one, but I didn’t think anyone actually believed he owned the church.
- “Close the door, and let me tell you the one about …” I still grieve this one as I write the words. I never imagined that Christian leaders would close the door and cross lines with their speech.
- “I think I’m going to go kill her.” He was just talking, of course. In fact, this man with a failing marriage was so drunk that he could barely walk. A church member.
- “Here—you drive the hearse back to the funeral home.” It was a county seat cemetery, and the funeral director had work to do there—so he handed me the keys to return the hearse. I did it, but not well. Have you ever tried to parallel park a hearse?
- “If you’re going to be our pastor, you’re going to learn.” The speaker was a women’s missionary leader who essentially ordered me, her young pastor, to learn about missions. To this day, I’m grateful for her.
- “Brother Chuck is going to join us in the trio today.” I loved my worship leader, but I don’t sing publicly—and he surprised me in the middle of the worship service. It never happened again …
- “We need to move to a different place tomorrow.” Suffice it to say that I was teaching in a risky place in the world, and we had to change locations often. As a young pastor, I never dreamed I’d have such opportunities.
- “We love you, Pastor.” I guess these words themselves didn’t catch me by surprise. What surprised me was how much they melted my heart in humility and gratitude. They still do.
What would you add to this list?