I shared the message below in the comments under the post to which it reacted a few days ago. For two days after publishing the post it, I got some unusually pleasant feedback – people reflecting how upbeat and inspirational they found it (my words, not theirs). But then I got a blistering reaction to it via email from one of my shepherds at church who viewed it as “damaging” (his word (and apparently he hates me giving feedback using his words)) because I sent a copy of it to church friends from my Seeking Shalom class and from the small group that meets at my house – and particularly because one of the members of that small group is a woman recovering from addiction. The point being, he thinks she is too vulnerable to handle it, and since she is the lamb under his watch, he treated me as a wolf he needs to protect her from.
Edited only to hide the identities of those referred to therein, here is that email note:
Once again you have demonstrated just how insensitive and harmful your rhetoric can be. For some reason you decided to include [Agent J] in this note, without asking, caring or knowing where her walk with God is at this moment and once again you have damaged someone. This time, someone who is vulnerable and fragile.
If you ever hoped to persuade me or the other elders to hear your voice, let me now make this clear and distinct…
Your voice has no volume. You may scream at the top of your voice, but it will not be heard.
Oh, I know you will send back a parsed rebuttal of phrases I have used. You will expand on a single word or phrase in hopes of convincing me and others of your pure motive, but it is now clear that you wish to “party” and that you will “turn over tables” to get the chance to party at the expense of anyone who objects. That will not happen. Lest there is any misunderstanding let me repeat, that will not happen. Your motives are clear and they are not pure.
In the future, if you wish to send further notes of this type, feel free to send them to me, [Agent B] and [Agent A], but do not send them to [Agent K], [Agent P], [Agent J] or anyone else in small group.
Now if you will excuse me, I have work to do to repair the damage you just caused.
After reading that, let me ask: Do you feel the love?
My question is important because for months now, this shepherd, representing the others, has been leveling accusations against me starting with how “unloving” I was when I confronted the garbage my church was teaching via the Seeking Shalom class put out by the Lupton Center.
Yeah… They called me “unloving”.
I will freely grant that I was tactful and direct, that I dispensed with any pleasantries that denial might hide behind, but I assure you I said NOTHING so scathing as this note.
Nevertheless, here is the irony: I spoke up defending the poor homeless people sleeping on the streets of Lubbock in freezing temperatures on those same cold winter nights when we were holding that lame class. The insensitive rhetoric of that whole class that ENABLES a church to deny entrance of “the least of these” (Jesus) was exactly the point of my confrontation! If it seemed “unloving”, I would expect someone penning THIS confrontation to appreciate it.
I am not insensitive to the possible ‘damage’ my words might have on a vulnerable person. I trust this shepherd will, with the help of the Holy Spirit, tend to this vulnerable lamb in his care and not write her off blaming me as a convenient excuse for the ineffectiveness he might have. And I note, after 20 years experience taking ministry to addicts in various stages of recovery (or not) how many of them don’t, in the end, beat the addiction! That can be a little tough to take as a caregiver. But then I had 3 years experience before all that serving Hospice patients! And I will let you guess how many of them we “saved”!
(Actually, I think my work in Hospice really helps me to handle the sense of futility that causes so many caregivers to burn out in other fields. Thus I am not terribly upset with the “failures” of ministry to prisoners, addicts, and child-abusers. I don’t get all “outcome” or “effectiveness” oriented and hang all my value on that. Rather, I find value in serving Jesus whose image I find in these folx like finding a diamond in the rough, and if serving Jesus the way he calls me to produces that next order of repentance and fruitfulness (which sometimes it does!), then it’s all that much better. But when I don’t get to be the one raking in the harvest, I just recall what St. Paul says about one planting, another watering, and another gathering the harvest, but God is responsible for the increase! And therefore that part I should trust in God’s hands, not mine.)
I just wanted to get all that out there.
It turns out, the post that caused all this fuss is one of the most visited posts on this blog with (I think) the most comments and conversation this blog ever generated. It’s getting a LOT of traction. And I don’t know who all is looking, but I would not be at all surprised if some of the lookers aren’t voyeurs from my church! (Hi, guys!)
But of course, IF that is the case, it’s pretty clear, based on the insensitive/unloving rhetoric in which the message of this email is sent, that our conflict goes a LOT deeper than even I was appreciating.
And this is not the first Spiritual Spanking I have gotten from my church friends in this town. In fact, when the Premier Homeless Pseudo Church (not its real name) kicked me out, they sent me a private note outlining my crimes and banishment and then read (I think the same note) a letter aloud to the assembly outlining my crimes and banishment! (I think they failed to tell those homeless people gathered there that day, that I had confronted them about kicking everyone out to the winter cold nights and how they refused ANY compromise to my confrontation… but….)
So here we are several days later, and I am still reflecting on all this. And the thing is… I expect more sanctions. I am not a betting man, but Jesus suffered more sanctions when he confronted the religious elites at the house of God. He then warned his followers they should expect no less for following him. So, yeah. I expect more. And of course more of this (or more to the point – more THAN this) will be pretty stinkin’ ugly.
Unless, of course, leadership wants to repent and turn to Jesus…
(Hey, one can hope!)
Point being… here we go… Those of you who read here and care… please keep our church in prayer. There is nothing I would LOVE more than for the church of Lubbock to throw open the door to Jesus!
“Behold! I stand at the door and knock. If you open up, I will come in and party with you…” – Jesus