I had an interesting experience a week ago after the first of two services I was leading that week. It was only my second Sunday at this particular church, and I was still getting to know people and couldn’t entirely tell who were guests and who were members. After the service, as I was greeting everyone that attended the service, a man came up to me and started a conversation.
First off, he stood much closer to me than I was comfortable, and he began to tell me a bit about himself. He informed me that he was not United Methodist, but had taken part in the Walk to Emmaus program and found that to be very good. Here is where things got interesting. He then began to tell me that the United Methodist Church has been out of touch with “true biblical teaching.” He stated that as a denomination we have tried to wiggle and justify our positions, but continued to teach people the wrong way. He informed me that I needed to forget and throw-out everything I had been taught, and reread the Bible with a much more literal mindset. This “conversation” only lasted a few moments, but it seemed to happen in slow motion. The entire thing appeared to be rehearsed and went quickly as to not give me a chance to say anything. Afterwards I simply thanked him for sharing his feelings with me and he bolted out the door.
It was very apparent that he only attended the service that morning to tell the new pastor this message. I blew it off at that moment simply because I had others waiting to see me at this church, and I had to then go to another church afterwards for a second worship service. After looking back, I began wondering if this kind of thing would happen more often to me. I asked the senior pastor if he had ever experienced this, and he hadn’t. In 8 years at these congregations, he had never had someone come up to him like that.
I began to think a bit on whether this man was going to say this to me anyway, or was it something in my sermon that made him feel that he had to say it. I thought my sermon was pretty sound. I preached on why Jesus taught in parables and the importance to us as a community. I made no radical social or political statements other than we should be gentler in how we reach out to people and not condemn or judge right away. If that was a radical statement, then I’m in for a long 40-plus years of ministry.
I’m sure this may only be a one time thing to happen, but thought that it was interesting it happened to me in the first couple weeks of my first appointment. I’m sure there will be more stories of interesting interactions in the years to come.