I think it’s only appropriate to write a follow-up to my last post, “How to Destroy Your Pastor.” I do this partially because I highly doubt that I will write anything as popular, so I want to ride its wave as far as I can. But it’s also because the account I shared does not cover the full story. That particular experience went on to affect subsequent interactions I had with other parishioners, and so it seems disingenuous of me not to share about those conversations as well.
The conversation I’m thinking of took place in my office. A parishioner had made an appointment to see me, to talk about something that I had shared in a recent sermon. I feared the worst: that she was going to take this opportunity to pick my sermon to pieces. So I braced myself. But in truth, I did more than brace myself. I hardened my heart. I was afraid that she, too, was coming to criticize me, to tear me apart, piece by piece. And I was not going to let that happen, not this time. So in order to emotionally protect myself, I shut her out before she even walked through the door.
She did indeed tell me how she was having a hard time with something that I had shared in my sermon. I all but rolled my eyes at her. Here was yet another parishioner who felt free to call me to account because my sermon was not as perfect as it should have been, or because it did not cater to her exact set of needs. She must have sensed my naked irritation, because she started stumbling over her words and getting red in the face.
Serves her right, I thought self-righteously. Not so easy to dole out criticism when your target is sitting right in front of you.
But the more she shared, the more I realized that she had not come to criticize ...1