A few years back I bumped into a guy at a party who (between drinks) began to tell me some of his life story and how it involved a brief faith experience at a local church. He was part of the youth group at the time and had some innovative ideas as to how mission and ministry could take place. But it was the 80’s and there was no doubt he was ahead of his time. The pastor listened to him and his friend share their vision for potential mission work and church planting in the flats in Wembley, but it wasn’t going to grow the church so it was dismissed.
‘He told us to F off’ he said.
I seriously doubt that pastor used that language, but whatever the words chosen this was what he heard. He heard that his brand of faith just wasn’t gonna be acceptable in this very straight 80’s church. So he left and hasn’t been back since.
Very sad – that a pastor was unable to accomodate a different vision to the one he had been trained in. If it’s all true then I find it a really gut wrenching story and somewhat of a slur on the man’s ministry. It has sat with me all this time as a warning.
Then more recently I caught up with someone else who was also part that church during the same era. I shared the story with him. He responded by telling me the story of how this same pastor ministered to his dad during his final days on earth. As a non-believer he called the pastor to come and sit with him as he died and confessed his sins. This man had spent time in jail and lived a far from perfect life, but in his dying moments this same pastor sat with this man’s head on his lap as he wept and confessed the wrongs he had done in his life.
The gentle love and care of this pastor for his dying father who was broken and repentant made a massive impact on him. This pastor was a good man.
I sit both those stories out there together because it speaks to the complexity of who we are. None of us have a perfect track record. We all get things wrong. But then again we all get things right too.
We are complicated and life is complex.
But perhaps the one thing we can say with conviction is that we all need grace and we all need to offer grace as well. I imagine that in years to come someone will have a story of how I obstructed their path to a great idea. But I also hope there will be stories of those who I supported and encouraged in their sense of calling.
Grace – it allows all of us to breath.