I was seated near the front of the sanctuary. It was a good seat and with such little distraction, I had no problem hearing exactly what the visiting pastor was saying. I can’t remember the subject matter, but whatever it was, neither I nor the congregation were getting it. Perhaps there was just no “oil” (anointing) on it. It happens from time to time. We’ve all been there. Apparently, the minister thought this was our fault and not his and thus, stopped mid-altar and said, “What the hell is wrong with you?”
He then proceeded to look at us like we were crazy.
I saw the host-pastor turn three consecutive shades of red, but he didn’t stop him. Didn’t signal, didn’t do anything. I presume that something was said in private because the guest pastor has not been back to the church since. That was 10 years ago.
Now I don’t know about you, but I try to be godly protective over my “pulpit.” That includes carefully selecting the contributors and monitoring the content with the Editor-and-Chief of Gospel Today, guarding the guests I allow on my personal blog, and protecting the pulpit of my future formal ministry. As a child, I was thoroughly used to be marched out of services and snatched out of prayer lines by my mother. One time my siblings and I even had to leave the sanctuary at a church because a young homosexual man was stripping as his “praise dance” for a Christian dance competition we were competing in.
The pulpit, literal or metaphorical, is a sacred place. It is the place for the fear of the Lord, not strange fire and other thoughtless, godless acts.
Perhaps you can think of a time when something unseemly was said or done from the pulpit. Or maybe there was a time where a leader was out of order in a public setting. What did the person in charge do? Anything?
What kind of signal does it send when leaders do nothing in the face of foolishness?
Let’s take a look at Scripture to see what precedent is set.
Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed; for before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision. And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy. But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, “If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews? We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified. (Galatians 2:11-16, see 11-21 for full context)
Peter played the hypocrite and Paul called him on it then and there. If he hadn’t, he would have indirectly condoned Peter’s hypocrisy and made light of Christ’s sacrifice by trying to continue living under the Law of Moses which was in a past dispensation. At such a critical time in the earliest years of the Church, Paul had to speak up or allow the hypocrisy to continue. “Mistakes” seen in pulpits today may not seem to be as monumental; however, a little leaven leavens the whole lump.
By “mistakes,” I don’t mean preaching a so-so sermon, missing the high note on a song, displaying the wrong flowers, or any other petty occurrence. I mean something anti-biblical. Something godless. Something like, I don’t know, a bishop asking what the bleep is wrong with a congregation when they didn’t respond to his sermon like he thinks they should. Something that would cause people to think the Spirit of God is not being fully glorified in that house.
And by correction, we picture a leader with the Father’s heart–and the authority to bring correction–doing so in a firm, yet loving manner as Paul did.
This is not an opportunity to tear down, belittle, or humiliate anyone. That is not the heart of the Father. Public correction for a public action is public affection, even if the person and public do not agree. I leave you with these words of wisdom:
Open rebuke is better than love carefully concealed. (Proverbs 27:5)
Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:11)