Real | Loving | Relevant

PROBLEMS WITH THE PULPIT: what to do when the preacher offends you

“And that’s another reason why it’s just absurd to believe in the theory of evolution.”

No, this wasn’t a quote from the latest scientific debate on origin theory. This was one of my pastors, Chip Lusco, this morning, preaching from the pulpit of a tattoo shop in South Beach.

There’s so many things I love about my church here in Miami. I love getting out of bed at 4:30 a.m. to head to South Beach to transform a tattoo parlor into a space of worship. I love talking to drunk people stumbling home from the clubs on the streets and homeless people just looking for a warm cup of coffee; I love that I can invite both these people inside the doors of my unconventional church. I love the crew that I get to hang with and laugh with before, after, and during service.

What I don’t love is someone in spiritual authority over me making me feel like a complete idiot while listening to his or her sermon. The aim of this post is not to start a debate on creation/evolution… I don’t even think I’m qualified to debate someone on one side of the coin or the other on that topic in full. I haven’t done enough research to be considered an expert witness to that field.

What I do know is that my theology and my God are certainly big enough that the theory of evolution doesn’t threaten what I believe about him in any way, shape or form. I think that modern science is showing us that evolution is more than probable. I think it could have been a beautiful process that our great God could very well have used to put the pieces of the earth together.

Am I completely sold on that theory? No. I’m humble enough to admit that I wasn’t there for the creation of the world and I have no idea how God actually did it. The point is THAT he did it. And I don’t need to “hang my hat” on any one theory of origins—because the only hat that matters is the one I’ve already hung on the cross of Jesus Christ. The truth is that he died for my sins and lives in my heart whether or not I believe he created the world in a literal seven days or billions of years. What’s clear to me is that he created, and it was beautiful.

If the first sentence of this blog post raised your blood temperature a little bit—you’re not alone. My blood was BOILING through this man’s entire sermon. I was wincing as I looked around a room that had seekers spotted throughout it. Probably some of whom believed in evolution, and like me, were now being made out to be idiots because we agree with modern science.

“How many of these people are as offended as I am right now?” I wondered. “How many of those offended people don’t know Jesus, and now may never because all they will remember about this sermon is how dumb it is to be an evolutionist?”

I was livid and angry. To the point where I had to walk out of the room and walk around the block to cool my jets. I couldn’t believe this man, who was a LEADER of a body of believers who I LOVE was acting in such an infuriating manner.

“What do I do with this Jesus? Do I say something? Do I interrupt his sermon?” I prayed. “Please understand me God!”

Luckily the Holy Spirit preserved me from blurting out objections in the middle of the sermon as if it were a courtroom. I bit my tongue until the end. He may not be in the right, but he’s still deserving of honor for the fact that he’s a) a human being, and b) my pastor.

Afterwards, it was fair game. I immediately went up to him and the first words out of my mouth were “How could you!?” I let him know exactly how I was feeling. I explained that I, as someone who comes from the school of theistic evolution, felt like I was being put down throughout his entire sermon. I gave him a lecture on exactly why it was so offensive, and how I thought it could prevent people in the room who are scientifically minded from coming to Jesus. I let him know that next time, he may want to think about who he is preaching to and what message he is trying to convey, because frankly, the gospel was lost amidst his attacks on Darwin.

His response to me was kind but short: “I’m sorry if I offended you, but I stand by every word I said.”

“It’s fine if you believe that,” I said, “but the way you conveyed your opinions was very hurtful to me.”

“Yes you’ve made that clear,” he said.

“Good,” I said. I grabbed my purse and walked out of the shop, knowing I was about to burst into tears. Luckily my church meets two blocks from the beach—the best place to clear my head and hear from Jesus. Naturally I headed that way.

“Why, Jesus?” I sobbed, rubbing my toes in the sand. “There is already so much resistance to the gospel in the world. Why! Why would it have to come from within my own church!”

He let me continue. (You’re talking to Jesus, not Yeezus, remember)

“What do I do now? Can I keep going to this church? Can I ever set foot back in there? What about the dozens of people who were offended like me and didn’t have the guts to say anything or the Holy Spirit to help them process it? What do I do? I’m so ANGRY!”

Looking out at the sea, I felt a rush of peace that I knew could only come from the depths of God’s love for me. I was reminded of my own thoughts about the power of God—if he is big enough to handle evolutionary theory, He’s certainly big enough to handle my own confusion and pain at the hands of his bride.

“Dear one,” he spoke to me in the quiet of my heart. “First of all, your pain is beautiful. The reason you are so hurt is because of your love for the bride. You love my church. What hurts her, hurts you.”

I nodded my head in agreement, already breathing lighter.

“You also care for people. You have a gift for seeing people where they are and knowing what they need to hear. Not everyone, not even pastors, have that same gift. And that’s why your voice matters. That’s part of the reason you are here. To help others see what others see. I’m glad you said something.”

Sometimes, we need to be reminded of who we are and whose we are. I’m not someone who is rebellious against authority or stubborn or who seeks out conflict. I’m someone who loves Jesus and his church and doesn’t want to see anything come in the way of the gospel. My anger wasn’t sin, it was a right response to something that was upsetting my heart. When we receive that sort of validation from Jesus, suddenly what other people may think of us—or what the enemy whispers to us about ourselves—seems null and void.

Next, I knew I had a choice to make.

“So where do I go from here, Lord?” I thought about two different paths. I could leave my church because I disagreed with one sermon that one of its multiple pastors preached, and look for a church where maybe no preacher would ever offend me.

Or, I could choose to forgive my brother, Chip Lusco, for using the pulpit as a platform for his theories on creation to the detriment of my heart and others. Forgiving him wouldn’t make what he did okay. It wouldn’t mean that I wasn’t hurt or that my voice didn’t matter. Jesus already validated all of that. But Jesus also paid dearly for that pain on the cross. It was his to bear. He bought it. In the end, I knew I had no right to carry the weight of spiritual offense.

When someone who is in authority hurts us, it’s not easy to deal with. We feel that they should be immune from sin, that they should never say anything wrong or do anything wrong. That’s simply never going to happen. I knew I had to choose to forgive.

What made forgiving Chip easier was two things: one, I knew that if I were in his position, surely one day, I would say something that would unintentionally hurt someone too. I chose to believe that his heart was not to hurt me, and that I am just as fallen as he and may have committed or will commit the same exact sin at some point in my life. Two, I recognized that the weight of this offense didn’t merit a total separation from a church that I, in all other respects, loved. The unity of the body and the advancement of the gospel is more important to me than my own offended heart.

Jesus can heal my heart. Jesus listened and understood. Jesus doesn’t judge me for my openness to scientific theories.

Where we often go wrong in our offenses received at the hand of the church is that we wrongly misinterpret that we have received them at the hands of Jesus instead of at the hands of his fallen servants.

So dear Mr. Chip Lusco, I forgive you. Thank you for being a faithful servant of Jesus Christ. I believe the best in you and that your heart was not to harm me. I am committed to loving you as my brother in Christ and advancing our Jesus together.

I want to make a note here at the end, that there are times when separation from a church is right. In instances of sexual abuse, spiritual abuse, or repeated incorrect or judgmental theology—run. Forgiveness will still be required, but sometimes separation is really what is best for you in certain situations. Use the discernment of the Holy Spirit and also the voices of people you trust and who hear Jesus (preferably not from the same church in order to have objective wisdom spoken to you) advise you as to when a certain situation might merit a separation. For instance, if all my pastors at Calvary had this same opinion on evolution, and made belief in a literal seven-day creation a necessary part of belonging to that body, or if I had been reprimanded for voicing my thoughts, I would consider leaving. That sort of extreme situation was not the case at all.

There’s no cookie-cutter way with dealing with spiritual offenses, but no matter what situation of conflict you are in, remember:

  • You are loved in the middle of your anger and your anger is not wrong.
  • Your voice matters. Staying silent is drinking the enemy’s poison.
  • Jesus can be your sounding board; he understands, and he can explain your own heart to you.
  • You are the one with the choice of whether to carry the offense or forgive.
  • Leaders are human, too.
  • The unity of the body and the unity of the gospel is worth moving past differences for.

I hope this was helpful to someone tonight. Be encouraged, friends!

2 Responses to “PROBLEMS WITH THE PULPIT: what to do when the preacher offends you”

  1. Amor Sierra

    Wow, Molly. I’m not sure what to say about this. Pastor Chip is one of my pastors and a friend. To publicly do this, well I don’t have words.

    Reply
    • Molly K. Phillips

      Hey Amor : )

      I’ve forgiven pastor Chip and have love for him in my heart. I hope you see from my post that I tried to deal with this hurt in the way outlined by Jesus in Matthew 18: always confrontation followed by unconditional forgiveness. You can respect spiritual authority without sweeping pain under the rug–to do so would be emotionally unhealthy. Pastors are people too with different opinions and flaws and we have to have the same grace for them that we do for each other. He may not have offended you in the same way that he offended me, but for my heart, it was deeply painful. Thank goodness we can be unified around the cross above all else. Little else matters. Love you!

      Reply

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