Wednesday, May 07, 2008

The Perturbed Pastor

"The LORD doesn't see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." (1 Samuel 16:7, New Living Translation)

Some time ago I was in a church that featured a worship leader with green hair, a diamond stud in his nose, colorful tattoos, and a garage sale wardrobe. He was a tall, lanky lad who couldn’t fit in any box – let alone the confines of traditional church hymns.

His music was edgy but full of grace, and his lyrics were years beyond his age. This kid had something, and it was delightful to witness it being displayed with such open honesty. However, the pastor of the church was of a different mind.

He was a good man raised in the Midwest, schooled on the King James Bible and weaned on the preaching of circuit riders from long ago. He was a soft man, still packing baby fat well into his fifties; a man of some experience in the world, but none that left any marks.

I could see that he was having a hard time with the green hair worship leader. As far as I could tell everyone else was worshipping the Lord, but Dr. Suits (not his real name) was stewing in the pew. I couldn’t tell which color was more vivid – the worship leader’s green hair, or the pastor’s red face.

I spoke that morning and afterwards went out to lunch with the pastor and his adoring wife. As we visited the subject came up – “What did you think about the worship this morning?” he asked me, fishing for some justification.

“I thought it was wonderful,” I answered, “and the people sure seemed to be drawn into the presence of the Lord during it.”

“Well, I’ve got to talk to that young man about his appearance,” Dr Suits bluntly said. “It’s just not right; not right at all!”

“But isn’t it about what’s in the heart?” I asked. “I was always told that the Lord looks on the heart, while man looks on the outward appearance.”

“Yes, but if I don’t talk to him now then the next thing you know the church will be filled with green hair and tattoos!”

“Well, let me ask you,” I said, “who do you want to fill your church?”

“People who wear suits and have haircuts,” he replied; “they are the ones with jobs who pay the bills.”

Our conversation tapered off after that comment and as I left I realized that this man’s mind was made up. As for the green hair worship leader – he was fired a few weeks later, and the last I heard doesn’t go to church anymore. As for the church, it is filled with suits, and the bills are paid. And a robed choir sings nostalgic hymns that make the pastor cry.

I wrote a poem to mark that moment, and, upon some reflection have decided to share it with you -- tomorrow.

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