Thursday, September 17, 2009

Criticism from both sides

Today I got word that someone was considering leaving our church because they didn't want their kids "under Wes because his teachings aren't biblically based" and that I wasn't evangelical enough. That hurt because the Bible is pretty much all I know and it's central to my life and my teachings... not to mention I love it. Then, after hearing that, I got an e-mail from a parent saying that I was being too evangelical and that they didn't want their kids thinking that our church was like those "other" churches. That hurt because I love our church, its traditions, and everything that makes us unique. I feel like I'm in a boxing match with my hands tied behind my back, getting hit from every side.

My encouragement is that I am in good company. Some of the folks I respect the most get criticism from both sides of the liberal/conservative dividing line--N.T. Wright, John Hartley, Rob Bell, Jim Wallis, etc. Maybe I'm doing something right (or I might be doing it all very wrong) but it still hurts. It still isn't easy to take. The part of me that wants to be the perfect pastor and be a blessing to everyone still aches under criticism, especially the criticism I'm not sure I can do anything about.
God of surprising grace,
Grant us the freedom to be imperfect, to displease you, and to bother your people without having to lose your love. Grant strength in and through weakness. And give us the wisdom and the discernment to follow you into the gray and the fine balance of proclaiming your gospel in love.
In the name of the vulnerable and broken king of the Jews.
Amen.

5 comments:

Danny said...

Hi Wes,
Although I don't have the pressure of the pastorate on my back, I do know what it's like to not be evangelical enough for the people at my church and yet not liberal enough to enter into some kind of social activism for "social activism's" sake. I have gotten in trouble on both sides of the aisle from time to time. I give you your own words:

"It is everyone's task, some do it well and some not so well, to take what has been passed to us, reject that which should never have been passed in the first place, and embrace anew that which we should pass as well to the next ones."

I also give you a shake from Walt:

All seems beautiful to me,
I can repeat over to men and women You have done such good to me
I would do the same to you,
I will recruit for myself
and you as I go,

I will scatter myself among
men and women as I go,
I will toss a new gladness
and roughness among them,
Whoever denies me
it shall not trouble me,
Whoever accepts me
he or she shall be blessed
and shall bless me.
-Walt Whitman

WES ELLIS said...

Good Walt quote Danny! It's a fine line we walk. I hope I can always keep Martin's attitude:

"Here I stand. I cannot do otherwise. God help me, Amen!" _Martin Luther

Danny said...

You should also get the monk tonsure. It's all the rage.

nate said...

Wes,
I hope you don't mind that I got a chuckle out of this post...don't take that the wrong way. The irony of 2 diametric complaints, and your frustration just remind me of having to put up with the same junk when I headed up YFC.

I miss youth ministry a ton, but don't miss the criticism and unsolicited advice.

Anyway, hope you cheer up. Nobody can please everybody. If someone wants to leave the church, let them go...they'll just end up leaving the next church.

I was accused of not being evangelical enough. My regional supervisor, because I didn't attend a workshop on "how to evangelize Catholic students" (I told him they didn't need evangelized) asked me, "can you even call yourself an evangelical?"

Not anymore. Anyway, even if I disagree with you at times, I respect the hell out of you.
Nate

WES ELLIS said...

Nate,
Thanks... I got a bit of a chuckle as well... right after I was done being annoyed.

P.S. I respect you too and, BTW, I think we probably agree more than we disagree about the things that are really important. I really like your perspective on things.