May 19, 2013
Sunday 11:30 p.m.
Letter #278: Motives Open to Interpretation
A couple of months ago, I was asked by a good friend of mine to consider helping him with a ministry project. Scott, an on-fire godly man, had begun attending the Catholic church services as a guest of some guys he’d invited to the Christian (Protestant) church services. He told me that during the first hour an outside priest conducted mass, but the priest would leave, and the guys would just sit and talk for the remaining hour. He’d suggested a Bible Study instead and wanted my help starting it.
I said yes immediately. Many of you may recall that I played piano for the Catholic services at my previous institution and this one at the request of the chaplains. Since I got to choose the music I played and was not required to participate in other parts of the services, it was a way I could just bless them. I would discuss doctrine with many of the congregation after the services, and I knew God was using me. This came to an end when the elders of the Christian church asked me to stop because I was leading worship for the Christian services as well, and they didn’t want my ministry outreach to confuse younger believers.
Now that I no longer lead worship for the Christian services—I stepped down when the elders said I had to either stop fellowshipping with Messianic Believers because “they are not saved” or step down from leadership—I knew I was free to have a ministry in the Catholic service again.
The first week, everything went fairly well. Scott got up after the priest left and was almost successful in getting everyone’s attention. Another great friend of mine, Rafael, translated for him. Or, tried to. The problem was, Scott had never used an interpreter before, and he didn’t seem to care that nearly a fourth of the 40 or so men in attendance couldn’t understand English. I helped with the discussion time then mentioned to Scott afterward that his speaking may be more effective if he gave Rafael time to interpret.
The next week was actually worse. It was fairly clear to me that Scott really is a sweet guy and he means well (which is the same as saying: he is clueless about some things). Scott asked for a couple of comments from the rest of us then launched into a sermonette. The Catholic guys didn’t like it and began ignoring him, talking about sports and other non-church topics noisily. Scott just tried to talk over them.
I could sense the group’s rejection of what was starting to look like Scott’s thinly-veiled attempt to turn the post-mass time into a preaching time. So, I met with two of their leaders to calm them down and ask for their ideas on how we could best serve them. We came up with several ideas.
The following week, the group ran much smoother, kicked off by the Catholic leaders instead of Scott. When they turned it over to him, however, he went right back to preaching, rather than letting the study develop naturally over time. Instead of building a rapport with the members, he was becoming a stench.
The next week was his last. He snapped, raising his voice and scolding the members for talking amongst themselves. The church didn’t stand for that and accused him of trying to convert them to Protestants. I felt bad for Scott, but his agenda was exposed—rather than his love for people.
Rafael was voted in as the group facilitator, and he’s decided to wait awhile before pursuing a Bible Study in the service again. What a reminder to not serve God with our own agendas—no matter how good, noble, or well-intentioned those agendas may be! To God be the glory!