Three colleagues shared with their ministry support lunch group that they were on antidepressants. All three explained they weren’t exactly emotionally depressed. Instead, they just felt beat up. Their doctors had recommended trying antidepressants to reset their brains.
So why were they feeling beat up? Take your pick:
- COVID resurges
But none of these were the real reasons these ministers had taken it on the chin. Instead, the ministers all pointed to the gulf between themselves and some members of their churches. The gap wasn’t ever with the majority; instead, it was always with a very vocal minority. The gap wasn’t usually with key leaders; instead, it was most often with those who had only a small circle of influence. The pastors realized real danger occurred when many members disappeared during conflict.
Pastor A remembered being warned years ago not to go to seminary because “It’ll mess you up. It’ll destroy your faith.” People with that attitude were the same type of church members the pastor was so radically different from today. “They seem removed from reality, and I don’t think there’s anything I can do to reach them. I’ve given up even trying.”
Pastor B said he had bought a t-shirt that, due to fear, was yet unworn in public. The shirt’s front proclaimed, “The earth is not flat. Vaccines work. We’ve been to the moon. Chemtrails aren’t a thing. Climate change is real. Stand up for science.”
Pastor C laughed and confessed having ordered a kindred shirt that read, “Birds aren’t real.” No one else in the group knew what to think of that until it was explained to be a tongue-in-cheek effort. “As a joke, this guy started a conspiracy theory that the government has killed all the birds and replaced them with drones. Now, we’re supposedly surveilled, 24-7, by these bird drones.” Apparently, some people didn’t get the joke and have believed the obvious hoax to be true. “Most of my church members don’t fall for the nonsense, but they won’t say a word to those who do. They just say, ‘Let it go.’”
Sharing these stories was extremely healthy and helpful. Having peers—in a safe place to ventilate and a wonderful place to laugh—was medicine for their souls.
But the conversation pushed into theology. “The day after the Uvalde shootings, we met at church to pray. One of our deacons said, ‘No one has to worry about us. I’m packing. If anyone tries anything here . . . well, I’m a vet and I’ll take ‘em out in a heartbeat.’ The words weren’t said with an attitude of ‘greater love has no one than this. . ..’ They were spoken with relish as if to say, ‘I can hardly wait for the opportunity!’ And others of my members responded with encouragement and amens! I tried to intervene and bring the conversation back to Christian conduct by saying, ‘Now wait. Let’s not get carried away. The Bible says . . .,’ but the deacon raised his voice and said, ‘I don’t care what the Bible says. I’m gonna take ‘em out!’”
The group’s laughter died out.
Then, pastor D shared about going to a middle-school drama department’s presentation of “Little Mermaid.” On the cafetorium wall, there was a giant poster, about six feet tall. In giant letters, it said, simply:
At the top of the sign was the smaller caption: “Be the ‘I’ in KIND.”
Pastor D said the display was a photo opportunity. You could stand up straight, in the gap, and get your picture made, thus completing the word—KIND—by being the “I.”
Pastor D asked, “Can we be the ‘I in Kind?’ It’s got to start somewhere. Can we be the “I,” even with those who take shots at us?
As they silently weighed their willingness to ask the Holy Spirit to help them do what they could not do through their own human strength, the eavesdropping server filled a coffee cup and butted in, “Are you all talking about the Golden Rule? I’ve been wondering if anyone still remembers it.’”
In one voice the pastors responded, “You bet.” Pastor D added, “And now we’ve got to see if we can do more than talk.”