Once a new Pastor decided after much prayer to preach a dicey sermon on a hot button issue. He felt really led to speak on the topic but he didn’t want to offend anyone in the congregation so he spent the entire evening before crafting his language to make sure he worded his position in a way that might be least offensive to the parties involved. He also made sure he pulled every scripture he could think of to support his position so there could be no doubt that his sermon was Biblical. Furthermore, he peppered the entire sermon with quotes from contemporary theologians as well as the great Christian thinkers of antiquity. When the young pastor went to bed, he felt good about the sermon he had prepared.
Sunday morning, however, his nerves were getting the best of him and he was really second guessing himself. He had only been the Pastor of this congregation for a few months and he really didn’t know what side they would come down on. When the time came to preach, though, the Pastor powered through. As he spoke, he gained his footing and started to feel more and more at ease. Until, halfway through the sermon, a man named Frank abruptly stood up, left his pew, and marched straight down the center aisle and out the door. Frank was one of the pillars of the Church, a man whose opinion everybody respected, so the Pastor was nervous and flustered through the rest of the entire sermon.
After Church was over, the pastor stood at the back door and shook hands with members of the congregation as they left. Each one politely told him it was a good service and went to their cars. At last, Frank’s wife came through the line and shook the Pastor’s hand. Pale, and hardly able to speak, the pastor managed to get out, “I hope I didn’t say anything to offend your husband.”
The woman smiled and said, “Oh dear. No one must have told you. Frank has been a sleep walker ever since he was a boy.”
This is a funny joke but it contains a serious question for us to ponder: are we ever so worried about offending people that we put them to sleep? Those of us in ministry are always caught between wanting to challenge the faithful and wanting to promote unity. Being decisive without being divisive. I personally think this is a healthy tension and that one can be pulled too far in either direction but there does come a time when we are called to clearly and forcefully state the truth. If we spend all our time worrying about how every little thing we say may be perceived, we risk making sleepwalkers instead of disciples.