It was a long, hard catechism process fraught with communication issues. You see, she’s Deaf. I have some basic signing, and she is an excellent lip reader, so most of the time it worked all right. She has told me repeatedly that I saved her life. She’s never been involved in a church before, and she’s been pulled in deep her. She loves women’s Bible study and attends faithfully.
Today she nearly cried.
After all that, what is it that affected her most? More than preaching the Gospel? More than the announcement of forgiveness or a home in heaven? More than peace with God?
I sang “Happy Birthday” to her.
“She was almost crying,” another church member told me after. “She said no pastor had ever sung Happy Birthday to her before.”
Look, I get that as a small congregation, we get to make things far more personal than larger congregations. I can get away with silly things like singing Happy Birthday on a Sunday morning right before Bible study. I get that the people here greatly value that personal touch.
But… but the center isn’t my personal touch. That should be a “bonus feature” on the DVD of church. The main feature is Jesus. Not pastor – Jesus!
I’ve long struggled with church worship here. I’ve only barely been touched by pastor worship… but now I see it a little. It happened with a teenager, too. He told me that he can’t pay attention to other pastors, and now that I’ve had to enact discipline on his mom, he refuses to see me. So he might as well not go to any church, because he won’t get anything out of those other pastors, anyway. That’s pastor worship there – and other sins, too.
I have told people repeatedly – it’s about Jesus, not about me. When I leave (and it is a when, whether that’s in one year or twenty) – when I leave, nobody better leave this congregation. If they do, it shows me they were attached to me and not attached to Jesus.
I can’t save anyone, no matter how many times I might sing Happy Birthday to them. Knowing me will not forgive any of your sins.
This may shock you, but I’m not Jesus.
I appreciate that this woman appreciated my singing Happy Birthday. I do these things on purpose to express love. And I’m not calling her a “pastor-ologist” or anything like that. She trusts Christ and rejoices in him.
But if that’s the thing that gets her most excited about church… something’s lacking.
Does that mean I need to be less friendly? I don’t think that’s the solution. Can I point better to Christ? Well, yeah. Obviously. I can always do that better.
The best thing about church, though, shouldn’t be the pastor. And it shouldn’t be the people. Those things are nice and good, but they shouldn’t be the highlight.
The best thing about church is Jesus: hearing what he has done proclaimed to you; praising in response; confessing sins and hearing forgiveness; receiving the Sacrament… these things are the best things about church. Not pastor!