I referred in my last sermon to a recent story making the rounds on social media about a pastor named Jeremiah Steepek who allegedly dressed up as a homeless person in order to dress down his congregation for being such uncompassionate non-disciples. I said that if the story were true, and I were a lay leader (or deacon or elder or equivalent) at this pastor’s church, I’d want to fire the guy on his first day on the job for pulling the stunt and preaching such a grace-less message.
After all, had he never passed a homeless man on the street without offering to help? Yet, for some reason, Jesus probably still considered him a disciple. Does our Lord have no standards at all?
The story wasn’t true, of course, although at least one pastor—a United Methodist one—did something a little like it. One important difference is the sermon he preached. The punchline of the sermon, as reported by Snopes.com, included these words: “Too many of us want to serve God one hour each week. That doesn’t cut it. That’s not God’s plan.”
Do you see the difference? He was using language of “us,” “we,” and “our.” He was including himself in his complaint. He wasn’t putting himself above his congregation.
To me, that makes all the difference. I hope that whenever I say these sorts of convicting things, I use that same kind of language. I live in the real world, too. I struggle to be a faithful disciple, too. God forbid my language in a sermon ever suggests otherwise!