I saw this video a couple of months ago on YouTube, in which a Baptist pastor from Oklahoma opens up an industrial-sized can of… well, judge for yourself. Christianity Today has now picked up the story. When I watch this video, I mostly feel sympathy for Standridge. I know I’m not supposed to. I’m supposed to think he’s a jerk or a bully or far worse (I’m afraid to read the comments section of the YouTube post). But I don’t. I imagine he’s just having a bad day. Been there, done that. Who hasn’t?
For one thing, are we criticizing Standridge for having these thoughts in the first place or only for being so gauche as to speak them out loud in a sermon? If it’s the latter, well, that’s hardly a major sin.
C’mon, fellow pastors: Haven’t you had church members who you believe—perhaps in your most human moments—”aren’t worth fifteen cents”? Granted, you don’t post their names on Facebook or anything, but don’t you feel that way sometimes? Let’s get real.
Besides, it’s hard to argue with his logic when he calls attention to the poor guy caught sleeping during his sermon: “You say, ‘Well, he may never come back.’ Well, he ain’t here now!”
Also, to his credit, Standridge at least knows his flock well enough to call these people by name. He clearly seems to care deeply about them, even as he criticizes them. And in our politically correct age, when we talk so much about cultural sensitivity and context, let’s give him the benefit of the doubt that he knows his audience, and he’s speaking to them in a language they understand. I’m not a Baptist from Skiatook, Oklahoma. Are you? I doubt he worried about how his message would play in New York or L.A.
CT asked some prominent pastors and theologians if it’s appropriate for pastors to call out church members by name like this during the sermon time. Everyone said Standridge was wrong—except good ol’ United Methodist bishop Will Willimon.
Prophets such as Amos or Nathan called people to account personally. It’s almost refreshing, in this age of feel-good theology, to see a preacher really get worked up over behavior and get morally indignant in the service of the truth delivered to him to speak.