One of the big surprises to Cecile in being married to a pastor is the things people come up with and say to me with a straight face. The new Senior Pastor at the UCC church in New Canaan, a friend of mine for some time, was once criticized for being too handsome. With a straight face!
I recall the Sunday my youngest girl was born. Her birth was overdue and we were getting worried. I didn’t think I’d even be in the pulpit, but I still cobbled a sermon together. Clearly, it was not soaring, but it was earnest. A visitor approached me and said, “There was not one thing in that sermon that was helpful or interesting to me.” She came back a year later and raved about my sermon, how much I’d grown, how improved I was. I wrote her a letter back and said, “Look lady, I will endure your criticisms, but I don’t have to take your compliments.” What I meant by that is, so many have no understanding what it takes to preach 40-50 times per year. And if we sometimes make it look easy, it clearly isn’t. Just ask Josh Gleason and Sammie Berry!
The list below is a Twitter compilation of things said to pastors. The most common criticisms—which I’ve spared you below–were using the Bible too much and preaching too evangelistically.
1.“We need a small group for cat lovers.” (I guess they could serve Meow Mix as a snack.)
2.“You need to change your voice.” (Yes ma’am. I’ll try to have that done by next week.)
3.“Our expensive coffee is attracting too many hipsters.” (Yep. Let’s keep them out of here.) 4.“Preachers who don’t wear suits and ties aren’t saved. It’s in the Bible. (Got a spare tunic?) 5.“Your socks are distracting.” (I understand. Maybe I should try bare ankles with deck shoes.)
6.“Don’t make people leave the youth group after graduation.” (I put you in charge of starting a youth group at Maplewood!)
7.“I don’t like the colored towels in the ladies room.” (But they match ones in the men’s room!)
8.“We need to start attracting more normal people at church.” (So, will you be staying with us?)
9.“I got cancer because you don’t preach from the KJV.” (What’s this carcinogenic translation?)
10.“Your wife never compliments my hair or dress.” (Now we’re getting to the heart of things!)
11.“Not enough people signed up for the church golf tournament. You have poor leadership skills.” (I’m sorry. A real pastor would excel at getting people out golfing, forget about worship.)
12.“I think you are trying to preach caffeineism.” (A variety of theology with an “extra kick.”)
13.“If Jesus sang from the red hymnals, why can’t we?” (But didn’t he sing from blue hymnals?)
14.(To a pastor who married interracially). “You are living in sin. You shouldn’t be married to each other.” (Again, I will let you fill in the blank here.)
15.“I don’t like the brand of donuts in the foyer.” (It beats the heck out of Meow Mix.)
16.“You didn’t wrap the hot dogs in bacon for the church picnic.” (Ever heard of the Surgeon General report? We really have left that kosher thing in our spiritual past now, haven’t we?)
17.“You shouldn’t drink water as you preach.” (I got this one, he diagnosed me with diabetes.)
18.“The toilet paper is on the wrong way in the ladies restroom. It’s rolled under.” (Let’s call a Congregational meeting right away!)
19.“You don’t have ashtrays in the fellowship hall.” (Yes we do, right next to the spittoons.)
21.“Did you see me waving in the back of the worship center? You preached too long. It was time to eat!” (Who needs a clock when I have you?)