They were an African-American family who visited our congregation one morning in the early 1980s.
I remember them as being a pleasant family that included dad, mother, and four children.
Yet, this would not be an ordinary day for our congregation located in a small town an hour south of Nashville. For the most part, our congregation was made up of wonderful people including: Dennon, Joy, J.W., Jimmy, Charlie, Ted and Brenda, Byron and Brenda, and Mary. Yet, the day was overshadowed by one man who became angry that these people would visit our congregation. After our worship services concluded that morning, one man demanded that our men have a “business meeting” that afternoon.
This was a new situation for me. I was a young minister, newly married, and preaching at this small congregation. This middle Tennessee church situation seemed like a another world for me. Less than three years earlier, I had graduated from the University of North Texas and was working full time at United Parcel Service.
Here we were, a group of men sitting in a small room in our rented storefront. Less than two hours earlier, we were partaking of the Lord’s Supper. Now this man, flanked by his two teenage sons, was ranting about this family visiting that morning.
“My boys may have to go to school with them, but we don’t have to go to church with them!”
I was stunned. I felt as if I had stepped back in time. Some looked at the guy in amazement. Some of the other guys starred at the floor. Finally, I said:
“I don’t know if these people will ever return to our church after this morning’s visit. However, we need to decide whether we intend to obey Scripture or not.”
The man and his sons abruptly left a few minutes later. Several of the guys shook their heads in disbelief.
It was a disappointing day and a disheartening meeting. It was also a reality check. While most people in that small congregation were not like this man, I learned that I would have to be clear about my own identity as a Christian and as a Christian minister. There was going to be some form of pressure in every church in which I would minister. Typically, this would be a subtle pressure to choose comfort over truth and being “liked” over discipleship.
Can you recall a situation in which you felt pressure to ignore the words of Jesus? Do you remember a time when one person attempted to sway a group toward a behavior that did not represent Jesus?