This past weekend I continued what is arguably the most controversial sermon series I’ve ever preached. While the first week of the series was sort of a “set-up” for what was to come, during the second one we finally dove into some issues that aren’t always easy to talk about. The tension in the room was palpable.
So, I’m up there preaching when all of a sudden two people from the back of the church stood up and walked out, coats and all. In that moment my sweat level instantly went from a level five to a level seven. I could literally feel myself sweating through my undershirt (and it didn’t feel good).
I’m going to let you in on a little secret: When I preach, I can keep an internal dialogue running in my head (a skill I believe most preachers have). So, while my mouth is saying everything I need it to say to keep the sermon moving right along, inside my head is something completely different. And in that moment, the moment where I thought the entire congregation was going to get up and leave my head was screaming, “YOU ARE LOSING THEM!” Every fear, every ounce of ego, every unrealistic fantasy was rolling through my brain.
That’s when God hit me: Do you believe what you’re preaching? The question forced me to wrestle with the truth that if I really believe in what I’m saying, then it has to be okay for people to leave. It has to be okay for there to be tension in our faith, and that maybe some people aren’t ready to deal with that tension. Tension stretches the status quo, and in a lot of cases pushes the boundaries of where we feel comfortable.
In our faith, as well as in our relationships, there are going to be moments where things get tough and people will want to leave. Leaving is the easiest way to relieve tension, and sometimes it is necessary. However, in relationships that are built for a lifetime, tension is something that we have to commit to walking towards so that we both can be better.
There are only two ways to relieve tension: to let go of it completely or to walk towards the opposition.
As it turned out, those people weren’t leaving because of my sermon, but it was a good reminder that maybe the tension that I needed to walk toward was that I could not keep everyone happy. That it is more important to preach what God puts in my heart rather than what is easy. Maybe this whole series is God’s way of reminding our community that tension can be a very good thing.
What tension do you need to walk toward?