Open Letter to the Elders and Congregation

For the sixty or so who stayed after the service yesterday, you know that I took the mic last to speak. For those who didn’t I’ll recap yesterday and put things into perspective with the desire that you find it edifying, as I have found many of your words edifying in the last 15 years of my life. I am not saying this to say I am better than anyone who did speak negatively about what they felt was going on, but speaking as one who has felt that way before and has learned the severe consequences of that heart-attitude and I feel that I have something to pass on to everyone who is discontented, regardless of age. Please see this as no disrespect; I only aim to do His will as I’ve been lead over the last 20 hours of reflection as an introvert. Comments are very welcome and I will not moderate them in any way, shape or form if you disagree with me.

I am 31 now. By all doctor’s accounts growing up, I should be dead by now. I am here for a purpose: to serve. I have the most wonderful wife who completes me mentally, physically, and spiritually and helps me talk through issues we encounter. It was mentioned yesterday about having a rough year – we have likewise had a rough year in ways we haven’t had before. This has prepared us with life experiences and a perspective that I believe has a purpose now.

We are a blessed congregation

The sermon yesterday was about serving. Serving the “have nots,” the “shut outs,” the “let downs,” and the “kicked arounds.” Pastor Paul spent at least 10 minutes of his sermon time praising our body for the services of individuals, groups, and the corporate body to the church, the neighborhood, and the world. We are so blessed to live in this country to be able to worship in a public place without fear of becoming one of the “locked ups” of other countries. We have elderly members serving with free counseling, youth group, and the Naomi’s ministry. They surely can’t think everything they encounter is to their taste of worship – yet they serve anyway. Thank you, Paul. Thank you, servants.

Yet we complained and complained.

We have servants using their gifts in audio/visual arts

Chris works full time and devotes significant time to coordinating with the leadership to convey a look, feel, and sound that is going to reach the lost and bless them while feeding and lifting up current believers. We have a young man who has a passion for the visual arts spending countless hours using his God-given gifts to bring Him glory and attempt to enhance the worship experience and focus our attention on the Word being presented both in song and presentation of a sermon. We need to lift them up. They should not dread Sundays!! We, as a body, will force that burden on them very, very soon if we haven’t already. Thank you, Chris. Thank you, visual man. Thank you sound and music team.

Yet we complained and complained.

Worship and culture – finding balance

There were some valid points given about certain aspects of the physical appearance and state of the building, such as the safety of having blacked out windows that don’t allow you to see who is on the other side. I missed the first 20 minutes of Q&A because the Bloodmobile took longer for a first-time donation that I expected, but I read the notes afterward, and I’m shocked at the level of discontent in the body over such a small part of our lives. Twenty minutes of worship and 80 minutes of community time in a congregational setting with decor that doesn’t suit one should not have such a negative effect on one’s soul or demeanor – yet think of the positive impact it has on a seeker who wouldn’t step foot into your grandparents’ church with pews, hymns, suits, and 20 people under the age of 50 or even 60.

We left this church for the better part of 15 months for a variety of reasons, none of them being the visual/audio arts or Paul’s leadership – yet that was ultimately, in conjunction with the warm, open arms of a new small group invitation, what brought us back. There are churches in Tampa that are pitch black with no windows and a pure rock concert atmosphere. There are churches that bring in visitors in droves, never to be seen again.

We need diversity of the generations

We can’t stop changing with the culture or times. While we are to be the salt of the earth, we are still on this earth and have to reach the culture we live in. We aren’t going to be wearing traditional African garb and playing on tom toms in Tampa, but if we were trying to reach our neighbors while living in Western Africa we would. Nothing of the Bible is being lost here, but if we lose members in the 45+ age group, we will be losing a treasure. Without those people, the dynamics of the body would change in ways you can’t imagine if you haven’t been around to churches where that is the situation. I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to see people my grandparents’ age at church again after being in other churches. Their very presence is an affirmation of the solid teaching of the Word and a comfort that you can fight the good fight into old age. Thank you, Margaret and Dick and Jane, et al.

The grass is always greener where you water it

There will be something to complain about at any church you attend for long enough to feel entitled to your way. It’s called human nature in our culture and it’s called sin nature in the Bible – and I am just as guilty of that as anyone who spoke up yesterday. It’s just that in this area of my walk, I’ve been on that journey, and I didn’t like the person I was while I was on that journey. It’s a bitter, lonely place to be. Don’t be bitter about what you see or hear. Is there worship going on? Is God being praised? Are hearts being touched?

We just saw a slide of a Haitian church meeting outside for 2 hours every day to give thanks. Give thanks for what!? For being saved, because they don’t have anything else. We all should have hit “rewind” on yesterday’s sermon in the middle of the Q&A session and taken a hard look at ourselves in the mirror.

This is a matter of the heart, my friends. We are there to worship. If Sunday morning between 10am and 11:15am is all you get out of your spiritual life and what you see and hear bothers you so much that you feel depressed and can’t see the good going on around you, I say shame on you. We have servants all around us who wouldn’t necessarily choose the music or the lights, but they come to serve their God and His people week in and week out; day in and day out.

I ask you one question:

Would you have said all of those things if the Minister of Celebration Arts and the young man doing the lighting were sitting on the stage in those interview chairs used earlier to talk about serving in Haiti?

  • Jerry

    Oh Jesse!! You nailed it man. I wish more people would learn to focus on what’s really important. You put a big lump in my throat when I read that. No dad has ever been prouder of his son.

    • http://www.cffatboy.com/ Jesse Petersen

      @Jerry: Thanks – I got 4 lumps writing it.

  • Jerry

    Oh Jesse!! You nailed it man. I wish more people would learn to focus on what’s really important. You put a big lump in my throat when I read that. No dad has ever been prouder of his son.

    • http://www.perfectlypetersen.com Jesse Petersen

      @Jerry: Thanks – I got 4 lumps writing it.