Yes, But Do We Mean It? (1): “If I Only Reach One Person”

February 13, 2012 at 8:10 am

Pastors are an odd bunch. I know you don’t need me to tell you that, but I’m going to say it anyways. A lot of the pastors I know are actually introverts. A common misconception is that introverts are shy and that if you don’t mind speaking in front of others, or actually enjoy it, then you must be an extrovert. However, as Adam McHugh points out in his insightful book Introverts In The Church, the difference between introvert and extrovert is actually whether or not being with lots of people energizes or drains you.

However, the fact that many pastors are actually introverts isn’t what I sat down to think through. Instead, I’ve been thinking about something I’ve heard lots of people, not just pastors, say and it usually goes something like this: if I only reach one person, it’s all worthwhile. That sure sounds noble, but the problem is that pastors are people too and, as much as many of us would like to think otherwise, we are affected by other people and the crap usually shines brighter than anything else. If we hear anything at all from people, it’s more often complaints rather than compliments.

What if you preached a sermon and hear lots of complaints, and one sincere Thank You, I really needed to hear that. I mean, come on, if you hear more negative than positive feedback, it can get pretty difficult to carry on. We like to speak of noble causes and how it’s all worth it as long as we reach that one person, but sometimes, that lone voice is just plain hard to hear.

We’re programmed to believe that the more we hear something, the more true it is but that’s not necessarily the case. And, the sad reality is that many people are more likely to voice their complaints than compliments. But, if we listen to complaints, it won’t take long until we’re simply left dazed and confused. I remember, several years ago, early in the week, after a Sunday morning, I had one person come to me and say that they struggled to follow along with my sermon because it was too deep. My very next meeting, I kid you not, was a couple who felt unchallenged because they said my sermon was too shallow. So many of us are driven by what others think that we end up crippled because, you simply can’t please everyone.

But what if we took Jesus’ command to make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20) seriously? What if, even when the negative outweighs the positive, our eyes were on something larger? What if that one positive impact on someone’s life really  was the point? Why do so many of us expect that we will impact thousands of people at a time? Is it really enough for our egos if we only reach one person?

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