For the Called

I belong to a United Methodist Clergy Women’s Facebook page, and it is a revelation to hear from others what is happening in their churches. Most of it is uplifting and inspiring. Some of it makes me want to rise from my chair and throttle someone. Ministry is hard, folks. Be kind to your pastor…you have no idea what they are up against. Church is made up of many different individuals, all of whom have an opinion, and all who believe in their right to express it. This often results in the pastor taking the brunt of conflicting opinions while trying to maintain a fellowship of believers who have been called together to be the body of Christ for the world. Sometimes we all lose sight of that.

Any believer who actively practices and shares their faith can tell the same story. The truth is, we are ALL called through our baptisms to go and make disciples for the transformation of the world. This is everyone’s calling, whether you put on the robe or not. And many of you have taken the brunt of conversations with family and friends that did not go smoothly.

In our passage from Isaiah today, the great prophet describes his own process of being called by God to minister to God’s people. He lifts up the blessing of this calling, reveling in the fact that God “gave him an educated tongue to know how to respond to the weary.” YES! This is why we respond to our callings. But then again, he also mentions beard-plucking, which makes me glad I’m a girl:

Isaiah 50 (Common English Bible)

God’s faithful servant

The Lord God gave me an educated tongue
    to know how to respond to the weary
    with a word that will awaken them in the morning.
    God awakens my ear in the morning to listen,
    as educated people do.
The Lord God opened my ear; I didn’t rebel; I didn’t turn my back.

Instead, I gave my body to attackers,
    and my cheeks to beard pluckers.
I didn’t hide my face
    from insults and spitting.

The Lord God will help me;
    therefore, I haven’t been insulted.
Therefore, I set my face like flint,
    and knew I wouldn’t be ashamed.

The one who will declare me innocent is near.
    Who will argue with me?
Let’s stand up together.
    Who will bring judgment against me?
    Let him approach me.
Look! The Lord God will help me.
    Who will condemn me?
Look, they will wear out like clothing;
    the moth will eat them.

I love Isaiah’s attitude, and wish I had a gallon of it for times when I need it. These words apply to everyone. Anytime we have to defend our beliefs and articulate our faith to someone who is insulting and resisting our message, we need to set our faces like flint. What a great visual!

Who will argue with the Lord’s servants? Who will condemn us when we speak God’s truth? The Lord our God will help us, so let’s stand up together.

So the next time you are dealing with someone who condemns you, remember Isaiah’s words of wisdom: “Look! They will wear out like clothing; and the moth will eat them.” We need to remember that when we speak, we need only be concerned with the reactions of the Audience of One. If God is pleased, nothing else matters.

I guess that means I can stop wanting to throttle people, and let the moths take care of it. Thanks be to God!

Stay the Course by Michelle Robertson


How many of you are familiar with the British actor known as Mr. Bean? Played by Rowan Atkinson, Mr. Bean is a rubber-faced physical comedy master in the vein of Jim Carry or the Three Stooges. I stumbled upon a skit called Mr. Bean Goes to Church that I found to be both hilarious and distressingly true.

Mr. Bean visits a country church for the first time and struggles with how to do things “properly” because he is new. He can’t figure out the liturgy, sings off tempo, makes too much noise opening a cough drop, and eventually falls asleep during the sermon with his head bobbing on the shoulder and chest of the VERY visibly disgruntled church member sitting next to him.

Watching the reactions of the disapproving church member is where the story of hospitality in the church is told. He is very inconvenienced with this newbie next to him, is reluctant to share his pew and his hymnal, rolls his eyes when Mr. Bean sings at the wrong time, and does everything in his power to say “You’re not welcome here.” Mr. Bean doesn’t fit in.

Have you ever felt that way in a church? I have. My worst experience was in a church in New Orleans where we were spotted as “new” and made by the pastor to stand and not only introduce ourselves but tell “a little something about us.” We were just trying out all the Methodist churches in the area and simply wanted to worship. I am sure that pastor thought he had a very strong hospitality game by doing this. He was wrong. We never went back.

I have used this clip as an ice-breaker when training churches on how to be more welcoming. Hospitality in the church is the most vital part of our evangelism ministry yet we have no idea how we are perceived.

In Paul’s letter to the new church at Thessalonica, he praises them for their outreach efforts. Note that none of it has to do with brochures, a committee, calling out visitors in worship, or any of the things churches do in the name of “hospitality.”

1 Thessalonians (The Message)

7-10 Do you know that all over the provinces of both Macedonia and Achaia believers look up to you? The word has gotten around. Your lives are echoing the Master’s Word, not only in the provinces but all over the place. The news of your faith in God is out. We don’t even have to say anything anymore—you’re the message!

All of us are in the “Evangelism Ministry.” True outreach happens when we authentically walk the talk and live out the Good News of Jesus in front of people with the simple example of our lives. When a fellowship of people truly love the Lord and ALL of his people, the word gets out.

People come up and tell us how you received us with open arms, how you deserted the dead idols of your old life so you could embrace and serve God, the true God. They marvel at how expectantly you await the arrival of his Son, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescued us from certain doom.

This actually has nothing to do with church and everything to do with you. When you put away the dead idols of your preconceived notion of who is included in “God’s people,” it is only then that you can embrace and serve God, the true God.

So be the message. Receive strangers with open arms in the name of Jesus. Jesus rescued us from certain doom! Find a way today to tell this Good News to someone who hasn’t heard it yet. YOU are an evangelist when your life echoes the Master’s Word. Go and tell!

Need a laugh? Watch this.

Go and Tell by Michelle Robertson