I Believe in the Holy Spirit
JR. Forasteros - July 16, 2017
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This might shock you, but in my early days as a pastor, I was something of a nightmare. I preached my first sermon when I was 16, and it was at my grandma’s church. I was so proud of myself… until I got to the end of my notes and realized I didn’t have a conclusion. I had no idea what to say next, so I just looked at everyone, announced, “Well, that’s the end of my notes!”, and walked off the platform. My first job was in youth ministry, and – to put it kindly – I was not a good teacher. I remember sitting down with my group of six teenagers for my first Bible study. It was a lesson on the Trinity because you have to start with the important stuff. And I remember about three-fourths of the way through the lesson looking at their glassy eyes and realizing I had lost them. They couldn’t care less.
It wasn’t just that I was a bad teacher though. I was also a brash, judgmental person. I had started blogging in college, and I enjoyed nothing more than writing witty, cruel takedowns of people I disagreed with. It’s a dangerous thing, to be young and positioned as the voice of God. I had this little self-made pedestal from which I could look down on everyone and keep them in line.
If you can’t tell, I’m not proud of those early days.
The bad sermons and bad lessons were one thing – everyone starts somewhere. But the bad character was something else. I was a cruel person.
In case you think I’m exaggerating, I actually almost got fired for the way I wrote online. Maybe two or three years into my ministry, my senior pastor sat me down and went through several of my more outrageous posts with me. He explained to me why the way I was conducting myself wasn’t acceptable. He told me that some in leadership thought I should be fired. But he had advocated to keep me on. He told me I was young, that I had some growing up to do.
In the moment, of course, I didn’t listen. I was filled with righteous indignation because HOW DARE HE? How dare ANYONE? But I really wanted to keep my job, so I toned it down.
And of course today, I realize he was right. I have grown up quite a lot from those days. I do write and act and think differently. I’ve changed.
Let’s talk about change. How we change. But more importantly, how we help others change.
Because the reality is, you and I can’t change anyone (even ourselves). We are changed when the Holy Spirit changes us, when God transforms us from the inside out.
What we can do is what my pastor did for me: provide a safe place for people to change. We’re going to talk about the idea of holding space today.