He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” Matthew 26:39 (NLT)
Pastor Jim Standridge “preached” a sermon in May (see the sermon). As he was speaking a member of his congregation fell asleep. He left the pulpit and, while walking towards the man said, “Don’t you fall asleep….I’m important; I’m somebody”.
(Granted, I have a predisposition to agree with not having people fall asleep during preaching; snoring can be contagious!)
On the other hand, who could condone reading the riot act to a fellow believer in the midst of a worship time – when our focus is supposed to be on the Lord Jesus Christ?
I cannot judge what was in Pastor Standridge’s heart when he did what he did. But his actions are inexcusable. The pulpit of God is a place for the minister of God to deliver the Word of God with grace, dignity and sincerity. Using that sacred desk as a “bully-pulpit” to force an agenda, unburden pent-up frustrations and anger, or any self-aggrandizing behavior disqualifies the one who speaks. (In case you missed it, God was not speaking; the man was spewing his anger.)
Jesus rarely displayed anger. The chief examples of when he did get angry are when he tossed the tables of avarice in the Temple, and in debate with the religious leaders. In both those cases the adversaries were attempting personal gain at the expense of the Kingdom of God. God is very seldom patient with that.
To the non-religious leaders Jesus helped and healed; he didn’t embarrass them with long, stinging harangues in front of an audience.
In another New Testament example while the Apostle Paul was preaching (a very long sermon), a young man named Eutychus fell asleep, just like Pastor Standridge's member. Unfortunately for the “E-man” he was sitting in an open 2nd story window and fell out. He died from the fall! Paul didn’t get angry over the sermon-sleeper; he rushed to the young man and raised him from the dead.
As previously noted, I don’t condone sleeping through the sermon (I especially don’t recommend it in Oklahoma). But we need to be very careful before judging actions, so as to assign evil motives. After all, the young Oklahoma worshiper could have worked a double shift the night before and just succumbed to the lack of sleep. Perhaps, just perhaps in this case – sleep was more needful than a tongue-lashing.
The key indicator (for me) about why this was a tongue-lashing and not preaching is the statement which came before: “I’m important – I’m somebody”. True preaching gets out of the way and points to God, while selfishness (a prominent characteristic of culture in 2013 America) points to me. (Note the picture at the head of this article.)
Even Jesus got himself out of the way when praying and preaching; it was always God’s will that came first.
Go thou, and do likewise!