How You Can Avoid Being a Pastoral Party Pooper

Don't be a party pooper for your church. Always remember who the guest of honor is.
Don't be a party pooper for your church. Always remember who the guest of honor is. (Flickr )

Each weekend, around 400,000 churches in the U.S. celebrate our risen Lord, but with every party is a party pooper. You may have a couple in your church this weekend.

They find a reason not to celebrate, or manage to celebrate the wrong things. Unfortunately, pastors sometimes find themselves missing the party for the same reasons some of our members do.

The resurrection of Lazarus was cause for celebration, so his sisters threw a party in Jesus' honor. John 12:1-8 provides a challenge to pastors and church members to make sure we keep the focus on the one to whom the honor is due. There are four people in the story who give insight to our responses to Jesus.

Laid Back Lazarus  

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It had been a crazy week for Lazarus. He spent the first half in a tomb. He spent the second half celebrating his resurrection. It was the best and worst week of his life!

Lazarus was a party pooper because he seemed to have gotten the idea that he was the guest of honor at this party. He was reclining while his sister Martha was serving and sister Mary was worshipping.

Some of your church members come to church to worship, others come to work and most are likely doing neither. When a church I pastored was building a new worship center, a wealthy member suggested to me that we have cup holders in our seats. I assumed he was joking, until it became awkwardly obvious that he was not.

A laid-back-like-Lazarus attitude reflects a consumer mentality, a mentality that can affect pastors as well as members. Allow God to replace your entitlement mentality with one of appreciation.

"And let us consider how to spur one another to love and to good works" (Heb. 10:24, MEV).

Mad Dash Martha

I see myself in Martha. A lot.

Like most ministers, I show up to serve, which is good. Yet, like Martha, I easily get distracted by all the preparations that have to be made and become "worried and upset."

Hard work is commended in Scripture, but Martha was too busy to worship. She lost her focus and her joy. Luke gives us a lowdown on how Mary and Martha were getting along (Luke 10:38–42). Like a lot of sisters, they weren't.  

Do you ever bite off more than you can chew and lose your joy? Perhaps you are inadvertently robbing others of their joy as well by huffing and puffing around the church. If you are like Mad Dash Martha, those around you are waiting for you to explode or implode. Your good work ethic is commendable, but it does not excuse you from redirecting the focus off of the guest of honor.

"Serve the Lord with gladness; come before His presence with joy and singing" (Ps. 100:2, MEV).

Judgmental Judas

This third party pooper famously objected to the apparent wastefulness of Mary's gift. Judas was not rebuked by Jesus for being financially frugal, because that was his responsibility. He reasoned that pouring a year's wages on someone's feet was wasteful and irresponsible. He even feigned concern about helping the poor.

Nobody bought it. Everyone would know within the week that Judas was a thief and a traitor, caring nothing for the poor, his friends or Jesus.

Judgmental members are party poopers who enjoy criticizing other people and their ministries. Pastors can be guilty of this when an exuberant member has a ministry idea. Sometimes pastors only see more work for themselves, when all the member may want is encouragement or permission to go do it.

"Therefore let us no longer pass judgment on one another, but rather determine not to put a stumbling block or an obstacle in a brother's way" (Rom. 14:13, MEV). 

Messy Mary

Mary was different. She anointed Jesus with expensive ointment worth about three years' wages (John 12). Messy Mary worshipped extravagantly by pouring out most of her inheritance on the feet of Jesus, as well as on the floor around Him and her hair.

Mary was no party pooper. She focused on the resurrection and the life, and didn't care much about what others thought about her extravagant gift.

When was the last time you worshipped publicly with abandon? Genuine love is sometimes expressed in raw, spontaneous and even undignified ways. Church can get messy when it turns into a resurrection party.

"David danced before the Lord with all of his might, and he wore a linen ephod" (2 Sam. 6:14, MEV).

What we do at church is not nearly as important as how and why we do it. Are you a party pooper at your own church? If so, prayerfully consider the guest of honor before you show up this Sunday.

Mark Dance serves as director of LifeWay Pastors. Mark serves pastors by hosting date nights and roundtables, as well as speaking at retreats, conferences, and seminars. Prior to LifeWay, Mark pastored churches for 27 years. He has been married to Janet Kendrick since 1988, and they have two children: Holly and Brad.

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