A mentor of mine used to say, "If you aren't causing waves. If you aren't upsetting someone or something, then probably you are not leading boldly and in the ways of Christ enough. Everywhere Jesus went and everything he did caused waves. Think about it."
So ... that's been in my mind consistently as I lead as a pastor and seek to follow in the footsteps of Christ.
At West United Methodist Church, we are in a message series on world religions, something that many of our members asked for so that we could learn what and how our friends worship, and how we are similar and different.
Personally, I think it is the coolest thing ever to be able to pastor a church that WANTS this.
However, I need to always remember that following Jesus causes waves.
Lately, I have stayed off social media. It screws with my head. So ... I glance at it every two or three days to make sure I've not missed something major and then I close it and go about my business.
This is why.
Recently I received a screenshot of a post on the West UMC page. Luckily we have amazing staff who are appropriately on social media so that West can reach the community. (I get that social media is our reality! It just can't be mine right now!)
Basically it was a reply to my latest message post. It said, "Shame on you."
Our reply: "At West UMC, we are unabashedly followers of Jesus Christ. However, out of respect for our brothers and sisters of different faiths, we are looking at other faith traditions, seeking insight and knowledge, and comparing and contrasting it to what Christianity believes. It is our hope that as we learn more of one another, we can grow in love."
Though the critic continued to argue, we did not engage. We hid the comments ... because the third one ended with, "When they behead you, I hope you enjoy it."
Now, I have to say that when I read that, I laughed out loud.
To be filled with such angst and anger over a sermon.
I'm pretty sure my mentor would say, "You must be leading like Jesus."
Then, my next thought was, "I can't wait until they see that we talk about Islam."
Yes, I'm snarky.
Seriously, it's a powerful thing to be willing to explore faith.
It is my sincere hope that by looking and learning what other faith traditions believe, we will also learn more of what followers of Christ believe.
The Rev. Dr. Andrea Smith is pastor at West United Methodist Church, which meets at Lake Norman High School.