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How to Respond to Distraction as a Pastoral Leader

By April 4, 2016April 29th, 2022Discipleship, Ministry & Leadership4 min read

This is a message to pastors and those involved in church leadership, but I believe it is relevant to us all!

We experienced a new record of “interesting” in a one-week period at church recently. We had two “Satans” and one “Jesus” visit.

It’s pretty common for the unusual to happen at our inner city church, but this took things to a whole new level. Two devilish distractions didn’t quite make it into church, but “Jesus” did. From the beginning of worship, we were concerned for him. He was weeping, and we wanted to reach out to him.

One of our leaders was just waiting for worship to be over, so he could pray with him and see how he could help.

When our worship leader said, “Amen,” “Jesus” went straight to the stage, shouting that he was the third person of the Trinity. He was fast!

The ushers and I were right behind, trying to calmly escort him out. He didn’t want to leave, so we helped him a little more. I was proud of our men, as they were extremely respectful but also firm. As “Jesus” was leaving, he shouted out that he was the reason gas prices dropped by 5 cents. He added that he was hungry and didn’t have shoes.

Someone found him a pair of shoes, and our head usher took the young man to dinner. It seemed he was either high or off his medications. Either way, it’s sad, and now I’m known as the guy who kicked “Jesus” out of church!

Since my first church plant 18 years ago, we have had people come to church with every conceivable circumstance. I remember the first young man who came to church drunk and wanted to talk during the Bible study. The church consisted of only about 15 people at the time. There were no ushers, no boundaries, just a really tall, muscular, drunk guy weeping.

I asked him if we could speak after I was finished, and several minutes later, he agreed. We had a great chat, and from time to time, I would see him in town.

We continued a good relationship, and he knew that he was loved and not judged.

I wish I could say that I always “did the right thing,” but that’s definitely not true. I could mention (to my shame), several instances when I was more concerned about “church” than people. It’s easy to justify:

“You can’t help a drunk person, when they are drunk.”- Usually true.

“You can’t stop service for every single person that wants to interrupt.”- Also true.

Here’s the thing I’m learning. How I respond to interruptions and hurting people says A LOT to the church. 
Those of you who are pastors or church leaders, can I make a suggestion? Learn to relax a bit more! Things are going to happen in our services that turn the focus and throw us off a bit. Maybe that’s ok.

Jesus didn’t preach in sterile church environments.

The greatest truths the world has ever heard were probably spoken with the sounds of crying babies and the bleating of sheep in the background.

We work hard to create an environment where people can come into church distraction-free, but that is not always possible…and that’s OK. Let’s learn to relax. God is bigger than distractions. God is greater than disruptions. Who knows, if those moments will be an incredible opportunity to learn about mercy by showing mercy.

​​​Phil Metzger is the lead pastor of Calvary San Diego in Chula Vista, and Joy leads the women’s ministry. Phil is a graduate of Veritas International University (M.A. in Theology/Theological Studies) and Western Seminary (Ph.D. in Intercultural Education). His podcast, “Crossing Cultures,” is dedicated to helping people connect to those who live, think, and believe differently than they do. Phil is also the co-author of “A Story of Grace: Beyond the Iron Curtain.”