Guest post by Stuff Christians Like
My friend Chris Ames is sermon famous. A few weeks ago Andy Stanley quoted his testimony and mentioned him by first and last name. Andy freaking Stanley! (Is “freaking” a swear? This post just tied in to the one from Tuesday by the way. In the corporate world, we call that “collaborative synergy.”)
That means in one fell swoop at least 20,000 people heard about his testimony, which is about as good as it gets when it comes to a sermon shout out. A sermon shout out is a brief moment when the pastor unexpectedly shines a spotlight made of words on your life. This is like a little gift that the pastor throws from the altar. When you receive it, you can’t help but think, “Thanks buddy. That was nice. I’m sermon famous.” But what you don’t want to happen, what you should fear ever experiencing, is when the pastor does a “Sermon Call Out.”
The difference between the two, a shout out and a call out, is massive. In a shout out, you’re held up as an example of what a good life looks like. In a call out, something you did is used as an illustration of how not to do life. You don’t want to be the call out. If the pastor is telling a before and after story of redemption, you don’t want to be the “before.” But if it happens, if the pastor turns your life into a four part series called, “Big Mistakes Dumb People Make,” the best you can hope for is that he keeps the circle of recognition small. And there are three ways he can do that:1. The pastor preaches the sermon in a way that only you recognize who it’s about.
If you get called out from the pulpit and you’re the only one that recognizes he’s talking about you, that’s not as horrible as it initially feels. Sure, it might sting a little that your life just became sermon fodder, but think about how applicable what he is preaching on is going to be for your life. This is the one sermon in the history of your church going experience where you won’t be able to say, “I’m just not sure how that message applies to my life.” It is your life. That sermon is hand crafted for you. Take notes. Take lots of notes and consider this sermon a gift of the most personal kind.2. The pastor preaches the sermon in a way that all your close friends know he’s talking about you.
This one is going to burn a little because your closest friends know that it’s you that has the yacht addiction. When the pastor rails on people that have idols and the example he uses is this guy that has a secret marina where he keeps all the yachts that are slowly wrecking his life, they’re going to know it’s you. And for the rest of the sermon you can’t make eye contact with any of your friends, you have to rush out once it’s over and you have to constantly be on the look out for a yacht intervention. Seriously, if anyone invites you to “just catch up over coffee” and they want to have that cup of coffee in their living room on a Friday evening, get ready for a yachtervention. (I couldn’t help myself, I tried. I promise I didn’t want to say “yachtervention” but how often is that pun going to come into my life?)3. The pastor preaches the sermon in a way that everyone in the congregation knows it’s about you.
Low blow. Low blow indeed. This is the worst, especially if the pastor was so lazy he didn’t even attempt to cover up who he is talking about. You’ve got a really distinct yellow car and he said, “The other day while riding around in my friend’s banana colored car.” Or you own a finch farm and he says, “My friend who raises small birds is going through some marital troubles.” Or worst yet, your name is “Burt Larson” and he mentions that his friend “Lurt Barson” is really hitting the Olde English 40s. There’s nothing you can do in this case except yell out “MATTHEW 18! MATTHEW 18!” over and over again. That’s the verse that says you should privately talk with a person one on one if they’re sinning against you and then, if necessary, with a group before you tell the problem to the church. If the pastor hasn’t talked to you about the whole yacht thing before going public with it, he’s broken that command. I mean sure, you’re still going to look like a crazy yacht addict who also apparently has some sort of biblical form of Tourettes, but at that point it’s too late to save face so you might as well go out swinging. Or screaming as it were.
This kind of thing doesn’t happen a lot at my church because it’s so big but I assure you people get called out from the pulpit all the time in some churches.
Have you ever experienced this? Have you ever been on the end of a sermon call out or sermon shout out? Need a yachtervention?