After spending just over 30 minutes carefully typing my post, entering tags, and selecting to "subscribe by immediate email", I click on "Submit New Thread" resulting in "you must log in"... So I do, and my thread info is gone... so Here I go again, but this time, a bit less thought out and detailed. A couple of months ago, in our annual business meeting, the father of a church member speaks up and says that his daughter and son-in-law probably won't be back. He didn't give any explanation - and said it in a rather "gruff" tone... So after I get home, I try to contact this couple (they live about 30 miles away) - and finally send a private message through Facebook (they are on there a lot) simply telling what had been said in the meeting, and asking what was going on. I received a quick reply that they were looking for another church - that they didn't appreciate me using something they told me as a sermon topic. I was rather taken aback - I even went through months worth of sermon notes to try to figure out what they might be referring too... finding nothing, I replied back with my own personal conviction that I never use anything told to me/anything I know about a church member as a topic or as an illustration. I didn't hear anything back, but the father who still comes to church has distanced himself in many ways... I wrote a handwritten letter and mailed it within a couple of days - after having talked to a deacon who thought maybe one of my illustrations might have been similar to something he had heard from that couple... In the note, I simply explained that I didn't have them or anything they had shared with me in mind - and in fact, still wasn't sure of the specifics they were referring to. I didn't hear anything back. I tried to call about a week later, and the wife hung up on me (their younger daughter answered, asked who was calling, and I heard the mother come get the phone and hang it up). The intent of my call had been to offer to apologize for any wrongdoing I might have committed, knowingly or otherwise, and to ask what I could to to make amends/bring peace to the situation. I spoke with another deacon a couple of weeks later, who was asking me if I had made any efforts to contact them. He was shocked to hear what had already happened, and suggested that I not give up. The following day, I wrote another letter, this one far more extensive, and now that I had the two (I assume they are the only illustrations that were a problem) issues "in-hand" - I proceeded to explain that the two stories I had used as illustrations were both from my own experiences - and both long before I was even called to this church. I did acknowledge that I vaguely remembered them sharing something that slightly resembled one of my illustrations - though I certainly didn't have them in mind (the sermon in question was from 1 Corinthians - and the question of eating meat sacrificed to idols, Paul's explanation that it isn't the meat, it is the heart of the person eating it - and if it presents a stumbling block). The illustration I used was actually from my first year as a born-again Christian - when my faith was still so very immature and fragile. But anyway - the other illustration was from a young lady about my age at my previous church - and a decision she made regarding coming to church one Sunday. Just as with the actual use of the illustration at the time, and in my most recent letter to this couple, I did not mention the names. I met with my deacons yesterday afternoon to discuss this issue - primarily because there are now questions floating around the church based on "mumblings" - particularly from the father I mentioned above. He has become rather "nitpicky" about many things. He has been one of the most active members of the building and grounds committee, use to be in charge of the sound committee/ministry, and has - starting about the same time, pulled back from those things, and begun murmuring about every little detail (like complaining that I filled up the baptistry for our most recent set of baptisms - after it wasn't filled up the day it is suppose to be to give it time to warm up...), to me adding names to the song special list he is in charge of (after he told me to - because he wasn't aware of others who had asked to bring musical specials). I know all too well how we get a thorn in our saddle, and we then are hyper-sensitive to everything around us - looking for "things"... The deacons read through the most recent letter I sent the couple, and voiced approval of the letter, it's attitude and tone, and the spirit of it. I was encouraged to make an attempt to go visit the couple at their home (even though I have not been invited, and they do not in any way give a sign of being interested in such a visit). We agreed to make this a matter of prayer, and that they would attempt to nip the nitpicking in the tail. Then this morning, I find on my facebook page - a posting on an old status update that opened the wounds deeper - An old friend of mine posted in response to a status update that they would like a copy of the sermon I had just given (in no way tied to the ongoing drama above). I had posted that it didn't get recorded because my new sound-tech wasn't there to record it. This was posted a few week back. Well - - first the wife in the above drama posted "Maybe you shouldn't bash ur members on facebook, just a thought!!". Then moments later, her husband posts ""Indeed!". I can only assume that they both think that my two-week old post about the sound guy not showing up to record that I was talking about her father... who hasn't even been involved in that ministry for two months... Not that my post was in any way a "bash" in the first place. While I do not hold out a lot of hope that any real reconciliation will come out of this (though I am praying for peace on both sides), I also know that this whole situation can cause venom (already showing) that can poison any ministry. I know that pride has a lot to do with this situation - and I won't pretend that my own pride hasn't helped, and likely explains part of why I just cannot seem to completely let go. For those who feel that I inappropriately used their information as a "sermon topic" - anything to the contrary would require them to admit they misunderstood and/or jumped to conclusions - and also would mean admitting that they had done what the illustrations unintentionally pointed towards... And I freely admit that I am not perfect - I am far from it, but I believe I should always act with integrity, honesty, and a sincere heart for peace and reconciliation. I don't have a problem with standing up and publicly admitting when I am wrong (a far cry from my former self!). For a little background info: I have been here at this church for almost exactly 2 years, this is my first full-time pastorate (was part-time associate pastor before this). Further - the husband in this issue - he and I have known each other for years - actually going back to before I entered the ministry. I considered him a friend - which is probably another reason this has hit me like a ton of bricks. At minimum, I covet prayers for this whole situation. I know that even relatively small "misunderstandings" can lead to major divisions in a church, and even the destruction of an individual's ministry. But I also ask for reasoned advice or at least words of encouragement. I don't even mind if someone wants to step on my toes a bit in an effort to help me to see what I could/should be doing. Another side note - This all appears to be coming about after seeing 9 additions to our church (5 by letter, 4 by baptism) in the last several months - something not seen here in years. A part of me wants to chalk this all up to Satan not being happy with the positive that is going on. But I am not ready to leave it at that... because it doesn't solve the problem/bring peace.