You Cannot Yell People into Holiness

June 30, 2022 | Read Time: 2 mins

By: Rev. Mark Sorensen

Grace and peace, friends. I pray this message finds you well!

I was reading a devotional recently by the late pastor and writer Eugene Peterson.

He was telling a story about vacationing with his wife and children and walking in the Yellowstone National Park. As they were hiking through a mountain meadow in Yellowstone, he came across a little boy who was not older than four or five years old picking flowers that were growing in the field. Apparently, flower picking in national parks was not allowed, so what did Eugene Peterson do? He yelled at the child to "stop picking the flowers!" What followed was what you might have expected: the child stood there — wide-eyed, innocent and terrified — and started crying.

You can imagine what happened next.

Peterson continues: “My wife and children, my children especially, were all over me. ‘Daddy, what you did was far worse than what he did! He was just picking a few flowers and you yelled, you scared him. You ruined him. He is probably going to have to go for counseling when he’s 40 years old.’ My children were right. You cannot yell people into holiness. You cannot terrify people into the sacred. My yelling was a far worse violation of the holy place than his picking a few flowers. Later I had plenty of opportunity to reflect on this, reminded, as I frequently was, by my children.”

I found that comment — “You cannot yell people into holiness” — quite humbling and profound. Peterson’s takeaway was simple: perhaps there’s a much better way. Instead of yelling on behalf of God’s holy presence, the better option might be kicking off our shoes, kneeling on holy ground and inviting whoever happens to be with us in that moment to join us in doing the same.

In the letter to Colossians, the apostle Paul shares, “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer everyone.” (Colossians 4:18)

Look, we have some big topics and discussions ahead of us at The Woodlands Methodist Church. In the weeks ahead, I'll be sharing more about our church, our mission, who we are and what the future holds, so plan on that. Of course, you can also stay up to date with what’s happening by visiting

My prayer? May we all lean in, be gracious in our interactions with one another, kick off our shoes and kneel side by side together as we let the Lord speak in the days ahead.