Friday, July 1, 2011

The Subtle Art of Spiritual Abuse Part IV Scene Two

Tuesday night, August 2nd was the night for the monthly elders meeting, which also invited the three ministry area leaders (Sunday school, worship team, small groups). The group gathered in the Pastor's office as scheduled at 6:30 PM. Pastor Pete was the only one not there, which was typical. Small talk ensued. It was an eclectic cross section, a high school teacher, a banker, a farmer, a cop, and of course Tom the insurance guy talking about their families . . . and the one they they had in common, their church.

At a quarter till seven Pete comes strolling in with a should bag full of papers. "Good evening everybody," he proclaims with his bright boyish smile.

Pete: "Looks like it is time we get started and Frank here has a devotional that he has prepared."

Frank, who is in his seventies and a faithful supporter of CBC since its conception in the late seventies, smiled. He had his big Message Bible and opened it to a bookmark.

"Yes, the passage the pastor asked me to read tonight is from Isaiah chapter fifty four,

Clear lots of ground for your tents! Make your tents large. Spread out! Think big! Use plenty of rope, drive the tent pegs deep. You're going to need lots of elbow room for your growing family. You're going to take over whole nations; you're going to resettle abandoned cities. Don't be afraid--you're not going to be embarrassed. Don't hold back--you're not going to come up short.

Then he slowly closed his Bible and laid it on his lap with a humble smile.

Pete took a deep breath with his smile enduring . . . "Wow! Doesn't that just blow your minds? God gave me that passage about two weeks ago. I was sitting here in my office and just praying, God give me some word, some thought or theme for this coming year. I opened my Bible and it fell right to Isaiah fifty four. I had read that verse a hundred times but this time it blew me away. I knew, without a doubt, that God was speaking directly to me. We are about to embark on something really big here at Community Bible Church. I think that we could play a key role in God bring revival to not only our East Overland neighborhood, but to Kansas City metro area. This is the heart of America. When revival starts here, it can't be stopped and I honestly believe that is what is on God's heart. Start here and take it to the world. The First Great Awakening started in New England, the second one in the South and they both burned out. But here in the heartland it will spread in all directions."

The group was all smiles. Linda, the director of Sunday school gave a positive sigh . . . "God is great isn't He?"

Pete, shaking his head in an affirmative, pulls some papers and felt-tipped markers out of his bag and walks up to the white board. He writes at the top the word "LEADERSHIP" and beneath that the words "COHESIVENESS," "CONFIDENCE" and "CONSISTENCY."

Pete: "These are the words that God has laid on my heart to help guide us through this exciting time. For one, as you pastor and leader I want to ask for your forgiveness for not being the leader God intended for me to be. This summer I did my usual reading of the Bible from cover to cover and with this reading it really struck me how God raised up one man to lead his people. God has put me here in this church as His man to speak truth to His people. I realize that I have not taking God seriously enough. I have not honored this position of leadership, thus I've failed you. So for one, I want to get my act together. I want to lead with courage and strength and with a clear vision."

The group was shaking their heads in agreement. Linda had a big, you might say, girlish smile.

"So that's how God has convicted me." Then he points to the second word, "COHESIVENESS," and adds, "The second area of conviction applies to all of us. I really think that the way Satan uses America's weakness is to exploit our independent spirit. The humanist have taken the bold independence of our forefathers to this place where everyone does their own thing. If this little church is going to do great things for the Lord, we must be united as one body and on the same page. There is no place for an independent spirit here. Don't you agree?"

Everyone was smiling and nodding to the affirmative, although Tom's smile was as not as large and his head seem more still. While he wasn't the most confident man in the church, he also wasn't the dumbest. He had some hesitation about giving his stamp of approval.

Pete continued: "I will simply add that part of this leadership and cohesiveness factors are, as Isaiah says, not being embarrassed about anything but confident. I know that I will be confident in the Lord and I will not back down. This brings me to the last word which God has given me for this year, consistency. As part of our independent natures, we spread out and do our own ministries. It is like taking a campfire and pulling the logs far apart . . . soon it goes out. But if you stack the embers, it will continue to blaze. So, I really want us all on the same page in ministry and I, as the leader and pastor whom God has put over you, will do my best to obey God and to lead you.

So, since God's major voice to his people in this age of the church, is the sermon, I want our ministries to focus on the Sunday morning sermon. As God gives me His word each week, I want each ministry to follow that word."

Pete looks around at the group as he notices some looks of confusion. So Tom finally speaks, "So exactly what does that mean in reality?"

Pete smile and his straight, white teeth glisten like ivory. "I was hoping someone would ask that. So, I want to preach a series of sermons, a new series each quarter. I have outlines of the first series, which God has given me. It will be on the Beatitudes. So, as I cover each one in the morning services, the Sunday school teachers will take that sermon to the next level . . . personal applications. Then our mid-week small groups will do sermon analyses. I have a book from my preaching class at seminary which teaches you how to take a sermon, like an orange, and to squeeze each golden drop out of it for your edification and the edification for those in your small group. This is going to be the most exciting thing this church has ever seen! For once, we will all be on the same page and gates of hell can not prevail against the church, which has the mind of God."

The discussion continues for another hour with each of the elders and ministry leaders slowly getting on board with the pastor's plan. Linda had a large bag full of materials, which she never disclosed. Leonard, the director of small groups had a couple of books on his lap, he never opened or even mentioned them. Pete controlled the theme of the evening.

At 9:30, as they were walking towards their cars, Tom spoke privately to Pete, "Hey pastor, I had a group of parents in my cell come to me and ask me to strongly consider focusing on raising teens. I've done several weeks of work on that topic and I was starting to get excited about that."

Pete with an obvious look of disappointment on his face as they stood beneath the parking lot street light, "So Tom, what are you saying?"

Tom: "I'm think there is a real and acute need to address the problems of raising teens. There is a lot at stake here. You know some of the problems the teens have faced in this church this year."

Pete: "Little people have little thoughts."

Tom was confused. "What do you mean?"

Pete, frowning and shaking his head: "I guess that I'm a little disappointed that you don't seem to get the big picture. Don't you see what God is about to do here? Don't you feel His spirit starting to move? When parents turn their eyes on the Lord in a deep way, then these problems with our teens will vanish."

Tom: "I don't mean to sound disrespectful I just see a real need and I was hoping that there would be some flexibility in your plans or at least we could merge the ideas, you know, like discuss the beatitudes as a launching point into parenting teens."

Pete: "Get behind me Satan."

Tom, feeling embarrassed and angry: "What do you mean by that? Pastor, I'm on your side and I support you, but I just wanted to discuss something that is on MY heart."

Pete, hitting the button on his key chain and seeing his headlights flicker and the doors pop unlocked: "Tom, I'm just disappointed. I just had a long talk about the need for cohesiveness and it isn't even an hour until one of my key men start to go in another direction. I'm just disappointed."

Tom, feeling frustrated: "Just forget it Pete. Nothing I'm saying is coming out right . . . and have a good night."


Anna A said...


This is continuing to be very, very good.

Eagle said...

Good job MJ!!

I have to tell you that I am so confused but I can understand what you are saying. I've heard pastors say from the stage, "this is what God wants me to do...." and people line up lock, step and barrel. There's little room for discussion, it can almost be a situation where a pastor can be a benevolent dictator or play people against each other. Then I've also seen the situation where a pastor says, "I think God is telling me to do this..." and they don't act on it. And you've read the scriptures know the Biblical support for it...and they don't follow through. I don't know what the answer is MJ...I don't.

jmj said...

Eagle, it is confusing. Stayed tuned and we should discuss it on the other side.

Anonymous said...

"If this little church is going to do great things for the Lord, we must be united as one body and on the same page. There is no place for an independent spirit here. Don't you agree?"

I believe my old Dungeonmaster once called this "The smiling face of Fascism."