THE MAKING OF A BOOK
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PART 11 UNDERSTANDING COMPASSION
After the pastor had been elected, he claimed God had sent him to the church to send a great revival. When he did not get the revival, he blamed the congregation and divided us into the good Christians and the bad Christians. As he grew weary of waiting for the revival, we heard many sermons berating the bad Christians. More than once I heard him and his wife say, “if we could get the deadheads out of here, God would send the revival.”
For months, I sat on the back row of the church waiting for God to bring Rod and I into agreement. The once healthy, robust church of 400 members dwindled to less than eighty in attendance. During that time, I learned compassion. Initially, I was disgusted with the pastor for the unfair treatment, and for destroying the church. As I watched him make a fool of himself Sunday after Sunday my disgust turned into pity.
I’d had enough interaction with him to know he loved the things of God and believed he was a good pastor. He had the potential to be one, but his love for religion eclipsed his love for people. The first time I saw him he walked past a group of people standing in the foyer without acknowledging anyone and entered the empty sanctuary to examine the platform. I knew there was a problem when we attended a party at one of the deacon’s houses. When we arrived, the pastor and his wife sat in the living room alone. Everyone else was in the kitchen laughing and eating.
Ironically, when he wasn’t complaining about the bad Christians, we were of the same mind. Many Sundays, principles I taught in Sunday school would be repeated in the main service through the gift of tongues and interpretation. Then he would step behind the pulpit and announce the Spirits message confirmed the sermon God gave him. On one occasion, I concluded my class with a scripture in Hebrews. He opened his sermon with the same scripture and picked-up where I had left off. When the Bible, the Spirit, and two or more people of flesh are saying the same thing we have the mind of God. He did not know that happened, because we never discussed what we were going to teach. And it stopped when he became jealous.
As I watched him struggle, my pity turned into compassion. He could not understand why he conflicted with most of his congregation. When he preached overseas, the people loved him, which reinforced his belief that he was a good pastor, and we were a bunch of bad Christians. He returned from a mission trip to South America with a video of one of his sermons and played the end of that sermon during a service. For at least five minutes the crowd said in unison “We appreciate you.” But the crowds in a foreign country only heard a sermon and he left. They did not have to deal with him in an ongoing relationship as their pastor.
When I learned how to have compassion for him, I was able to have compassion for myself. As my compassion grew for this struggling pastor, I found the strength to forgive myself for my failures in ministry.
The church had dwindled to less than fifty when the pastor asked Rod to attend a board meeting. They informed Rod they could no longer afford to pay him but hoped he would stay as a volunteer. God revealed their deception through the loose lips of a deacon who said, “We need your salary to hire a worship leader.” Rod told me you could cut the tension in the room with a knife.
They had decided hiring a full-time musician to lead worship would stop people from leaving. It never occurred to them their pastor’s selfish ambition had created the problem. And I have no doubt being Rod’s wife, who had been a thorn in the pastor’s side for no other reason than being a good teacher made Rod expendable.
During the meeting he felt like a puzzle piece to God’s plan for us fell into place. He returned home ready to look for another church. If I had known we would move from an unpleasant situation to a worse one, I would not have been so happy.
My son wanted to attend a church his friends attended after their family left our church. That church had a large youth group, with many activities for teenagers. Rod and I were leaning in that direction when a close friend called. She told me about the independent church she attended after she left ours and asked us to join her next Sunday.
Rod had to work that weekend, so I met my friend at the independent church with our sons. The gifted, charismatic pastor preached an impressive message. My friend told me how the wounds inflicted by our former pastor were healed sitting under this pastor’s ministry. My son overheard me say I would be back with Rod next Sunday.
As soon as we got in the car to return home my son told me how much he wanted to go to the other church his friends attended. As he was talking, he suddenly grabbed his chest, then said, “Something is telling me in my heart that we have to go where God wants us to go.” That comment scratched his friend’s church off the list of a possible new church home.
TO BE CONTINUED…