THE MAKING OF A BOOK
Click HERE to read from the beginning.
PART 14 SINFUL MINISTERS
Every church I attended failed, and the sheep scattered to look for greener pastures. My son told me I was a church curse. But the problems in the churches existed before I arrived. When my pastor stopped me from teaching by canceling the Friday night study, then giving the class he promised me to his wife, I knew this church was following the same pattern. This time, God taught me how to deal with sinful ministers.
The church had a café where the congregation members drank coffee and talked. Sometimes, the pastor joined us. On one occasion, we discussed the resurrection of the body. He did not believe the body would be resurrected. I do. If God cannot resurrect our bodies, Abraham and Jesus lived their lives in vain. Everything he promised to them is on earth. The pastor used the same argument the Sadducees, who orchestrated the murder of Jesus, used to prove his point. When I pointed that out, he changed direction.
“How can God raise people who are cremated or people buried at sea and eaten by fish?” he challenged.
“The father of our faith believed he could make Isaac a burnt offering to God, and they would return home. Everything we are today began as one cell in our mother’s womb that multiplied. There is one cell of everyone who has ever lived on this planet. All God has to do is multiply one cell again.” He looked at me for a moment, then turned around and left.
He fancied himself a prophet. One night, the attendance was small. He decided to pray for everyone. When he got to me, he said, “God tells me when you were a child Dave hurt you, but God wants to heal you.” When I was child, I did not know anyone, family, friends or acquaintances, named Dave, so I told him the truth. God wasn’t speaking to him. He concluded the service and left.
One Sunday, he challenged the congregation to prove the doctrine of amillennialism is wrong. I drafted an essay explaining why the doctrine is wrong and emailed it to him. I never heard him talk about amillennialism again.
Then terrorist destroyed the twin towers. The pastor began a series of messages about the evils of the Muslim faith that made going to church an unwelcome chore. I wanted to learn about God, not Muslims. Then he announced the Muslim series would be followed by a series about pagans and the evils of Christmas and Easter that began as pagan celebrations.
I’d had enough. What is the point of going to church if we are not learning about God. I called a friend and prayer partner for her thoughts. She did not want to hear about the error in Muslim and Pagan beliefs either. We prayed a simple prayer. “Father, we don’t care about the way people celebrate Christmas and Easter. We just want to learn about you.” God’s answer taught me an important lesson.
A month later, the pastor announced with immense pleasure the famous David Wilkerson had requested some of his teaching cassettes. He was sure that his ministry would go national after Rev. Wilkerson listened to the cassettes and recommended him as a speaker to others. He already had a trip to North Carolina scheduled and added a week in New York to visit Rev. Wilkerson’s church.
He returned from the trip early to confess he was a drunk who needed help. The board had voted to pay his salary while he sought help at a Christian ministry with a program for pastors to recover from moral failures. When he returned, he would minister under the supervision of the assistant pastor until he proved himself fit to assume the responsibilities of the senior pastor.
In his absence, I attended a Bible study about the Gospel of Luke. It slowly dawned on me that Jesus conflicted with the ministers of his day, too. They did not like his message because it exposed their sins. He told his followers not to fear. The world would abuse them, but he had overcome the world and they would too.
The first church I attended taught me the world was anyone who did not attend church. We overcome the world when we stop drinking, smoking, cussing, going to barrooms, playing cards, dancing, etc. I was taught wrong. The world is the sinners inside the church who add their own rules and claim they are God’s commands. They are the world we must overcome.
Nine months later, the pastor aborted the rehabilitation process. He returned, convinced he was ready to be senior pastor again. During his first message, he explained what had happened on his trip to New York. His meeting with David Wilkerson did not turn out the way he expected. Rev. Wilkerson thought he had a good message until he ruined it by preaching against Christmas and Easter. Wilkerson’s wife loved to decorate for these holidays. He did not see anything wrong with it. Apparently, God didn’t either.
If myself or my friend had made that statement to the pastor, he would have brushed us off as ignorant troublemakers. He could not do that to a man he respected and admired. He left Wilkerson’s office, got drunk, and accepted he needed help.
Unfortunately, the deacons knew what he was doing and had the authority to stop him, but they did nothing. This time, he squandered the church’s money to gamble and drink until the church could no longer pay its bills and was $30,000 in debt. A guest minister, who was a bigger snake than the pastor, drove the pastor from out of the church when a deacon asked him for help.
The day our pastor announced his resignation and decision to leave ministry, I saw a disturbing display of emotion. The congregation did not want the alcoholic, deceitful pastor, who squandered their offerings to God on his own lust, to leave. If I hadn’t witnessed it, I would have never believed it. One of the deacons sobbed as he cried, “You are my pastor, and you will always be my pastor.”
That scene reminded me of a scripture in Jeremiah. “A terrible and shocking thing has happened in the land of Judah. The prophets tell lies. The priests will not do what they were chosen to do, and my people love it this way! But what will you people do when your punishment comes?” (Jeremiah 5:26-31 ERV)
A simple prayer by two believers who wanted more to God brought the judgment of God upon sinful ministers. The deacons tried to keep the church together as they searched for a new pastor, but it was too late. They were part of the problem. Months later, the church disbanded. In retrospect, I learned more from sinful ministers than I learned from the good ones.
TO BE CONTINUED…
I’ve seen the disintegration of churches because of corrupt leaders, too. If the people of the church engage in prayer with godly assertion, they begin to follow God’s way. The church may or may not disintegrate — but let those who trust God trust Him to raise up a church where the Word is taught, where the people pray, and where they speak the truth with love to one another.
Perhaps the reported decline of churches in the US is God’s way of purifying his body.