If there’s one thing I’ve learned in this 40 years of mine, it’s that a great majority of people do not want to hear the truth. Oh they’ll say they want the truth, they’ll pretend they live truthfully, but everybody lies. (yes. even me, but really, not often at all. because I hate it soooo much.)
When I choose to lie (and make no mistake, it’s always a choice) it’s normally because I know what will happen in certain situations if I tell the truth. People who call themselves my friends almost always (eventually) high-tail it out of Dodge when they want me to be truthful, but then don’t like the truth. And Christians are usually the worst.
Take for instance the time I was asked to be assistant treasurer at my church. The leadership team had found out I had a little accounting in my past as well as some banking experience. I volunteered on the condition that if I fixed things up, they’d stick with the changes. The church hadn’t reconciled its bank statements–ever–as far as I could tell, the members of the leadership team had debit cards and used them willy-nilly, which meant a ton of overdrafts and the fees that come with such foolish recklessness.
At the same time, that church had also invited a guest speaker to teach on the subject of tithing which included the Old Testament law and the New Testament from-the-heart-and-motive giving. There was a lot of faith wrapped up in those teachings as well. Faith that God would provide.
I got the church’s finances in order, reconciled the bank statements, put together a budget (which included a weekly amount to our state mission fund) and
Did you say that you budgeted in giving to the state? Because that stopped the leadership team in their tracks. “We can’t afford that.” and “We have to pay our bills, how can you put ‘giving’ in the budget??”
Without mincing words, I let them know it was absolutely unacceptable to expect every member of the congregation to put ‘giving’ in their budgets and leave it out of the corporate church budget.
That was the beginning of the end for me. I knew it would be, too, but that was a moment that I chose to stand for God’s principles and not worry about the consequences. And y’know what? I’ve never regretted that decision. This is also the church leadership team I’ve so often written about on this blog. (most recently here.)
And now I’m in an eerily similar place, some 6 years later.
After the debacle at the aforementioned church, we started attending the church Pastor Doug called home. He also helped us through the attacks from the pastor at the church we left. We weren’t there very long, when Phil took a job in a different county and we moved. But then, last summer, we moved to a location that would allow us to be with Pastor Doug again. 7 months later, Pastor Doug announced he was taking a job with the state (yay for him!) but it left us rather sad, to say the least. And that’s when I found out the church I was calling home was considering the pastor who verbally attacked me and viciously set out to hurt me to be their next senior pastor.
Oh the meetings. That’s what this post was about. Of course, there is that chance that God has changed this man. When the offenses were listed, Phil and I tried to meet with this man and his wife and they refused unless the treasurer was with them (see above story about finances to understand why we didn’t agree to those terms.) We asked simply that they meet with us so we could reconcile before God and they refused. So we moved on. It is my sincere belief, that if this man had changed, he would have been seeking reconciliation with us before possibly becoming our pastor again. (and yes, without a doubt, he knew we were members.) Also, instead of coming back to my blog again and again, he maybe could have picked up the phone. But instead. He’s here. Reading.
I would choose reconciliation. And Phil and I are open to it. But I doubt that’s what this man has in mind. (though I would totally love to be wrong about it.) The truth is he felt wronged and didn’t give us the chance to make it right. We felt wronged and asked for the opportunity for him to make it right and he refused. And the cycle has continued. After we left the church, somewhere around 13 couples stepped forward (NOT knowing our story, just that we left because we felt God calling us away) and confessed they had the same issues we did. I can’t say whether anything was resolved or not. Months after the debacle, after asking me to stand in front of their congregation and tell the whole story and tell the lies the pastor had told about me (I refused to be part of taking a pastor down) the leadership team then asked me to come teach them how to lead and to that I laughed and said, “NO.WAY.”
Here I am again, in a position of truth telling. I was asked about the circumstances surrounding this other pastor, I told the truth, was assured he would not be called to serve in any capacity.
And there was a catch in my spirit that told me that wasn’t the truth.
Situations presented themselves, and I told the truth and my son, my 12 year old son’s discernment boiled over during one situation and he said to me, “Since Pastor Doug has left I have seen nothing but corruption in this church!” and followed that with, “I do not want to be taught by people who don’t do what they teach about.” (proud mama moment for SURE.) So as a family, we decided that was not the church our family belonged with.
As always, I document my lessons here. Here is part of the email I sent explaining why our family was leaving (not a single person out of 6 responded)
“I would say it was unfortunate that my son was present during a time of watching his leaders disregard the lesson of the evening, but I’m not disappointed. What my son witnessed first-hand was that people will let us down, people are not perfect, and not everyone lives out the gospel as our family does. I also learned that my son’s spiritual maturity is light years ahead of his earthly years. The conversations we had last night concerning people in need, and concerning matters of the heart were so amazing. To know that the Holy Spirit is alive and burning inside of my son is the epitome of my joy as a mother and teacher and spiritual mentor. God totally redeemed a very ugly situation within the confines of my family. Zane, however, has lost respect for the adults that were in the room, as have I. So my next lessons are in forgiveness. And we both forgive everyone involved without hesitation. We hold no grudges and even though yesterday I was severely offended at the lack of genuine Christian love, I’m over it and God has reminded me that He’s in charge, He knew about the conflict before I was born, and if I want to be angry with someone I can be angry with Him because He’s in control. So I told Him exactly why I was angry and then I moved on to forgiveness.
Our family’s core morals and values do not match up with the situation that occurred last night, we do not handle conflict in our family the way it has been handled here, and we feel to protect our son’s integrity, we need to move on. God opened up a surprising and amazing door for our family last week and we said “yes” to His calling. We didn’t know when we said “yes” that He would makes immediate changes, but He did.
In the end, God is in control and I trust Him. I am truly sorry I left that room in anger. I hope my apology will be accepted and I hope my explanation of why I left in anger will also be understood. I hope that I can walk away from this leaving no one offended or angry, and if any of you are still angry, I hope that you will give me the opportunity to make it right. “
And while this was going on, the congregation was making a list of “characteristics” they’d like in a new pastor. One person commented something along the lines of: Well I hope the man walks on water, because that’s what this list is implying. And during one such meeting, I reminded them that if they asked for a king, God might give them a king, but a warning comes along with that desire. Rejecting God is not good.
“Here’s what we want you to do: Appoint a king to rule us, just like everybody else.”
When Samuel heard their demand—”Give us a king to rule us!”—he was crushed. How awful! Samuel prayed to God.
God answered Samuel, “Go ahead and do what they’re asking. They are not rejecting you. They’ve rejected me as their King. From the day I brought them out of Egypt until this very day they’ve been behaving like this, leaving me for other gods. And now they’re doing it to you. So let them have their own way. But warn them of what they’re in for. Tell them the way kings operate, just what they’re likely to get from a king.”
This pastor who attacked my character and lied about me (and was caught in the lies) is a lead candidate again for the church we just left and is preaching there soon. My heart is breaking for the ones I love that are still there. At the same time, though, I have to trust that God is taking care of them and I have to know without a doubt that they’re walking through this for a reason. For God’s purpose and plan. (not mine.)
And again, I feel our family is being protected. Pulled out and given permission, so to speak, by God to get out of there before what I know will happen happens. I was feeling down over these turn of events, feeling rejected. Then God gave me the verses I just quoted. It is not me that is being rejected, but God. And He’s in control.
Then last night, out of the blue, a person I love dearly sent me a message (not knowing any of this was going on) telling me what she saw in me, what my spiritual gifting is and how I should seek to strengthen my gifts. She didn’t know we left our church, but said to me that I don’t need to be in a traditional church to edify the body of Christ–that I am a member of the body and I need to seek to grow the gift God has given me.
Those words fed my spirit. God knew I needed to hear them…and to hear the from someone who didn’t know the implications? That’s God’s little way of letting me know He’s got this.
I hesitated to write this, because it’s happening now and I usually wait, but those words my friend spoke to me made me realize that I don’t have to be ashamed of my gift. (I don’t want to be prideful either!) but being ashamed of the Holy Spirit is no way to live and by choosing to hide my story, I feel like I’m hiding the work the Holy Spirit is doing in me this very minute. Someone might need to hear that’s it’s ok to follow God even when it doesn’t look like what other Christians portray it to be. It is totally ok to follow God and not man. And sometimes following God means leaving a lot behind…
“If you want to give it all you’ve got,” Jesus replied, “go sell your possessions; give everything to the poor. All your wealth will then be in heaven. Then come follow me.”
That was the last thing the young man expected to hear. And so, crest-fallen, he walked away. He was holding on tight to a lot of things, and he couldn’t bear to let go.
As he watched him go, Jesus told his disciples, “Do you have any idea how difficult it is for the rich to enter God’s kingdom? Let me tell you, it’s easier to gallop a camel through a needle’s eye than for the rich to enter God’s kingdom.”
The disciples were staggered. “Then who has any chance at all?”
Jesus looked hard at them and said, “No chance at all if you think you can pull it off yourself. Every chance in the world if you trust God to do it.”
What are you holding on to?