Saturday, April 16, 2011
To Him That Believeth
The note read briefly, "Pastor Keith, may I see you in your study for a few moments at 5:00 P.M. on Monday? Bruce Benton" It had been given to Keith by staff on Monday morning. Dropped into Sunday's collection plate.
Keith had spent a most painful twenty-four hours since his rebuke from the pulpit. Imagine, calling out luke-warmness; the crippling routine; denouncing many programs; turning a good forty percent of his responsibilities back over to the congregation. Wow! Had he heard God accurately on all of this?
But he had not been able to get an image out of his thoughts. It was in Mark's Gospel. Jesus coming into Jerusalem on the Monday morning of Passion Week. Hungry, and seeing a fig tree in His path. Although this tree showed leaves, it bore no fruit. To the surprise of His disciples Jesus cursed the tree. Later that same day he whipped the sellers and money-changers out of the temple. Two seemingly destructive acts ...by Jesus. Keith had examined the church for days in light of this image.
Throughout the day, Keith had imagined many troubling scenes. His associate pastor asking if he had really meant all of that. Fred and Sarah, co-chairs of the Board of Elders, meeting him with pained looks after their many hours of organization and stirring up the people. Martin, the Missions chair, reminding him of the big cheque recently sent to field workers at the school in Kenya. Harvey the Pre-teen Sunday School Superintendent coming in for another Saturday afternoon of preparation, laden down with children's magazines, videos and felt-board figures. His own wife shaking her head at his discounting of his own tireless service to date. He was, in a word...miserable.
And it was ten minutes until Bruce's hastily called visit. But here is what Keith did not know. Bruce had been with the church some eighteen months. A corporate accountant transferred from Mississauga. His wife, Karen, once an elementary school teacher, had been staying at home recently for the benefit of eight year-old daughter Martha and four year-old Brendon. The couple were still sensing something missing in the oft-repeated term "church family". They had attended programs, received smiles and small-talk and offered some efforts in last year's Easter Pageant. But they were dissatisfied with the lack of real engagement with other parishioners, the lack of transparency, the handicap to real burdened prayer one for the other, the low-bar messages of basic redemption time and again from the pulpit, the evident spiritual gifts in the pews lying dormant, while staff did it all and grew weary.
After much consideration and talk, Bruce and Karen had decided to leave the fellowship, and Bruce felt strongly that he should give an account. But then Keith had dropped the bomb on Sunday in his remarks. That sounded like real church, real growth, real forward movement into Christian maturity, real burden bearing, real evangelism, real service in-house and at large. Could the people be ignited in this fashion? A desperate call indeed, but a worthy call.
The intended ten minute apology blossomed into an hour's talk between brothers of the faith, stirred with the same vision and hope, zealous for the glory of the same Saviour.
Bruce's parting words: "Thanks Keith for all of this. Consider my thoughts. Get back to us...and soon. We really want to help. This thing will work!"