Sunday, June 22, 2008

Times are Tough

I posted last week about the abrupt departure of the Senior Pastor at my church. It was very unexpected and mysterious; lots of unanswered questions.

In the last week or so, some of those questions have been answered. Sometimes I wish I were still in the dark. I can not bury my head in the sand, though, I must face the facts.

It turns out that the Senior Pastor has been having an inappropriate relationship with a woman who works at the church with the Youth Group. She came on board over a year ago when our Youth Pastor left the church because he was not able to devote enough time to the job. This woman said she felt a strong calling to fill a need at the church and did so as a volunteer for several months before being hired by the church as a part time Youth Pastor. Although she worked mainly with the high school aged kids, she was in a position to lead my middle school children many times. This is very unsettling to me. I trusted her to care for my kids and while I have no reason to believe that she didn't take care of them with the utmost diligence, it still leaves me a little shaken.

To further complicate matters the Senior Pastor (SP) and the Youth Pastor (YP) contacted me about six months ago to talk to me about the children's ministry at the church. They wanted to know if I was happy with the way the Associate Pastor (AP) was handling her job as far as ministering to my younger children went. I mentioned to them that my elementary school kids felt left out a lot of times because the youth group was so active and there weren't a whole lot of programs for their age. I was later told that the AP was approached about starting a Sunday evening class for kids and that she said there were no volunteers. This was after I had volunteered to help out in whatever capacity I could to get this program off the ground. I was led to believe she lied about it. I was advised not to speak directly to the AP because she was spreading untruths about a very close friend of mine; I was likely to get the same treatment if I spoke to her. I had no foundation to believe that the SP and the YP weren't telling me the truth. I felt highly uneasy when I was asked if I wanted the AP fired. Whoa! I wasn't seeking to have anyone fired. I simply wanted a program in place for my kids to be ministered to.

The program did end up getting started and I began helping out once a month with the group. It was apparent that the AP's heart was not fully in the executions of the lessons. I chalked this up to the fact that I had been told she didn't really want to do it in the first place. I now understand the pressure that she must have been going through the last few months. I feel used and manipulated. I have had to go to the AP and apologize for any part I may have played in the stress and hurt she has endured.

People aren't perfect, I realize this. No one is above reproach. Everyone is capable of everything. It saddens me that this has happened though. The lapse in judgment on the part of the SP in having an affair with a co-worker is an obvious sin. That sin was not committed against me, however. The two of them using me to further their agenda is what I take very personally. I am considerably angry about this. I am not quite sure how I am going to handle it yet. Asking them why they did what they did is likely to lead to more lies and excuses which I don't think I could stomach at this point.

I still don't understand how a man who is not only a minister, but also a trained counselor could go so grievously astray. It just shows me that the power of the enemy is strong and is very much alive and working among us. Sometimes we discount that force and it sneaks up on us when we consider ourselves immune to it. No one is immune; we are all vulnerable to the influence of Satan in our lives. Vigilant prayer is the only thing that keeps us from going down the wrong path. When did the SP and the YP stop being vigilant? What did they say to themselves that gave them permission to act on their feelings? What made it okay to involve other people in their web of lies? I am having an exceedingly hard time processing all of this.

As I mentioned in my previous journal this leaves my church in a strikingly precarious position. Moving forward from this is not going to be easy. Change is going to be not only inevitable, but necessary.

We have just been asked to pledge a lot of money to retire the debt of the church. In previous giving campaigns we were assured that the next phase of the program would be building a family oriented recreation/outreach center. Now it seems that the powers that be have ignored the needs of those of us with children in deference to another agenda. This doesn't seem right to me. Why am I being asked again to put the desires of my family on the back burner so that I can pay off debt that was incurred some 20 years ago just as I was asked to do in the last campaign to so that we could rebuild the chapel? This again was essential to the older generation of the church. Am I to wait until my kids are grown for a family friendly area to be a priority of the church?

There are going to be no families with children left in the next year if things continue in this vein. Again I wonder who is listening to the voice of God. Why would He want for this church, with such a long history in the community, to die out with this generation? What purpose would that serve?

Things have to change in order for things to be different. What is so difficult to understand about that? It seems pretty elementary to me. If you keep doing what you've always done, you will keep getting what you have always gotten.

God requires us at times to step out in faith and avoid doing what seems safe; to take a chance and see that he can lift us out of the free-fall that we are plunging into. I want to stay the course and see what God has in store for the church, but I can not sacrifice my children on the altar of conformity. We need a shift and we will need to seek that change wherever the Lord leads us, whether it is at this church or elsewhere. I feel strongly that the Lord will lead us in the right direction if we are still and listen. We can't leave him out of the decisions that we make. It is His kingdom we are furthering, not our own.

James 1

1James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,

To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations:

Trials and Temptations
2Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. 6But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; 8he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.

9The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position. 10But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position, because he will pass away like a wild flower. 11For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich man will fade away even while he goes about his business.

12Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.

13When tempted, no one should say, "God is tempting me." For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. 15Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

16Don't be deceived, my dear brothers. 17Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 18He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.

Listening and Doing
19My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. 21Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.

22Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror 24and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does.

26If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. 27Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.