Monday, February 14, 2011

The Truth (Chapter 5)

Mikey, the Television Star

Now that you have had a good laugh, the title isn’t too far off. During the 1980’s, I served as Music Minister at a large independent Pentecostal church that had a syndicated television and radio broadcast. The telecast was broadcasted several times during the week in the city where we lived. As well, it was broadcasted throughout the southeastern United States. It was rather humorous, at times. I would be walking down the street, through the mall, or at the grocery store and be noticed. People would stop me in the mall and ask, “Hey, haven’t I seen you on television?”  The biggest kick out of this I received was running into Southern Gospel music’s Kirk Talley in the mall. Right away, he knew who I was. This was also during the years that the University of Tennessee produced pro athletes like Willie Gault and Reggie White who also attended our church. I actually got to know these guys, produce and perform the music for both of their weddings.

From a ministry perspective, I learned a lot during this season. The pastor and his wife were, beyond a shadow of a doubt, the exemplification of superior pastoral care. I could only hope for, and never achieved, to perform at the level they consistently practiced in this area. Two of the most gracious individuals God ever put into my life. With that said, the years in this ministry were, “the best of times and the worst of times.” When I was asked to join the church/school staff, the pastor had asked me what kind of salary I would require. I put the needs of the church ahead the needs of my family and seriously undercut my salary. I, very naively, thought he would see how ridiculously low I set the mark and raise it. But, he was as shrewd of a business man as he was good at pastoral care. I was locked-in. To add insult to financial misery, my annual increases were only $5 per week for the years I served on fulltime staff. I was basically on-call, 24/7, for anything requiring music. However, if I had to miss office hours for a doctor’s appointment, or a sick day, I was docked. My portfolio consisted of teaching junior high and high school curriculum and music classes (grades K5-12) in a Christian school; I researched, developed and taught intro to computer classes; I prepared and presented two major all school musical/dramatic programs (grades K2-12) per school year; I arranged, produced, conducted and performed live musical arrangements for three distinct services per week, including the telecast/broadcast for live worship, soloists, groups and choir; I accompanied the pastor across the country on evangelistic crusades (I did get additional gratuities for this); I taught approximately 20 children piano per week; I was available for numerous revivals and rallies; and, I provided live music for weddings and funerals. All of this was done for a tidy sum of $12,500 per year. If you adjust that for inflation, it would be about $23,000 in today’s dollars.

Another interesting dynamic was my relationship with the rest of the staff. The ministries of the church included church staff, daycare staff, school staff, office staff, custodial staff and pastoral staff. In pay and responsibility, I was more than just a teacher. Believe it or not, they earned about half of what I earned But, I was less than a pastor. As a result, in many scenarios, I did not fit with either. There are many, many, many stories I could share about these years. Some would be positive. Some would be negative. For the purpose of this blog, we will leave it there for now. I will say that during these years, I was still young, impressionable and downright stupid. I consistently put the needs of the church over the needs of my family. After seven years, we left town and returned to Dayton with our marriage and finances damaged nearly beyond repair. It took several years and a combination of counseling, little to no church involvement and a return to the church where I grew up that we received the love, healing and restoration we needed to be restored into church ministry.

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