Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Truth (Chapter 6)

Now, Isn't That Special?

I haven't watched a lot of Saturday Night Live through the years. But, I have kept a pulse on it and have my favorite characters. One of which is the Church Lady, portrayed by Dana Carvey. If you don't know by now, the Church Lady exists in every church. I have actually become pretty adept at recognizing her, or sometimes a him, on the spot. In this chapter of "The Truth," I want to just share some highlights of a few of the "special" encounters that I experienced throughout my ministry years.

Church Plants and Leaves
  • In the midst of pioneering our first pastorate, both Donna and I were holding secular jobs in addition to building the church. Additionally, we were caring for Donna's mother who was dying with cancer. During this season, a strapping young and healthy twenty-something-year-old young man who belonged to the church walked up our home's sidewalk and said to me, "Wow, Mike. You need to get out here and clean the leaves out of your gutters."

Where There's Smoke, There's Fire
  • Speaking of church ladies, they usually tend to be the gossips. One Sunday afternoon, after I had preached a sermon about gossip and how damaging it was to the church, I received a visit from a church lady. During a two-hour not-so-pleasant session, at one point she looked at me with a glowing detest in her eyes and said, "When you were preaching, I was so mad at you I could have doused you in gasoline and set you on fire!"

Church Politics and Prayer
  • We traveled thousands of miles and attended an annual convention of the denomination of which we were a member. The denomination had pre-made signs of the cities where they were raising church plants. During the capstone service, they called the church planting pastors up to raise the sign representing their city. The other pastors were called upon to lay hands on the pastors and pray for the church planters, their churches and their cities. Out of thousands in attendance, Donna and I stood alone holding the Dayton, OH sign. Not one pastor prayed for us. We obviously weren't "connected" enough in the political spectrum to warrant their prayers.

Church and Shotguns
  • One Sunday, my elderly father had forgotten his Bible in the car. He went out to get it and a first-time guest was in the parking lot. He looked at them and told them, "I forgot my shotgun. I just came out to get it." Of course, he was referring to his Bible. But, it nearly scared the first-time guest away before they even made it into the building.

Under the Table
  • A faithful member and volunteer in the church approached me asking to be put on the church payroll. The only condition was that we could not pay him, directly. It would have to be reported under his wife's social security number so he would not lose his SSI.

He Was a Great Man, But...
  • My mom passed away a year after we planted our first pastorate. My dad, God love him, was a great supporter of the church. However, he could not bear the thought of living alone and was constantly looking for a wife. What better place to meet a woman than in church? Dad would date ladies both inside and outside of the congregation. Sometimes dad might have two or three women he was dating at the same time, in the same service. It was very interesting watching which one he would actually sit with. Damage controlling dad's dating within the congregation was sometimes overwhelming. At his wake, a church member looked down in his casket and very lovingly and respectfully said, "He was a great man. But, he sure loved his women." We couldn't help but share a chuckle.

Beer or Cigarettes, Anyone?
  • Our first meeting location for our church plant was in the Berry Rooms at the Ervin J. Nutter Center, a major sports arena in Dayton. One Saturday evening there had been a major rock concert in the arena. The next morning, we had church. The arena staff hadn't had much, of any sleep and had not had time to clean the parking lot. So, there were beer cans and cigarette butts all over the place outside. A fellow minister friend came to "support" us and visit service. Much to my disappointment, they called the arena office on Monday morning and vehemently complained that they had to walk over beer cans and cigarette butts to get to service and how unacceptable it was. Our very pleasant relationship with the Nutter Center was negatively impacted because of this attitude and phone call. We soon had to find a new place to host our worship services.

Five Most Dreaded Words
  • The five most dreaded words I ever heard in ministry were, "Pastor, let's go to lunch." That usually meant a complaint session over something I had preached, how I preached, what I should have preached, something I had done, something I hadn't done, or something I should be doing. Hey, at least they usually picked up the tab.

Support Me, I'm a Missionary
  • In the early days of my last pastorate, I was sitting in the office and glanced out the window. A shiny new Cadillac was pulling up to the door. A sharply dressed gentleman comes in and introduces himself as a missionary. He is at home raising funds for his mission. We share a nice conversation. That evening, Donna and I go out to eat at Olive Garden. The same missionary is in line and we asked him to join us. During the dinner, he shared that when he returned to the mission field, he was taking six months to a year off from ministry to build his family a new home. I certainly don't mind a missionary having a nice home. But, it must be nice to have the income and funds available to take a year off of work and end up with a new home.

Hello, I'm Elvis Presley
  • We were having a lot of sound system issues and were really working hard on resolving them. My sound techs had isolated what they believed was the problem. They believed it was the microphone the worship leader was using. So, they proceeded to replace the microphone. Well, this was a retro Shure mic like Elvis used in the 1950's. The worship leader's attitude was, more or less, "If you take my Elvis mic, me and the band are taking our toys and going home."

Those were just some of the ministry highlights. Believe me, there are many more stories that could be told. So, just in case you don't know who the Church Lady is, I've inserted a recent clip from Saturday Night Live for you to become educated. Please note, it may be offensive to some...

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