This is a weekly series of fiction. You can find the other chapters HERE at my fiction page.
Everyone looked up as the door to the meeting room opened. Dale Adkins stood in the doorway. They all looked at him and smiled. David stood up and walked toward the door, offering his hand to the man he only spoken to on the phone. They shook hands for a second and then walked to the meeting table.
“Dale, let me introduce you to everyone. To your left is Teresa Smith. Beside her is Tom Davis. At the other end of the table from you Bill Johnson. Beside me, here, is Fred McGinley.”
“Good to meet all of you and good to be here today.” Dale sat relaxed and ready to go. Interviews of any sort were a necessary evil.
David spoke first. “Let’s start out with an easy one. When did you come to know the Lord?”
Dale licked his lips. He was just a little dry and wished he had some water. He kind of grinned and gave the answer he always gave, the one that caused more than one person to scratch their heads. “I feel like I’ve always known Him. I’ve been in church all my life and always loved it. I was a good boy and never gave my parents any trouble. I think most people just assumed I was saved. Then, I was sitting in church one Sunday. Suddenly, I was overwhelmed with the thought that I was as lost as anyone. I prayed to the Lord and repented. I didn’t really need anyone to walk me through it. I knew what to do. Then I went down at the invitation and made it public.”
Tom had a perplexed look on his face. “You mean no one led you to the Lord?” Tom scratched his chin as he asked the question.
“Well, Tom…it’s Tom, right? I would say that hundreds of people led me to the Lord. Hundreds of sermons and Sunday school lessons. Years of VBS. I didn’t really need anyone to walk me through it. I knew that. But most of all, I would say that the Lord led me to the Lord.”
Tom frowned. “I’m not sure what that means.’
Dale grinned and chuckled a bit. “Tom, some days I don’t either.” Everyone else, including Tom, chuckled along with Dale.
Teresa spoke up. “Tell us about your family.”
Dale sat up a little straighter. “I’ve been married to Melissa for almost ten years. We have two boys and daughter. The boys are Ben and Caleb. Our daughter is Leah, but she is much prettier than the one that was married to Jacob.”
Fred McGinley snorted and worked hard to hold to keep from laughing out loud. He decided that he would ask the next question.
“How did you get into the ministry?”
Dale paused for just a second. Sometimes he asked himself this same question.
“After I came to know the Lord, everything went about the way it was going, except for one thing. I studied the Bible more and I saw things that I hadn’t before. I was always a leader in the youth group, but, for some reason, became even more of one. When it came time for Youth Sunday, I was asked to speak. I prepared a sermon that I thought would take me about thirty minutes to give. It took about ten minutes, but I loved it. I kept getting asked to speak and lead Bible studies. Somewhere along the way I realized that I wanted nothing more than to proclaim the word of God.”
“College was a great time of growth. I majored in Religion, though I hate the name of that major. I interned in a couple of churches. I took a couple of summer mission trips and preached every chance I got. There just wasn’t anything else I wanted to do. After college, I went to seminary. I pastored a church while there. I went ahead and got my doctorate. For the past four or five years, I’ve taught at Covenant and preached when I had the opportunity.”
Dale noticed that Teresa was taking notes on everything. Tom wrote a few things down. Fred nodded and smiled a lot. David watched everyone else’s reaction. He was puzzled by Bill Johnson. He sat there with his hands behind his head and looked at the ceiling.
Tom decided that it was his turn to ask a question. He had been trying to come up with a question for several days. He thought he had come up with the perfect one.
“Are you a Calvinist?”
Dale looked at Tom, framing his response. “Tom, I hope that I don’t answer this in a way that blows my chances here. Let me ask you what you mean by that question. What do you think a Calvinist is?”
Tom turned just a little bit red. “Well, you know, you believe in predestination and stuff.”
“Well, Tom, if you’re asking me if I believe that those God foreknew, He predestined, then yes, I believe that. If you are asking me if I believe that He predestined us to adoption as sons through Christ, then yes, I believe that. I believe the Bible. “
“If you’re asking me if I believe anything because of a systematic theology that is followed by others, then no. If you’re asking me if I have ever tried to convert anyone to follow John Calvin, then no. I follow Christ and try to point people to Christ and Him only. I want Him to glorified through the preaching of the Gospel. I’m not sure if I answered your question, though.”
Tom looked down at his pad and then back up. “I think you answered it fine.”
Bill Johnson chuckled a bit. “I guess it’s my turn to ask a question. What would you tell a guy who has helped cause a lot of problems in this church and just found out that he has a brain tumor?”
Dale close his eyes for just a second. Finally a question that wasn’t normal. He was prepared for all of the normal, churchy questions. This one caused him to pause for just a second.
“Bill, the first thing I would do is find out where that man was in his relationship with the Lord. I would pray with him and hope that he was right with the Lord. Then I would encourage him to go before the church and confess it. Seek forgiveness among the church. Then I would gather the elders and pray over him and anoint him with oil. Finally, I would talk to him and ask him what the prognosis from the doctors was.”
Bill looked at him. “The elders? Don’t you mean the deacons?”
“No, Bill, I believe that there is a huge difference between the elders and deacons. I’m not saying that the deacons can’t be a part of it. But I’m talking about the spiritual leaders of the church.”
“You don’t think the deacons are the spiritual leaders of the church?”
“No, I don’t think that’s their specific role. I think elders are responsible for the spiritual direction of a church. And I think there should be a team of those to work with the pastor. The deacons have their own vitally important role to play. They should be working on the physical needs of the church. Who is taking care of the widows? Who is taking care of the needy? Who is making sure people are doing ok?”
David finally spoke up. “Let’s take a short break. We all may need something to drink. We’ll come back to some more questions and you may have some for us.”
I think. A lot. It doesn’t really matter what the subject is, I think about it.
There’s just one problem.
Sometimes I can think too much.
A few years ago, I wrestled with whether or not I would go into ministry. I thought about it constantly. It consumed me. I had a hard time focusing on anything. My job performance suffered. I was miserable. I needed to make a decision. Instead, I drew it out.
Obviously, I needed to think this thing through. However, the more I thought about it, the more I was stuck not making a decision.
The problem with thinking too much is what it causes in my life and in many other’s lives.
It causes paralysis. Paralysis by analysis.
Sometimes we need to be decisive. Make our decision. Go for it. Do it. It may be the wrong one, but it’s really not something we can’t recover from. Mistakes happen. Wrong decisions are made. We learn from them and move on.
Will Rogers said, “Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.”
I went to a church for years wanting to make a change. I wouldn’t make a decision at all. I thought about it all the time. I got to the point where I almost hated going to church. I begged the Lord to let me leave. I never got an answer. I needed to make a decision one way or the other. I decided to finally stay. Soon after that, the Lord painfully removed me from that church. Now, I’m happier than I’ve been in years.
We’re going to make mistakes. It’s ok. We can live with it. What we can’t live with is thinking so much that we don’t make any decision at all. We have to do something. Just do it and it will be ok.
Have you ever been guilty of thinking too much? Did you need to make a decision and couldn’t pull the trigger?
This is a post from a couple of years ago when I still tried to write some funny posts here and there and thought I would be the next Jon Acuff instead of the one and only, Larry the Deuce.
A little over a decade ago I announced a call to ministry. This followed wrestling with my decision and what it meant for me. Would I? Wouldn’t I? How do I know? This process dealt with lots of questions and few tangible answers. Then our pastor at the time did the next logical thing.
He led our church to license me just like all preachers since Peter and Paul have been licensed. I do not think Mary was ever licensed, but I digress. (If you didn’t get that one, well I just feel sad for you.)
I have never pastured a church. Nor have I pastored a church or preached in a truly official capacity either. I’ve made a few cameos and pitched in when needed. But I have never been a regular preacher in a regular church setting.
However, I have had a regular preaching gig now for eight years now. I lead and preach at a service at local campground. I do this each week May through October. One question haunts me each time I stand to preach.
What if they catch me preaching without a license?
I mean, I don’t carry my license around with me. It’s actually more of a certificate. I guess I could carry it in it’s frame, but it is a bit bulky. I don’t have a small copy that fits in my wallet or anything. Here are some possibilities for offenses I could be charged with if the preaching police show up one day.
- Failure to provide proof of being licensed
- Preaching faster than the preaching limit
- Failure to yield when someone gives an “Amen!!!”
- Preaching too long and running a red light or a stop sign.
Obviously there is no such thing as the preaching police. At least not that I know of. But if they need to see my license we will need to make a trip to house. I’m sure I can find it.
What about you? Are you licensed to do what you do?
***I hope you found this funny. I LOL’d as I wrote this. However, I did not ROTFLOL or LMBO***
This is a weekly series of fiction. You can find other chapters HERE at my Fiction page.
Dale Adkins looked at the church before getting out of his car. He wasn’t sure what emotion he was feeling. He had not interviewed with a church search committee in over a decade, only having interviewed for a couple of teaching positions since leaving the pulpit. Academic committees were a bit different from those from a church. He was nervous, for sure.
However, there was a sense of excitement as well. Doug had been right. He loved to teach, but he had missed being in the pulpit regularly. He missed pastoring the people of a church. He had tried to satisfy that desire by investing in the lives of his students. He had probably gone far beyond the scope of most professors. Maybe that was why he was rated highly in the annual surveys sent to the students by the college.
Dale knew that there were problems that the people of a congregation experienced that college kids didn’t, but the opposite was true as well. He has always related well to those older than him when he had pastored. Teaching had helped him stay in touch with those who were younger than him.
Dale stopped himself for a moment. He was getting ahead of himself. He was just interviewing for an interim position. It was just going to be temporary, just a few months to help them through the transition to a new pastor. He would benefit as well. It would help him get back into the rhythm of the pastor’s life. He would be able to use that time to seek the Lord in whether he would got back into the pastorate full-time or if some sort of pulpit ministry would simply supplement his teaching career.
Dale came to the door and entered. He looked down the first hallway. It was dark as only church hallway in the middle of the week could be. He to this right and saw the path of light he would take. He walked down past empty room after empty room. It was like that in just about every church he had been in. Buildings that were used a small percentage of the time. Too often, church buildings were an inefficient use of real estate, used only a couple of days a week.
Dale came to the meeting room door. He could hear voice on the other side. He pause for a second to listen. He could hear laughter, which he gauged as a good sign. Too often these committees were composed of people who didn’t really mesh well. A group of folks who were having a good time bode well for a relaxed meeting.
A short fleeting thought to turn around and leave shot through Dale’s mind. Why bother with this? He had it good at the college. He was on track to gain more and more responsibility. He was publishing articles and was on track to write a book soon. He was able to preach as often as he wanted. His pastor buddies were always asking him to fill in. Did he really want to give that up?
Dale wasn’t going to walk away. He knew that. He was going into the interview. He would talk to these folks and see where it went. If the Lord led them both in this direction, then so be it. If not, then that was good too.
Dale prayed a short prayer and opened the door. Five head turned in his direction. Four men and a woman. All smiling. ”Well, here goes”, he thought.
One of my favorite Twitter follows is Xianity. Whoever is behind this anonymous Twitter handle is a brilliant writer who mixes our faith and satire in 140 characters or less.
A few days ago this tweet was sent out: LOCAL: Area Sunday School teacher dismissed after refusing to use tried and true “bore the hell out of them” curriculum. As a former Sunday School teacher, this tiny statement resonated with me.
A pastor in one of my former churches would preach every Sunday. Each Sunday I would sit there bored out of my mind. I was hearing the most exciting news ever talked about in a way that would never appeal to me. There was no emotion in the dull, monotone monologues that were called sermons by some.
These sermons led to me to wonder if the man truly believed what he was saying. Interestingly, he even spoke against emotion coming into the church. It was almost that he was anti-emotion. Like he was trying to purposely downplay the Gospel and its effect on those who follow Christ.
Don’t misunderstand me. I am not into emotionalism for the same of drawing a crowd. Many with some skill and training can learn to whip a congregation into frenzy.
However, there has to be more to it that simply delivering the news without any appearance of it affecting the emotions. Surely, you can’t just bore the hell out of people.
We have the most exciting Person that has ever walked this earth in our lives. His message is something that draws us to come to know Him and follow Him.
Let’s live like it.
Let’s live exciting lives in the name of Jesus. That doesn’t mean that you have to wave your hands or dance. I probably won’t. That’s doesn’t mean that the emotions that He gave me aren’t running high when I talk, sing or worship with my brothers and sister. I’m not going to stand there stone cold either.
Let’s not try to bore the hell out of people. Let’s proclaim Him in a manner worthy of the One we love and worship.
Have you ever been guilty of trying to bore the hell out of people? Does Christ and the Gospel excite you?
This is a post from a couple of years ago.
I almost called this one What I Am Afraid Of, Part 1. Instead it became Intruder or Introvert. I call it that because, quite honestly, I am an introvert.
Someone just picked their jaw up off the floor. They cannot believe that I am an introvert.
After all, I teach Sunday school. I have no real fear of public speaking. I do each of these each week. I am not afraid of these things.
However, here is what I am afraid of and it has everything to do with me being an introvert.
I am afraid of…….are you ready?…….wait for it……..group activities. Parties. Fellowships. Sunday school get-togethers.
When I say that I’m afraid of them, I don’t mean I fear them in the same way that I fear rattlesnakes or copperheads. What I mean is that when I walk up and a few of you are talking, I feel like an intruder. I see some of you and you have known each other for decades. I feel like I am intruding into your relationship. I fear that I will never have that with you or anyone else for that matter.
I see that some of you have some common interest. I hear you talk about something and speak what I almost think is a foreign language. I see you belong to what seems like some impenetrable circle that I cannot hope to join. And I fear that I will never have something like that.
I realize, at times, that it is really just a product of my introversion. I realize that it is part of where I inwardly hold back. I will only go so far before I move along.
So what do I do? I pop in and pop out. I will try to speak to you one on one. Sometimes with two of you. But the larger the group, the more likely I will move along. If I’m hurt, I will look inward. I will retreat to a book, a website or my blog where I will let it all hang out, sometimes with disastrous results.
I’m an introvert. What am I afraid of? That I am an intruder in people’s lives.
How about you? Are you an introvert? How does it affect your life?
This is a post from a couple of years ago.
I saw someone the other day that was carrying a man bag. I don’t mean something that I could see a writer carrying that would contain a notebook, journal or other writing material. I’m talking about a genuine man bag. It was basically a purse for a man. The thought that went through my mind was, “I wonder what he’s carrying in there.”
Often I will carry a gym bag to work if I’m going to work out. I will have my gym clothes in it. I have my mp3 player and my iPod. I will stick my lunch bag in there. I may have a few other items in as well, like my latest Netflix movie that I’m returning or a book I’m reading. If I’m not working out, I will often shift to my backpack and carry many of the same items. Judging by the quantity of backpacks that I see carried into work, I am not alone.
My wife, daughter and just about every other woman who I have known all of my life carry a purse. I am mystified by what is carried in a purse. I was not allowed to go near my mother’s purse as a child. While I will venture into my wife’s occasionally, I still do not like it.
Physically, we carry a lot of baggage around. Spiritually and emotionally we do as well. Good stuff. Bad stuff. All of it baggage that we carry around. Think about how we carry things around with us for years. If you read my blog last week, you saw that things from my childhood affect how I view things now. An incident that happened over a decade that I don’t really think about often came out. My experience with my youth group at the church I grew up in affect how I view things today. Relationships in the past color the view I have of relationships today. Churches in the past affect how I see the church I have been a member of for almost sixteen years now. Pastors from the past affect how I view pastors now. Some of this stuff is good. Some of this stuff is bad. All of this stuff is baggage.
Here is the interesting thing. You don’t know about my baggage. I don’t know about yours. We carry this stuff around. My baggage bangs into yours. Your baggage bangs into mine. And one of the things about writing a blog is that your baggage will come out. For good or bad, it will be seen.
How about you? What kind of baggage are you carrying around that is good? What kind of baggage are you carrying around that is bad?
Seven men from my church recently went to an event called The 4th Musketeer. The only way I can describe this event is to say that it was an intense hike with spiritual implications that lasted four days. Little food was eaten and little sleep was to be had based on the testimonies I heard.
The men said that the event was designed to break them down. It was designed to rid them of the pride that so often plague men. It also seemed to address another issue that men face in their lives.
Loneliness seems to be a common malady that men live with. Not many will probably talk about it or admit it. They might sing about. Waylon and Willie did back in the 1970′s when they told mammas to not let their “babies grow up to be cowboys.” Why? Because their “never at home and their always alone, even with someone they love.”
Men just seemed to be wired to be lonely. The question is why?
I can only base my answer on my own experience. I believe it’s traced back to that first word that the I said the men from church dealt with on their adventure. It’s a word that most of us are familiar with.
We men think we can handle things on our own. We believe that to depend on others is a sign of weakness. We don’t want to open up and share our fears, troubles and worries. Doing so would show that we aren’t real men. That we aren’t strong. That we aren’t tough.
We would rather be lonely and proud than to be free and have the weight of the world lifted.
When we come to know Christ we become new creatures. That means we who are men are new men. Let’s actually let that become a reality in our lives. Let’s show our vulnerabilities. Our Lord did so in the garden of Gethsemane. If He can, and He is our model for life, then we should strive to live like Him and not as we have always lived.
Are you a lonely man? Do you find it difficult to lower your pride and depend on others? Are you able to be vulnerable with others?
A post from a couple of years ago.
Last night I bought a CD. Yes, I bought a CD rather than downloading iTunes. It was an 80′s alternative rock anthology. What I realized after listening to it for a while was that I tried to live an alternative lifestyle for much of my life without realizing it.
When I was a teenager, I bought and collected comic books. At it’s zenith, my comic book buying reached around $100 per month. Put that in today’s dollars. It’s a good thing I had a job.
When I was in college, I sought out music that no one I knew was listening to. I was probably the only person at my college listening to the Bodeans.
What I realize now was that none of this satisfied me. Trying to live an alternative lifestyle for the sake of living an alternative lifestyle just wasn’t doing anything for me. It sure didn’t make me happy.
In 1994, all of that changed. I entered into an alternative lifestyle without really trying to . How did I do it? I came to know Christ. Once I came to know Christ, He made me into a new creation. I was different. I no longer had to live like the rest of the world. I could walk in His Spirit. I could abide in Him.
Now a lot people would say, “That’s not an alternative lifestyle, that’s what a lot of people who go to church do.” I didn’t mention going to church. Sure, I do go to church. But that doesn’t make me someone that lives an alternative lifestyle any more than spending time in a garage makes me a car. Knowing Christ. Seeking Christ. Loving Christ. Loving His Church. That’s alternative. Not just showing up in a building with other people two or three times a week.
How about you? Do you live an alternative lifestyle?
This is a post from a couple of years ago.
I was speaking to someone the other day. We were talking about another person doing a work in their church. He responded by basically saying, “God told them they didn’t have to.” Those weren’t the exact words, but basically it gets down to that. This person had played the God Card.
You know what the God Card is, right? It’s what those of us in the church often use to justify what we want to do or to get us out of what we don’t want to do. Someone asks you to do something. Your answer? “I’m sorry, but I don’t feel led by the Lord to do that.” Someone asks you why you are doing something. Your response? “God has led me to do it.” Once that happens the argument is over. Who are we to question whether God wants or doesn’t want someone to do something? Who are we to oppose God’s will? The God Card has been played.
Most of us have played it. I have. I wanted to go to seminary. I felt “called” by God to do it. I was telling someone about it. They said I have better get busy going since God wanted me to do it. They implied that I needed to leave right then and begin. After all, God wanted me to do it. This was the best answer I ever got. It started me on the path to realize that I really wanted to blame God for what I wanted to do. That way I didn’t have to take responsiblity for my decision. The decision was in God’s hands. After all, what else could I do but follow the Lord?
Why do we do this? If someone asks you to work in, let’s just say for kicks, VBS. If you say, “No, I don’t like VBS”, then you will be viewed as someone who is incredibly selfish and does not want to sacrifice for the kids. However, if your answer is “I don’t feel led by the Lord”, then no one can view you in any other light than being obedient to God. See the difference? And let’s face it. It happens all of the time.
Let’s just be honest. If we are pursuing God with all we have, get asked to do something or want to do something, just do it. If you don’t want to, don’t do it. Man up and take responsibility. Don’t worry about what someone else thinks. Charge after Christ with everything you have and do what you want. Don’t look back and don’t play the God Card.
Have you ever played the God Card to get your way? I would love to hear examples of how others have done it.