My Dad is a great storyteller. He has a wonderful laugh. When we were kids, he played with us as if he were a kid himself, only bigger. Dad has the coolest green eyes -- I'm grateful to have inherited them. When I watch Cosby reruns, I think of my Dad. He's smart, he's patient and strong. Dad likes singing and watching old Cowboy movies. He adores my Mom. Dad loves sports. He loves nature. And, he loves Jesus.

He loves to tell people about Jesus. My Dad started following Christ when he was 18, and he's never doubted that decision. Dad started preaching a few years after that, which was thirty-six years ago. He's a gifted, dynamic speaker. Yes, I'm biased, but it's still true. I know many people whose lives have been changed, because they met Jesus, through my Dad.

In October, my Mom and Dad moved to Indiana -- a place quite foreign and unknown to them -- to lead a small town church. They survived a long, cold, very gray winter. My mother ended up needing brain surgery in March, and the people there helped her and took care of my parents as if they were their own. The church began growing. We visited in April and I heard one of the best sermons my Dad's ever preached. Everyone i met told me how much they loved my Mom and Dad. On Easter Sunday, Dad baptized 9 people.

On Monday night, my Dad went to a meeting with the Elderboard. They began the meeting by telling him they weren't sure he was a good fit for the church. Dad ended the meeting by giving them his resignation.

It's not the first time he's been hurt like this, but it just has to be the last. He doesn't deserve to be treated this way. No one does. But it happens, again and again -- and not just to us. It happens all over. Doesn't it? Please tell me it's not just a curse on on him.

I'm serious, please tell me your war stories. We can't keep pretending everything's fine and the devil never succeeds. He does, and our dysfunctional church families are the proof.

So, you know the thing Augustine first said and Luther later quoted "The church is a whore, but she is my mother."

Well tonight's one of those times when the first half of that statement carries the most weight for me. And I don't have an answer as to why she keeps cheating. I don't know why she charges others for the love she gets for free. Don't give me the fallen world stuff -- tonight, that will not cut it. Tonight is tears over the phone and echoes of self doubt -- and, when I can muster, prayers for relief.

Relent, O LORD! How long will it be?
Have compassion on your servants.

PS -- this is mostly unedited, not really meant to be a thought provoking, well written essay -just some stuff in my heart that I needed to get out. No complementary comments please. Raw emotion is all that I will accept.


Nathaniel said...

I am still so mad at this jackass that was my pastor for the last eight or so years that if I were to see him, I am not sure how I would keep myself from beating him like he deserved it. He built this big family of people who love each other and then decided it would be more fun to kill it and do something else with his time than it would be to let it live without him. I am not sure how I can ever get over it.

My dad (who recently resigned a pastorate of 20 years) remembers waking up at night when he was a child and smelling cigarette smoke in the house. He went into the living room to discover my papaw sitting quietly in the dark smoking. He asked, "What's wrong dad?" and his old man said, "Son, there are no problems in the world like church problems."

Why do we screw it up so bad?

Cara said...

more than one young woman left our campus ministry weirded out by her sexuality and unsure of how to date or interact with men on a romantic level . . .
during that time, the church was doing a mighty fine job of teaching young men and women that feelings for the opposite sex were keeping us from fully serving God and that there was no appropriate place to explore dating, desires, or need for companionship.
i think this has changed on college campuses, but i fear i might be overly optimistic on this one.

travis said...

Of all the head shaking and f-bomb dropping I have done in the past weeks, 80% of it was a by product of church observation, interaction, or frustration.
I don't understand how I can love Jesus so much and struggle like hell to love His people. I don't understand why I so easily love "non-Christians" and barely stand to be around Christians.
I don't have answers for any of this.

Jerusalem said...

My dad, also a pastor with a spotty history, always used to say, "the ministry would be great if it weren't for all the people..." Some people on the other side, to say the opposite: "Church would be great if it weren't for the pastors/elders/leaders..." Both are true, but both parites are needed. Peaceful co-existing seems to be the problem.

Currently we are on sabbatical from all this. We have found a place to worship, to sit, to listen - but we don't want to know the pastor and we don't want the pastor to know us. I have had too many opinions for too long and I need a break.

Chris said...

I'm pretty sure that it's the people we get closest to and feel the most vulnerable with that we also feel hurt us the most. I've had lots of horrible church experiences, and I've never really been sure why I go back.

I was getting ready to leave for Australia (our current residence) for a year, and while I was between jobs I was asked to be a worship team leader. After several disagreements on the method by which they choose worship songs, I was told, "Chris, I know it's hard to choose music to fit our rules, and if you weren't leaving for Australia, we'd take the time to indoctrinate you, but fact is, you're leaving."

I very nearly quit. Why does the church feel the need to place their priority for rules and church services and all that, in front of their priority to love people?

Heather said...

We came into a new "post-modern" church the day after our wedding (and 2 months pregnant)- we needed a community to teach us and grow us... and they did. But about a year later, we were asked to be deacons as a couple. We said we didn't think we were ready, but found ourselves in the role soon.
And then we found out that no one wanted to answer the hard questions. We were on the inside, and expected to know where the church was going, but we couldn't get answers to hard questions about theology, discipline, money or church direction. So we left. It was hard we left people we loved, we left a place we fit in well, because we couldn't have our names on something that might confuse people about God.
And I found out 3 months ago that the pastor, our former mentor and our children's former god-parent, sexually abused one of my friends during "counseling".
How do I ask people to take a risk on Church, but censor which churches they explore?

Myles said...

your dad is robert duvall? that's cool.

Myles said...

and on a much more serious note, i grieve for these churches and these pastors that get caught in the middle. your dad is a great man.

teela said...

Thanks for putting into words what I feel in my heart.

Your Dad is a man of integirty and I'm glad he chose me to be his wife.