Part Two - Seeing The Institutional Church From The Inside
A true and safe leader is
likely to be one who has no desire to lead, but is forced into a
position of leadership by the inward pressure of the Holy Spirit and the
press of the external situation. Tozer
I arrived in Fort Lauderdale in February
of 1971. A friend loaned me his camper and I lived in it until
provisions were made. Later some of the young people from Pennsylvania
moved to Florida to join the work.
I attended many pastors' meetings and
was surprised how much talk was based on numbers. Pastors were more
noted for their congregational size rather than their personal love,
involvement and care for the saints. Their focus was on "their" church.
The effort to bring about the unity of the body and the function and
maturity of the saints was of no sacrificial effort. As time went by, it
was obvious we were engaged in a subtle and unconscious rivalry for the
saints. I remember in a deacon's meeting, one of the deacons remarked,
"We have been visited by a former deacon of First Baptist church"; it
drew an excitement from the rest of those sitting there. Who knows,
maybe this will lead more to come.
Our divisions have forced us to increase
the quality of our teaching, our programs and our worship if we were to
be able to compete and prosper in this highly completive market..
It surprised me that we never talked
about how to personally reach out and help the wounded or disciple those
newly saved. Everything we did was done through well-oiled and
impersonal programs (mass feeding meetings). We never thought in terms
of using the money to help those who have been faithful in attending or
in need. It always was money to develop a larger facility (or maintain
the existing one), increase the pay of the staff, and send our "tips" to
some foreign mission for conscience sake. Of course "we" expected a
financial blessing for our tips to missions, which included or
emphasized more people whom we didn't know and more money spent on our
My heart breaks over the lack of love I
see. This gap between clergy and laity. This was to see who can do it
best. The seats that have imprisoned and reduced the saints to listeners
and a captive audience. The worship of men's charisma and not the
integrity of men committed to obeying His word and loving the saints.
Much of what I would like to say can be read in my article, "the real
church," or better yet, in God's article called the book of Acts (Acts.)
We quickly established a coffee house
called the "Cup" to reach out to the young people. Kids began coming to
the meetings; we had our own band, special lighting and old spools set
up as tables. We prayed for the sick, witnessed on the beach and shared
in home meetings. We started a Christian house; we had seventeen guys
living together. We ate together, we prayed together, we went to
meetings together, fellowshipped together and discipled the other kids
at the coffee house. We took the scripture in Acts 2:42-47 to heart:
"They devoted themselves to the
apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and
to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous
signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and
had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they
gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together
in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together
with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all
the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were
being saved." NIV
We gathered our paychecks into a common
pot and share as each man had need. We lived in a three-bedroom,
two-bathroom house. The real miracle was that we always kept the place
clean and everything put away. These were some of the best times of my
life. These men became a challenge in my life and help me rid myself of
a horde of the lofty "ideals" of Christian ministry. It was truly a
humbling experience. God used the house to teach me to be a bondservant.
I learned to scrub the floors when no one else would. Oh how we have
lost the meaning of being a bond slave for Jesus.
The ministry grew and the church hired
an assistant youth pastor to help in the ministry. My assistant came
from a gay background; that didn't bother me; my temptations were in the
Later when I got engaged to one of the
girls in the church, he immediately began to distance himself from me
and he quickly moved out of the house and moved in with one of the guys
from the house. He stopped attending the meetings and spent an extent of
time with his roommate. He made friends with the deacons and those of
influence in the church. Many were aware of the separation between us,
but didn't know what was happening with him personally.
My father was dying and was going to
have major surgery for cancer. I asked for some leave time and spent it
with my ailing father to be there for his operation. After the
operation, I quickly returned and the following morning went into the
pastor's office to inform him of my return. He was surprised and seemed
set back to see me return so early. He informed me to go to my office
and wait; one of the men of the church would be calling me.
All of the Christians I meet who are
amounting to anything for god are Christians who are very much out of
key with their age—very, very much out of tune with their generation ~
I finally received the awaited call and
was told there was going to be a special deacons' meeting, which was for
the purpose of calling for my resignation as youth pastor. I couldn't
understand why, not that I thought I was perfect, but why? The young
people were growing and doing so well. He informed me that he and
another person of the church would be meeting with me earlier that night
before the specially called deacons' meeting.
The two men met with me in my office
about 6 pm that evening. They explained that the deacons were going to
ask for my resignation. I ask them why. Harold, who headed the special
committee to investigate the problem between my assistant and myself,
began to explain the reasons. His first reason was because I had a phone
in my office illegally. It was a phone that I found in the church
kitchen and used it in my office. Once I was informed the phone belonged
to another church that used our facilities some time ago, I returned the
phone to the phone company and assumed it solved the problem. But that
was months ago. I told Harold, "This can't be the basis for my
resignation." He agreed and proceeded to the next reason. He then stated
it was because I wanted the pastor's job. I then asked him where and how
he came to that conclusion. He reminded me of a luncheon we had
previously and how I prayed for the leadership of the church. I asked
him, "Didn't you pray at the last business meeting for the leadership of
the church? Did that mean that you too wanted the pastor's job?" I
responded that they were fishing, I said, "Harold, give me the truth."
He alleged there were a group of "big"
tithers who were threatening to leave the church if I didn't resign
(money!). I wept. I thought Christianity was about love, encouragement
and God's word. Here before me stood men that I knew loved the Lord, and
they were giving in to exploitation and intimidation.
I asked them if they knew about my
assistant and the guy he was living with. They said they knew the one
guy had confessed to some things that were taking place. I was
astonished over what came out of his mouth, and that as a Christian. It
struck me hard to see that level of deception and the willingness to
compromise truth for "tithers."
I then proceeded to the deacons'
meeting, head held down, discouraged for what I had just experienced.
The meeting opened with the head deacon, Bob, stating they were calling
for my resignation. Ned, the minister of music asked Why? Bob related
there was a problem between my assistant and me. Ned responded, "What
kind of a problem?" "A problem of unforgiveness." Bob told him. "Who is
not willing to forgive?" asked Ned. "Well, Andy is willing to forgive,
but his assistant is not." Silence flooded the room to what must have
been an obvious confession of anti-Christian behavior. I wept and
prayed. I asked the Lord what to do. He said, "say nothing."
The pastor then proceeded and stood up
and astonished me with these words, "You may feel we need a division; if
so, vote for Andy to stay. If you think we need unity, you need to vote
for Andy to leave." He then repeated that jester several times. There
was then a call to vote; it was 5 to 4 against me. The pastor asked me
not to take the vote to the church business meeting; it would certainly
cause a stir. I said I would pray about it. He clearly understood what
it would mean if I did so.
That night I went home and prayed, "Lord
what am I to do?" He reminded me that He had called me and not man. He
then said, "I will open another door for you." I went to the pastor the
next morning and told him I was going to leave and not create a problem.
I asked him for a severance pay of three weeks to get settled. He
replied, "Only if we meet the budget." You guessed it, I got no
One of the deacons, my fiancé's father,
later called me and asked me to start a meeting in his home. We started
off with 17 single guys, an elderly couple and two girls…. the
beginning of Christian Fellowship.
"To be continued"
Discipleship Movement (part 3) >>
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