“And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew the tables;” – John 2:15
After the revival things remained relatively stable, when it comes to the ministry, for a couple of years. I continued preaching and our church continued to slowly grow. The fact that we were growing at all was still exciting and all three ministers took a lot of pride in what we had been able to accomplish in that small town Iowa church. I was fairly well-respected in the church and more than one member asked when we were going to have our next revival. At the time I had no answer.
Truth is, I would have loved to have another revival but stress at home was getting to me. As I said in a previous entry, things at home were never good. I don’t want to give the impression that I didn’t enjoy life, because I did. The kids were my life and I enjoyed every moment that I got to spend with them. Even if at times stress got the better of me and I was short with them. I still adore these two kids and enjoy every moment I get to spend talking to them and keeping up with their lives. The issues with my wife, though continued to grow and grow.
One day, after I had been preaching for about two years, she asked me to quit the ministry. The audacity of the request took me off guard, and I told her that I would think about it. A few weeks later, she brought it up again and I told her that I could not quit the role which god had given me. It wasn’t even so much that she disliked me being a minister, what she disliked was what that meant we as a couple could get away with.
We hadn’t even been married six months, before she asked if I would be interested in an open marriage. I was sickened by the idea and told her in no way would I ever do that. She didn’t like how she had to sneak around having affairs, wishing that she could instead have open relations with anyone she chose. Over the years things became worse and worse and about the 3 year mark of my ministry, she quit coming to church and I had to continually make excuses as to why she was not coming.
Before that occurred though, I had another experience that shook me a bit. I had been in the ministry for about a year and a half and of full gospel denominations convention was going on. I honestly hadn’t wanted to go but my head pastor gave me a bit of a guilt trip and so I went. The first day we each gave small 5 minute sermonettes and I actually found it quite fun. I spoke on the sinner in hell, crying out for his family to turn to god so they wouldn’t experience the same fate. It seemed to be well received and so I took my seat and the day continued on. We ate a good meal, and returned to services for the guest speaker. I remember the message of the speaker clearly.
“I honestly wondered even then if this guy wasn’t trying a bit too hard to come out against homosexuality.”
The man who took the stage was an old school Pentecostal pastor and he was angry about everything. The thing I remember most about the man was how much he talked about homosexuality, what made this more memorable was that he walked with a slight swagger and spoke with a slightly high-pitched almost effeminate voice. It was hard not to laugh because it honestly sounded a lot like Jim Parsons going on a rant about the evils of gay marriage. I honestly wondered even then if this guy wasn’t trying a bit too hard to come out against homosexuality.
Anyway, the first day was rather enjoyable and so I couldn’t wait for the second day to begin. We arrived early and I was informed that today we would be having a denominational business meeting, everyone would be able to ask questions, but it would probably just be fairly boring. It didn’t take me very long to become sickened by what I heard. The topic at hand was tithing, namely how to get more people to tithe and in higher percentages. The ministers were talking about their wages and how they wish they could get a bit more money coming into the church, as it would help raise their standard of living a bit. I was absolutely appalled.
“I was absolutely appalled.”
See, one of the things that I never preached on was tithing. Even at my most fundamental I hated the idea of robbing from poor folks to line your pockets. Tithing stems from the old testament and was in effect the was the early Israelite people collected taxes. Everyone was obligated to give 10 percent of all their earnings to the priests who would survive on that portion throughout the year, as they weren’t allowed to make money by any other fashion. It was my belief that this custom was done away with in the new testament, as the Council of Jerusalem, in the book of Acts, did not mention tithing as something that gentile believers had to do. Not only that but tithes were not meant to be used to build larger houses, make grander foyers, or buy a more expensive piano. Tithes were meant for sustenance and to help the community.
Deuteronomy 26:12 states:
“When thou hast made an end of tithing all the tithes of thine increase the third year, which is the year of tithing, and hast given it unto the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, that they may eat within thy gates, and be filled;”
When the conversation got around to me they asked me if I had anything I might add to the conversation. I opened my bible and I read the above scripture. Then I closed my bible and I said that unless the church I was preaching at was prepared to do exactly as that scripture said, then I would never preach on tithing. The looks of shock and horror are still fused in my mind. The first thing that was said was that I was far too young to actually understand what that scripture was talking about. When I remarked that I had been told scripture was easy enough to understand that a small child could do it, and that we are to come to Christ as small children, the looks began to change to anger. I was then told that I would never have my own church with that type of mentality and that I need to understand that the church is first and foremost a business with a bottom line.
That line should not have been said to me… See, I am incredibly blunt, OK, I’ll just say it, if something pisses me off I can be an outright asshole. I looked at the minister who said that and I said, “You’re lucky that Christ weren’t standing here or you might have a whip across your face for making that remark.” I then looked around the room and said, anyone here who believes the church is meant to be a business is wrong and in danger of hell-fire. I said the church is supposed to be a type of hospital, there to help the sick and the widowed and to send the strong out to do god’s work. I then walked out of the room and went home. In all honesty I am shocked my credentials weren’t stripped from me for that outburst but outside of some hurt feelings, I never heard another word about the convention…and I was never invited to another one.
Meanwhile, back at my church, my ministry continued and things began to stagnate a bit. We lost a handful of members and the worry was that we might soon lose even more. My suggestion was that we might hold a monthly soup supper for the community, which in turn might interest more people in coming to church. That was shot down because it might be too expensive…(It wouldn’t have cost hardly anything, since I was once again going to get donations) My second suggestion was that we hold another revival, a Friday through Sunday event, that would hopefully reignite some of the fire we had not so long ago. This was approved and so we had our little revival. It was abysmal, not even half of our regular members showed up for the services and we averaged below 25 people each night. Something was wrong and I was going to find out what it was!
Not long after that second revival, the head minister, the man who had performed my marriage, had a major family issue. His daughter, who had seemed completely healthy, died suddenly of massive heart failure. I received the call late at night and the next morning, my grandfather(A deacon at the church) and I, drove up to the pastor’s home to see how he was doing. His wife answered the door and she was distraught, she cried and cried, something that I should have been prepared for but unfortunately I’ve never been good at judging a situation and how other people might react. When we asked where the head pastor was we were told that he was praying in the garage.
We walked over to the garage and we could hear his prayers, nearly screaming towards the heavens and intermittently speaking in tongues. We waited a few moments before saying something not wanting to interrupt his prayers. He suddenly turned, saw us, and stood up with tears in his eyes. He hugged both of us and told us that everything was OK. God had told him that this situation was only a test and that his daughter was going to be fine, not only that but she was going to lead many souls to god. My grandfather, not knowing what was going on, asked if we had been mistaken and that his daughter had actually survived.
“No,” he said, “but that doesn’t matter, god told me that he is going to resurrect her!”
To continue on to part 19 of my blog, click here.