Bently Dickens's palms were sweaty. With them, he edged his creased forehead. Fingers rubbed on the thinking lines, as if his head ached. Furrowed brows showed his worried look. He heaved breaths and sighs; bit his lips giving way to his welled turmoil. Lifting his head, he bridged his eyeglasses with his point finger, and then tossed his sermon notes on to his writing desk. This middle-aged pastor lacked sleep to boot since yesterday’s Sunday-members meeting; a black debate as it turned out. Conflicts held more tightly to him. Anger aroused more in his heart. He avoided any chance at conceding to the majority. The restless pastor convinced himself that he must cling to, and stay unbent with his principles.
Sunday meeting turned bleak, black, and stressful. It still etched in Bently’s tired, and suddenly silvered head. Surely, those silver strands of hair weren’t there a month before. Wrinkled forehead, receding hairline, puckered lips told on him. Bright prospects for hope disguised in a black blindfold. As the shepherd of his flock, Bently’s reasoning blackened a promised green, growing pasture and rest. A frightening decision he had made compromised the love and trust of his loyal members of twelve years in his suburban church.
“Why can’t you, Don, agree with me?” The pastor said, gesturing his exasperation. Secretly, the decision he made pierced his own heart. Even so, he feigned conviction in front of all of them.
Don chose his words and calmly spoke; on his hand, his well-loved Bible, “I hope you see, this, black-and-white, to ‘not be unequally yoked with unbelievers’.”
To the secretary, deacon Don asked, “How much are the Beaver’s Club paying to use our church’s conference rooms on Thursday nights?”
Grasping for her papers, Mrs. Potts glanced at the pastor for permission to reply, “Nearly seventy- thousand dollars.”
Bently said, “That money will also pay for remodelling our Sunday schoolrooms, and the kitchen adjoining the conference room and worship hall. The Beavers Club committee and I agreed on that price.”
“Sounds great. What’s the catch, Pastor?”
Bently Arnolds braved an answer, “Twenty-five years use of our rooms for their meetings and programmes.”
Mrs. Gummer broke in, “We’ve a mortgage of close to eight hundred thousand. We just bought this place last year. It’s looking good now based on our church’s needs!”
“Haven’t the Beaver’s Club abandoned this stinking hole, and had put it up for sale?” Clearing her throat, she continued, “Excuse me for the expression, and now they want part of the limelight!”
Stunning youth leader’s wife put in, “We can work with them. You know, outreach in this community. I’ve programmes to present to you once you agree to... cooperate with the Beavers Club. ”
Mrs. Beggs grieved that her teens had gone so bad.
“Our youth group,” she continued, “goes to the movies most Friday nights. Is this your idea of youth ministry outreach?”
Pleading, she cried, “My sons will die in their sin. Darkness and death are waiting for them. I know it! I can see it! Please help me convince them that they are lost without Jesus!”
The youth leaders, a husband- and- wife- team threatened a fuming look at Mrs. Beggs. But they decided to stay cool, and ignore the woman’s drama. Susie, captured grieving Mrs. Beggs’ hands and held them tight.
Bently found his voice again, “What have you done, instead, Mrs. Beggs?”
“Why put the blame on me with your family gripes?”
“Obscenity, gambling, smoking, wine and alcohol, bingo nights.....compromise.... what next? Said accountant Jonas, concerned for his four young children. Are not our Thursday evenings prayer meetings too?”
Don and his wife, Brenda, had been looking for a church elsewhere. But they decided to stick with JOY and LIFE Christian Church. By the way, in the meeting on Sunday, they talked about renaming their church, ‘JOY and LIFE Community Centre.’
“You’ve abandoned your authority and our trust, Pastor Bently.” Don’s strong words did hurt.
“Oh Bently, greed and pride blackened your view of Biblical principles. At the expense of truth, why do you choose to harden your heart?” Don pleaded with his pastor in the spirit of meekness.
Conscience was knocking patiently. Discernment was calling. But he refused to turn on the porch light, open the door, and enjoy the Light. Darkness loomed gravely over him. The deepening blackness blighted his vision. The path Bently was choosing was dark and dreary.
“O, Lord Jesus, have mercy on me!”
“Hello, Mr. Richmond? The deal is off. Goodbye.”
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