Roger sat on a ratty-old couch outside the pastor’s office. He tapped his fingers restlessly on the stained wooden table beside him, attempting to glance into the pastor’s office every few minutes. Muffled sobs could be heard from inside. A single mom had been in there for a half hour crying to the pastor and his wife about who knows what. Meanwhile, he sat outside waiting thirty minutes past his scheduled appointment.
“Things never used to be this way”, Roger mumbled to himself. The church secretary knocked on the door and handed someone inside another box of tissues. Roger tapped his fingers louder. How long would this take? Finally, the door opened.
“Thank you so much pastor. I don’t know what I would do without you.” The single mother shook the pastor’s hand and gave a hug to his wife, still wiping her tears.
“Don’t worry about it Sheila. We will get you through this”, the pastor said. His wife walked with her out to her car. He turned towards Roger.
“So sorry to keep you waiting Roger”, he shook Roger’s hand with an enthusiastic smile. Roger mumbled something under his breath as they made their way into the pastor’s small office. He sat down on a folding chair dismayed.
“What can I help you with today Roger?”
“Pastor Mark, I’m concerned about the direction of our church.” Roger paused, expecting a defensive remark.
“Well, all the other churches in our area are using modern-day strategies, buying new buildings and sound systems, organizing huge Easter and Christmas productions, and incorporating interesting movies and music into their sermons …” He was interrupted by a knock on the door.
“Sorry, but George is on the phone wondering when we are planning a work team to paint Sally Johnson’s house?” said the secretary.
“Tell him we will be there Saturday morning at eight”, Pastor Mark said with a smile and then focused his attention back on Roger.
“What I’m saying is how do you expect to reach out to the community if we are not up-to-date with the technology and strategies of other churches?” Once again, there was a knock on the door.
“Pastor we have a man from Teen Challenge wondering if they can come and help set up for Sunday’s service”, the secretary leaned her head through the door.
“Tell them it would be greatly appreciated.” Roger tried to ignore them.
“I mean our old pastor had great ideas for how our church would be relevant to the culture and he was planning to move to a beautiful new church building in order to attract more people.” There was silence in the room as Pastor Mark opened his worn-out Bible and flipped through the pages. Then his eyes feel on Roger. They were full of concern.
“Roger do you remember what I spoke about my first Sunday at this church two years ago?”
“You said that you had a new vision for our church”, Roger said angrily.
“That’s right”, smiled Pastor Mark. “And if you remember I read this passage from John. 'So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”* Pastor Mark read with great feeling. Then he looked up into Rogers eyes.
“Roger, the world isn’t going to see the reality of Jesus through fancy church buildings or high-tech equipment. They will see it when we love each other with the same devotion that Jesus loves us.” He pointed to the words in his Bible. “This is my vision.” Roger scowled at this, as there was another knock at the door.
“Pastor Mark, I have Marsha on the phone here and she says that her husband, Bob, is in the hospital again.”
“Tell her I’ll be right there.” Pastor Mark stood up looking in Rogers’s direction.
“Hey, why don’t you come with me to visit Bob in the hospital and get a first hand look at what my vision is all about.” Roger frowned. Bob and Marsha were the elderly couple who usually dressed in shabby clothes and sat in the back of the church. Yet, something inside him could not resist the eager smile on the pastor’s face or the friendly pat on the back he gave him.
“Sure, why not.”
* NLT John 13:34-35
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