The Business Meeting
“He has pushed things too far!” commented a man near the back of the auditorium. “They just don’t worship like us.”
“This church IS racially integrated,” another added, speaking of the handful of non-white members.
The pastor sat silently on the front row in the event he would be called on to speak, but they mostly spoke as if he were not even there.
White middle class church people enclosed in their stained glass world. They had said they wanted to reach out, even sent missionaries to Africa, Latin America, and Asia. But the world was just outside their doors in the quickly transitioning neighborhood.
The church had sat proudly on this stretch of road for over a hundred years touting the best music, preaching and programs in the area, but now things were changing. The community was changing. Members that had once lived in this neighborhood moved further out into the county. “White flight” they called it.
Just five years ago they called a bold and fiery young pastor, hoping to revive their dwindling numbers. If he could just create some excitement, start some new ministries, reach out to the community…. In the back of their minds, many of the church members still remembered his words, but they never really understood what it would mean for them.
“You have three choices,” Pastor Kevin explained.
1. You can bloom where you are planted by doing whatever it takes to minister to the increasingly diverse community.
2. Be transplanted and move to an area more like the make up of your current members.
They had chosen to “bloom where they were planted.” After all, the building was beautiful and they had sacrificed much to build it. Why move to a new area? But really they had chosen to die. At the end of this long journey of ministry, they were farther away from reaching the community than before because at the end of every venture was the stubborn refusal to give up the comfort of the familiar for the souls of the lost.
“Pastor Kevin is only interested in the needs of the young people in the congregation,” argued one senior saint. “We are the ones who give the majority of the money to this church and he ignores our wishes.”
“I can’t stand any more of that new music!” added another.
Pastor Kevin’s eyes grew hot with suppressed tears as he remembered the long hours spent at the hospital sitting with his older members. How he had loved them! So many times he had shared in their grief and comforted them in their sorrows. He could not even comprehend their accusations. A dictator? His insistence on loving ALL people had made him public enemy number one.
“I don’t want our young people to have those kinds of influences.” Mr. Allen expressed concern. “ I don’t have anything against ‘em. I jus’ don’t want our youngsters exposed to all that.”
Rebecca, the pastor’s wife, sat silently scribbling down notes on the meeting. “Better remember who can be trusted,” she reasoned. It would not be evident on Sunday morning by the smiles plastered across plastic faces. On second thought…she crumpled up the paper that had kept her mind fixed on something apart from the welling emotions threatening to emerge.
Rebecca’s eyes caught those of her teenage son across the room. How she hated for him to hear this! His ears would not be as forgiving as his father’s.
“It’s time for the pastor to move on. Either he goes, or we do!” threatened the leader of the dissension.
“Pastor Kevin is our shepherd, and we are the sheep,” one gray-haired man said rising to his feet. Brother Stephens, a former missionary, began to speak. “He has led us along straight paths, according to the Word of God. He has only asked us to give of ourselves to reach this community. Yes, we have been asked to relinquish some of our traditions and change some of our methods, not just ministering to those we have hand picked. This may not be comfortable to some of us older folks, but it is the call of God to reach out, not to make ourselves comfortable.”
Pin-drop silence followed. Several individuals among the “dissenters” picked up their belongs and moved toward the door. Thirty in all. Brother Stephens walked to the front of the sanctuary and invited the many still remaining to come forward and pray for their brother, their Pastor.
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