Streams of sweet sweat were pouring down Richard’s forehead. He held that last note so long, I thought I was going to need oxygen myself. It had been a long while since I had seen the congregation so engaged in worship.
“That was some amazing musicianship,” a groomed thirty-something guy announced as he approached Richard and me.
“Thank you,” Richard answered, “And what’s your name?”
“Luke Jones.” He reached out to shake Richard’s hand, and then turned to shake mine. “Insightful message, Pastor.”
“I appreciate that, Luke. Wait, you’re the new executive pastor over at Grace Covenant.”
Richard interrupted anxiously, “Oh, wow, I just purchased your church’s choir CD. That was phenomenal.”
He beamed. “Thanks, that project has been quite successful, which has been both good and bad.”
“Oh, how’s that?” I asked.
“Good--because it’s brought in over $5,000 for missions. And bad-- because our worship pastor decided that it was time to pursue his dream of becoming a recording artist after an agent heard the CD and offered him the moon.”
Richard remarked, “Well, I guess you can’t blame him for that. There aren’t too many of us that would turn down that kind of opportunity. I wouldn’t.”
Now I was the one sweating.
Pastor Luke went on to tell of the great achievements the new artist had accomplished so far. Richard was completely enthralled. The hair on the back of my neck was screaming, so I walked away before my lips had the chance to follow.
Maybe I shouldn’t have. Richard came into my office the following week with wet beads of nervousness on his brow. I guess I was expecting him.
“I’m not sure how this happened,” Richard began to spill out. “One moment I’m talkin’ to Pastor Luke about their sound system, the next we’re discussing a job opening.” He wiped his face with his handkerchief. “I would be directing a choir with four hundred people in it, Jim. They televise in ten states. It’s like my life-long dream has just fallen into my lap. I never meant for this to happen, but now it’s right in front of me. I’m so sorry.”
My heart was torn in two. “Richard,” I uttered, “I would never try to keep you from something that you feel like the Lord is leading you to do. Just know that you will be missed terribly. There’ll be an awfully big hole.”
I did not hear from Richard for over seven months but was thrilled to receive an email from him one day. The chatter in ministry circles was that he was thriving over at Grace, so I couldn’t wait to hear the personal side of things. As I read his message, I pictured him sitting at the keyboard with perspiration gleaming from his hairless head as he typed.
Jim, I’m sorry I’ve haven’t been in touch, but it’s been a whirlwind. I can’t remember the last time I had some down time. I am meeting’d out, and sometimes I feel like we’re more of a business than a ministry. Don’t get me wrong, these people love the Lord, but it’s just different. Like, they choose my wardrobe for church services. I can’t even dress myself now? And the kids hate their youth groups. We can’t get Jason to go anymore. Susan’s not happy either. I feel like a failure. Please pray for us.
I hope your new worship guy is doing well and that he realizes how good he has it. How is everyone? Is the staff playing the fantasy basketball tournament this year? Love, Richard
My eyes began to sting, and my stomach hurt for him. A few moments later, Jeremy, our new worship pastor popped his head in my office. “Everything ok?”
“Yes, it’ll be fine, I’m sure,” I tried to convince myself. “Just concerned about an old friend. You ok?”
Jeremy was chompin’ at the bit to share some interesting news with me. “You’ll never guess who just called me.”
“It was Steven Miller, you remember the guy that left Grace Covenant to go start the big music career?”
I squirmed. “Yeeeeeah?”
“Well, apparently, he’s looking for a job, and he didn’t know that you had filled Richard’s spot since he left. He’s desperate for some, quote ‘actual income,’ end of quote. He said that the solo career thing had led to a bunch of dead ends. Sad, huh?”
The hot water began to pour from my pores. “You don’t know the half of it.”
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