Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Wolf in Sheep's Clothing (11/21/13)
TITLE: All Is Not Sweetness and Light
By Judith Gayle Smith
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He was well loved and had a great many followers, disciples actually, who carried his messages all over this thirsty dying world.
Many of his flock quoted him verbatim, having absorbed his very breathings, totally enraptured by his openness, candor and warmth.
His words flow through so many genres – to have even a small part of his thoughts thrills his adoring fans – almost as hysterical about him as groupies are to their objects of obsessive obsession.
He pastored, self-proclaimed, “the largest Sunday School in the world.” Twenty-five thousand every Sunday attended his mega-church to hear the incredible utterances he so gracefully imparted. He delighted himself and others by singsonging clever little ditties to affix his point firmly into his flock’s absorbing little heads.
His accomplishments became the rallying cries for eager young pastors-in-training. Filled with his word about His Word, a great many novices threw themselves into a frenzy of starting churches that would one day equal their mentor’s success. And successful he was.
For these young untried want-to-be pastors, just starting out, the job proved daunting. Knocking on an infinite number of doors, affixing fliers to every vehicle in the market place, studying the programmed and therefore successful teaching tools – fervently bullying people into coming.
Oops. Appears my negative feelings are emerging. Could be the lateness of the hour. Could be my grief over seeing more than one of his followers follow in his footsteps. He was exceptionally knowledgeable, charismatic and almost hypnotic. Yes – I was acquainted with this paragon of virtue – not.
He trained his protégés to never accept criticism about the ministry – no matter how much damage was being done, not from the pulpit, but from the lack of humility propelling them. If complaints arose, they were hushed away by the threat that “someone is eager to split the church.”
We all laughed at stories that something as minor as the texture of carpeting, the comfort of the pews could cause division. We were taught to accept the authority of the Pastor unquestioningly. And we did. He was so charming and charismatic. When he spoke to you, you felt that you two were the only inhabitants of this planet.
He was beautifully trained and primed for success. Our pastor reminded me of a cross between Abraham Lincoln and Charlton Heston. Such fire. Such emotion. Such lack of humility.
Sadly, the beautiful faithful wife was shunted to the side, trotted out for portraits and “Feminars”. He insulted her cooking, her hospitality – from the pulpit. But he made it sound so acceptably funny that the momentary twinges of outrage and pity for his wife became glossed over with the delightful witticisms that followed.
I loved her but couldn’t become close – she moved gracefully about with an almost imperceptible shroud of quiet aloofness, deeply sorrowing, I thought. I wanted to hug her, cry with her, laugh with her – oh how I waited for her laugh.
My husband and I were uniquely blessed to be in the “inner circle”- being one of the surprisingly multiple teams of Associate Pastors for a relatively small fellowship. Wow. That was quite an honor, I will admit. People fought to have you at their dinner tables. It was lovely to be fussed over and petted.
The truth eventually surfaced and the resulting devastation caused unimaginable rifts. Hearts were broken, faith was shattered when we realized that no one soul will escape the penalty for his or her sins without God’s perfect Gift of repentance from present and past behaviors.
We must desire to truly change, through the incredible, masterful strength of His enabling Grace, to become the leaders He chose, and not those who choose and serve themselves.
His flock is His. No one dare claim and literally dismember what He has brought together in and for Himself. I pray for all the scattered sheep who blindly followed false shepherds, including myself.
It was a pretty dream – with nightmares to follow. Please forgive us Lord, for following a man and not listening to You.
Missing the way it should have been, agonized over what it actually was . . .
"Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves."
Matthew 7:15, KJV
"Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves."
Matthew 10:16, KJV
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