She had a gigantic, crotchety nose. You know the kind with a wart on the end. I know crotchety isn’t an adjective that goes with a nose. But hers was crotchety. Would you prefer long, twisted, splotchy? Crotchety. See?
In fact, she was crotchety and, of course, old. Ancient, in fact. She had outlived three husbands. And she ruled the church in Thyatira. All of the women in the church ruled the church. Sure there were elders and deacons but it was the women that were the ones who were in charge.
I knew this church. I had pastored it for ten years. When I got there, I could quickly sense that the women’s fellowship set all the agendas. I guess it had been that way for ages. I believe every church has its unique DNA and it doesn’t change over time.
This church even had a woman pastor. It wasn’t the first time that it had had a woman pastor. Back in the 1800’s, it had had a woman pastor. The men pastors were only figureheads, though. And the church changed preachers every two years or so. The elders and deacons were set for life. Mainly, that is because the women wanted it that way.
Many of the churches during this time, the end of the end, had women pastors. But, it is the end of times. But one of the most ancient of churches, the one with the leader with the pointy hat, had worship of a woman almost going back to the beginning of the church era.
Are you one of the ones who are offended that I point out that women leaders in churches are illegitimate? Sorry. It wasn’t my idea. If it was up to me, I’d have all women pastors. But it wasn’t up to me. A guy named, Paul, came up with it. Or maybe, it wasn’t even Paul. As Casey Stengel, the venerable old manager of the New York Yankees, used to say, “You could look it up.”*
Since I had long ago gotten been kicked out of the pulpit at this church, how was I asked to come back and preach? Good question. Somehow I managed to stay at this church for ten years.
How did I do that? It was my first church out of seminary. I was green behind the ears (what does that mean?) and rearing to go (another empty cliche). The church had been in existence for over a hundred and a half years by the time I had gotten there. As I mentioned, they changed pastors about every two years. It was in the DNA, it had been established by a “circuit-rider.” A circuit rider was a traveling preacher. In fact, at first, the circuit riders had only visited every other week and preached elsewhere on the alternate Sundays. Thus, it was up to the church members to hold down the fort in between. The congregants were more than happy to take over. After all, they really didn’t want to be pastored, they just wanted to have some fun. But to be legit, they had to have someone who could preach. They didn’t want too much Bible. They only wanted just a bit Scripture and just every other week.
So when I first got there, I asked one of the ladies what they wanted me to do. I pretty much knew what I needed to do but I wanted to hear what the church wanted me to do. Here was the answer, “do what you think you should do . . . .” So I did.
Here is my experience during the ten years I was there. “Staying on the bucking bronco.” That’s what it felt like. I thought God had called me to this church but, unbeknownst to me, there had been a McCoys and Hatfields fight in the church right before I had gotten there. I had been promised that everything was fine and peaceful. Though, I had to notice that the previous pastor had only been there two years. It turns out there had been a deep-seated rift that had lasted years.
In fact, what had happened was the richer group who had ruled the roost for years had been pestered by the poorer group. So the richer group finally threw up their hands in frustration and told the poorer group to go ahead and pick a new pastor. So they did. And they found me.
The church in Thyatira was basically a “community” church. I first encountered a community church years ago in Georgia outside Atlanta. I asked someone who went to one what the characteristics were of a community church. I was thinking that some churches believed that someone could lose their salvation, other churches believed that someone could not lose their salvation. So, what I wondered, was what was typical of a community church. The person I asked didn’t know. The reason was that there wasn’t any particular doctrine that a community church believed. They could subscribe to whatever they wanted. They served “the community.” Years later I was out knocking on doors and encountered a person who attended a community church. I asked him why he liked it. He said because they had close fellowship. So there you go.
My view of the church was that they were like the Love Boat. The pastor was like the captain. He was supposed to make sure everyone had fun activities and were well fed. Not surprising, we clashed.
What I thought a pastor was supposed to do was to teach doctrine. But “doctrine” was a bad term in this church. It shouldn’t be used. So I substituted the term “teaching” for “doctrine.” After a couple of years, I used the word doctrine again.
The church had no statement of their doctrine. Shocking, right? So first thing I did was I wrote up a doctrinal statement based on what was in the Bible and what I knew from the history of the church. It had been in the tradition of congregational churches.
The next thing I did was to try to lead the church along with the deacons. They seemed confused. At one point, I asked the eldest deacon what he thought of church discipline based on Matthew 18.** He said he wasn’t familiar with that Scripture. So ten years later I was thrown off the bucking bronco. After six heart by-passes and almost getting the church to stability, I was invited to start a new church in the area. They said they would help me. (They didn’t.)
So why was I asked to come back and preach during the Tribulation times? Well, just like the first time I was there, no one else was available! The lady pastor was taken ill and no one else could preach. It had shrunk over the years to just a few handfuls of people.
So there I was. And so was the lady with the crotchety nose.
(To be continued . . . .)
* 1Tim. 2:11 A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. 12 But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet.” Notice that Paul’s reason wasn’t cultural. His reasoning went beyond culture. “And [it was] not Adam [who] was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.” 1Tim. 2:14
** Matt. 18:15 “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. 16 “But if he does not listen [to you], take one or two more with you, so that BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY FACT MAY BE CONFIRMED. 17 “If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.