I could see her going down the front stairs to the church and making the curly-cue around her ear. Not the older lady with the crotchety nose but one of her friends. She was making the crazy motion to indicate I was nuts.
The whole congregation knew that I did “first person” sermons. A “first person” sermon was when I portrayed someone from Scripture, sometimes even in costume. I just announced from the pulpit that we were going to have a “guest speaker” the next week. Of course, everyone in the church knew what I meant. The guest speaker was going to be me and I might even dress up in costume.
But the lady who did the “curly-cue” was excited because though she was in Florida half the year, she particularly relished the few Sundays she was in our church and especially enjoyed church when I wasn’t there. So when she heard the term, “guest speaker,” she was excited.
When she “greeted” me at the door after the service, she asked me who the guest speaker was going to be the next week. Of course, I was a little confused because I knew it was going to be me. Then I figured it out. She wasn’t in on the “joke.” So I had to explain to her about a “first person” sermon.
Thus, after traversing the thirteen stairs down to the ground, she turned to her good friend, the lady with the crotchety nose, and made the loopity-loop around her ear. She was indicating I must be crazy. I called down the stairs to her, “I saw that!”
I knew they were planning a “party” for me. I could see two of the deacons talking in their car in the parking lot as I said goodbye to everyone after the services.
A few years after I had gotten to the church, I had enforced membership. I know it was a novelty for the church but it had to be done. Anyone in the community could show up at a business meeting and vote. No kidding. Anyone could show up and vote. After all, it was a community church. But I didn’t think it was biblical and certainly violated the idea of having everything done with order.*
So the element that wanted to get rid of me, knew they would have to shake the trees to rouse people who hadn’t come to church in ages but were members.
Imagine my surprise when I walked in to the next business meeting and I saw so many people I hadn’t ever met! They were members. But they hadn’t attended since the eight years I was pastor!
They took a vote on me as pastor. I had won by one solitary vote. At that point, the husband of the curly-cue lady spoke up. He addressed me directly.
“Pastor, I think you know what is going on here.” He meant that I should resign since the vote was so close.
I said to him, “I did know. I know that you have contacted a lot of people that are members but haven’t attended here in a long time. I don’t know what lies you told them but whatever you told them they have now showed up to vote me out!”
The husband of the curly-cue lady tried to speak out again. The treasurer interrupted him and stopped him. “The vote stands.”
The next vote on the agenda concerned the largest salary increase I had ever gotten. I had been paid a pittance for years since I was told the church was just filled with poor people. Years later, I found out that many of them were millionaires.
All of the “new” congregants stayed for the vote. All but four people voted for my 60% raise. It was short-lived though.
The next year I had six by-passes. And the year after that there was another business meeting.
It was an illegal meeting. The meeting was called during one of my two vacation weeks. They thought I’d be away from the pulpit. The meeting wasn’t led by the moderator. It was not even led by the next year’s moderator. It was actually led by a newly installed deacon, a policeman from the nearby city.
I had caught wind of the meeting so I surprised them and showed up.
But I was too weak to fight. Some of the newest members had been roused up and told a lot of lies about me. I was just too weak to fight.
I answered a couple of the charges against me and called out the policeman who hadn’t returned my phone calls for months and then made my statement.
My closest friends, the secretary of the church and the moderator of the church had not been invited. However, I addressed each person in the room who had sat in a circle. I singled each one out and told a positive anecdote about them that had stuck in my mind.
One was about how I had a wonderful dinner at their house, one was about the good time we had taken a deacon to a pro football game, another was how a great family had taught our children.
Then I resigned. They didn’t fire me. They just promised to help me start a church closer to my house. They paid me some money, coincidentally the same amount as if they had fired me. No other support for that new church was forthcoming.
And yet . . . I returned to preach during the Tribulation.
(To be continued . . . .)
* 1 Cor. 14:40 But all things must be done properly and in an orderly manner.