wednesday, april 25th, 2007, 4:00 p .m.
It was a hurried week since they last gathered, filling spare time considering their last, most unusual meeting and the ticklish matter before them. Mac considered using the pulpit Sunday morning to steer the elders in a particular direction but an honest heart restrained him. He did have hopes, however, his ongoing teaching on the Holy Spirit would cause them to depend on God for guidance. They were dealing with a sensitive issue, the welfare of the Center at stake, and would require Holy Ghost discernment.
Terry Maclin: I trust everybody had an okay week since our last meeting. I would like to caution the board if we lose unity among ourselves division will spread throughout the congregation we have agreed to protect and serve. In saying that, however, I am not implying we do not speak freely and openly. We must remember tolerance. Tolerance will help us stay together. If we do not agree with what is said we tolerate the speaker and respect his right to an opinion.
Everyone: I agree! Amen!
Donald Williamson: I am the least tolerant man in this room. Don’t expect a miracle but I will try to be more sensitive of the opinions of others.
David Tomas: And I will try to be less dramatic.
Everyone: Soft laughter.
Terry Maclin: Sheldon?
Sheldon Waters: Thank you, Pastor. It seems we have two interlinking issues before us. First, the matter of church administration, or to put it more simply, the way we run the church. Is it really as biblical as we have all assumed? If not, is it really that important? And if so, what do we do about it, if anything?
And second, the matter of Reuben Tanner, a man whom I believe has the respect of everyone at the Center. Do we permit him to speak to the congregation or deny him permission? Can we agree to tackle these issues one at a time?
Everyone: I agree.
Sheldon Waters: Good. First, church administration. I have a further suggestion. Since we have had time to consider the matter seriously, I propose we each make a short statement about our conclusions so far. When we are finished we can question each other, or confirm or challenge what is said.
Everyone: I agree.
Sheldon Waters: Good. Let’s go around the table. You first, Donald.
Donald Williamson: The Bible teaches us we can know the value of something by its fruit. A good tree bears good fruit, a bad tree bad fruit. I say the fruit has been good. I am referring to the way most denominations carry out church business. If the fruit had not been good it would not have survived so many centuries. I have been active in our denomination for close to sixty years. I have seen hundreds come to various altars to receive salvation. I have seen many families put back together again. People have been established in the Word. All good fruit. To put it another way, if it works don’t fix it!
Some others: Amen.
Phil Ferguson: I agree with Donald. Yes, there are always improvements to be made; our denomination consists of imperfect people, and nothing we do will be perfect. But we should not be overly zealous to make changes. To do so, we risk tearing down rather than building up.
Nelson Chesney: I have often heard, and have repeated many times myself, the expression, “God has everything under control.” And I believe it. I have to believe behind the scenes is a sovereign God controlling the affairs of men. Though I may not always understand I trust things are working out according to plan, His plan, in our church and our denomination and every other evangelical denomination.
Shaun Edwards: I was thoroughly challenged last week when David implied we should close the Bible if we do not intend to obey it. I have spent every spare moment, sometimes sitting up past midnight, searching the New Testament for clues how a church should be governed. David, do not be apologetic for being demonstrative. For me, it was a wake-up call. I have been guilty of presumption. It is still not fully clear to me how a local church should be managed but I have made the unpleasant discovery that there seems to be little similarity between the way we do things and the New Testament. Other religions choose tradition over the Word. Let us not make the same mistake.
Brent Anderson: I am still shaken by this entire matter. Frankly, I have nothing to say, not yet.
Tony Borric: The call of Christians is a call to obedience. “To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of lambs.” How do we obey God? Pastor Mac has said many times we obey God by obeying the Bible and the Holy Spirit who leads us into all truth. One more point. We are not allowed to do collectively what is forbidden as individuals. Let me explain. As an individual I am obliged to obey the Bible as I understand it. But somehow that principle is lessened when individuals become a group; we can be less diligent as a church in checking to see if the way we do things are in accord to God’s Word. To put it bluntly, and I hope no one takes offense, disobedience is tolerated as long as we are disobedient together.
David Tomas: Jesus once said, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do the things which I say?” As elders, we should be scrupulous to set an example of obedience.
Sheldon Waters: I said it last week and I say it again: I find this a very fascinating subject. I remind myself there is not, and never will be, a perfect church. Should we be spending our time and energy doing the best we can with what we have, or risk being diverted by trying to make improvements? For now, I have more questions than answers.
Terry Maclin: Frankly, I don’t think anyone here is an authority on the subject of biblical church administration, myself included. But let’s look at the overall picture. I am a licensed and ordained minister of our denomination and as such have agreed to abide by denominational bylaws and policies. Pastor Phil is also licensed though not yet ordained. Please understand I am committed to head office and the standard they have set. When each of you agreed to serve as elders it was assumed you were also agreeing to that same standard. Sheldon, back to you.
Sheldon Waters: Thank you, Pastor. Now I am sure there are questions to throw back and forth. Anyone?
Tony Borric: Donald, you said, “If it works don’t fix it.” I wonder if it is working all that well. Why do Christians seem to agree that most evangelical churches are in constant need of revival?
Donald Williamson: The fruit is either good or bad. What do you think it is? I say it is good fruit.
Tony Borric: I would have to say it is a mixture.
Donald Williamson: How could that be? The tree is either a good tree or a bad tree. There is no such thing as a good-bad tree.
Tony Borric: I don’t think it’s that simple. As a Christian I have produced both good fruit and bad. I would say it like this: Inside me are two trees, a good and a bad, one wanting to produce pleasant fruit, the other distasteful. The same is true of every Christian and, I believe, every denomination.
Brent Anderson: Shaun, you have suggested there are discrepancies between the Bible and the way we do things.
Shaun Edwards: There seems to be. We have already mentioned two. First, the word layman is not a biblical term. Second, we use the word pastor often, a word the New Testament uses but once, an indication, I think, we are not in tune with Scripture.
Phil Ferguson: But you are speaking of a technicality. As I said before, in the earliest church there were those who gave leadership and those who were being shepherded, those who were pastors and those who were sheep. What terms we use to describe these two groups is inconsequential.
Shaun Edwards: Yes, you made that point before Pastor Phil, and I heard you. Since that time I have come to disagree. Please hear me. Today we have a few that are given an official capacity to rule over many. Such a practice cannot be found in the New Testament.
Donald Williamson: Official? That’s splitting hairs!
Shaun Edwards: I think not. In the New Testament church no person was forbidden to give leadership. Everyone was allowed equal say, that is, everyone was allowed to speak the truths of God. And everyone had the responsibility to judge for himself the validity of what was said. No person had an official capacity over another.
Donald Williamson: But there were appointed elders. How official can you get?
Shaun Edwards: The appointed elders were to lead by example. They did not have an endorsed authority over anyone. Their authority was limited to speaking the authoritative truths of God. Undoubtedly, the elders were more vocal than the others simply because they were more founded in truth. But no one was muzzled. The New Testament has much to say about speaking and ministering to each other. It seems to me God intends His church to be dependent on each other rather than the many being dependent on the few.
Donald Williamson: Sounds like anarchy!
Shaun Edwards: I have no comment about that. I simply attempted to answer Brent’s question regarding discrepancies between us and the Bible.
Brent Anderson: Are there other discrepancies? Please say no.
Others: Light laughter.
Shaun Edwards: There are many. However, I would prefer not to go into that now.
Brent Anderson: You can’t stop now. Let’s hear it.
Shaun Edwards: Okay. I’ll mention a few, but you better brace yourself.
Brent Anderson: Sounds bad.
Shaun Edwards: In the New Testament there is not found the schism we find today, the splitting of the church into two groups, the clergy (or ministerial) and the layman. There is no hint of denominationalism, no ecclesiastical hierarchy. There are no titles; even Paul was not titled. There was always a plurality of leadership, not a salaried pastor to do the entire work of the ministry. As a matter of fact, the New Testament church seemed to be ruled by consensus; Paul always made his appeal to the entire local church, never to a few individuals. And it is doubtful early church Christians tithed; there is not a single example of a Christian tithing or being so instructed. Though the people were encouraged to financially support those who ministered to them spiritually there was no such thing as a salary. We all know they didn’t spend their money building and maintaining church buildings. Do you want to hear more?
Brent Anderson: No, I’ve heard enough!
Donald Williamson: Brent, keep in mind Shaun is merely expressing his opinions. Right Shaun?
Shaun Edwards: Correct.
Donald Williamson: For years, more years than Shaun, I have studied the same Bible and have come to far different conclusions.
Brent Anderson: That makes me feel better. I guess.
Sheldon Waters: I am not sure where we should go from here. Anyone?
David Tomas: I would like to comment on Nelson’s remark, “God has everything under control.” I used to say the same thing but no longer. God does not have everything under control.
Donald Williamson: Oh come on, Tomas! Are you disputing the sovereignty of God?
David Tomas: I am saying God is not a controller. He gave us a free will. If we say God has everything under control we are blaming Him for the mess this world is in.
Tony Borric: I think David is saying we cannot assume the way we do things in our church is necessarily the will of God. Something to think about.
Sheldon Waters: Very interesting. Now I would like to turn our attention to the realities that Pastor Mac referred to. In fact, we are under the auspices of our denomination.
Phil Ferguson: I want everyone to understand my loyalty is with the denomination that licensed me and, hopefully, will one day ordain me.
Brent Anderson: Without saying so directly, I think Pastor Mac has implied the same.
Donald Williamson: Let’s take a hard look at reality. If we stray from denominational policy we seriously risk losing Pastor Mac. Who needs to be reminded that Pastor Mac and Vivian were the force behind the founding of this church?
Nelson Chesney: The Center without Pastor Mac is unthinkable.
Brent Anderson: And if we happen to find someone equally competent we would be right back to where we are now.
Shaun Edwards: I propose since we cannot make changes locally we should pursue trying to make changes in our denomination.
Donald Williamson: I for one am far from convinced changes are necessary.
Sheldon Waters: I suggest we appoint a committee of three to study the matter, and if the committee concludes changes are beneficial we authorize them to approach head office.
Most: I agree.
David Tomas: How about you, Shaun? Will you serve on the committee?
Shaun Edwards: I will serve. And you, David? Will you work with me?
David Tomas: I would be honored.
Nelson Chesney: Tony, will you be the third man?
Tony Borric: I respectfully decline.
Shaun Edwards: Sheldon?
Sheldon Waters: I’m in.
Shaun Edwards: Pastor Mac, what are our chances of impacting the denomination?
Terry Maclin: Good, if you’re patient. Changes come slow but they do come. I suggest you do not overwhelm head office with a load of suggestions but concentrate on one issue at a time, and be prepared to pursue the matter diligently.
Donald Williamson: And stay away from tithes.
Everyone: Light laughter.
Sheldon Waters: Let’s take a vote. I propose a committee of three, Shaun, David, and myself, look into the matter of church administration and recommend changes we feel would be beneficial to the entire denomination. Until then, it’s business as usual. Donald, you first.
Donald Williamson: It can’t hurt. See, I am learning tolerance.
Everyone: Light laughter
Nelson Chesney: I agree. It’s a compromise I can accept.
Shaun Edwards: I agree. What choice do we have?
Brent Anderson: I agree.
Tony Borric: I would like to be last. David?
David Tomas: I agree.
Sheldon Waters: I agree.
Terry Maclin: I agree. Back to you, Tony.
Tony Borric: Thank you, Pastor. Shaun mentioned how he was challenged when David suggested we either obey the Bible or close it. I, too, was impacted. I have had a rough week.
Donald Williamson: Not this again!
Sheldon Waters: Please continue, Tony.
Tony Borric: I am a finishing carpenter. A finishing carpenter is much more meticulous than a framing carpenter. Everything must be exactly square, exactly right, or it drives a finishing carpenter crazy. One time a customer paid me for a rather large china cabinet I had built for her, fully satisfied and appreciative. But I couldn’t sleep that night because I knew what the lady did not – the cabinet was out of plumb. What could I do, tear it down and start over? I sent her a check for half the cost of the cabinet and explained in a letter why. Still, it bothered me that something I did was not true, not right, and does so until this day. Now I am trying to make you understand how I feel about the proposal Sheldon has made and which you are all in agreement. To me, it is out of square; it is not true. I understand your position, I certainly am not critical, but frankly, it is off plumb with the Bible and therefore with my conscience. I can’t live with it. Therefore as of this moment I resign from the board of elders.
Terry Maclin: Tony, no! Take some time to reconsider!
Tony Borric: No, Pastor Mac. I have thought about this all week. I would like to say again if any man sees anger in me, or a judgmental attitude, he sees amiss. I am not critical towards anyone in this room.
Donald Williamson: My God, man! Sometimes we have to compromise for the sake of unity! You know, give and take!
Brent Anderson: Tolerance! Isn’t that what it’s all about? Not having to have your own way?
Tony Borric: I thank you for your comments but I am determined. Since I am no longer a member of the board of elders you still retain unanimity. Please know I will always support you in prayer. Now before I leave there is one thing I must do.
Tony Borric stood up, every curious eye following his movements as he reached to the center of the table with both hands and gently closed the Bible. “There,” he said, “now everything is on the square.” No one protested. No one opened the Bible after Tony walked out. The Bible stayed closed until Vivian opened it again the following day, thinking someone had used it and forgot to re-open it. Mac went behind her and gently closed it again. I have as many faults as most, he thought to himself, but I refuse to be a hypocrite.
The delivery boy arrived late with the chicken. Couldn’t find the place, he said. Never delivered to a church before, he said. Couldn’t find the right door, he said. The fries were cold, coffee lukewarm, chicken greasy. The mood in the room shifted from buoyant to somber. Tony Borric’s resignation was a serious blow. Most had already put in a full day and some had a commitment after the meeting. The dialogue was much less convivial.
Sheldon Waters: I think we should get on with the second issue of concern: Reuben Tanner.
Donald Williamson: One minute, Sheldon. First I have a question for David Tomas. Tomas, I want to know, are you with us or are you also going to be a quitter?
Shaun Edwards: You are calling Tony a quitter. I don’t see him like that. He has served longer than any of us.
Donald Williamson: He quit before his term is up. He failed to live up to his commitment. In my estimate that makes him a quitter.
Shaun Edwards: I would be more kind than that. I would call him a conscientious dissenter.
Donald Williamson: Call him what you will. I think we should know where everyone stands.
Sheldon Waters: Let’s go around the table. Do we stick together? Donald?
Donald Williamson: I’m no quitter.
Phil Ferguson: Of course.
Nelson Chesney: Ditto.
Shaun Edwards: I’m in……for now.
Brent Anderson: I’m here to stay.
David Tomas: For now I am in.
Sheldon Waters: I am most certainly in.
Terry Maclin: Everyone knows my position.
Sheldon Waters: Shall we move on?
Everyone: I agree.
Sheldon Waters: Reuben Tanner has appealed to us to reverse Pastor Mac’s decision and allow him access to the pulpit two successive Sundays. Anyone?
Shaun Edwards: I am fully satisfied there is no biblical reason why Tanner cannot have access to the pulpit.
Donald Williamson: Then let’s find another reason!
David Tomas: That’s not right! Reuben appealed to us to make a judgment, not to look for a reason to say no.
Sheldon Waters: David, are you saying we should override Pastor Mac’s decision?
David Tomas: I am saying we should give the matter fair consideration. To do less would make a mockery of our existence as a board.
Sheldon Waters: I think a fair question would be: Is Reuben competent to preach to the congregation? Personally, I don’t know where he is at doctrinally.
Shaun Edwards: Good point, Sheldon. I for one do not want to be guilty of presumption again.
Donald Williamson: Since we cannot endorse him the matter is closed as far as I am concerned.
David Tomas: I endorse him.
Sheldon Waters: David, do you know something the rest of us don’t know?
David Tomas: I know Reuben well. I have been attending his Wednesday evening gathering at the Tanner residence, whenever I can, for a year now.
Nelson Chesney: You mean a Bible study? I never knew Reuben was authorized to lead a Bible study. That puts a different light on the matter. Pastor Mac?
Terry Maclin: Reuben has never been authorized by the Center to lead a Bible study or prayer group. He has never inquired. This is the first time I have heard about it. David?
David Tomas: It’s not like that. Nothing official. Just Christians, neighbors mostly, getting together on Wednesday nights.
Donald Williamson: Are you a neighbor?
David Tomas: No.
Donald Williamson: Then you are endorsing it!
David Tomas: I am simply attending a gathering of saints.
Donald Williamson: You are making a statement by your attendance!
Nelson Chesney: I agree. As an elder you represent the Center. It could appear to people in the church that the Center is endorsing this Bible study…… or whatever it is.
Sheldon Waters: Perhaps we should endorse it.
Nelson Chesney: That’s something to consider.
David Tomas: Gentlemen, I don’t think Reuben wants our endorsement.
Donald Williamson: My Lord! Tanner doesn’t want our endorsement, just our pulpit!
Sheldon Waters: Let’s stay on track. Whether we agree David should or should not attend a…… what should I call it?…… an unofficial organized gathering of Christians, is a separate issue. The fact is there is one of us who does endorse Reuben Tanner.
Donald Williamson: But that’s just one.
Nelson Chesney: I respect David’s judgment.
Shaun Edwards: I agree. David is on this board because we respect his judgment.
Donald Williamson: I thought we all agreed that until changes came from head office it would remain business as usual. Allowing a layman to preach two consecutive Sundays is not business as usual.
Phil Ferguson: We did agree.
Shaun Edwards: I think we agreed to follow the policies of head office. Pastor Mac, is there a rule forbidding a layman to preach?
Terry Maclin: No. It is most unusual to allow a layman to preach to a congregation but there is nothing in writing to prevent it.
Donald Williamson: Pastor Mac, has there ever been an occasion whereby a layman requested to preach to a congregation and permission was granted?
Terry Maclin: Not that I know of.
Shaun Edwards: Still, we could, if we so chose, give our permission without trespassing a denominational ruling.
Brent Anderson: I think there is something everyone is overlooking. What will happen if we say no? Will Tanner simply let the matter drop? Or will he try to reach the people by some other means?
Nelson Chesney: Excellent point, Brent. The man seems determined.
Donald Williamson: If he tried something he would face our wrath!
Brent Anderson: But that would bring serious division to the Center. People love the Tanners.
Donald Williamson: We cannot be intimidated! If Tanner wants a fight we will give it to him!
Sheldon Waters: David, you know Reuben. Would he accept our decision?
David Tomas: I don’t know.
Sheldon Waters: Pastor Mac?
Terry Maclin: I don’t know. I don’t seem to have much influence on Reuben. Other than baseball, he is not what could be called a team player. That is why he has never been a consideration for this board or any other position of responsibility, other than usher. He did something most unusual by appealing to the board. He seems determined.
Phil Ferguson: He sounds like an independent, accountable to no one but himself.
David Tomas: There is still another matter for consideration. Perhaps God really does want Reuben Tanner to speak a word to the congregation.
Donald Williamson: Good Lord, Tomas! God doesn’t work that way! God is orderly. If God wanted Tanner to preach He would have spoken to Pastor Mac. We shouldn’t give any credence to a self-proclaimed prophet.
Some others: Amen.
Shaun Edwards: I am not so sure Reuben proclaims himself to be a prophet.
David Tomas: Nor I.
Donald Williamson: Gentlemen, I think we should seriously consider Romans 16:17. I memorized it years ago. “Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them.” Over the years I occasionally witnessed someone rise up and challenge church authority and cause a stir in the assembly. The result was division and emotional distress among the people. They are usually very subtle men who allege to have a special status with God, always professing to have the good of the assembly at heart. But after the damage is done it becomes obvious they were pawns of the devil!
David Tomas: Really, Mr. Williamson, all Reuben did was ask for our judgment on a matter.
Phil Ferguson: Think about it, David. Suppose the board reversed Pastor Mac’s decision; don’t you think Reuben realizes that could cause a serious rift between Pastor Mac and the board? And yet he petitions us to do that very thing.
Nelson Chesney: A good point.
Brent Anderson: All I know is that before Reuben made his appeal to us to reverse Pastor Mac’s decision we were united. Since then Tony has resigned and the rest of us are nipping at each other.
Donald Williamson: How do you think Pastor Mac is going to explain Borric’s resignation to the congregation? I tell you, we are going to see more division! Pastor Mac said if we lose our unity the division would spread into the assembly. Have you ever witnessed a church split? I have, and it isn’t pretty.
Shaun Edwards: Let’s look at it again. A man from our assemblage feels he has a message for us. He goes to the pastor and is declined. He takes a further step by appealing to the board. The man has done nothing wrong!
Donald Williamson: I didn’t say he had malicious intent! I say he is being used!
Sheldon Waters: Brothers, I don’t think we will ever come to a consensus on this matter. Would anyone argue that point?
Donald Williamson: I would never agree to allow Tanner access to the pulpit.
Sheldon Waters: I suggest we throw the matter back to Pastor Mac. Any disagreement?
Nelson Chesney: We tried but we seem to be going nowhere.
Sheldon Waters: Pastor Mac, I think I can speak for everyone when I say we highly respect your judgment and your integrity. We ask you to consider all that was said tonight and last week and come to a conclusion. We will back you up whichever way you decide. Does everyone agree?
Everyone: I agree.
saturday morning, april 28th, 2007
Weather permitting, the last Saturday in April always finds a large crew of volunteers from Bryden Falls Community Christian Center hard at work at Bryden Falls Baseball Park adjacent to the church property. Maintaining the park was a subtle means of affecting the community for God, an effort to reverse the negative attitude many have against Christians and the faith they profess. And it seemed to work. Every year the local paper wrote a favorable article, usually accompanied by a large picture. Last year two small youngsters were featured, together carrying a large bag they were filling with scraps of litter.
Every year the handrails of the bleachers were painted a different, usually very bright, color. The seats were washed and bleached, the stairways and aisles swept and washed with a power washer. The washrooms were given a coat of paint from ceiling to floor, sinks and toilets were cleaned, repairs made where needed. The concession stand was also painted, inside and out, the refrigerators and stoves thoroughly cleansed, the tile floor scrubbed and polished. A ride-on sweeper was rented, at church expense, to sweep the paved parking lot. A crew worked on the baseball diamond, another worked on park grounds, pulling weeds, trimming trees and bushes, fertilizing, picking up garbage. The happy-face signs and the Glad You Are Here signs posted throughout the park were washed and polished.
Not only did they do the yearly sprucing but maintained the park throughout the year. Only cutting the grass was left to city workers. The Center long ago adopted a no tolerance policy regarding graffiti. Whenever graffiti was spotted it was reported to a volunteer group who immediately covered it with paint. Because of their diligence graffiti people expressed themselves elsewhere.
The number of volunteers was down the last few years, not the one hundred that used to come, but the crew was sizable nonetheless. Not far away in the church kitchen a dozen women were preparing the noon meal that would be carted to the park on a trailer pulled by a small garden tractor. The meal was actually a banquet, having evolved over the years from a simple picnic lunch to something quite sumptuous. Because of the many workers the project would be completed by early afternoon, and the men would bring out the horseshoes and baseball gloves, the women watching from the sideline. It was a Saturday of socializing and bonding and happy chatter.
Today was a magnificent spring day, not a cloud, bright and warm.
Kyle and Katie Maclin and John Tanner were raking and bagging last year leaves around the large elms at the far end of the park. Usually it was Kyle and John hanging out together, but today Kyle invited his sister to join them. And then: “I think Dad needs help unloading tables for the noon meal. Be back in a while.”
For the first time in their lives John and Katie were alone. They were both nervous, trying to say something funny as they worked the dead leaves and grass into plastic bags. The “little while” turned out to be an hour plus, and the time was used to explore, most delicately and most discreetly, the possibility of a relationship. The work slowed as they struggled to communicate their positions, their terms, while not appearing to do so. They had already realized their mutual attraction; now it was time to see if there was potential.
“Kyle tells me you may be going to the convention this year.”
“I am going. I left a message with your mom that I accepted your dad’s invitation.”
“Sounds exciting. Does that mean you are considering entering the ministry?”
“I really don’t know. I am praying about it. I want to fulfill God’s plan in my life whatever that is.”
“Do you have a sense what that might be?”
“Well, a wife of course. Who I marry is more important than what I do. She must cherish God. She must love children. She must be willing to home school our children, same as I was. Hopefully she would acknowledge me as the head of the family under Christ.”
Cherish God? No problem. And I sure love children. Home school? I don’t know; sounds like a lot of work, but I guess I could do it. Submit to my husband? I could work on it.
“And you, Katie? What do see in your future?”
“A husband. Three children, a boy and two girls, the son being the oldest so he can look after his sisters the same as Kyle has looked after me. The son will be born two years after I am married, the first girl three years later and the second soon after so the sisters will be close to the same age.”
John thought Katie was joking, the exactness of her dreams being so unrealistic, and laughed what he thought was an appropriate laugh.
“You are laughing!”
“Sorry, Katie! I thought I was supposed to…… I mean, I thought you were trying to be funny.”
And then Katie realized the humor too, and laughed at her absurdity. “Little Freddie will grow to be six feet, two inches tall. Exactly.” And they laughed the harder.
“Yes, and Martha will have blue eyes, blond hair and a dimple on her right cheek,” John joined in. “I wonder what her shoe size will be.”
“That’s easy. Seven B, of course. I’ve got it all planned.” Their nervousness was spent in loud laughter as they ventured deeper and deeper into the ridiculous and, finding it difficult to stand, sat together in the shade of an elm. “Molly, the youngest, will play piano, a very large, very expensive piano. Her favorite hymn will be Amazing Grace. She will always have flowers on her piano, yellow flowers; yellow is her preferred color, you know.”
John gave Katie a chance to carry on the comedy. “And your husband?”
But Katie turned serious. “My husband will be the pastor of a church, or will serve God in a similar capacity. Of that I am sure.”
“You seem very determined.”
“I don’t think I want to live my life in a less than meaningful way.”
“But there are other ways to serve God,” John matched her serious tone.
“Most certainly. But most other ways are part-time. Both my parents serve God full time. Anything less would be hard to accept.”
Hmmm. Three kids? I can certainly accept that. Be a pastor? Doesn’t one have to be called? Pastor Mac thinks I have it in me. I don’t think Dad would be too happy. Perhaps I will get my answer at the conference.
“Come on, guys, get to work!” Kyle yelled as he approached. “I leave you alone for a couple of minutes and find you sitting under a tree!”
Terry Maclin was quite aware his Katie was alone with John Tanner, the first time he knew of, and his secret yearning that tall and honorable and upright John Tanner would someday be his son-in-law ballooned into hope. He speculated correctly that they were testing to see if a relationship was plausible. Katie, he knew, was cautious and wise, and would discreetly establish her conditions. She would let John know her heart’s desire to someday be a pastor’s wife. If Mac’s judgment of character was correct, only if John agreed to her terms would he one day make an advance towards his daughter.
John had let him know he accepted his invitation to the conference. Mac would try to arrange for Superintendent Johnston to sit with the both of them during one or two of the meals. There was much at stake.
Mac’s job today was supervising and making sure everybody had the tools to do their chores. He carried his smile from place to place, person to person, always pleasant and encouraging and witty. No one could detect buried shallow within was more than a little worry and anger and discouragement.
Mac’s worry was regarding his best friend, Trevor Kenny. At the last game played in Tree’s hometown, Mac learned Sally would be moving east with their two teenagers. What would his friend do with his life after they were gone? Mac never seemed to get a free afternoon to spend with his bud. I got to get down there! he scolded himself.
And there was the worry over his congregation. Tomorrow morning, in keeping with his own standard of openness, he would announce in the church bulletin Tony Borric’s resignation, and then worrisome inquiries would bounce back and forth for weeks to come, each one adding to the stress of church life.
Mac’s anger was over Tony Borric’s resignation from the board of elders. Tony was a good man, serving his fifth term, a sincere kind of a guy, always supportive. No, he wasn’t a friend, at least not the socializing kind of friend – Mac never made friends with those whom he shepherded; others would be jealous – but nonetheless he would miss the man. He couldn’t fault Tony; he was simply standing on principle. And Mac didn’t think he should blame himself. Yes, he could have sided with Donald Williamson at the start, and the pursuing questions about church structure would remain, happily, unasked. But encouraging the elders to speak freely was the right thing to do though the result was divisive and painful. Reasonable or not, Mac realized his anger was set on the plumber who was now fixing a leaky toilet in the men’s washroom.
The burden of responsibility had been returned to Mac’s court, as he knew it would. And at this moment he was still undecided. If saying no to Reuben would put an end to it he would say no. To Mac, it was no longer an ethical issue, but a practical one. How do I get out of this without causing further damage? was his only concern. But saying no could worsen the situation. Mac was convinced Reuben was not submissive to his leadership; that is why, he reasoned, Reuben was the only person in the congregation who did not call him Pastor Mac; that is why Reuben appealed to the governing board to reverse his decision, the only person to have ever done so; that is why Reuben held a weekly gathering of Christians without church endorsement. Would such a man humbly submit to a refusal? Doubtful.
And Mac’s discouragement? How could he not be discouraged when he put in a seven day week to build up the Center and yet there was no longer growth? There used to be a hundred people for the yearly cleanup; today there was less than seventy. Don’t lose your smile, he warned himself. Don’t ever admit discouragement or it will spread like a bad flu. Be positive, enthused. Lots of smile.
The pulpit no longer seemed to work for him. The people failed to be inspired no matter how much passion he mustered. What was wrong? What was missing? Mac thought of requesting help from head office. Superintendent Johnston was an able motivator. And there were others. Perhaps fresh blood would shake off the complacency that had settled upon his people. But how could he admit to needing help? In a few weeks he would be speaking to a roomful of pastors sharing his “success” story, hoping to inspire them.
Reuben’s mind was not on the toilet he was fixing but under the elm with his son and Katie Maclin. Reuben and John had been close all through John’s grow-up years, son adulating father, father attentive to son. The entire Tanner family of seven was closely knit, a fruit, mostly, of Jeni’s character and resolve. But now John was drifting, as an eighteen year old will, establishing his own roots, sampling independence. But it was not that kind of tug on his son’s heart that was troubling. Reuben knew there was a spiritual struggle over his eldest’s loyalty.
He never hesitated to give John permission to attend the conference, nor did he hint disapproval, nor did he give advice. John was heading for nineteen, and Reuben’s role was changing. He would be there for his boy but now the boy must come to him. No longer would he impose his perspective.
The hardworking crew enjoyed mealtime in the early afternoon sunshine. There is nothing like a scrumptious meal for the hungry to enkindle happy chatter. A few noticed, and pointed out, the dark clouds climbing over the distant horizon. Perhaps it would recede, they all hoped. It wouldn’t.
saturday, april 28th, 2007, 9:30 p.m.
“Announcement: Tony Borric resigns from the board of elders. Yes, after almost ten years of service Tony is calling it quits, but will certainly be serving in other capacities. Tony has always been the selfless servant, and the Center is indebted. The board will miss his wisdom and insights. Thanks Tony! God bless ya’!”
Open and upfront? Mac asked himself. Hardly. Mac was doing the final touches for tomorrow’s bulletin and was stuck trying to formulate the notice of Tony Borric’s resignation. Let’s try again.
“Announcement: Tony Borric resigns from the board of elders. Yes, after almost ten years of service Tony is calling it quits, but will certainly be serving in other capacities. Because Tony felt uncomfortable abiding by denominational policies rather than the teachings of the New Testament, he decided to resign rather than disturb the unanimity of the board. Tony has always been……”
No! That will go over like a lead balloon! The congregation will think the board is willfully disobeying the Bible. And it’s not that simple.
“Announcement: Tony Borric resigns from the board of elders. Yes, after almost ten years of service Tony is calling it quits, but will certainly be serving in other capacities. Tony has found it difficult reconciling certain denominational policies with New Testament teachings, and decided to resign rather than disturb……”
Nope. That makes it sound like Tony was alone in his convictions. What about Shaun and David? Mac was in a real dilemma; he just couldn’t seem to soften the blow the announcement would make. And then: Hey, I got it!
“For your information the revised list of the board of elders is as follows:
Done! Only a few will notice Tony’s name absent. And those few will probably conclude his term was over.
Church politics is a funny thing. The heart, who can understand it?
monday, april 30th, 2007, 9:00 a.m.
It’s good to get away from the city, Mac was thinking as he drove to Reuben Tanner’s ranch. Too bad the circumstances were not more pleasant.
Rather than meet with Reuben in his office – there is something artificial and stuffy about a pastor’s office Mac long ago concluded; men should get together in natural backgrounds of life – he had Vivian make an appointment with Reuben at his ranch, supposing he could better discern the man in his own element. You can see into a man through his family, through his mannerism, through his accomplishments and habits. And Mac did want to see into the man who was the source of so much havoc.
The roadway into Tanner’s property was now compacted in crushed gravel, no longer the bumpy road he remembered. It’s been years since I was here. How many? Six? Ten? Surely it hasn’t been fifteen years or more.
Improvements to the property were everywhere. What appeared to be a large guest house, an A-framed structure, had been constructed about a hundred yards from the log house. Between the two buildings was a spacious playground – swings of various sizes, a trampoline, an elevated playhouse, a net for volleyball, a paved area with a basketball hoop. There was even a batting cage complete with a homemade pitching machine. No wonder Reuben and John hit so well, Mac mused.
Reuben had added a two-car garage, a few sheds for his ranch machinery, a barn for hay and feed. Mac counted a dozen horses of various sizes and color, poking their heads out of stalls or munching hay in corrals. Oh yes, those corrals! Mac still remembered how his body ached the last time he drove off this place.
The entire acreage of trees had been cleared of undergrowth and dead branches, a chore of hundreds of hours of sweaty labor. The large pavement area in front of the house lined with stone walls and the nearby trimmed bushes and fir trees gave the log house a stately appearance. Mac was thoroughly impressed and not a little envious.
Roo approached Mac at the parking area riding a spotted Appaloosa, leading a saddled gray Palomino.
“Is that for me?” Mac asked in childlike excitement.
“I thought you might like a tour of the ranch. This is our finest horse.”
“I would love a tour of your ranch.” Mac had no problem mounting the beautiful gray though he had done little riding since leaving his dad’s farm.
“You okay? Are the cinches right for you?”
“Just right. We are about the same size.”
“I always thought of you as being bigger than me, Mac.” The compliment was a pleasant surprise, but Mac kept himself in a guarded mode. “Behind us is about five hundred acres of government land which we lease for a nominal sum. Want to check it out?”
“Lead the way, my friend.”
After an awesome two hours on crown land traveling on well-used trails and traversing two creeks, the pastor and plumber made it to the top of the largest hill where the astounding panorama below stretched many miles to the city and the falls and across the border. Giving the horses a rest, the two men sat on a log Mac knew had been sat on many times before.
“Jeni made us coffee.” Roo reached for a thermos in his saddlebag. “She remembered you like it black.”
“She has a good memory.” The entire congregation knew he drank his coffee black, such attentiveness came with the position of pastor.
“I’m glad you came to our ranch.”
“Sure beats an office. I didn’t see the kids.”
“Jeni has them in class. Today they are holding class in the guest house, working hard for final exams.”
“Roo, I must say, you are truly blessed. This is an ideal place to raise a family. What’s your secret?”
Mac didn’t like that one-word answer. Too blunt or something, Mac thought. We all have Jesus Christ but we are not equally blessed. So he changed the subject.
“The board thoroughly discussed your appeal to reverse my decision to not allow you access to the pulpit. Frankly, they could not come to a unanimous conclusion. They asked me to make the final decision, taking into consideration their input on the matter. As of this moment I am still undecided.”
“I know it is an unusual request.”
“Most unusual, Roo. Most unusual. I confess I was irritated by your appeal to the board, but no longer; you were within your right. I suppose you will be disappointed if I again turn you down.”
“I don’t believe you will.” When a man says so little one has a tendency to read into his few words crafty messages. Is that a subtle threat? Mac wondered. “I don’t believe you will turn me down because you know what will happen if you do?”
“You sound confident.”
“I am.” Mac could not know Reuben would welcome a way out but was resigned to what he considered to be the inevitable.
Now what is that supposed to mean? “I learned something at the board meeting. I had previously said to you that you do not have the endorsement of the board. That’s not entirely true. I found out David Tomas sometimes attends your Wednesday night gatherings. He endorses your doctrinal position of the Bible, and the board respects his judgment.”
“I didn’t know about your meetings. How many? Half dozen?”
“Usually there are forty to fifty.”
“Forty to fifty people?! How many from the Center?” Mac’s voice was demanding.
“Can we talk about that sometime?” Mac was shaken. How could he not have known? The pastor’s office is an information center. Pastors know everything, were supposed to know everything; they are freely given information people wouldn’t tell anyone else.
“Now I must know the subject of your message.”
“Certainly. The message deals with one’s relationship with Christ and the impending account we must all give.”
“That’s it?” No end-time ranting, no anti-tithing, no anti-church structure?
“To put it briefly, yes. You may ask me questions if you like.”
“No, no more questions. I would be insulted if someone challenged me in that way. However, I would rather you let me communicate your message for you. You could preach the message to me, or give me your notes, and I would relay it to the people. Sounds like a reasonable compromise to me.”
No? No, I am not capable? Have I not given the same message several times? “Okay, okay. I will grant you permission to speak to the congregation. But don’t you think you could squeeze it into one Sunday instead of two?”
“I really don’t think so. Most are not able to consume too much at a time.”
This guy’s got no give in him! “Okay, okay. You may preach two successive Sundays. On the third of June I will be at our conference, and it’s difficult to find a speaker from our denomination; most will be in attendance, including Phil Ferguson. Will Sunday, June 3rd be suitable for you?”
“I would like you to be there. And Phil. And John.”
“Tell you what I will do. I will have a tape of your message made, and I will listen to it as soon as I get back. I will also give one to Phil and John. The following Sunday we will all be sitting in the church listening to the second part of your message in person.”
“Could you offer the tape free to the congregation? I will cover the cost.”
“I will do that. The church will cover the cost. I have something more to say to you.”
“I’m listening, Mac.”
“I love the people at the Center and am very protective. I do not like the idea of an untrained layman preaching to my congregation; I feel it endangers the unity we worked so hard to attain. However, I feel in this case, because you are so influential, it might be less divisive to allow you pulpit ministry rather than deny you. This will be the last time I open the pulpit to a layman. Please don’t ever ask again.”
“I heard you, Mac. Can we talk baseball now?”
“My favorite subject. I think we have a good chance for the playoffs, though we are still in sixth place. What do you think?”
“We have some road games coming up, tomorrow night and two next week, and we don’t do so well on the road. But we are steadily improving, perhaps the most improved team in the league.”
“I think we have to thank John and Kyle for that. They are no longer the timid kids at the start of the season.”
Mac was back in his car much more sore than when he arrived, but he enjoyed the excursion immensely. He turned down an invitation to lunch, much Monday work to be done yet.
“Come again. Bring Vivian.”
“Will do.” And then impulsively, “Reuben, I just have to ask: What would you have done if I said no to your request?”
It was obvious Reuben was perplexed by the question. “”What would I do? Nothing. What could I do but accept your decision?”
Damn! Mac said to himself. “Good-bye, Reuben.”
Damn! Mac said again. Rarely had he been so angry with himself. He thought of the sleepless hours trying to imagine what mischief Reuben might do if he didn’t get his way, and the ensuing problems. Nothing! That’s what he would have done! Nothing! All I had to do was say no and it would be all over! Damn!
saturday, june 2nd, 2007, 6:00 p.m.
John Douglas Tanner was seated at one of many round tables in a large church auditorium with Pastor Mac, Pastor Phil, three other ministers from different areas of the U.S., and, sitting next to Pastor Mac, Superintendent Martin Johnston, and beside him his assistant, the aged Frank Grover. In such company it was difficult to enjoy his evening meal. He certainly did not have any input in the conversation, quite content to get through the meal without dropping something on the floor or spilling his drink on the tablecloth.
This weekend was a series of impressions fused upon John, though he realized it only slightly. Were he to consider the matter he would conclude he was merely being observant, not affected. Most are influenced unaware. A man influences his fellow man; a group of the same mind has an accumulated power to draw an outsider to themselves the same way stacked magnets have increased power to capture a nearby nail. Impressions are often, not always, directed towards the heart. The heart first, the mind will follow like a submissive puppy, willing to bend logic to fit the heart’s demands.
Traveling with Pastor Mac and Pastor Phil on Friday, first the car trip across the border to the airport and then the flight south to the ministerial conference, was more than a privilege for the young man, it was impressing. Being in the company of more than two hundred Reverends, significant all, each obviously important in God’s army, was impressing. Being a guest at a ministerial conference was more than an honor; it was impressing. Seated across the table from the reverenced superintendent of a powerful denomination was impressing. And his heart wanted to be influenced. Wouldn’t he rather be a pastor than a plumber? Be in a suit than in overalls? Wouldn’t he rather lead than follow? Teach than be taught?
Just attending this conference would boost his status back home. He alone was chosen. He had detected an enhanced value the congregation placed on Kyle when Pastor Mac announced his son’s decision to enter the ministry, asking the assembly to uphold him in prayer. How such an announcement would add to the Tanner name. How elevated he would be in the eyes of the assembly. Everyone would be congratulatory. Pastor Mac would be thrilled. And so would Katie.
saturday, june 2nd, 2007, 6:30 p.m.
Katie Maclin stood behind the pulpit, alone in the sanctuary. Her father who was usually here Saturday evenings was a thousand miles away at a conference. With John.
Katie was determined to be in prayer for John the entire weekend. Her future, their future, could be determined by this weekend. John belongs here, behind a pulpit much like this one, of that she was certain. And she belonged there, the first row on the left, same place her mom occupied every Sunday morning. She had John’s suit picked out for his premiere sermon, a dark gray, matched with a soft gray shirt and contrasted with a bright blue tie. John was tall, well postured with hefty shoulders and, properly attired, would make a formidable impression. However, he must learn to assert himself, be aggressive, speak with authority and flair. That would come in time – with a little prodding.
saturday, june 2nd, 2007, 6:45 p.m.
Reuben Tanner was a frightened child alone in his office. I would have given you the biggest hug you ever had! he should have replied when Mac asked him what he would do if denied the pulpit. But he felt the pulpit was placed in his path and there was no avoiding it. Two Sundays! he said to the Lord. No, one won’t do! It’s got to be two Sundays! And no, You couldn’t have picked an experienced preacher; only a plumber would do! Someone who has never stood behind a pulpit before!
And then, Oh Lord, I love You so. You went to Calvary for me; I will go to the pulpit for You.
saturday, june 2nd, 2007, 6:45 p.m.
Jeni Tanner was on the porch in her rocking chair, cross-stitching and praying and rocking and fretting. Fretting was not something she often did, but her eldest was a thousand miles south at a ministerial conference, and she didn’t know if that was a good thing or not. Is he called “into the ministry”? And what does that mean? John had accumulated two years of time in his plumbing apprenticeship working summers and Saturdays; in two years he could have his license and steady employment with his dad. He had talked about buying property of his own one day, perhaps close by. If he became a pastor he would live elsewhere, probably far away.
Jeni discerned her son’s attraction to Katie Maclin. Was the Maclin girl God’s choice for his life? “Do not choose your own spouse,” she told her children more than once. “You are not capable. Let God choose for you.” Katie was a decent girl with fine parents but too much adulation spoiled her. She was skilled at getting her way; the man she married might spend his lifetime catering to her.
And there was more to fret about. Tomorrow morning her husband was to preach from a pulpit for the first time. It would be easier if he were speaking to strangers. It would be much easier if he were invited. When he finally told her about his request to speak, after Mac’s visit, there was no elation in his voice, no more than if he announced he had to make a late night emergency call to fix a customer’s broken pipe. Making a request to speak and then appealing to the board of elders caused stress for many, no one more than Reuben. When Jeni related how Vivian was sorely distressed by the appeal his shoulders slumped. His motives were undoubtedly being questioned by many, appearing to be ambitious for prominence.
Why should it be so complicated for a man to speak to his friends?
saturday, june 2nd, 2007, 6:45 p.m.
“Pastor Mac speaks highly of you, John.” The others around the table quieted themselves when Superintendent Johnston spoke.
“John has great potential,” Mac joined in.
“All my life I have been encouraged to love God,” John responded.
“Excellent. And do you have an inclination how you might express that love in service?” Johnston queried.
“I was hoping to get an answer this weekend.”
“Perhaps you will. The Lord certainly needs recruits. Our denomination needs dedicated young men to fill the shoes of those retiring.”
“If I become a pastor I would like to start my own church, the same as Pastor Mac.”
“Pastor Mac has been an example to the entire denomination. We value him. I look forward to his message in the morning service.” As Superintendent Johnston said these kind words he gently laid his right hand on Mac’s arm for just an instant. Neither John nor Phil seen any significance to what appeared to be an amiable touch but the others did. A touch from the superintendent who never casually touched carried significant connotations. Mac flushed, perceiving he was being considered for a promotion. Possibly, he dared to hope, he would be invited to replace the retiring assistant superintendent, Frank Grover.
saturday, june 2nd, 2007, 7:00 p.m.
Tomorrow an untrained layman, a man who installs toilets and repairs leaky pipes!, will be standing in my rightful place! Vivian Maclin was not having a good Saturday. She was sweeping the fragments of a broken plate she dropped on the floor into the dustpan. She had been moving unusually fast, too fast, cleaning up supper dishes, driven by anger at her husband’s decision to give Tanner the pulpit, and a slippery plate fell from her hand. For many years she itched to communicate her insights to the assembly she helped develop, to be the voice behind that magnificent pulpit at least one time. Secretly she had fantasized being invited to give the message to the congregation this one Sunday, when both pastors, as well as most pastors from the District, would be at the conference. Certainly she was qualified. Certainly she could hold their attention. And certainly, she reasoned, she was deserving. Though never invited to preach, she managed to suppress her resentment all these years, but no longer. When her husband returned from the convention she would certainly vent her frustration.
Perhaps she should sit in the back row tomorrow morning as a protest. Or maybe sit directly in front of Reuben Tanner in the first row, glaring. No, she would do neither. She would sit in her usual place, first row left-hand side, smiling supportively, the submissive pastor’s wife.
saturday, june 2nd, 2007, 8:30 p.m.
Donald Williamson was on the phone responding to a member’s questions for the third time since the pastors left Friday morning.
“No, it was no mistake,” the gray-haired responded. “Tony Borric’s name was not listed in the bulletin because he is no longer on the board.”
“You heard right. His term was not completed. He decided to resign early.” What a time for Pastor Mac to be out of town!
“Oh, yes, I am sure he’s okay. No health problems.”
“Well, perhaps you should ask Tony.” Donald was feeling more uncomfortable with each question.
“It is not unusual for a group of men to disagree on an issue. Tony decided to resign rather than break the unanimity of the board.” I hope he hasn’t heard about the Bible-closing incident!
“No, he is not angry. He left on friendly terms, assuring us we would always be in his prayers.”
“No, I can assure you that’s not true. Tony is not protesting Reuben Tanner preaching tomorrow.” How many others are making similar phone calls this evening to other elders?
After the awkward conversation he rejoined Mrs. Williamson in the living room. “If the phone rings again don’t answer it!”
“I can’t understand Pastor Mac given permission to Reuben,” Mrs. Williamson added to Donald’s frustration.
“He felt it would cause less damage to give the man permission than to refuse him. Tanner is influential. Who knows what trouble he would cause if he were rejected. This way, it will all blow over, hopefully little damage done.”
“I can’t imagine what ‘message’ he has for us,” her cynicism easily detectable.
“We will find out in the morning, my dear. I think Mr. Tanner is going to be poorly received. And he’s going to be scared. Do you know he has never stood behind a pulpit before?”
“It can’t be that scary.”
“Woman, believe me! He will be like a frightened deer staring into headlights! His heart will pound, his body will twitch, his voice will tremble!”
“Then why? Why does the man insist on preaching?”
“Ego trip, perhaps. I think everyone has a hidden ambition to get behind a pulpit. Everyone loves an audience.”
“Did you? Is that why you became a pastor?”
“In part, I admit. I miss the high I used to get every Sunday.”
“You know, an exhilaration. Hundreds of people gathered to hear me. It made me feel less insignificant. Powerful.”
“And that’s why the plumber wants the pulpit?”
“Perhaps. I don’t know the man that well. Perhaps he’s duped.”
“Duped by the enemy, you know, the devil, who is always trying to make inroads into the Center and every church. I’m sure he hates the positive influence for God we have in Bryden Falls.”
“But maybe Reuben really has a message from God.”
“Woman! God doesn’t work that way! As I told the board, God is orderly. If He wanted Tanner to speak He would have told Pastor Mac.”
“Why don’t we stay home tomorrow?”
“Because I’m an elder. All the elders will be there. However, it might be wise if you stayed home.”
“I’ve always walked with my husband; I go where you go,” Mrs. Williamson said for the hundredth plus plus time over their fifty-two years of marriage. The Williamsons were dutiful.
“I’m thinking many won’t show up for the service. Often when the pastor is away people find an excuse not to go. Sleep in, watch a televangelist, visit other churches.”
“I think our church will be packed.”
“Everybody knows something’s up. You elders think you can hide it from the congregation but you’re sadly mistaken. Curiosity will attract the people, even those who are not regular attenders. Expect a full house, my dear.”
“Good grief, woman!”
saturday, june 2nd, 2007, 9:45 p.m.
Phil Ferguson had said goodnight to his wife and children on the phone, had read his usual two chapters of the Bible, and now lay in bed in his hotel room reminiscing the last two days. This was Phil’s first convention and he was enjoying it immensely. It was elevating being with the influential. A few months ago he was on the outside looking in, now he was in the inside looking out, no longer a mere layman but a minister. This conference was having the effect of making him feel like a minister.
Much of the first day was spent reveling in happy reunions; most had not seen each other since the previous convention two years ago. Each had their stories of achievements and disappointments; most were weary from overwork and starving for fellowship with their peers. This would be a weekend of strengthening and refreshing, as they would be on the receiving end of ministry for a change. Their bond to the denomination and to each other would be reinforced, and they would leave here Sunday afternoon with renewed passion.
Superintendent Johnston preached Friday evening from his book, Building A Church On Wisdom’s Foundation, stressing that vigilance as shepherds and strong control as administrators, coupled with effectual pulpit ministry, will cause any church to grow. The three sermons today by other head office officials were of the same tone, tonic for the discouraged.
Phil was less than humble about his association with the keynote speaker. Mac, a former district elder, was chosen over many officials to give the Sunday morning message. Obviously his perspective was highly respected. If it were not for the younger Tanner, Phil surmised, he would have received more attention from other ministers; it seemed that instead of interest moving from Mac to his new assistant, interest went from Mac to the handsome young lad, probably the youngest in attendance, and he the in-between was mostly ignored. Oh well, Phil consoled himself, life isn’t perfect. He looked forward to tomorrow when two hundred plus suit-and-tie ministers, trimmed to perfection, would gather to hear his superior speak.
Phil was irked by Mac’s capitulation to Reuben’s request but careful to avoid the subject; fostering a strong relationship with the senior pastor was all-important. He calculated, with scorn, that Mac and Reuben would be preaching almost exactly the same time. One oration would be proficient, he was sure, the other a disaster. He and Mac might have a real mess to clean up when they got back to Bryden Falls.