He sat there with a sad, yet nervous expression on his face. I understood the emotions, you see, Randy is a pastor.
Randy was talking with the editor of the local newspaper. He arranged the meeting because of calls which had been made to the newspaper's staff. Apparently some people at Randy's church are very, very bitter.
The editor told Randy that on two recent occasions, he had received calls suggesting that the paper send a reporter to see and expose the horrible things going on at Cross Church. What horrible things, you ask? The callers apparently wouldn't say, nor would they leave a name.
Most papers these days won't print a letter to the editor if the author doesn't have the guts to sign it. That policy makes sense, really. After all, if you won't stand by your words enough to put your name to them, what real value do they have? I know all about the idea of protecting identities, as most of us do on the web, but a public forum isn't for people wearing disguises.
Anyway, the editor reported that he had received a third call over the weekend. This anonymous caller suggested that there was a situation at Cross Church that was just like the situation at another local church. The "other church" the caller referenced had just fired a youth pastor who had been having sexual relationships with two girls from his youth group. That call startled the editor, but it really startled Randy. And if you think it startled Randy, you can only imagine what it did to Randy's youth pastor!
There is no youth pastor seducing underage girls at Cross Church. There is no scandal worthy of a newspaper expose at Cross Church. So why the phone calls?
There are a group of mostly older church folks who don't like the fact that Cross Church has added a contemporary service. That's it. Oh, the horror! A handful of people are becoming quite a handful, and it looks like at least two have taken to insinuating that the church is scandal-plagued because the church is offering a service without The Old Rugged Cross played on a pipe organ. It's not as if Cross Church isn't still offering the traditional hymn/pass the plate/long sermon/closing hymn service. The complainers still have their service untouched. They object to (1) having a second service, and/or (2) the worship style.
Friends, that's just bitterness that has taken these "fine upstanding, mature saints" and turned them into nasty, vindictive, lying embarassments to God.
I've known plenty of people who have changed churches due to pastoral failings or disagreements of buildings or gossip within the congregation or any number of other reasons. Of those people, some are sincerely praying for their former church, their former pastor, and former fellow parishoners. Then there are others whose live is filled with bitterness.
Plenty of people have been burned by the church -- or more correctly, it's people. Still, through the hurt, they are not burdened by the bitter feelings or the desire for vengeance. They are able to look down from their own crosses at those who have caused the pain to say, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do."
Then there are those who are more concerned with their own power and position within the congregation than anything else. Some are protective of such trivial things as the order of service. Others will fight to the spiritual death to keep pews in the sanctuary instead of folding or stacking chairs. And, of course, there are plenty who will enforce their own rules of who should be in "their" church and who should not. God help the person who visits that church with the faint odor of cigarettes or with a reputation that doesn't measure up to these bitter, misguided churchgoers.
That's a big problem in the church today -- more people are too concerned about their religion and yet are completely unconcerned with their faith. I wish the anonymous phone callers would take a time out from their cardiac arrest over the presence of a tamborine in the sanctuary and realize that. But I'm not holding out much hope.