Bags of Bran


A Good Man
March 4, 2013, 11:47 pm
Filed under: Biography, Destined to get me in trouble

I left a church for the wrong reasons once.

Granted, the church was out of order, and there were things going on that were not particularly compatible with health and well-being. But there was life: I did not recognize this at the time.

I left a good man behind. He was not a strong preacher, nor was he an administrator. But he loves God, rejoices in his Redeemer, and has probably told every person in the small city where he ministers that this is the case. He visits the sick, cares for widows and orphans, and blesses those who curse him. He blessed me when I cursed him (I didn’t cuss at him, but you know what I mean). He loves his small flock, and he loves his community. People detect the love of Jesus flowing from him: not because he is incredibly gifted at handling the Scripture, but because he as profoundly felt his own need of grace. The man is like an artesian well of lovingkindness.

You see it in his children. They all love God: none has followed in ministry but each has a family now, and I have no doubt that each will raise particularly good children.

I left that church to go to a more popular church, one where the preaching was professional. People with advanced degrees sat in this congregation. People with refined tastes sat in this congregation. Important people in my particular movement were enamored of this church: it was murmured in these hallowed halls that it was the best church for 500 miles, in fact. Kids flocked there from the college I attended, mostly because it did not have an evening service.

Now that church has pretty much gone the way of your average Community church. You know Community churches, right? Those are churches where the Community has displaced whatever was the old gravitational center for why we do church and stuff as the impetus for why we do church and stuff. The community provides the dream: the movie clips, worship team, life encounter groups, and therapeutic sermonettes make the community dream a reality. “Smell that? Is that brimstone?” “No, it’s French Roast!” “Oh… I was alarmed for a moment.”

For this I left that good man behind. I left him in the dust, trampled his reputation, and slapped away his kindness. I was a fool, and that becomes increasingly evident the further away from the situation I get.

Two years ago, I took my wife back to Hawaieeeeeee!!!!! for our tenth anniversary. We were, you know, enjoying our tropical paradise in relative peace and comfort when all of the sudden my wife, concurrence of virtues that she is, said “Pull over! I just saw Pastor ___________ !”

Now picture where we were: Jonah could not have fled to a more secluded corner of the world.

There we were, on the least touristy island in the Hawaiian chain, driving along the main drag in Kapa’a  and trying to pull into a Taco Bell parking lot, and there he is, of all people in this world, the one with the least to say to me. And on his salary, the last person on the fruited plain I would have expected to see. And on his schedule, the last person I would have expected to have time to be there. And so on…

There he was. I live about 300 miles from him, but we had to meet, conveniently, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

And he was still a good man to me. I had a new appreciation for how Jonah felt inside that fish.

Although was kind, I could tell that the sting still stung. I was sobered for the rest of our vacation. It was years too late, and only among Christians could it be considered enough, but I called him shortly after that meeting to tell him what a fool I was, and that I thought he was a good man.

I was promptly informed that he doesn’t really think he’s all that good.

That’s probably his secret.

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