I was listening to a podcast by Scot McKnight yesterday about the Bible. I got a lot out of it, and I’ll share the link below. Part of the conversation reminded me of something I haven’t thought of in years, but was a key moment in the life of our church in Ithaca.
During the first 18 months of our church plant, a guy started attending and during one of his first couple of visits began to quiz me. Among other things he wanted to know if I believed the bible was inerrant in the original texts (in case you wonder, that’s how I got from the podcast to this post).
I learned one thing very quickly in ministry…when someone leads with their “big issue,” they were rarely going to be a good fit in our community. Not always, but generally. We worked to be a place where people with various views could worship together because we were committed to the fact that Jesus was more important than the various things that tend to divide Christians.
So when someone on their first Sunday made of point of asking me about whether I was Calvinist or Arminian, egalitarian or complementarian, or whatever their hot button topic was, I knew that even if we found ourselves “on the same side” of that issue, eventually there would be something that was a “line in the sand” for them, and they’d leave and likely cause huge problem on their way out the door. (Bert Waggoner once said people like to stir stuff up on their way out the door to cover their tracks. I really love that quote.)
When people would come up on a Sunday and run through their theological checklist, I would invite them to hang around a bit, experience who we were, but would rarely give them the answer they were looking for.
This guy, asks me his questions, tells me of the Bible school and counselling degrees he has and how he’d be glad to help out our church. Then he told me he would like to be placed in leadership. (not eventually, but now).
Sirens and red flags are going off all over the place, but I told him to hang around for a while and let’s see how it goes. While I had zero expectation at this point, I spent the next couple of weeks watching. At that point in our history, we had a meal after our gathering, so everybody chipped in to get the room set up and the food served. Except this guy…he never did anything to help. When I spoke to him about this, he informed me that he was a leader, and that I should put in a leadership position if I would like him to help.
This was not going well.
When I explained that we would never put someone in leadership who wasn’t already serving in some capacity in our community…that’s when it got even weirder.
He told me about the problems he had in bible college because his professors disagreed with him and wouldn’t listen to him. He told me of his time in the big church in our community and how he had taken on the pastor there more than once.
In fact a week or two after that, he had an article published in the local paper where he dumped all over this other pastor.
Shortly after that I received a note from him telling me that I had no right to decide who to put in leadership, or what our church would believe. Then the ultimatum…I either put him in leadership or he would leave.
I don’t know if 49-year-old me would have met with this person again, but 33-year-old me agreed to one more discussion. We met in a public area, because I was nervous and didn’t want to be in a private place with this person.
We met. He repeated his demands and I informed him that our leadership team had discussed it, and not only would we not allow him in a leadership position, we were concerned about him and suggested he begin seeing a professional counsellor as soon as possible.
He didn’t take our advice.
I don’t know whatever happened to that person. In the early life of a church all types of people come to check it out. Some are sincerely looking for a place where they can call home, others are looking for a place where they can have the influence they feel they have wrongfully been denied.
And when you are starting out, you are excited with everyone who comes and hope that they’ll be an important part of your community, and that you’ll be able to help them take their next steps in their walk with Jesus. Of course you eventually discover that not everyone wants to go that way.
Here’s the link to the podcast I mentioned above by Scot McKnight::The Inspiration and Inerrancy of the Bible. It is definitely worth a listen.