"You have to work hard to offend Christians. By nature, Christians are the most forgiving, understanding, and thoughtful group of people I've ever dealt with. They never assume the worst. They appreciate the importance of having different perspectives. They're slow to anger, quick to forgive, and almost never make rash judgments or act in anything less than a spirit of total love . . . No, wait--I'm thinking of Labrador retrievers!" David Learn, 1998

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Glimpses of Grace 18: Music Man

     One of the elders asked if he could come talk with us. Not any elder but one of the nine executive elders at the inner core--and a personal friend of ours. Music Man is a man of integrity and Christ-like character whom we have always liked and admired. He said he knew we had questions and concerns about the events at church and he wanted to listen to our viewpoint.
     We were grateful but guarded. On Saturday, October 1, we welcomed him into our home with mutual hugs. He immediately noticed our piano and after asking permission, sat down and played for us one of eight worshipful arrangements of Christmas carols he had just written. It was such a sweet start to the time. Then Jerry opened in prayer and asked if we could tape our conversation so none of us would be misquoted. Music Man said he was fine with that.
     We shared everything candidly, especially the verbal abuse WOW and others of our friends have been experiencing at the hands of some of the elders which has caused them to leave our church. I shared how I had felt "badgered" by JE.
     Music Man was earnest and seemed sympathetic to our concerns. He assured us he loves the Lord and still believes all the truths of Scripture. But he is convinced the senior pastor and executive elders also believe and still teach those truths. And he is buying into the deception that leadership needs to "circle the wagons" (his term) and keep control for the sake of unity "until things settle down." 
      We listened to him and he listened to us for 90 minutes--and I, at least, really felt heard. He said he would go back and encourage the board to be more open and discuss the issues people are raising about their beliefs and teaching.  
     A couple of times toward the end of our conversation, however, he said something odd. "If I should do or say something in the next few days or weeks that seems--seems--to be contrary to what I am saying now, please give me grace."  He said it again after he prayed as we closed. Earnestly, apologetically: "Please extend grace to me. You will find me in situations in the weeks ahead not trying to silence people, please, just simply to say, 'Let's stop,' 'let's find ways (to keep things from escalating). . . a chance for dialogue.'"
     We were to recall those words the very next day. Music Man came to our Agape class with two other elders to denounce those who send out "trails of blind-copied emails--" "inflammatory emails"--"with accusations against elders in our church."
     Jerry and I weren't in class that morning but we asked the elder who read the announcement to email us a copy, which he did. When I read it, I was aghast.
     Lord, what have we done? How could we have done this to these sincere, honest men?
     In my spirit the Lord's small, still voice said, Read it again
     I remembered King Hezekiah's response to the threatening message from his enemies, mocking his trust in God. Hezekiah "took the letter from the hand of the messengers and read it, and he went up to the house of the LORD and spread it out before the LORD. . ."
     "Jerry," I said, "we need to read this again." We got on our knees beside our bed and spread the elders' letter out before the Lord. We read it aloud, slowly, one sentence at a time. And the facade of righteous indignation in it crumbled. Every claim in it was a lie!
     "This is plain and simple gossip--" No, legitimate concerns! ". . . contain innuendo and inference--" No, facts! "--that is causing fear, distrust, emotional damage, fractured relationships--" No, they are exposing the lies that have caused fear, distrust, emotional damage, fractured relationships!-- "they are hurting real people and causing real damage to our church." Yes, you are!

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