This week, I am going to share with you the first part of a monumental life lesson that I learned. Please stay tuned as I continue to share it with you.
I really didn’t want to go, but I told him that I would be there, and there was no backing out of it. As a young pastor, I took it upon myself to support other small congregations, like my own, in our city. In addition, following through with my word was very important to me. I wanted people to know that they could trust me to do what I said I would do.
I had met the pastor earlier that week at a Christian bookstore. He approached me while I was browsing through the music section. He mentioned that God had called him to our hometown to plant a church a few years prior. He went on to describe the challenges of birthing a new congregation. As the conversation progressed, I let him know that, I too, was a church planter and that I could empathize with his struggles. I offered words of encouragement and let him know that I was available if he ever needed prayer or encouragement. As I attempted to excuse myself, he pulled out a flyer and invited me to a “healing revival” that he was going to be hosting that very weekend. He went on to tell me that he had been given the “gift of healing” and he expected God to do “big things.” He went on to tell me how he had been advertising the revival for over a month, through a local radio station, and that It was going to be amazing. Honestly, I was hesitant to committing to attend. First, I just met him and I wasn’t sure what to expect…. and also because my schedule was rather full. Nevertheless, I placed myself in his shoes, and felt compelled to support him….. even if it meant forfeiting my plans for Friday night.
Arriving at the store-front church, I wondered if I was at the wrong place. Aside from my car, there were only two cars in the parking lot, the pastor’s Lincoln Town Car and another vehicle that looked like a beat-up-Yugo. With all the hype that the pastor had talked about, I was expecting a bigger turn-out. As I scanned the empty parking lot, I contemplated driving away before anyone saw me. However, I heard the sound of church music playing, so in reluctant-repentance, I parked my car and entered the building.
As I had figured, the church was almost empty. The pastor and his wife sat in front, with only three other people sitting in the congregation. Aside from me, there was lady with a golden-fro, cherry-red acrylic nails that matched her lipstick, and a tambourine with colorful ribbons attached to it. There was also a couple there that seemed a somewhat disheveled, unkempt, and homeless.
It was quite apparent that the pastor was brokenhearted and feeling defeated due to the meager turnout. He had made plans for a big display of the power of God and only four people showed up. All that radio time didn’t give him the return on investment that he desired. Nevertheless he stood up and boldly stated that God works all things together for the good of those that love him. With confidence, he declared that God had pre-ordained the people that would be in attendance, and he was certain that God would be glorified.
To say that the church service was awkward would be an understatement. The pastor fumbled through, and rushed through, his preaching as quickly as possible. It seemed as if he wanted to get out of there as quickly as I wanted too. At the conclusion of his sermon, he spoke of God’s healing power and made an invitation for the sick to come forward. Although, the transition was smooth, not one of us went forward. Although, this was not an event that I was hosting, I began to go into panic mode. I was not aware of how I should react to this scenario. At the moment I was feeling completely fine. However, I was so tempted to pretend to be ill just to restore hope to the preacher. At the same time, I knew better. For heaven’s sake, I was a pastor, and I was convinced that faking a healing to save the pastor from humiliation was a cardinal sin. I decided that I wasn’t willing to face the possibility of being struck by lightning, so I remained still.
After a long and awkward pause, the pastor said a prayer and dismissed us. As I attempted to make my way out the door, the pastor’s wife stopped me and thanked me for coming. Without skipping a beat, she expressed how sad she was that no one had shown up and proceeded on a mild rant. As I listened to her, I looked out of the corner of my eyes and saw the transient couple speaking to the pastor. The pastor seemed troubled by their conversation and the couple walked out of the church looking disappointed. In my mind I reasoned that they had probably asked the pastor for money and were turned down. After all, I was quite certain that I was the only one who had given an offering that night, and to be brutally honest, I was a poor broke preacher. So it wasn’t much.
As I left the building, I saw the transient couple sitting in the beat-up-Yugo that I had seen earlier. Not wanting to engage in conversation, I tried to make a quick break to my car….. but before I got too far, I heard someone call out to me. “Pastor John! Can we talk to you?”
The word, “Pastor”, once again brought on a spirit of reluctant-repentance, so I humbly turned and started to walk towards their car, completely unaware of what would happen next…….
(to be continued…….)
To view Part 2 click here
John Eli is a transformational life coach who has spent over 15 years mentoring individuals in life skills, career transitions, and through organizational change. His resume includes pastoral care, behavioral health, and higher-education advising. From an early age, John recognized that God created him to bring hope, healing and encouragement to others. He is currently walking out his purpose by helping others confront, and work through, any negative self-talk that keeps them from living life to the fullest. His ministry includes blogging, speaking, and personal development coaching. He currently lives in Chandler, Arizona with his wife, mini-schnauzer and an antique piano whom he calls, “Betty.”
To schedule a coaching session with John Eli click here.