“That Was Not Professional”

That Was Not Professional

Ah, the beauty of the Northwest!  Gotta love the fresh air, the mountains, the rugged coast, the unparalleled beauty of this area of America, complete with…smoke!? ‘Tis not the greatest time when all around you the air is like you’re nearby a campfire!  As we passed through central Oregon, at one point we stopped by the roadside.  When we stepped outside, we encountered a smoky atmosphere all around us!

Our initial plan that year was to save fuel expense by leaving our RV with friends in UT and taking our truck to serve in the northwestern states of Oregon and Washington, staying in homes and church prophet’s quarters along the way.  However, as we heard in the news about forest fires in that area, concern began to grow within us about the smoke.  The main issue of concern was Heather’s breathing, since she previously had been in life threatening situations in Hickory, NC.  The first situation in 2011 took her to the ER at Frye Regional Medical Center where she underwent an emergency intubation and was hospitalized for three days.  Unbeknownst to us, scar tissue resulting from that surgery began to grow in her trachea, and in 2018 we had another even more frightening emergency!  This time, she had to be lift-flighted to Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, NC where she had to have a tracheotomy. Due to her ongoing breathing issues, smoke in the air is not a good thing!  We decided to take our RV/office with us.  This allowed us to carry our own “atmosphere” with us, complete with an air machine that cleans the air and produces ozone which assists breathing.

Other than the decision to take our rig, the key “domino” to fall in this entire saga was the fact that we had a canceled meeting…sort of.  Early that summer, we’d been contacted by a missionary pastor in Washington who invited us for VBS.  He had wanted to come in June.  However, flying somewhere with even the basics of our equipment and supplies is just not feasible in a week-to-week schedule.  In addition, we’d need to fly back to the original departing point and switch everything for to the next week. We  quickly realized there was no way we could fulfill that request!  While that pastor was helpful in putting us in contact with other Northwest pastors, we eventually realized that the week he had pegged was not going to be a meeting with him and that it would be a welcome week off!  So, we decided scope out a campground near Mt. St. Helens and enjoy a week of relaxation and exploration!

We had an amazing time visiting the mountain a few times and seeing beautiful sights.  However, what we didn’t have in the area was a good cell signal for making phone calls or for using the internet.  A few times during the week we went to a local restaurant in another town that had a good signal so we could conduct needed communication like communicating with churches ahead of us.  We were able to get in touch with the secretary of one of our upcoming meetings, a rather large church in Portland that had a specialized computer program for projecting onto three screens.  As such, they asked me to place my presentations on to a jump drive so that they could use in the sound room located in the balcony.  By email and by phone, we communicated with the secretary, informing her that we no longer needed the motel room they’d reserved since we were coming with our trailer.

The meeting following our time at Mt. St. Helens was a Sunday – Wednesday revival meeting at a first-time church in Ellensburg, WA where we had a great week!  Afterward, we faced a long haul up an incline as we started for Portland.  Anyone who travels a lot knows that vehicles can and do have issues at any time…expected or unexpected.  As we were hauling “Monty” up the hill, we heard a loud “pop” like the sound of a tire blowout!  A short hose in the turbo section of our diesel engine popped loose. This had happened only a couple times before, so I knew what the issue was.  It took a little time to let the engine cool and to get the turbo hose reinstalled so that we could make it the rest of the way without it happening again.  This put us getting to the Greater Portland church later than we’d planned.

When we arrived, we learned that the music director had all along been waiting for us to arrive!  Throughout our communication we’d not been told that someone would be waiting.  For some reason, there had been some miscommunication.  The lack of cell service we’d had at the campground proved to be a complication!  In addition, the time or two when I’d called ahead, the pastor and his assistant were away on a hunting trip and unavailable. Since we were much later arriving that evening than we’d originally planned, we decided to set up our book tables in the church early the next morning and to get our rig set up that night so that the assistant/music director could go on home for the night.

While setting up the next morning a few minutes before the entry doors were opened, a lady came up to the locked glass doors and knocked, seeking to be allowed inside.  She’d ridden the city bus and it appeared that this was her only means of transportation. I remember vividly the church attendant, perhaps a deacon, speaking to her through the doors, essentially telling her that they weren’t “open yet,” that the doors opened at a particular time, and that she should tell her (city!) bus driver to bring her a little later!  While he did open the door and let her in, there certainly was NO ‘glad-you’re-here’ welcome!  Made me wonder about churches in the big city!

Soon, the hubbub of a larger crowd began to increase as folk arrived.  At some point in the busyness, I realized that I would need copies made of my handout for Sunday School.  I don’t recall now exactly what happened, but somehow the original copy I had for “The Cause of Creation” presentation had been double printed.  It was readable, but the copies had an appearance of being slightly blurry because of the double print.  In the hurried-ness of the occasion, we had to go with what was copied.  I was to hear about that later.

Having submitted to the technician my presentations on a jump drive, I was left with my Bible and their “clicker” to advance the Powerpoint slides.  Knowing that this was not what I was used to, I knew that I needed to practice with the advancer.  Before Sunday school, the technology worked fine.

As I began “The Cause of Creation,” the first few slides advanced perfectly.  After that, the advancer totally stopped working!  I hadn’t anticipated a problem since the church seemed to have everything “on the ball” and in top notch order!  I ended up pausing a few moments to go to the front row to get one of our own devices from a computer bag, but that one didn’t work either.  After a few minutes’ delay, I finally resorted to having to say “click” to the gentleman in the sound booth to cue him when to advance the slide.  I certainly wasn’t going to have Heather with her breathing issue rush up to the balcony to do the task!  Suffice to say, this procedure is NOT what I am used to, and it certainly interrupted my thought process!  As a result, I felt pretty “bummed out” afterward as I walked to the front row and sat beside the pastor during announcements.

What I heard next caught me off guard!  An expected “Sorry that our equipment had an issue–I’ll take care of it” response was not to be heard.  Instead, the pastor said something like, “That was not our fault.”  At first, I wasn’t sure what he said.  Then, I responded a couple times by affirming that what I had used was their advancer.  I had used nothing of my own equipment except my Bible.

That situation was taken care of in the Sunday morning service with “How Shall They Call?”  During the break between Sunday school and church, Heather was able to make it up the steps to the balcony sound room where she advanced my screens in my behalf to make the presentation flow smoothly.  After the service, I told the sound tech that I would be setting up my equipment for the evening presentation, not even thinking that there might be an issue with that!

After the morning service, the pastor, Brother Rick Adams, and his wife graciously took us out to eat.  While I’d thought that we’d been to that church many years prior, during our conversation I realized that we’d never been there!  It was certainly a large ministry that had been in existent for many years and had a great outreach and influence in Portland.  However, like the several times the LORD admonished the churches of Asia, “I have somewhat against thee” comes to mind!

We had some other opportunities to serve there that week, probably in a Christian school.  Honestly, I cannot recall those times.  We were able to go by and see a longtime, dear friend of our family who lives in that area, Joan Younts.  I think we were able to visit another church that Wednesday evening.  What stands out the most is my visit with the pastor before we left!  What I thought was an invite to fellowship a bit before we left, turned out to an interesting situation indeed!

At this point, I cannot recall if the pastor called or texted me, but he communicated a request for a time to come to his office before we left.  As I sat down in front of his desk, with him sitting behind it, my idea that it was to be a time of fellowship quickly left my mind.  As he began, my mind went back to college days and at some point back then hearing about the “sandwich” technique for criticism: that a slice of “positive” bread should come first, followed by the “meat” of criticism, then another “slice” of the positive.  So, while he was kind in his manner, I knew that the positives at the first were that first “slice”!  My recollection turned out to be correct! When the criticism came…about 10 points of it…I dutifully listened with interest and even took notes!  (He obviously didn’t have the whole back story of why we’d decided to bring our RV-home!)

While I’ve long since discarded the notes I made while he detailed what I’d done that had displeased him or how I’d messed up, I do recall one specific comment re: the Sunday school presentation (“The Cause of Creation”): “That was not professional.”  I could not recall ever hearing a pastor or other type of preacher say such!

That statement goes right along with most modern assemblies, with the prevailing view that the solo- pastor should function like a CEO or president of a corporation.  In fact, over approximately 8 years our eyes were opened to such a view in our former home church, particularly when we saw statements in the constitution such as this: “the pastor shall serve as the president of the corporation.”  While the previous pastor was servant-hearted and truly a shepherd, the man who followed him did not have such a heart for people and operated more like a boss or CEO with expectations that people obeyed what he told them…er, “advised.

Biblically, the church was designed by God to serve, to meet the needs of people.  Yes, even physical needs like food and clothing.  James 1:27 states:

“Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction…”

The word translated “visit” is the same word, in verb form, that’s translated “overseers” in Acts 20: 28.

“Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.”

Today’s modern word, “episcopal,” comes directly from this Greek word, “EPISKOPOS.”  It literally means, “to scope upon.”  In the verse above, it is combined with “feed” which literally means “to shepherd” from the Greek word POIMANO (pronounced, poy-MAH-noh).  The pastoral role is to be a serving role, one who scopes out the needs of others in order to meet those needs…NOT one who advises, commands, rules, lords, superintends, bosses, presides, or manages.  The role was designed by God for multiple individuals to fulfill (e.g. Acts 20:28; Titus 1:5) who meet the qualifications (1 Timothy 3:1-7).

The ministry is NOT to be “professional” (just a job)!  If Jesus, the Creator and Head of the Church, knelt with a bason of water and washed the feet of His disciples as He performed the task of the lowest servant, the leaders of His people are to serve and not lord over the flock.  Instead of criticizing with “That Was Not Professional,” the pastor SHOULD have said, “How can I help?  How can I serve you?”  THAT is the Biblical response of a Biblical servant-leader.

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