Many years passed since I’d made contact with my old denomination’s hierarchy. Nevertheless, I’m still classified as a ‘member in good standing’. It catches me off guard when asked to preach by the pastor of one of their churches in a neighboring town. So, I figure it’s time to reconnect. Good idea? Couldn’t hurt, could it?
A meeting is called. The high mucky-muck gather. I’m led to the slaughter. The prosecution lays me out. My defense appears fearful and weak. Feels like I’ve been shoved through a meat grinder multiple times. I return home wondering if they’d endorse me to preach once again. Why not? Where did I ever get that idea from? Am I crazy? No comments from the peanut gallery!
It takes about a week for their letter to arrive. Permission granted? Yeah, right! They basically bloviate in no uncertain terms–Don’t preach ever again, anywhere, for anyone, for any reason. Don’t even think about it! Or words to that effect.
What? Never again proclaiming God’s Word? No longer teaching? No giving an invitation to accept Christ for a brand-new life? Not according to those blokes. Sounds a bit like what’s going on in Micah 2: 6–‘Do not preach–thus they preach–one should not preach of such things; disgrace will not overtake us.’ Now I’m no Micah, not by a long stretch on even a good day, but something smells similar in this beeswax about nixing my preaching.
In Micah, these so-called godly folk presumes their place in God’s heart. They feel secure–for God has made promises. Regardless of how sinful and ungodly they live, God remains under obligation. He’s given His word. Gottcha! Really? Do you think so? They did. Good deal if you can get it.
The problem is that God’s promises hinge on our receptivity to Him. Our relationship with and commitment to Him. Imperfect as we may be, our aim is to please Him, not taking Him for granted as those bachagaloops did!
Overconfident and presumptuous. As if they have Him in their grips and He can’t get loose. Cornered. Trapped. Who? God? Think again. Wrong.
So, what should I do with that single-leg takedown and full nelson wrestling holds given me by the likes of churchy Hulk Hogan and Mister T? For years I meet weekly with a group of local pastors for Bible study and prayer. I share that angry missive with them, pouring out my hurt feelings.
One of them, an older guy who has barely a year of Bible School, looks me straight in the eye and says this–‘Did God call you to preach?’ I respond that He did. ‘Well then, why do you listen to that bunch, whoever they think they are. If God calls you to preach, you preach!’ That got my attention. From God’s heart through that pastor’s voice to my grateful ears.
I went home and penned a terse ‘I quit’ letter to that old denomination. For me, that was the end. Heard not one word back from them. Nothing. Silence.
Then I start to preach again… as asked and needed. Help out in other churches. Do a weekly testimony and evangelistic TV show for 5 years. Then pastor a church for 14 years in that same community, where I now serve as their only emeritus pastor. Pretty good, huh, for a guy warned not to preach.
That older pastor was right. When God calls you to do something, do it! Think of something? For you to do? For Jesus? Nix to the naysayers. Get with it!
Thank you, Jesus, for not giving up on us. Amen.