Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Victim of Problems -- The Finale

While Pastor Kurt reels from the tragic legal issues plaguing him, let's recap. Young Allen has filed criminal charges against the church, the pastor, and the deacon board for promising him something God didn't deliver. They tried to obligate God to a contract that was unBiblical and disastrous. We join Pastor Kurt as he consults with his attorney, Jack Taylor.

And now,
The Victim of Problems -- The Finale
The next morning, Kurt’s phone rang. It was Jack Taylor. Jack had summoned the entire prosecution work group together and they had a powwow. No one in the group was very happy with the case and most of them considered Pastor Kurt to be a friend. So, when Allen agreed to drop the criminal charges and pursue the church through civil court, everyone was relieved. If the church would pay the damages, then all expected that Allen would settle out of court. Kurt sat in his chair and sighed deeply. Was it the right thing to do? Would he accept blackmail? Shouldn’t he fight to protect the sheep in the church from wolves like Allen? But Jack Taylor seemed to insist that he and the deacons had a conviction in their future if the case proceeded. Ultimately, the deacons stuck their necks across the chopping block and the blade dropped. The church likely wouldn’t survive the scandal of the entire deacon board and pastor snookering an innocent young man into believing that God was a genie in a bottle.

The whole issue irritated him like an itch he couldn’t scratch. God was not a coke machine. You can’t just push some little token into a slot and get what you want. He was furious that the deacons reduced God to a magical formula. Where was the righteousness in that? Where was the call to repent because God is a holy God and each person will have to stand in front of His throne on Judgment Day? There was no demand that Allen repent from his lifestyle of sin and submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. If the modern church continued to use such messages to convert souls, then they will miss the mark even greater. They were limiting the type of people that would need Christ. If only the unhappy people that had problems needed Christ, then the happy people were okay. But that isn’t true. Happy people who live rich full lives will go to Hell if they don’t repent for their sins. Serving God has never been about happiness. When was the Apostle Paul happy? Was it when he was being beaten with rods, or when he was beaten with whips? Was it when he was stoned and left for dead? Was it when he was shut up in prison? Was it when he was lost at sea, or when he was shipwrecked? If serving God was about happiness, then Paul would have quit long before he was martyred for his faith. Somewhere along the way, the modern church decided that if a salvation message was about happiness, then they would convert more souls. Church rosters would grow and memberships would increase, but the building would be full of dead bones. Men can’t just claim that they prayed a magical prayer and then live any way they wanted. The evidence of a converted soul is that the sinner surrenders to the lordship of Christ. If there is no repentance and discipleship to Christ, then the sinner never converted. The Church was now packed full of men and women who are using God as a life enhancement. That is the reason the church has become so ineffective today. That is why prayer was taken out of school. That is why the tolerance movement has such a strangle hold on the Church. Suddenly, the phone rand and Kurt’s train of thought brought him back into focus.

“Hello?” He exhaled slowly. “Yes, this is Kurt…We have an agreement.”


The story doesn’t end here, although it very well could have been the ending. First Church suffered from the scandal, but slowly recovered. Most of the deacon resigned from the board and Pastor Kurt ordained a new generation of deacons to serve the body. After a year passed, the incident was mostly forgotten. Pastor Kurt had put the issue behind him and seldom thought of Allen until he saw him one weekend at the county jail. Allen had been picked up as a vagrant walking through town. He had spent the night in Mrs. Beagle’s back yard huddled behind her rose garden. She woke up to get an early start on weeding and saw a man with a coat pulled over his head lying against a tree. She called Dan Tucker at home, who arrested him for trespassing. The first person Sheriff Tucker called was Kurt.

Allen now sat across from Pastor Kurt in the visitation room. He was worn out and appeared to be ten years older. He was disheveled, unkempt, and miserable. He managed to smile when Kurt sat down across from him.

“Long time no see.”

“Hello, Allen. Are they treating you okay?”

“I’m fine.” He wouldn’t look at Kurt.

“Surprised to see me?”

Allen frowned. “Not really.”

“Oh?” The answer surprised him.

“No, I figured that you would come and gloat at me.”

Kurt was shaken. “Gloat? No, Allen, I came to see about you, not to witness your misfortune.”

Allen only shook his head. “Whatever. I doubt that you could ever care about me. I was the one that took you to the bank.”

“Allen, that was only money. We can always replace it. It is your soul that I am concerned for.”

He peered at him through long stringy hair. “You know, you are the only one that I couldn’t take down.”

“What do you mean?”

“Don’t you know who I am by now?”

Kurt shook his head. “No, what do you mean?”

He sighed. “A few years ago, I went to a church youth group rally as a visitor and the preacher there lied to me. He told that if I gave my life to Christ that I would be happy. I didn’t know that I wasn’t happy. But, he pressured me to walk the isle with all the other kids that went down to the front of the church that night. Then he made me repeat a prayer. After that, I was only a number to him. One night, after I came in late, my dad and I had a fight and he kicked me out. I called the pastor of that church, but he told me to call him in the morning and not to bother him so late. That night, some kids were breaking into cars and stealing stereos, but I didn’t know it. The police saw me walking around and I matched the description. I ended up being charged with the crime. That church never came to visit me, not even after I asked for help. I was convicted of the crime and sent to Juvenile Camp for six months. After that, I went back to that church and the preacher told me that he only had room for sincere Christians in his church. He even made me leave before the service was over. I was so embarrassed and so mad that I swore to get even. From that time on, I went from church to church and whenever they would preach that happiness garbage, I would do exactly as I did at your church. Those idiots would be so eager to scratch a notch in their membership books that they were easy marks. I made a lot of money doing that.”

“But Allen, I could see you at the back of the church. The Holy Spirit was really working on you. I could see you struggling with your sins.”

Allen blinked hard and looked away. “You are the only one that didn’t preach happiness. You were all stirred up and I had nothing to work with. You never once talked about how God will improve your life. The longer I sat there, the worse it got. Before long, you almost had me convinced to repent. I was going to talk to you after the service that last night when your deacons surrounded me. It was just like that first time at home. They kept pushing me and they would have agreed to anything to get me to pray that prayer.” He grinned. “I got them good. They were eating out of my hands.”

Kurt smiled. “Yes you did. You know that they all quit as deacons. Most of them joined other churches in town. You taught us quite a lesson.”

Allen shrugged. “You don’t seem that upset.”

“It was only money.”

“But don’t you hate me?”

“Why should I hate you?”

“Well, you don’t have to think about it. I ripped you off.”

“Allen, the Bible says that if I won’t forgive you, then God won’t forgive me. I was no better than you when I came to Christ. The thing that God used to rein me in was my thought life. Some preacher in Abilene, Texas preached about how God was going to judge my thought life. Oh, that scared me senseless. If God was going to judge my thought life, then how would He react to my words and actions?”

“Pastor, for what it’s worth, I’m sorry.”

“I know you are. Now the Bible tells me to extend grace to the humble. Shall we talk about where you stand with God right now? You know, God has commanded all men everywhere to repent, for He has appointed a day in which He will judge the whole world according to His righteous standard, which is Jesus Christ and the blood that was shed for our sins….”

The end.


Amy Deardon said...

Will, this is the best story I've read in a long time!

So powerful! Thank you SO MUCH for sharing this.

No wonder people have a skewed idea of Christianity...

Avily Jerome said...

Well, I told you yesterday that I love it.

I still do.

The only thing I might change at all is the paragraph where Kurt is ruminating about "When did God become..."

The story is so clear, you could cut almost that entire paragraph. We don't need to see Kurt pondering it so much to relate to what he's thinking, and share in his disgust at what the church has become.

Seriously, though, this is an amazing portrayal of the downside of the seeker-friendly model!

Thanks for sharing!

Travis said...

Thank you, Ladies for your thoughts. I know it's hard to follow a story that is drug out over several days, and I appreciate you staying with me as I offer these stories for your review.

This topic is very dear to me. I deem it horribly irresponsible to present a Jesus who is a genie in a bottle, able to make magical fixes for everything. This flies in the face of Paul, who was one of the most miserable Christians on the planet. He was stones, shipwrecked, snake bitten, jailed, beaten...and so forth. Yet, his motive wasn't to be happy, but to be faithful. What a profound difference. When someone realizes they are being saved FROM something, rather than FOR something, they have a different attitude about the cross.

Alison Bryant said...

That last statement you just made is key.

It's really not that hard to follow a story over a few days. The hardest part is the suspense! Having smaller portions of the story makes it a little easier (time wise) to read and digest before the next segment. Very effective on your part.

I do agree with Avily about the ruminating paragraph, and I'll share more reasons in person. Nothing earth-shattering...I'm about to leave for a meeting and don't have time to write them here. =)

All that said, though, I think this shows a strong storyline. It's sitting on my shelf of "Favorite Will Stories." Speaking of, you need to hurry up with Book Three so that you can work on The Attack.

Oops...(looking at my watch) I'm late anyway--as usual!

Travis said...

Ah, yes, The Attack. I'd almost forgotten that story. I do need to work on it. Maybe I will make that my next venture once the When Love Calls series is finalized. I'd like to explore some other story lines, if for no other reason that to not be teased so much at work for being a romance novlist!

Thanks, Alison. Tune in sometime in the next few days to see a great story about an actual war hero to commemorate Pearl Harbor Day.

Anonymous said...

This is so sad, but God sent someone to speak with him. I grew up in the Church and when I enquired about the tithes and offering and not seeing the said blessings that they say manifest when you give, the Bishop threw me out of the church which lead me to write a book entitled "Start Loving Yourself" by Terrence JC Bacchus. God Bless you and I hope in your hearts of Hearts that you will seek the real Jehovah.

Dave said...

Paul, who was one of the most miserable Christians on the planet

I really would like to have a conversation with Paul and ask him if he felt like his life was miserable. I wonder how he'd rate his life on a 1 to 10 scale.

Not that I'm trying to steer conversation away from your story, but this statement you made has me wondering tonight.

Travis said...

Mr. Bacchus,
Thank you for taking time to comment on the story. I truly appreciate your considerations. I'm sorry that you experienced so much confusion in your home church. I think it's tragic when a Christian is told that they have to muster up more faith in order to see God work on their behalf. I also wish that your Bishop had handled that situation with more grace. I stole a peek at your book; it looks as though it would be an interesting testimony about how God has guided you through many pitfalls. Congratulations on your publication!

In retrospect, I think Paul himself would not view his own life under the lens of miserable. He knew his purpose and was driven to serve God. However, you certainly can't say that his life was sunshine and lollypops. He was miserable in the terms of the physical aspect of his external life, but his "life" was focused by the Holy Spirit. I would guess that Paul would be inclined to disagree with me, based on Philippians. One must admit that Paul's life was on challenge after the other... Tragically, modern Christians tend to focus on the exterior “Fluffy” stuff and ignore true spiritual growth.

Billy Coffey said...

This is really excellent stuff. And I showed my four-year-old son your picture. He thinks you're the coolest looking cowboy in the world.