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Monday, October 28, 2013

WILDWOOD CHURCH

This story is entered at Tell Me a True story Blog Hop, and could be true.  My continued story will follow shortly.
 
Country Church
courtesy photobucket.com

While gazing at the calendar it suddenly struck me I was almost thirty years old. 

A year ago I had been married to Sheila, a patient, under demanding, woman.  She was primarily interested in Horticultural.  Her main interest was in competing in Fairs and any show where there was competition and prizes.

As for me I had spent almost ten years studying for the ministry and had gotten more degrees than most professors in teaching facilities.

Me personally I would have settled for a pastoral ministry degree but my sponsor, my uncle insisted on several other disciplines and since he was giving what amounted to a salary to me I acquiesced to his will.

Finally I said no more studies; I’m ready for a ministry of some kind.

Because of my heavy scholastic load I seldom attended church, but I had what I thought was a thorough understanding of what was the aim and goals of the church.

The denomination I belong to was where I expected to work and so I applied for a position in one of the largest churches that I thought would benefit from my vast knowledge of theology and psychology.

After some time I decided to contact the head of the denomination and asked why the delay for my appointment.  His answer we are waiting for something to open up that somewhat meets your qualifications but so far there is nothing available.

He said he hated to use a worn out phrase but I was overqualified for a pastoral ministry.  This totally deflated me.  All I ever wanted was to be of help to people spiritually and now I find I have too much baggage in the form of education.

After spending some time with him and explaining what my desire was he said he would get back to me but not to get too much hope up, because they were lined up wanting a church to pastor.

I returned home and a month later he called me back and said there was nothing so far.

He said I was qualified for several secular positions and could go to work immediately in one of those fields at a good salary.  I told him I still felt called to a pastoral ministry.

I could hear him shuffling some papers and he came back on the line and he said there is a small and by small I mean very small country church that no one will take due to several factors.  The main one being the nature of the people.  Their complaints have run all of the past ministers out of the church.

While this may sound strange the constant criticism drives them to distraction and they leave with our permission.

Optimistically I thought, “How bad can it be?” so I said, “I will take it.”

I thought my psychology training would see me through.

Two weeks later we showed up at the church and met with the board and got into what they called a parsonage.  There was to be a pot-luck Sunday after church where I could get acquainted with everyone. 

After going through the formal part of the services I proceeded to preach a short sermon and I observed that people were gazing out the windows or fidgeting with something like going through a purse or wallet and taking things out that they didn’t need anymore.

This lack of attention to what I was preaching caused me some concern. Immediately I thought, “How rude.  Here I’m giving them words that could help them and they don’t hear my message.” 

I must admit I was some what disappointed but acted as if everything was wonderful.

Sad to say, I ended up not getting any encouragement because of people telling me what I should have included in the service. 

While I stood there with my plate full of food I tried to explain if I added all of their suggestions we would have been there all night.  This didn’t faze them for they kept on talking.

I saw that some people were getting ready to leave so I put my plate down and went to greet the people as they left.  Many of them said they didn’t attend there and wouldn’t be back but felt they should be polite and welcome me to the community and don’t forget to come and patronize their store.

After most had left I saw my plate of food had been thrown in the garbage and my plate washed.  All the leftover food had gone home with the people and there was nothing else to do but leave also because the janitor was waiting to lock up.

As we walked to the parsonage I asked my wife what she thought and she said well the food was good and filling; but I didn’t care for the flower display for some of the tips of the petals were beginning to show decay.

Must admit I had a thought come to mind and that was the church was misnamed.  Instead of wildwood church it should have been “The church of Godly Criticism.”  I quickly squelched that line of thinking and began to try to remember if there was anything to eat in the refrigerator.

The next day Shelia went to the town nursery and to see what kind of plants they carried.  She hit it right off with the owners for she criticized about everything in the place.  I went and introduced myself to all the merchants and invited them to the services.  They were pretty open with their remarks like, “I’m already depressed so why should I add another layer of misery on top of it.”

I just smiled and said I will be telling some good jokes you might enjoy so consider it. After a month the congregation had dwindled down to the core group.  The curious ones had seen all they wanted to see and didn’t come back.  In each service there was a saintly looking man who always arrived late and sat on the back row.  He would leave before I could get to the door and greet him.  It was almost as if he disappeared.
 
Then one day I was at the church when he came in and introduced himself. He said I’m the Reverend Mike Nelson, but you can call me Mike and forget the Reverend part for I have retired.  He asked me how things were going.

I was tempted to lay out all the problems but restrained myself from doing so and said, “There are a few problems I am dealing with.”

He said, “That is understandable for you are working with people.”  For some reason I felt a small wave of desperation roll over me and asked if he had any suggestions to increase interest in the church. 

“No not really,” he said, “Except for a couple of things.  One you need to find out where their interest lay and then work from there.

It has taken them a long time to become who they are and the other is found in the scripture.  There are terms you are familiar with and are found in Romans and elsewhere that have to be given first place in your life.  Not only when you are in the pulpit but always.

Do you remember words like “Be led by the Spirit” and “Walk in the Spirit” and again “Those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit.” Another, “For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children.”

We see it is by the nature of things we must yield to God’s Spirit to function spiritually.  I suggest you search the scriptures and learn from them concerning the work of the Spirit in you.  Then and only then can you be led by the Spirit.  

Without this all you are doing is depending upon your secular training and that will produce secular results.”

I told him he had given me a lot to think about and I would seek out the scriptures pertaining to the things of the Spirit.  

He said, “If you want the Spirit to change your people, He must first be allowed to change you and then He can work through you to change others.”
           
He said, “I must go for I’m late for another appointment.”

I began in earnest to follow what the old pastor had told me and without embellishing anything I must tell you it worked just as he told me.

One night my unassuming wife asked me how I made the great change in the congregation that had grown to a full house.  I told her; “Do you remember the little old man who came in late and sat in the rear and left as soon as the service was over?”

She said, “I always sit it the very back and pass out the bulletin and greet everyone who comes in and there was never a man as you described, especially when we only had twenty people.”

I argued with her, “He sat in the very seat on the back row and all the way to the left.”

She said, “That seat was broken and couldn’t be sat in until last week when I had it fixed and besides I have sat few feet from it every since we have been here and there was no old man who ever sat there.”

I didn’t dare tell my wife and I didn’t want to admit it but there was no other explanation!

I had been honored with a visitation from an angel or by some other Heaven sent being as I cried out from deep within my spirit in my hour of need.

 
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