By Billy Beasley
I once heard a story about a man who liked to enjoy his Saturday nights to excess. It was Sunday morning and he was sitting on the sidewalk, trying to recover from the previous night of drinking.
A car stops in front of him and a well dressed, distinguished looking man asks, “Sir, might you be able to direct me as to where the Church of God is located?”
The man rubbed his chin, appearing to be in deep thought. He shook his head as if he were in a debate with himself. “Well, the Methodist Church is over there,” he said, pointing east. “But the Jones own that church.” He returned to rubbing his chin and then he offered, “The Baptist Church is that way,” pointing west. “But the Smiths own that church.” He shook his head in dismay and offered, “Mister, come to think of it, I don’t know of a dang church around here that God owns.”
This story told to me may well be true or not but there are many churches that operate that way. A few influential wealthy families dictate what goes on in their church.
There are many churches that offer traditional and contemporary services. A minister once shared with me as he talked about the changes the staff wish to implement that they had to be very careful of offending the early traditional crowd, because they were the ones that tithed the most and they resisted change, even as their church continued to lose members and virtually all of their young people. The second time he made this statement, I callously offered, “Oh, so whoever gives the most money controls the church. I thought God was our source and not those that tithe the most.”
He became upset with me and I certainly could have worded it far better and without the sarcastic tone that I used. Before I go any further by the next day we both apologized, hugged each other, and moved on. He was frustrated because he desired change as well.
In no way do I judge him. I would like to tell you that if I were a Pastor and providing for my family were dependent upon those who paid my salary that I would follow what I believed God wanted for the church regardless. I doubt I could make that difficult choice either. Most ministers are in a precarious situation. But they shouldn’t be.
One of my first thoughts concerning those who tithe heavily and use that to establish their influence and control over church business is whether that is really tithing.
2 Corinthians 9:7 Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
If I use what I give to the church as a means to assert my beliefs on how the church is run that does not make me much of a cheerful giver, regardless of how right I may think that I am. In fact, I would take it an additional step and say that is not tithing at all.
Our church was planted over a decade ago. I have only been present for the past four years. I love hearing the stories of the early days. Moving from school to school on Sunday mornings and it was years before a building was affordable. But they had the Holy Spirit and I believe our Pastor knew better than to cave to anyone who wanted to assert their vision. Those type of people may not view it that way but that is what self-righteousness and large egos will do. I think it is always best in any situation that we ask ourselves one very important question. Could I be wrong? Go one step more and ask God if you are wrong and have the courage to really listen.
We all can get disillusioned with church leadership. People will fail. I have seen monstrous egos in a pulpit like my fictional character in The Preacher’s Letter. Recently it came to me that as I pray for the Holy Spirit to guide our church and particularly our leaders that maybe it is just as important to pray that we use common sense, whether it be for our church leaders or ourselves.
Common sense can keep you from bad situations and hopefully lead you to be fair to others. I am big on fairness. Don’t have one set of rules for one group of people and change it when it suits your own agenda. It may not always seem that way but God is fair and he really desires that we be as well.
We don’t always need to be looking for a lightening bolt from the Holy Spirit.
Common sense used properly is often the answer we need, for Church leaders and for ourselves.
About the Author
Billy Beasley resides in Carolina Beach, NC with his wife Julie and their Australian Cattle Dog, Teke. They are active members of Lifepoint Church in Wilmington, NC.
Billy is the author of The River Hideaway - a traditionally published work of faith based fiction and the newly published novel, The Preacher's Letter. He shares two simple beliefs with his favorite character in this novel. Faith in God and a conviction that ‘Hearts have no color’.
You can read Billy’s “Sunday Inspiration” column on the 2nd Sunday each month here at Pandora’s Box Gazette.