Rick decided to just slide the box of tissues across his desk to the young woman sitting opposite of him, it didn’t look like this session was going to end anytime soon. He glanced over to the clock on the opposite wall and knew that he was going to be late for supper again, but also knew that Alice would understand, she always did, she was a good woman.
“I just can’t understand all this,” the young woman said again thru sobbing tears, reaching for another tissue and grabbing two this time, Rick wasn’t sure if there was another box of them in the closet behind him or not, but now was not the time to get up and look. These episodes were becoming far too frequent, four women, not including the one sitting across from him and one middle aged man so far this year, and it was only May. There was something terribly wrong going on and as the senior pastor of the church he felt that he was the one to blame, that it was his fault, but he also realized that that was not entirely true. He preached the word of God diligently, always had over the last twenty-one years and not just some of its truths, but all of them, as much as he was blessed to.
This was of course not the first incident of this nature, but over all the years of service to this church it seemed as if they had grown in frequency, only one or two a year when he started, but now these types of things were assaulting the church as never before, and there were other things that had sprung up recently, or perhaps they were just items he had chosen not to notice, things he thought would never assail this group of believers. The pattern in this particular area was almost always the same, lust outside of the marriage, adultery, separation, then divorce. In only one or two instances over all these years had he seen reconciliation within the marriage, as far as he knew, for both of those couples had moved away and no longer stayed in touch. Of the others , the ones at least that he had personally spoken with only two of the women still attended the church, the husbands no longer showed up, and when Rick had attempted to speak at length with either of these two women about their current circumstances, both had seemed withdrawn, shying away from his questions, but thanking him for his concerns nonetheless.
“This is an epidemic, and you’re caught in the middle of it” he said to the young woman seated across from him. She had been in his office for nearly two hours now, and he had consoled her as best as he knew how, using the words of God to try to give her reassurance, and it seemed that at least for the moment the worst of it was over, she had not reached for another tissue for almost ten minutes. He prayed with her, a heartfelt and true prayer, one asking the Lord for comfort and guidance before he rose up and opened the office door for her to return to the awkward silence and verbal battle of the place that she once knew as home.
Pastor Rick reached for the light switch and changed his mind, he had some very serious thinking and praying to do, it was time to seek the Lords face for some answers to questions that in all reality he already knew the answers for. He telephoned his wife, who gave him what he always needed, the reassurance that he was a good man, and that God would lead him. Tears started to well up in his eyes as he hung up the phone, he did not deserve this woman and her unfailing love for him, and he gave thanks once again for his wife whose heart reflected the heart of God towards him.
A decision needed to be made, a decision he knew might affect the course of his life from that moment on, and one that might jeopardize his position as senior pastor of the church that he had served at for over two decades. He had in his heart knew that this moment would arrive, and he had both dreaded it and longed for it at the same time. Rick had spoken with other pastors about this same issue several times over the last couple of years or so, when he first started to notice a recurring pattern that he did not like at all. He had always spoken to them in private, nearly always in a sort of hushed tone, it was a very serious matter and nothing to take lightly. He could only recall three that had actually followed through with it, and of those three only one was still in the pulpit, and although it was a much smaller church than the one that Rick now led, almost two-hundred people every Sunday morning, this man seemed as if he was truly on fire for Christ again, as if he had been re-energized. There were only twenty-one members of the church that this man now led, but Rick remembered his words to him as if it was yesterday, “Scariest thing that ever happened to me, but also the best ever.”
With a church as large as the one that Rick presided over there were always cliques to be expected, small groups of individuals who because of the time that they had been attending, some much longer that Rick had been there, felt as if they held some form of power over the path that the church was to take, he had heard the rumors about some of them, words he had hoped were nothing but that, rumors. He had of course acquiesced to some of those old traditions, seeing no harm in them from a spiritual perspective when he first accepted the position of senior pastor, but others had been changed, and not without some serious arguments from those who held positions of “assumed” authority. The response to the adherence to Biblical truths and the removal of certain traditions within the church by their new senior pastor were not always voiced, but the effects were there, nonetheless.
Giving, both in the collection plate and other free will offerings had decreased dramatically the first few years and had never really returned to the level that they were before Rick’s acceptance of the position. He had not received an increase in his salary after the implementation of these new standards for the church for almost four years, and when he finally had, he declined them for the next three, stating to the finance board that he felt that money could be better used for the mission fund.
Pastor Rick was well liked by most of those in the fellowship, and as he knew all churches were, there were those who sought daily the will of the Lord in their lives, and those that had trouble locating their Bible on Sunday morning, it was to be expected. Those in the second group did not bother him as much as they used to, though he wished it was different for them, the ones that bothered him the most did not fall into either of these categories. The ones that were going thru his mind as the evening wore on were those who also fell into two separate groups, one was the “movers and shakers” within the congregation, and when these people spoke, many listened, “Praise God not all of them though” he said aloud.
This was the same group of people that wanted to cut back on the churches giving to missions, but wanted to put a new wing on the building, the ones that wanted to put the large lighted cross at the peak of the church, but denied the funds to repaint the Sunday school room for the younger children and purchase the much needed new materials for those who sacrificed their mornings for these little ones spiritual growth. These were not the only ones that came into Ricks mind though as he leaned back in his chair and released a long sigh, his brow furrowing as he sought the Lord for guidance. It was a large congregation and he could not be expected to know the nuances of everyone in it, but he knew many.
Rumors and innuendoes were not going to be a part of the equation here, but Rick had three associate pastors and four other God-fearing men that he met with every Tuesday evening without fail. These seven were fine men of God and he trusted each of them completely and without question, their lives along with his own were bound together to seek the face of the Lord and to do His will for the glory of Jesus Christ, it was their sole purpose. He smiled to himself as he recalled Tony telling him one Tuesday night, “Get it right, Rick, it’s soul, not sole purpose.” Names and actions of certain individuals in the congregation had been occasionally brought up on these Tuesday evenings, actions that were far from befitting anyone who professed the name of Christ. There were the adulterers, as the husband of the young woman who had left his office almost two hours ago was, drunkards, extortioners, there were those whose names had been mentioned along with the title thief in the extreme, nearly everything that was mentioned in the Book of Corinthians. Some of these were members of the church and had been for a very long time, some of them were the movers and shakers, the ones that believed they held sway over the path of the church.
“Oh Lord, what am I to do.” Pastor Rick knew that these individuals were in the congregation, he knew that they sat alongside those of the fellowship of the believers whose desire it was to be obedient servants of Christ, and he knew whose responsibility it was to do something about it. He had always preached the complete Word of God, but on this subject, he had barely touched the edges, and he know knew why. It was time to stop being afraid, and time to be obedient himself. He opened his Bible to the Book of Matthew 18: 15-17 and sought the face of his Lord.
As he pulled a notebook and pen from his desk, the thoughts of the possible consequences of his actions fled from his mind, and he started to write down names that he knew quite well, and the actions that they needed to begin addressing with their senior pastor. He picked up the telephone and started to dial the first of seven numbers, the numbers of men he trusted. Tomorrow was Tuesday, and he wanted to prepare these men of God for what might very well be the beginning of the end of their ministry here at the church, along with his own, to prepare them for the possibility of one door closing and another being opened by the Lord in its place, one of greater service to their Lord.