A quick update before I start rambling – Angelica and the girls finally moved out of the parsonage at Angel Falls Baptist. She stayed there almost a whole year after I got caught.
Which is great for her, I guess.
We actually get along wonderfully. People ask me frequently how we get along. “Great,” I’ll say. “Better than we did when we were married.” We should. I pay a huge amount in child support – and I do it with no grudge. She’s gracious with the time with the kids and we never argue. We make arrangements and she and Cynthia talk somewhat frequently and get along just fine. Thanks for asking.
So anyway, Cynthia and I have been looking for a church. We were members at one. I mentioned briefly what happened. Let me give you a few more details about our departure.
We had joined the church of a pastor friend of mine who had done our wedding and had been supportive of us. His name was Kyle and I’d known him for eight years. When we had first joined the church, I told him that he needed to tell the deacons what I had done and tell them about my adultery so they’d at least have a heads up. He said, “No, there’s no need. Just join on and lay low.” I insisted. He said no. I trusted his judgment. To his credit, he did tell the chairman of deacons about my sin and the chairman just let it go.
In two short months, Kyle let me loose to do all sorts of things. I had preached, taught Sunday School, was in charge of the welcome, had led singing a couple of times and was in charge of the kid’s message. Yeah, I know, it was a lot. My own head was swimming. Several times, Cynthia said, “Is it too much? Don’t you think you need to slow down?” I probably should have, but I was just happy to serve the Lord in a small way and help people.
The church received us and loved us. It was in the same county as Angel Falls, but far enough away that no one there knew us. They received us as one of their own and we loved going there.
We were there for about eight months. Kyle was even telling me that he would make me an associate pastor soon. Things were looking good for us. Until…
Another local pastor in the area had an affair. Someone from that church got mouthy and starting talking to someone from the church we were now attending. The people at our church were “big tithers.” They found out that Cynthia and I had been pastor/adulterer & church member/adulteress and they called Kyle to their house. They made a little bit of a stink about it to him. It was along the lines of, “Why didn’t you tell us? He’s doing the welcome at our church!”
Et cetera, so on and so forth, blah blah, blah blah. You get the picture.
Kyle didn’t call me of course. He did what any concerned friend/pastor does in 2010. He Facebooked me. He told me that some people in the church had complained and that I wasn’t to do the welcome/teach Sunday School/do children’s sermon anymore because someone had found out about my past. He said he didn’t know how long it would last and to give him a call right away.
I was shocked. I called him within five minutes of his Facebook inbox message. No answer. I left a voicemail. He never called back. Ever. He did text the next day, though.
Long story short, he’s never called me back. He had the music minister come to my house. He and I had a serious discussion and I told him I thought it was ridiculous that Kyle wasn’t talking to me like a man about the whole thing. I wanted him to speak to me like a friend and pastor. The music minister was playing both sides and I ended up with the short end of the stick.
Really, I could have gone to the deacons and raised holy hell. I was being made to pay TWICE for my sin. And I was mad as hell. (No offense.) But you know what Cynthia and I decided to do? Leave. I wasn’t about to go through that junk again. We were still licking our wounds for what we had done before and we weren’t about to put a church through stuff we didn’t do.
Several people called us to see what happened to us. It happened to coincide with Cynthia having very serious surgery so we just said Cynthia was ill. We finally told the music minister to tell people we were moving on. Ridiculous.
Kyle has texted me twice since then. He won’t acknowledge any wrongdoing to me, but he has said to the music minister that he could have handled it better. People wonder why I’m cynical. He’s trying to save face over his mistake. He messed up by not handling it right in the first place and I’m the sacrificial lamb. But I’d rather he not suffer for his mistake. It’s not worth it to me. In the long run, he’s still my friend, and as the pastor, he has a lot to lose there. I know.
Anyway, we have to find a church. Most of you know what a hassle and horrible ordeal that is.
We visited one place that was an independent Baptist church for a while. The preaching was pretty good. But can I be honest? Of course I can. It’s my blog. The people were just a little . . . creepy. I don’t mean that in a bad way, of course. It’s almost like they were all in the movie “Children of the Corn,” but they had all grown up. They were nice enough to shake our hand, but they kept darting their eyes around nervously like there was some big secret. Some of you will think I’m being mean. I promise I’m not.
Cynthia and I gave it a good try. We met with the pastor for lunch after going there three times. Somehow, he had found out about me. We met for lunch and he lectured us about divorce and remarriage. I didn’t care so much, but there wasn’t a whole lot I could do about it at that point. He was our age, but he did encourage us to join and get involved. I told him we might be visiting a church of another friend of ours and he got really, really defensive. Really, really defensive.
We did go to my friend’s church, but I’m not writing about that church in this blog. (Well, as a side note, we showed up there and they were carting someone out on a stretcher to an ambulance. I’m telling you, people read my blog and just don’t believe that all this stuff happens to me. I don’t blame you. I wouldn’t believe me either if I didn’t live my life.)
A couple of weeks ago, we visited a church that is considered really trendy. High Life Fellowship. Yeah. One of those churches that doesn’t have “church”
in the name. They’re “non-denominational.” Ha ha ha ha ha. Whatever. Don’t give me that. Feel free to say you’re non-denominational, but you’re denominational whether you like it or not. Live in your lie.
We really went there because we had caught wind about a month before that several people there had been gossiping about Cynthia and me. Someone Cynthia works with had been sitting behind a group of gabbing women who had heard them talking about my divorce with Angelica. She had caught it word for word. Angelica had been there before taking the girls there for special Wednesday night worship events for kids. She knew some of the women there.
“Can you believe that he cheated on Angelica?” one said.
“And he’s a pastor?” another said.
“What a donkey-hole,” another said. Except she had allegedly used the biblical word for donkey.
“If I had been her I would have taken him for every dime he had,” another non-judgmental one had said.
And so on and so forth.
So we showed up as a measure of “good faith.” It was what I had expected. The worship was awful. I don’t really want to tell you about what I expect in worship, but there’s a pretty good South Park episode that you shouldn’t watch on it. It’s called “Christian Rock Hard.” But this church had the market cornered on bad worship.
Listen, if you can take your wife, your boyfriend, your girlfriend and put their name in the place of Christ in a worship song and you can’t tell the difference, the worship is bad. For instance, one song said, “Jesus, I want to hold you and embrace you and love you, all night.”
Worship music ought to say something distinctive about Christ/God. It ought to be something different that you sing in the car when you’re listening to soft rock. This worship was AWFUL. All of it was like this. Worship should say something about the atonement, or salvation for sin, or how He saved us, or gave His life for us. I threw up in my mouth a little.
But no one noticed. They were all too busy sitting in the coffee shop reading Rob Bell.
Cynthia wanted to get up and leave early, but I said, “Maybe the sermon will be a better.”
The guy got up . . . wait, wait. He sat in his chair, put his Bible on his little table and started reading from his notes. He never looked up. Not once. He had already preached once that day. The worst part about him reading from his notes was that he was telling a personal anecdote about his wife.
I said, “Let’s go.”
We got up and left. I said, “Maybe we can catch a church downtown.”
We pulled into First Baptist downtown when the preacher was just starting. We were the only non-gray haired people in the place. It was what you would have expected. He wasn’t awful, but he was preaching to his audience. He did alright.
He had just gotten off a mission trip. Halfway through the sermon I said, “Cynthia, never send a pastor on a mission trip, because he’ll tell stories about it in every sermon he preaches for six months.”
Two churches in one hour. Not bad. But a lot of frustration. We’re still looking.
Strange how there was such a leap in demographics in such a small area. All three pastors seemed to know their people groups. The first church had a pastor that had people who we deemed creepy, but they all seemed comfortable with each other. They were traditional, but they were happy. At the second church filled with rowdy thirty year olds, they were begging their people to get out and tell the community about their church. They were telling them that they were thinking about buying a billboard. The First Baptist Church, on the other hand was dying because they were so old, but they seemed content.
Was any more healthy than the other? Nope. It was just a difference in style. It was just a different show. You could have put both services in a movie theater and told worshipers they could attend the service that suited their style.
It’s frustrating. And I’m not sure it’s healthy. But maybe it is. I’m sure when we find a place we won’t complain. Because we’ll be with people like us.