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Reconstructing My Heart

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in church, God, humillity, journey | Posted on 18-11-2010

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I honestly don’t know what’s happening to me these days. But something is going on.

I reached out and talked to the man who was my adversary after my fall, Phillip Townsend. We made up after I humbled myself. I’ve written letters to my former in-laws and apologized to them. After my fall, they were all very angry with me, some to the point of threatening violence. I humbled myself to them and let them know I sinned against them.

Today, I wrote a letter to the church that ordained me. I let them know that I let them down. It was a very difficult letter to write. I told them that if they wanted to rescind my ordination, it was well within their rights. No church has ever meant so much to me as that church. It’s my home church. I love all of them. Angelica called many of them the day she found out I had cheated on her. I haven’t spoken to any of them since. But I wrote to them and told the deacon body that I loved them all and respected any decision they made, because any decision would be a result of the sin I committed.

I’m not bragging about my humility. I don’t like being humbled. I don’t like the process. I hate it. It’s horrible.

Friends, I don’t know what’s going on with me.

For many months, I was fueled by anger at the way I was treated after my fall. It drove me and kept me going. But now, I feel nothing but humility. I want my forgiven sin to glorify Christ.

I remember talking to many fallen pastors over the past few months. It seems that in the month after a fall, it is a crucial time. There are only one of two paths to choose. One can choose to self-destruct and hate oneself. This is an easy path to choose. The rationale is that everyone in the church that you just sinned against hates you, your former wife and family hate you, so you might as well hate yourself. How do you hate yourself? You take drugs, drink, or engage in some other vice and destroy yourself.

I won’t lie. I’ve engaged in some mild forms of self-destruction. Haven’t we all to some degree?

The other path is tough. It requires perseverance and focus. It takes self-examination, humility, and patience. It makes you look at your disgusting heart, recognize that you are indeed a Pharisee, renounce your own self-righteousness and find yourself alone with God. When you get there, alone with God, you must face Him, alone, naked, and full of your sin.

And when you look at Him, He says, “I love you, child. And I gave all for you. I do not condemn you, because of my Son.”

That journey takes a long time. But it is worth it. It is painful, requires self-humiliation, the renunciation of self, and the realization that you’re not the end all, be all of life.

But at the end of that journey – which I’m not even close to completing – is the One who gave Himself for us. And He is worth every heavy laden, heart-breaking, soul-searching step.

I Hate Humility, But I Love Transformation

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in apology, bitterness, deacons, dreams, forgiveness, hatred, pastoring, salvation | Posted on 17-11-2010

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So much has happened in the past week. Just when I think my story is over, something else happens. I just can’t believe this is happening to me. But, it is.

I blogged about dreams last time. I haven’t had a good dream in over a year. I had one last night. I’ll get to that some other time.

Cynthia and I have been looking for a church ever since we had a terrible experience at the last one – not Angel Falls.

We have been visiting the church of my friend Brad – Hope Hills Baptist. He’s a sovereigntist like me. He spends his time three ways – knocking on doors in the community trying to save souls, witnessing in downtown Richmond, and spending time with his beautiful family.

You know how I know Brad is serious about the kingdom? Richmond is a far cry from Angel Falls. As a pastor, I wouldn’t have dreamed about going there and witnessing. He uses the Way of the Master witnessing technique like I did. He’s not going to get anyone there to join his church. You know why he goes there? Because he loves sinners. He wants people to see Christ. He’s not pushy. He’s not overbearing. He just loves Christ. He loves people. You may disagree with Brad and think he’s out of line and should leave people alone. Fine. But he’s got a heart for people. He doesn’t judge. If they don’t listen, he leaves them alone. He just loves.

He has a passion that 99% of pastors don’t have. I didn’t have it. He preaches with a fire that men like Spurgeon and Whitfield had. Lord, is that even a fair comparison? No. I hate it when people do that. If someone could make a list of pastors throughout the ages of passion, some guy from North Dakota who pastored a church who no one ever heard of would top the list, not Charles Spurgeon. It’s not right of me to compare Brad to Spurgeon or Whitfield. If he knew I was making up a pseudonym for him and doing it, he would be embarrassed. He would say, “I’m just a preacher trying to glorify Christ.” But I’ll tell you. In this ragged county dearth of preaching, he’s like Spurgeon. And those of you who are hurting for good preaching, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

Is he seminary educated? Nope. And it’s probably to his advantage. He just loves people.

He told me last week that he had a wife and husband in his office at midnight. The husband was drunk off his butt. He was a gulf war veteran and was screaming at his wife. She was crying. He told me, “I felt like I was in over my head.” But he stayed in there and presented the gospel. The couple left. The man came back three days later and was begging to be saved.

Friends, in the past year, I’ve lost touch with Christ. I have hated church, I’ve hated religion, and I sure as hell hated to see anything associated with the Southern Baptist Convention. But seeing Brad and his passion has reminded me what it’s all about. It’s about Christ. It’s not about me. It’s not about parking lots or buildings or the weekly offering. And I’m downright ashamed of the pastor I used to be. In fact, I want to strip myself of that.

Cynthia and I met with him and told him we wanted to join the church. We told him we didn’t see any other way for us to join but to tell the church what we had done. He agreed. It’s going to be embarrassing this Sunday when he tells them. Cynthia and I had a heart to heart about that last night.

I told her, “Sweetie, in Nathaniel Hawhorne’s classic, ‘The Scarlet Letter,’ Hester Prynne is commanded to wear her ‘A’ on her chest. But the first time she shows up in public, she has embroidered it herself. It’s not a plain ‘A’. It’s adorned with gold and it’s absolutely beautiful. The people are stunned and are awed with her workmanship. She’s taken ownership of her sin. On Sunday, that’s what we need to do. We’ve been forgiven. In that congregation, there will be people there who are/have been/who will be committing adultery. We need to take ownership of what we’ve done. We aren’t proud of it, but God has set us free from it by the grace of Christ. And we can be an example to someone and maybe, just maybe someone can be helped by our story.”

There’s more, dear reader . . .

I told you in the last blog that I called Phillip Townsend. He was the deacon who called the shots after I committed adultery. When he found out what I did, he told me he “ought to beat the sh-t out” of me. We had a rocky past. I blamed him for a lot of my current problems.

Today, friends, I went to him with all humility and grace. I laid myself at his feet. I apologized to him and told him I was terribly sorry for all the pain I had caused him and the church.

As a sidenote, I have talked to many fallen pastors across the county in the past year. 95% of them tell me that for the most part, reconciliation with the church that was sinned against is IMPOSSIBLE. You know what? I’m a hard headed jerk. Today, I proved that percentage wrong.

Humility goes a long, long way.

The only issue I left with is this – Phillip told me he forgave me a long time ago. Friends, if you forgive a person, you need to TELL THEM. If you don’t tell them, forgiveness is not complete. But I understand the process. He also told me he had no intention of contacting me. He said he was going to wait for me to initiate contact. I said, “I get it. I’m a jerk. I would’ve just responded like a jerk, right?” He had a point. There’s a time for reconciliation and a right time to talk to people.

I left Phillip’s home with a good feeling. Does he feel the same as he did when I was pastor? No. Do I think he’s flawed and should have handled it different? Yeah. But you know what? I love him. And one day in glory, we’re gonna have to live next to each other. And today, for an hour and a half, we understood each other. And as a man, I looked him in the eye and I took the initiative to call him and make him meet me.

There’s no reason Christians shouldn’t be getting along in this world. Phillip told me there’s about 30% of that church that will never forgive me. That’s sad. Because if they’re really saved, they won’t like seeing me in heaven.

And when I’m there, I’m gonna rub it in.

I called Brad to tell him that I met with Phillip. He started to cry. I said, “What is it?” He said, “When I met with you and Cynthia last week, I wrote in my prayer journal that I was going to begin praying for you to reconcile with the people at Angel Falls. I just didn’t think that prayer would begin to be answered so quickly.” My faith is beginning to be restored.

By the way, I had a great dream last night. First good dream I’ve had in a while. A very long while. I love airplanes. I was at an airfield with my girls and Cynthia. There was an airshow. And we were free. And we were watching the planes go by. An
d we were happy.

Forgiveness is good. Do you have someone you need to talk to? Humility is so freeing. Is it hard? Sure. But it will free you from a lifetime of anger, hatred, and bitterness. Do it before you waste anymore time.

My Weird Dreams And A Hope For Reconciliation

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in deacons, dreams, family, forgiveness, regret | Posted on 16-11-2010

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Dreams. They’re weird for me. Always have been. I don’t have normal ones. Maybe you do. If you do, you’re lucky.

I’ve got several theories about how they work and I’ll get to them in a minute. Theory means that I don’t have a clue why or what dreams are.

I have several recurring dreams that have nothing to do with this blog post – or do they? I dream about midgets on occasion. Or little people. Apologies if I’m using the wrong terminology. Typically, they come bearing advice or I’m having a casual conversation with them.

I dream about driving off the road a lot. I’m usually at a busy intersection and for some reason, I just let go of the wheel and the car goes off into a tree or a ditch. I either wake up, or survive the wreck and steer back onto the road.

The worst dream I ever had was when I was five. I’ll never forget it. I watched from my room as Santa (who was coincidentally a midget) walked into my parents room and poisoned them with a green gas he sprayed from a garden sprayer. He did it while looking at me and smiling. Yeah, it was not good.

Lately, I’ve been dreaming that I’m in the right place at the right time to stop a crime. Like an accidental superhero. That’s about as positive as my dreams ever get. If I’m really, really lucky, I won’t dream at all.

However, ever since I committed adultery at Angel Falls which led to broken relationships with my ex-wife’s family and the whole church, I’ve been having awful dreams. I have them just about every night. In each dream there’s a church member or a member of Angelica’s family. I typically dream of church members, almost always Phillip Townsend. When I first started having the dreams, I’d be arguing with them or they’d yell at me. At times, they’d stand there and stare distainfully at me.

As time has gone by, the dreams have gotten “happier”, if you will. For instance, recently, I dreamed I was standing outside a grocery store renting movies from a Redbox. Up walked one of the deacons and his wife. They started talking to me with kindness. Behind them were another deacon and his wife and several other couples from church. Each couple was nice, but somewhere, deep in my heart I knew two things: One, they were shocked at running into me and didn’t really like me. Two, I was ashamed of myself still and wanted to run away. So it wasn’t a happy dream at all.

I’ve actually run into one of the deacons in my dream recently. I went out of my way to talk to him. We made small talk and it was okay. I had my girls with me. He was uncomfortable, but I felt a little better about being seen in public.

The dreams are getting old. What’s my theory? I think that when we sleep, our unconscious mind works through things that our conscious mind pushes away. Sometimes, it presents them as a weird picture. Sometimes it’s frightening. But our minds don’t rest. I think that our minds are wanting to work free of the stress that we place on ourselves and they try to unwind at night. Is there a portion of it where God is at work? Sure, God is sovereign over all things.

So, late last week I got sick of it. That, and I got humbled after talking to the man who will probably be our new pastor. I’ll blog about that later.

I made a phone call to one of Angelica’s brothers. I apologized to him for what I did to her and the drama it caused to their family. I told him I knew that he had to explain it to his young children and humbled myself to him. He received it graciously. I knew I could call him because he’s just like that. The other members of her family probably wouldn’t answer the phone, so I wrote letters, including her parents. I told her what I was doing before I did it.

Today, I made a phone call. It was a hard phone call to make. Phillip Townsend. If you’ve read this blog at all, you know it was hard. I hurt Angel Falls with my sin and he didn’t handle the situation well either. However, if I hadn’t sinned, he wouldn’t have been in that position. We have some talking to do.

I talked to his wife for a few minutes and she was kind to me. He was out and she said he’d call back. So, I’m sitting here waiting for him to call back so we can meet. All I want is to show humility to him and put this behind us. Surely, two Christian men can do that for the sake of Christ.

And then maybe these dreams will go away.

The Difficulties Of Writing

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in hurt, mom, struggles, therapy, writing | Posted on 10-11-2010

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I’ve always loved writing. Ever since I wrote an extremely short story in first grade called “George Washington and the Purple Polka Dotted Measles,” I learned that writing was in my blood. My mother wrote a lot and was published. She wasn’t nationally known by any means, but she did it for the enjoyment and to help others.

She encouraged my writing and as long as I can remember I’ve had pen to paper at some point in my life doing some project, whether it be fiction, non-fiction, theological, or just plain silly. We write about what we know, it seems. In seminary, I was forced to write a lot about what I didn’t know, but I think I faked it pretty well.

I love reading Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and Douglas Preston. I have no idea where they come up with their ideas. I’d suggest King’s “On Writing,” strongly, even if you have no ambition to write.

In that book, he discusses his addiction problems early in his career and how he doesn’t even remember writing several books.

It’s hard to write sometimes. Many authors struggle with addiction, depression, anxiety and the like. I don’t always think it’s because they’re suffering from writer’s block, either. I think when we write we are baring our soul for everyone to see. Even if fiction is being written, some part of us is being dredged up and being dealt with by our conscious mind.

I’ve been blogging about my fall since March, I think. And there have been times I just had to take a break from it. Rethinking the whole thing and dealing with the issues around it hurt sometimes. There have been times when I relive moments of pain and hurt that were done to me. But for the most part, I realize how much I hurt others and I just have to stop for a while.

I wrote recently that I’ve been pounding out a book. I’m writing now about the death of my mother. It’s been two years since she died. I thought I’d get through it without much difficulty. I was wrong. Thinking about the moments and the day she died bring back strong memories, smells, sights and things I had tucked away in a dark corner of my mind.

When you write about something like that, it effects your soul, your mood, your mind and how you treat other people. But then again, writing is also very good therapy, I think. If we’re honest when we write, we can show ourselves where we lack and how we can get better. We can help others in their struggles. If we can be truly transparent, others might see themselves in some part of the story and be truly helped.

That’s why Mom wrote and it helped people. She also suffered from deep depression. At the same time, writing helped her depression. Go figure.

Now, back to writing. And the dark confines of my soul. Say a prayer if you get a chance.

Everything Else Follows Preaching

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in church, marriage, preachers, preaching | Posted on 08-11-2010

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Cynthia and I visited the church of a pastor friend of mine today. We’ve been there before.

Angel Falls is a nice town. I would leave here, but Angelica and the kids are still here. I’ve told you before and I’ll tell you again – Angelica and I have a great relationship after the divorce. We get along better now than before, believe it or not.

But I only get to see them every other weekend and at Angelica’s whim. Which is pretty darn often, thanks to a great post-divorce relationship with her. Cynthia has been wonderful in this whole process. She and Angelica get along well, considering everything. I love her so much. She’s such a trooper. I was talking to her tonight about what she would do if something happened to me. If I was her and something happened to me, I’d find some rich millionaire and bury me in lime in the backyard. But she said she’d cherish my memory forever. What a sweetie.

Anyhow, we went to a pastor friend’s church today – his name is Brad. He said from the pulpit today these very words, “God’s grace and love are enough to cover any cover any of our sins. I dare say I’m the biggest sinner here.” I know, I swear he saw me come in. I forgot to challenge him after service. Before his conversion, he was a borderline adulterer (didn’t cross the line), an alcoholic, a gambler, could cuss the wallpaper off the wall, and was a mean, mean man. Guess what? I could do all those things while I was pastor.

I was the biggest jackass in the room today. But I wouldn’t dare challenge a pastor in his own church. To his face. But I’ll call him later this week.

The point of this blog is to let you know one thing – he can preach the wallpaper off a wall. The music was straight out of the Baptist hymnal that was the unupdated version. That’s okay. The congregation wasn’t too young. I’d say they were around an average age of 55. That’s okay too. You know what I’ve noticed the last two visits? They’ve been baptizing the last two times. That tells me they have a pastor who is very serious about evangelism.

And his sermon was very serious about sovereignty. Cynthia told me after the sermon that not once did I roll my eyes or mutter under my breath. She’s right. Because in this county, Brad is the pastor most likely to preach the word of God with humility. He humbles himself in the pulpit and even does so to the point of tears.

I wish I had his humility when I preached. We’re taking the kids there next week.

Do I care about the slightly outdated music? Sure. But the music always follows preaching. And I’ll always follow strong, convicted preaching first that follows the Word of God.

Book Writing . . . Maybe

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in blog, book, writing | Posted on 05-11-2010

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I’ve met about 150 people in my life who were “writing a book.” Know how many of them got published? Two.

Both of them were self-published. Good for them. Except no one ended up buying books from them except their family.

Anyway, I’m writing a book. I’m sure it’ll turn into absolutely nothing except a huge waste of time. It’ll probably be good for me, like this blog has been. I have a direct relative who has published books so maybe their genes have been passed on to me. Or not. I also have an outlaw who is a direct relative. And an adulterer. But I won’t say anything else about that.

I’ve been writing for a few months and have a grand total of three chapters. Woo hoo.

So pray for me, or think kind thoughts of me. With the pace I’m going I should have a rough first draft by 2034.

In this version of my story, I end global warming, defeat all evil in the world, go back in history and stop Hitler, and end poverty all while wearing a cape and tights. It’s a pretty good read.

Oh, one more piece of news. I’ve now registered www.fallenpastor.com. It’s forwarded to come here where the good people at blogger.com host my mess for free. Spread the news if you like my blog. If you don’t like it, then why are you reading it? (You love it, you know you do.)

Tale Of Three Churches

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in church, gossip, preachers, worship | Posted on 03-11-2010

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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.”

Seriously.

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.

The Hypocrisy of the Sunday School Lesson

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, bible, hypocrisy, pastoring, sunday school | Posted on 02-11-2010

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I’ve been thinking too much lately. Blame the medication. Blame my never ending search for a church to join. Or just blame the cynicism that is inherent within me.

I’ve been thinking about the faulty way we read Scripture. It’s worse than I thought. I’m just as guilty as anyone. Maybe worse. Even worse than when I pastored. I think I’ve/we’ve been reading Scripture wrong our entire lives. We’ve missed the point.

Now, don’t take me for one of those Jesus seminar people. Please.

But here’s the deal. We read the stories of those hideous Pharisees and we condemn them. We tell them to the kids in Sunday School and we say, “You don’t want to be like them, do you?” Of course they don’t. Those guys were jerks, right?

None of us would ever identify ourselves with Pharisees, would we? Not for a second.

Think about some of the stories. Christ heals a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath. The Pharisees get bent out of shape. We tell our Sunday School classes that those jerky Pharisees were out of line. We know the story, right? We know how it ends! Those guys should have known better. How dare they! They should have known that Christ was in their midst and shouldn’t have been so darn picky. Sabbath made for man, etc.

What about the woman caught in adultery? Those guys set that woman up. We know how that story ends as well. We’re supposed to forgive that woman and know that it was unfair for those Pharisees/Scribes/crowd to be so angry with her. Christ took her side and forgave her. How dare they! Listen, Sunday School class, we need to be like Christ. Be forgiving, be loving. Don’t be like those Pharisees. Love the sinner, hate the sin.

In Sunday School, we do so well for an hour. We paint our picket signs that read, “Love Christ! Love the Sinner! Don’t be self-righteous!” And we feel so good about our Christianity for two hours on Sunday.

Then we go out to lunch to Ryan’s Steakhouse and we forget it all.

On Monday, someone commits adultery against us. Or one of our friends. Someone commits a great sin against us. Or, like the man with a withered hand, someone violates one of our “sacred rules.” And we get bent out of shape.

We forget the Sunday School lesson. It was forgotten the second we walked out the doors of the church, wasn’t it?

Know why? Because it was okay for Christ to forgive those people. We knew how those stories ended. We’re supposed to love the man with a withered hand. We’re supposed to forgive the adulterous woman in John 8. Know why? Because we’ll never see those people. They’re text. They’re black and white. They’re not real. We’ll never see them.

But to heck with the sinners we meet Monday through Saturday. They’re in big trouble. Especially when they cross our path or when they violate our rules.

But heck. We’re not Pharisees. We’re just practicing righteous anger – the sinner must be punished. I used to think that way. Christ used anger when he was in the temple, so why can’t I?

And when I get to church Sunday, I’ll tell my friends about what happened to me this week (it’s not gossip, of course when I’m telling church people) and they’ll tell me I did the right thing. Instead of forgiving the sin that was done to me, I got angry and reciprocated. I won’t see the disconnect with what I heard in church last week or this week, but it won’t matter.

Know why? Because church is just something I do. Those stories are just stories. It’s all good and well for Jesus to do those things.

I’ll sit in the pew and sing my songs about the love of Christ and maybe even listen to a sermon on loving my neighbor.

But don’t cross me. And don’t expect me to act any different than a Pharis… What I mean is, I’ll act just like a disciple of Christ.