I read a Facebook post on Thanksgiving night that helped me personally to see the need for us to be grateful for both good and bad (Romans 8:28; I Thessalonians 5:18). This brief note led me to share a situation that we've faced in recent months. In short, a pastor we have known for about 5 years has gone outside of God's design for his position of authority and leadership concerning us and two of his former church members. These members are long time friends of ours who introduced us to this pastor. For four times in five years, we parked at their home and served alongside their church at a fair. Until 2009, we had great fellowship each time we were there and we were blessed to minister at the church.
Over the past year or so, a "thorny" situation has arisen after our friends left that church due to various differences over some of their pastor's decisions and his overall leadership. After they left, instead of solely bringing their names before the church for a vote to remove them from the roll (as is common practice), this pastor wrote them a letter accusing them for "not being right" with "the church." In addition, this letter was signed by three other men of the church, one of whom harbors open sin. After our friends wrote each of these men to answer the charges against them, the pastor labeled them as "being divisive." When we (knowing some of these matters already), decided to park at their house to serve at the fair (as in the past), we then were labeled as being "hurtful to the cause of Christ."
Here are some factors as to why we made this decision:
1. We asked for details as to what wrong our friends had done but were never given a clear answer, nor were we given a Biblical reason to not park at their home.
2. Concerning what our friends had done, we were given ambiguous answers such as, "you don't need those details," "they tried to destroy four churches," or "can't you trust us (pastors)?" These answers did not suffice.
3. We live in an RV year-round as our home/office on the road. At present, this unit needs daily supervision because of a battery-charging issue. This year, we were to be absent from it for up to 3 weeks traveling in just our truck up to the northwest and flying back home for a few days. Our friends are a.) retired and b.) RV owners so they were perfect to meet the need of supervision.
4. In the past, when we entrusted to churches the care of our RV in similar absences, we were "burned." Once, it cost us a great deal of $$$.
We are greatly concerned by the actions of two pastors in this situation, for three main reasons:
1. There was NO open door with either one to allow us to use the time with our friends as a possible outreach to them in order to "restore such an one in the spirit of meekness..." (Gal. 6:1). Instead, they spoke against our friends to both us and to other pastors in their area.
2. These pastors had NO interest in allowing us just this year to park at our friends' and in the process check out another site for next year. They allowed NO mercy; ONLY irrational and unnecessary judgments against us without clear and Biblical reason to reject our friends' offer.
3. Most of all, we were totally taken aback by the fact that the first pastor went so far as to tell us not to return to the fair next year! He wrongly thinks that years ago we solely and initially attended the fair ONLY at his invitation. Hence, he believes that he has "authority" to dis-invite us!
For some time, after communicating back and forth with both our friends and this pastor, I sensed a need to do something more. Not knowing what this first pastor may do to spread discord or incorrect information, I made a decision to post a generic account of this situation, since:
1. The first pastor threatened to call our pastor and other pastors, allegedly to "tell on" us.
2. He followed through on this threat and called our pastor. We therefore believe he will call other pastors to "warn" them of us.
3. While I seek NOT to stoop to attitudes or actions of these pastors or to retaliate against them, I AM interested in answering false allegations and divisive attempts that might undermine 10 years of labor in creation and missionary ministry.
4. We desire prayer from all of our friends for this situation that God would work HIS will in each life, as the eventual outcome is up to the LORD.
Most of all, and through all of this, we are indeed thankful for "thorns" the LORD allows to come our way, particularly since we know that whenever a "great door" is opened, there are also great adversaries (1 Cor. 16:9). While we are grateful for both open and closed doors, closed doors can help us find new open doors more quickly!