Taking three week away from the routine of life really helps you gain perspective. It also helps you recognize your own sin in a situation. For me, I’ve always felt this need to prove that I’m “right.” I chalk it up to years of having to prove to men in the church that my passion for the gospel is more than emotionalism; my questioning of leadership is more than an unwillingness to submit to authority; my eagerness to wrestle out theology has nothing to do with proving my intelligence is superior to someone with the XY chromosomes, or any other chromosomal pairing for that matter. I’m driven not by a desire to be right, but by a desire to be treated fairly. Unfortunately, that hasn’t always been my experience in the church.
One thing was clear, from this point forward, Jamie would be attending all of the meetings with me. Mostly because I wanted the accountability, but also because he had a REALLY hard time wrapping his head around all of this. (It was hard to believe the youth pastor would take a position against what I was doing with these teens.) Plus, Jamie was an attorney by profession and a mediator by gifting. He has a way of sifting through all the extemporaneous junk, and, with scalpel precision, get to the heart of an issue. But, he was about to have a front row seat to the absurdity.
Before walking into the meeting, Jamie asked to take lead on the conversation and I was more than happy to oblige. From our perspective, solving the problem was easy. We needed to know why the elders had a problem with what I was doing, address those concerns (by showing everything I was teaching the teens was taken straight from the Bible), and then figure out how to move forward. Jamie’s question was simple: Can you tell us specifically what issues the elders had with my teachings and practices? It was pretty straight forward, right?
Well, the youth pastor also came with his own set of questions. It became clear to see that while Jamie and I spent the last three weeks trying to find a path forward, the man sitting in front of me was focused on one thing: keeping me from working with those teens. His accusations and questions came fast and furious. Why did I refuse to take the teens to the soup kitchen? Why was I refusing to take the evangelism class at the church? He said the elders were questioning him about what I was teaching these teens and that he had no clue.
I tried to answer each question without completely losing my cool. But, I won’t lie. It was hard for two reasons. First, I had already answered these questions… multiple times. Second, we were there to figure out why the elders were upset about what I was doing with the teens. That was the accusation against me, almost a month to the date, but we still couldn’t get an answer to WHO was actually upset and WHY?
But, I answered his questions… AGAIN. As far at the soup kitchen was concerned, the teens were only able to stay in the kitchen for food prep and cleaning and they couldn’t interact with those coming to eat. But, more importantly, we weren’t allowed to talk about Jesus. I was absolutely fine with them going to the soup kitchen to serve. My problem was replacing the soup kitchen with what we were doing…. actually TALKING to the homeless ABOUT Jesus. (Preparing and serving food to the homeless is a noble and worthy endeavor, but, at the end of the day, it’s an act of humanitarianism. I wasn’t trying to make humanitarians. I was making disciples.)
As far as the evangelism class goes, my annoyance with program driven churches was pretty much at capacity. Especially if the class puts you in a room with people TALKING about following Jesus and not actually doing it. (Confession: I admit to having a pretty extreme view on things like this. For example, I’m actually against coffee bars at a church because I’m a HUGE proponent of building relationships with the people in our communities. Every Sunday we stop at our local Starbucks and have great conversations with people… conversations I wouldn’t have if I was getting my coffee at church. We should be encouraging believers to live their faith outside the walls of “church” as much as possible. And, for the record, I’m not against having coffee at church. But, here’s an important question: Do you think people at your church would be mad if you took that coffee away? Just something to think about.)
My problem with this class was specific. It’s as evangelism class (do you see where this is going?) based on Bill Hybels’ book, Just Walk Across the Room. My argument was simple: I was already teaching these kids hands-on evangelism in downtown Portland. Not to mention the fact that I took a 15 week course on evangelism in seminary and made a 99% in the class! Furthermore, I was a homeschooling mom of four, taking classes in seminary, and spending hours preparing for my time with those teens every week. The last thing I needed was one more thing on my calendar, especially if it involved spending three hours of my time in a group discussion about how to get enough courage to walk across a room and talk to someone about Jesus. Sitting in a room TALKING about doing it is dumb when you can actually be out there doing it. I could care less about checking that box, or jumping through that hoop.
The youth pastor responded by asking if I thought the elders were dumb for thinking every member of the church should take the class. (He was totally egging me on and trying to set me up with that question.) My response: I question the intelligence of anyone who thinks reading a book and talking about something in a classroom is more important than actually doing it. (At this point, it was taking every last ounce of self-control I had to stay in that room.)
Since we were talking about the elders, I brought up his last accusation. As far as the youth pastor having no idea about what I was teaching those kids…. it was an absolute lie. Not only did I ask permission for every activity, I sent him pictures for documentation. He even went to one of my Saturday morning teaching sessions!
And in that moment, it all began to make sense. He was lying; he had been for weeks…. and I was furious.
I told him I was done and got up to leave. But he responded by telling me that if I walked out the door he would tell the lead pastor I refused to work with him. My response: I could care less what the hell you tell him. (Did I mention I was pretty ticked off by this point?) I followed it up with another stellar example of maturity: I’m not putting up with this crap anymore. And I opened the door to walk out, but Jamie told me to sit down. (Awesome… NOW you’re going to play the husband card?!?!)
To be fair to him, Jamie saw the end game… and I was just tired of playing games. His request wasn’t demanding or demeaning. He knew the youth pastor was lying… that’s why he was refusing to answer our questions. I trusted Jamie, so I sat down. And then the youth pastor opened his mouth ONE. LAST. TIME.