09 March 2009

THE ADVENTURES OF GRAYING PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH: The Further Adventures Of Spin And Marty, er, Rex And Red *

Red continued, “You know, Rex, you are being a little hard on yourself, undeservedly so. Heaven (actually) knows that you are not perfect. No offense.”

“None taken,” Rex replied drily.

“Well, you are acting as if you are perfect and that everything you touch should turn to gold. As my Gunny once told me, ‘There was only one perfect man in history----and we couldn’t stand it, so we hung him on a cross!’”

“Who is your writer,” Rex chuckled? He had obviously never met a seasoned non-commissioned officer.

Ignoring him, Red went on. “You have strengths and you have other areas that are less strong. You may remember that I was on the Search Committee that identified you as God’s choice for this call. It was my first exposure to congregational leadership. When we interviewed you, you told us that your moderatorial skills were not your strongest suit. We agreed to take that into consideration. Earl Regis and Paul Peters were on that Committee. They promised to support you if and when the session ever got too rambunctious. Have you ever held them to that promise?”

“What do you mean?”

“You were just beating yourself up ‘cause you ‘lost control’ of Monday’s meeting. Now I think you have a stronger will than you seem to think, and that you could have gotten control. But the fact is that neither Paul nor Earl stepped in to help you regain control. That is something you need to take up with them in light of their promise, and I’ll go with you, if you need me to.”

“At the same time, I think you have ignored the fact that you are the pastor. Assume control and you will be surprised how people react to the fact that the pastor is speaking. Take charge, man! You literally have a bully pulpit. Use it when appropriate.”

Rex’s eyes were a bit wider, and Red realized that he had begun to use his parade ground voice.

“Too much,” he asked?

“No, I’m just a little surprised. I have never liked confrontation, but that is what I hear you suggesting.”

“Wrongamundo, Pastor-san. I am saying that there is a time to confront people when they are wrong. Look at Jesus when he confronted the money lenders in the temple. He had a reason for kicking over a few tables when what they were doing was wrong. That is appropriate. On the other hand, confrontation for confrontation’s sake is just another form of bullying. Just be aware of the difference.”

“One last thing. A church like Graying Pres is sort of like a wild horse that has been running free on the range. If you jerk him up hard the very first time you mount him, you may be able to get control. But if you give him his head and he runs on you, it is going to take balance, anticipation and steady, increasing pressure on the reins to get him to respond.”

“This congregation has been given its head over a number of years. It will not be an easy ride. So, what do you do? Well, balance can be achieved by getting the session on board. Start with Paul and Earl. If you have their ears and their aid, you can begin to get your balance, especially because they know where all the bodies are buried in this congregation. They know the feuds that have smoldered for decades and can help you anticipate the tricky moves that may come as you stay on top of that ol’ horse. Then, as other elders are educated and begin to act like elders of the church and not just bean counters, they can help re-instill discipline in the body. It won’t happen overnight, and you may “get throwed” a couple of times, but you’ll just get back on, and in the end, the wild horse can be tamed and put to the work of the Kingdom. What do you say?”

Rex grinned. “Yippee ki yo ki yay!”

Well! Where can you find a 20X hat in Pennsylvania? Will Rex really wear boots to church tomorrow? Can he lasso this wild gray beast? Who will play the part of Annette in this little saga? Tune in next time for the continuing adventures of Graying Pres.

* Historical note: For those of you who are still just kids, and thus ignorant of the really important events in US history, we who were fortunate enough to see the original Mickey Mouse Club as a first run event know that Spin and Marty were the heroes of a serial about a couple of boys at a summer camp on a dude ranch. When the girl's ranch, complete with the likes of Annette Funicello, was added in the second season, the dreams of every adolescent American boy of the 1950s were just about complete.

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