Once upon a Sunday morning…
“I’d like to thank you all for coming,” Pastor Friendly intoned. “Last Sunday, Mr. Josephson asked to join our church, and we’ve discussed this among our church leadership and Membership Committee this week. I’d like to ask Mr. Michaels to present their findings and recommendations now.”
“Thank you, Pastor,” Jerry Michaels began, as he addressed the half dozen or so church leaders gathered around the small conference table drinking coffee during the Sunday School hour before Worship. “As you know, here at First Godly Church in the Community, we try to take a leadership role in presenting the Gospel and godly civic and family values for and to our town.
“We did some ‘due diligence’ research, Mr. Josephson, regarding your membership here. You have shown remarkable Biblical knowledge, and have volunteered to teach Bible Study for the church. You’ve already impressed a number of our members and young people, and we wanted to consider you for a position of leadership in the church, beyond simple membership.
“So, it was a bit of a disappointment, on all of our parts,” as Jerry looked sadly around the table, to the mournful nods of his committee colleagues, “when we looked into your activities in the community and found that you have a very questionable reputation. You’ve been seen to drink, and provide drinks for others. You keep very unsavory company. You are unmarried, but have been seen in the company of women of… well, let’s just say, very colorful reputation.
“You must understand, its not just our concern about yourself, your own morality, or whether we trust you and your actions. It’s a matter of your witness, your identification with our church, and what the community will think of this church, and us as members.
“I’m very sorry, Pastor… Mr. Josephson… but at this point it is the recommendation of our committee that you NOT be accepted as a candidate for membership, although you are welcome to continue to worship with us. You go to unacceptable places, consort with unacceptable people, and engage in unacceptable activities, such as drinking, dancing or partying, that give you a reputation for disreputable living and deeply compromise your witness both within this church and in the community.
“At some future date, should you repent of your sins and these activities, we would be happy to reconsider your request for membership. But for the moment, I’m afraid that’s not possible. Is there anything you would like to add, Pastor?” Jerry asked.
“No, not really,” the Pastor said in disappointed tones, “except to invite Mr. Josephson,” he interrupted himself to look kindly at the candidate with his warmest smile, “is it all right if I call you by your first name, Josh?” Seeing the young man nod, he went on, “I really want to invite you to come join us, let us pray for you, and encourage you to repent your sins and your lifestyle whenever you are ready. We truly care for you here at the First Godly Church.”
All eyes turned to the candidate, Joshua Josephson, as he smiled gently and nodded. Everyone waited for him to say a few words in response. Finally, he spoke.
“Well, Pastor… Gentlemen… I’d like to thank you for your courtesy and consideration this morning, and your warm fellowship in this time. I think I’ll just be moving on now. Please don’t think I’m upset or angry at your words, I have been through meetings like this more times than I can count. I come to serve, and right now I am seeking a church home that will hear and receive Me just as I Am. Ministry is sort of a family business for Me, and this is just how we’ve done it for ages.
“You’ve been very gracious, and I know you guard your reputation very diligently. At the moment, I have come to seek a church a bit less concerned for reputation, as concerned for grace and faith. I’ve nothing to repent, I’m afraid. But I shall move on down the road to seek a church. I’ve come back here, wondering if when I came I would find faith.
“I am still seeking, but I always hope. I’ll look forward to seeing you around town from time to time. For now, I’ll just take My leave and move on.
“By the way, feel free to just call me Josh. Somewhere, I’m sure there’s a church for Me. Have a great Worship Service. Goodbye, for now.”
And, quietly wiping His feet at their door, gently He closed it behind Him as He left.
The group pondered sadly for a moment just sipping their coffee. Finally, Jerry said, “Well, that was a doggone shame. But… well… He just wasn’t our sort, was He?”
“No,” the Pastor agreed, shaking His head, “He really just didn’t get it. Not our sort at all.”
And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge *said; now, will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them? I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” [Luke 18:6-8]
I posted this fable almost two years ago now, on a different blog. I was amazed to see how long ago it was. My heart is in Church Set Free because I so want to be part of “Josh Finding a Church Home”! I’d love, one day, to see this story have a happy ending!