The Candidate Meeting — A Fable

good-sam-glassOnce 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.”

The End

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!

16 thoughts on “The Candidate Meeting — A Fable

  1. Churches can get caught up in themselves and lose track of why they are there. When I moved to my current location I joined the church my SIL belonged to, along with my wife, this was back in the 70’s when times were tough. The pastor was asking everyone to bump up their donations; at the time I thought the church was having problems meeting their obligations, so I increased my giving. Later I found out that the pastor was able to meet the obligations, but wanted to build up the emergency fund, then I found out that the emergency fund was already at $500k, but he wanted it to be at $1m. At the same time he was putting the squeeze on people I found out that a good number of the parishioners were in danger of losing their homes because of the rapid inflation and losing their jobs. There was no interest in the pastor of doing anything to help the people out, even to the extant of food collections. Needless to say, I left there and found a new home.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I truly regret that you had that experience, and rejoice that you have found a new church home. Lots of “bad stuff” happens when “church” becomes separated and alienated as a concept divorced from “this community living out our lives in relationship with Christ.”

      Having said that, let me affirm that it really is challenging to feel/carry the responsibility and accountability before God, for shepherding any sized church (and the bigger, the more weight can be felt). I don’t presume to offer an “answer” to all that… But I can say this…

      The churches I have known who have truly remained “part of” their communities, effectively serving and ministering, have had three characteristics:

      1. The Senior Pastor sees him/herself as principally responsible for encouraging, equipping, and edifying a “people of service (in action, in motion) to God through servant hood among the people.”
      2. That leader sees God as the Manager and establisher of policy, and he/she and the people as working out the “means and methods”, not the priorities and policies.
      3. Church Leadership is seen as neither an “honor and award” or a “lifetime tenure”, but a cross section of mature, responsible membership with a sense of call to service. (Not an “elite club” or “star chamber”.)

      Just some thoughts. There’s a great book out there that addresses some of this… Amazon has it. “The Blessed Pastor: A Lyrical Interpretation of Sermon on the Mount Especially for Pastors”, by R L Adams. (Though I’ve found it a very good read for anyone involved in church leadership, laity or not.)

      Thanks again for the comment!

      Grace to you — LM


  2. You write a good fable LM. I’m prowling around and writing in Matthew 18 currently looking at some issues surrounding the topic of Church discipline. This provides good food for thought, thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sounds great, Wally. A couple other places I find good material when considering how God sees discipline among the Body, as opposed to how churches often “busy” body… Romans 14 is critically important, and Acts 15:22-35 has always been key for me in setting up ministry and training or discipling. See what you think.

      Grace to you! — LM


  3. Really liked your fable. This Josh guy sounds suspiciously like Jesus. 🙂

    I totally agree with the sad state of the leadership in many churches today, which is why many are leaving the organized church. And they probably should leave under those situations. But this pharisaical attitude is certainly not limited to leaders. As a senior pastor myself, and as part of a leadership team, we have fully embraced the “Josh’s” in our church who, unlike Jesus, actually have failings, broken marriages, questionable lifestyles, etc. We don’t condone their behavior but we have chosen to unconditionally love them. And they’re learning to be loved. But because of this, we’ve had a lot of resistance from “regular” church members. Some have left our church because we didn’t kick these people out or “discipline” them for their failings (We do work with them). My point being, this same expectation you describe is put on leadership by religious people, as much as the leadership doing it. The problem is a religious spirit, which is a very mean spirit, whether it comes from leadership or the congregation.

    Sadly, Jesus would not be accepted in most evangelical circles from either the congregation or the leadership. He would probably be called a false prophet and demon possessed (Oh wait, He was called that before!)

    Again, great insight here. This should make us all pause about who we think is “acceptable” in our circles, whether that circle be in an organized church or a house setting. I think we can all agree that being a Pharisee isn’t limited to pastors.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much for your comment, Pastor Mel.

      You bring up a good point I should probably clarify. When I use the word “leadership” as I did in a comment reply earlier, I am NOT strictly talking “staff”. As you point out in Evangelical churches, or many, many models of local churches… “leadership” is comprised of both formal and informal membership, and very much vested in “congregants” rather than staff or professional ministry.

      This parable emerged from a concrete consultation years ago.

      I have been very blessed to have trained under more than one mentor who not only “talked about” the power of love to transform, but whose day-to-day PRACTICE… our “rules of engagement”, and the staff disciplines and procedures under which we (subordinate staff) worked… absolutely recognized that Love Himself and Love Alone could “transform”. OUR job, was not to try to take the place of the Holy Spirit in the lives of broken people engaging with Him. Our job, rather, was to provide a “safe” (emotionally, spiritually, as well as physically) environment where broken people could come, engage Him in all His love and truth, be embraced in all of our love and encouragement, and simply be “supportive”, “edifying”, and “encouraging” as the Holy Spirit transformed people through the renewing of their minds, and their surrender to that as their “trust of Him” increased…. as their “trust of us” encouraged them to do so.

      I need to post on this one day… but there’s a vast difference between “talking” “love”… and Trusting Love to change lives. The principle difference is “who has the control? Who holds the power?” For the First Godly Church in the Community… “people” hold the power and control. Where I was blessed to train… God did.

      Blessings and grace to you and all those you care for, ever!

      The Little Monk

      Liked by 1 person

        • Lol… here’s a confession just between us, since hopefully no one will read this far into the comment tree….

          But once upon a time, long long ago, when I was yet quite “omniscient” (I have some old posts about that time. When I was young in ministry, I KNEW EVERYTHING. I knew that if only the Lord would allow me to operate Kingdom for just ONE MONTH, I could have sorted EVERYTHING out! Lol.) Anyway, back in the day when I was omniscient…

          As part of the process the Lord brought me through, learning to bring ministry from my “head” to my “lips and hands”… I found myself part of a “deliverance group”. It started as a music ministry, but developed into a “prayer/ministry team” that wound up in a variety of places and situations of… um… let’s just say “spiritual warfare”, and God showed us the difference between “theory” and “practice” on a lot of Gospel encounters.

          Needless to say, the “lot” of us were a bit maverick… headstrong… ok, I’ll admit it… arrogant and (at times) obnoxious. God was SO good and patient with us, as we got awesome mentorship that ultimately “mannered” us into some semblance of grace.

          I say all that, just to say this… Our mottos were two:

          1. “We’ve been thrown out of some of the best churches in this city!” and
          2. “Even deacons can be saved.”

          (Lol…. decades ago. And did I mention, each of us spent considerable time “on the carpet” in front of our (differing) mentors’/pastors’ desks? But, God is infinitely patient, and our elders nearly as much. We learned. Now, here we are… every one in full-time ministry, now mentoring our own little collections of “mavericks” to carry on for Him.)

          Cheer up, on any given bad day… it could be worse. You could mentor a young omniscient up and coming minister… just like me back then!

          Grace — LM

          Liked by 1 person

          • LOL! Yup, I’ve been on the other end, too. Just like when my wife would point out to me when I would get so upset at one of my teenage son’s antics years ago. “At least, he’s not like you were when you were his age.” Ouch!

            On omniscience, as a minister friend of mine says, the things I used to be sure about I don’t believe anymore and the things I never imagined I’m embracing! I think God smiles at our “omniscience.” (“Oh, isn’t that cute!”)

            I was also involved in various mutations of deliverance ministry over the last 30 years. Looking back, a lot of it was pretty awful, some of it just down right silly, and some of it pretty good.

            The beauty of our theology is that God lets us walk it out and see it actually works in our everyday life. If we are brave and have a little bit of wisdom, we will let Him adjust us as we go. Thankfully, I’m still being majorly adjusted! As the great prophet, Bob Dylan, once said, “I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.” 🙂

            Liked by 1 person

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