In the first five weeks as Pastor, three deacons died. Ordinarily that would seem like a large percentage of a small group, but at Bethany, the former pastor had the theory that if you made a man a deacon, he would be faithful in tithing. As a result, he had twenty-six deacons in a church with a membership of only about one hundred. While the three who died were a blessing to me, I could not say that of all of them. One in particular was determined to see me fail. His son was a pastor in a very small church in a neighboring town, and he had wanted Bethany to call him. It was difficult for him to mask his bitterness, but he was always respectful to me. While I knew he was "out to get" those who chose me over his son, I could not help but love him. I visited him and his family often.
As time passed, I began noticing some general tension that had nothing to do with the charismatic issues. Two of the deacons were clearly at odds with one another. The deacons had taken the room used for the youth, bought a huge table and several very fancy leather office chairs, and had put a lock on the door so no one else could use it. The deacon who was responsible to pay the bill secretly refused to do so, and the church's reputation was damaged as a result. The other deacon could not wait to bring it to my attention. When confronted as to why he had refused to pay the bill, he said that he had voted against it and would not take part in the "shrine-building." I had another deacon pay the bill, and took care of the furniture. I put the table in the choir room for all to use, and I placed a chair in every Sunday school room for the teachers. Like Solomon, I had "split the baby." I did not hear one complaint from a single deacon, and the youth were grateful to have their room back, sans lock.
Another "problem" was that a very poor family attended the church. They received one hundred dollars a week and the use of a run down house that had no air conditioning, poor heating, and a leaky roof. I visited them and noticed their washer and dryer did not work. I went to the used furniture store owned by one of our church families and bought a used washer and dryer out of my own pocket. Incredibly, I heard through the "grapevine" at a local restaurant that some of my church members were embarrassed because I had done such a stupid thing. After all, wasn't their pastor smart enough to recognize when he was being conned? Had the couple asked me to help them, I might agree, but they had not. It was also sad that many looked down on the family, saying they were poor because they were too lazy to work. The man worked an average of fifteen hours a day. I was beginning to have second thoughts about being a pastor to such snobs. I began to pray that the Lord would "reassign" me. To be continued, Lord willing.