Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Jeremiah Burden, Part One

Colorado visit 2 by michelleysmith:
 "Something's wrong at the office and no one's telling me what:  They're walking around like someone's died."

     Daniel had been working for almost a year now for Crossway Community, a multi-site church that spanned across four states.  The church was spear-headed by Ken Boyd, a likable and charismatic pastor who had hired my husband to take Crossway's media to the next level.

     The church was thriving at every one of its nine locations.  Pastor Ken delivered his weekly message at our Colorado site.  Daniel captured it on video, edited it, and prepped it for delivery for the following week to the other eight locations.  Throughout the week, my husband and his team would create custom video promos, sermon illustrations and any other media needs.  Daniel also led the creative team, steering the direction of marketing, advertising and web content.  It was a demanding job, but rewarding, for Daniel's creative prowess had quickly been recognized and appreciated.  Any talented artist likes to be valued and so Daniel gave above and beyond in his time and talent.

View from our apartment home in Colorado.
    We were happy in Colorado.  We'd made friends.  We were getting our finances in order so we could buy a home.  And if some days the job pulled Daniel away from our family more often than I liked, I figured it was just part of serving God in where He had called us.

   But all our plans were about to be disrupted and it began with the strange funereal-like presence in the office that Thursday afternoon.

  "What about Jack?  Did he mention anything?"

Jack was our new worship pastor and ever since he and his family had relocated here a few months before, he and Daniel had hit it off.  They would joke together, confide in each other and sometimes share each others' common office frustrations.  Jack was also pretty close to Pastor Ken, so if anyone might be in the know...

  "Nah," Daniel answered.  "He's been locked away in meetings, looking as depressed as everyone else."

    We didn't have long to wait to discover what had happened.  Pastor Marv, our campus pastor, met with the staff over the weekend.  Daniel and I met with him Saturday afternoon.  The mood was heavy.  Pastor Marv's eyes were red-rimmed and his wife Kay still had traces of tears on her face.

Some daisies found on a hike we took.
   We heard the news with sober hearts:  Pastor Ken, our dynamic leader had committed an "inappropriate sexual relationship" with a woman from one of the Illinois campuses.  The accuser was the woman's husband.  Ken had tried to deny the allegations until confronted by inescapable evidence from the elders and the woman herself, at which point he had admitted to the truth.

   Daniel and I were stunned.  Of all the scenarios we had imagined, we'd never dreamed of this.  Our hearts ached for Ken's wife and family and for the many people who would be hurt because of the consequences of our pastor's actions.  Of course, he must be removed from his position.  Once a shepherd becomes a wolf, he is no longer safe to the sheep.  We knew this, expected it, and agreed with the decision.  But like everyone else who would be impacted by this information, we wondered to ourselves how we, ourselves would be affected.

   The first bomb had dropped and though we survived the initial blast, the entire church network was trembling on suddenly shaky legs.  Aftershocks were felt daily, some not unexpected.  Church attendance dropped significantly as many understandably felt betrayed.  Those shock waves inevitably trickled down and some staff were let go, including Daniel's friend and video technician.  In addition, Daniel's administrative assistant hours were cut back, leaving him down to the skeleton crew of himself and his volunteers.

Daniel and I take our son on a Colorado day hike.
Then we received the email from Karl Barker, the worship pastor from Freeport.  Most of the network people lived in Freeport, Illinois.  I t was the heart of the church; the founding place.  Daniel was actually the only Network staff person who lived outside of Freeport, since our location had been based purely on the locale of our lead pastor, Ken.

  "Karl sent me this job listing for a Media Director at another church," Daniel said.

  "Why?  Does he know something we don't?"

  Of course the idea had crossed our minds that our job might now be considered obsolete.  But Daniel's direct boss, Pastor Dean, who also lived in Freeport and was now Executive Pastor over the network hadn't hinted at this.  Instead, he had told us not to renew our year-long lease.  Likely, we'd be moved to Illinois with the rest of the network staff.  Still, the email made us wonder.  And then something else occurred to show us that the rabbit hole was deeper than we knew.

  "Jack's leaving."

Daniel and our babies in our apartment home.
"Oh no, Daniel!  He and the family just got settled."

"He told me some crazy stuff today, Babe.  Jack says he wasn't brought out here to just be a worship pastor.  The network was planning on removing Marv.  And Jack was going to take Marv's place as campus pastor."

"They were going to replace Pastor Marv?  Did he say why?"

"No.  But Jack said Marv was not happy about it.  He didn't want to be removed.  I guess he hasn't been real friendly to Jack.  And Ken's issue hit the fan at a perfect time for Marv, because now that Ken is gone, Marv has no intention of stepping down for Jack."

"Can he do that?  I mean, if the elders and the network already decided to remove him?"

"Jack says that Marv plans on breaking away from the network and staying on as pastor.  He's far enough away from the other church sites, that it makes a kind of sense.  But it's kinda low.  He'll pull the Colorado church out from control of the network and Jack is left sitting high and dry.  That's why Jack's leaving.  He's heading to his dad's church to be a pastor there, I guess."

   I couldn't help but remember Marv's red eyes when he told us about Pastor Ken.  Had that all been some kind of act?  Inside, had he been secretly jubilant that now he himself would not be removed?  Surely not, though.  Still, knowing the truth about how our friends had been treated, had planted some doubts.  It was hard to look at Marv with any kind of trust.
    As much as we loved our life in Colorado, the Freeport campus was looking better all the time.  And as the days passed, it began to look better and better.

"I had lunch with Colton today, you know, my web volunteer?"

When I nodded, Daniel continued, "He's been with the Colorado church site here since it's inception.  And he said something funny.  We were talking about recent events, and he asked me something about Marv.  He said, 'So, I thought it was Pastor Marv that had the issue with emotional affairs.  Didn't he have one before they ever came out here to Colorado?'  I didn't know what to say.  Obviously, I didn't know about it.  He told me that was something that had been shared when the church first began."

"Do you think that's why he was going to be removed?" I asked.

"No.  It sounded like this emotional affair that Marv had was something that had been shared somewhat transparently early on.  So the higher-ups had to be in the know.  Eh, I don't know, Babe...I'm starting to feel really thankful that God is moving us to the Freeport Campus."

Link to The Jeremiah Burden, Part Two:

To be continued ~ This story is true, but all names except my husband's and my own have been changed.  I write for healing and for others who have been wounded in similar situations.  God bless.

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