Imagine for a moment that you’re a fundamentalist pastor who has recently decided to make a big change in his ministry. Perhaps you’ve decided to add a bus ministry and a baptistry for children that’s shaped like a fire engine. Perhaps the move is even more drastic such as leaving your church to become a full-time evangelist or even something as far out as moving to the Midwest and starting your own end-times cult.
Whatever the case may be, you’re sure to insist that the only reason you’ve decided to make this move is that God Himself has told you that it should be done. Given that kind of authority for his choices, one wouldn’t think that a fundy pastor would care all that much whether or not the rank and file of people around him agreed with his decision or not. If God be for him, who can be against him? Why care what the unwashed masses think?
Yet, experience proves that not only must a fundamentalist pastor have God on his side but he will brook no disagreement from any mere mortal about his decisions as well. Even if he’s got one foot out the door of his ministry, voicing any apparent concern about the Man o’ Gawd’s decision to suddenly leave may well end you up called on the carpet by the new pastor to repent of your rebellion toward the old one. You can also expect haranguing phone calls from other members, anonymous notes of condemnation sent to your job or home, and possible removal from whatever ministries you happen to work in.
At any crossroads of decision the pastor knows that with God on his side, he’s in the majority — but he needs everyone else to agree with him anyway.
In fundamentalism, ministry is a family business. The preacher’s wife plays the piano. The preacher’s younger son leads the singing while the elder runs the youth group. The preacher’s daughter manages the nursery. Each one ensures that the leader has a tight leash on every department in the organization.
Some day when dad is finally called home to his reward, one of the sons will pick up where he left off, often regaling the congregation with tales of “what dad once said.” An aspiring preacher boy will be lucky enough to marry this great man’s daughter and leverage that name recognition into his own ministerial conquests. (The other son will get gender realignment surgery and start a band in Hoboken, NJ — but we’ll never hear about him).
A good name may be more desirable than great riches but in fundamentalism it’s unlikely you’ll have one without the other. As for the rest of you rabble, if you’re not blessed enough to have such a pedigree, good luck keeping up with the Joneses.
Every few weeks, the congregations of most fundamentalists churches range themselves in dread array and enter the fiercest kind of battle: the church business meeting. One wonders if these events are what Paul had in mind when he called Christians to fight the good fight…
Summary of the minutes from the monthly business meeting of the Faithful Hearers and Doers Baptist Church.
Pastor Hiembaugh opened with prayer for wisdom, strength, and to the grace to avoid “what happened last time.”
– The committee charged with reducing the electrical costs in the church building reported that they been standing outside the bathrooms after services and reminding people to turn out the lights as they leave. Mr. Tom Brown objected that this might create the wrong impression with visitors but was quickly shouted down by Deacon Holstein who opined that anyone who couldn’t follow a few simple posted rules weren’t the kind of people we wanted around this church anyway. After another thirty minutes of discussion, the matter was tabled until next month.
– The committee who has been working on finding new music for the choir reports that they have managed to photocopy enough sheets for the Easter cantata. Questions from several members about copyright infringement were answered by the pastor with a quotation about ‘eating shewbread.’ This business is tabled as well.
– The nominations for church officers are read into the record. They are voted in unanimously without discussion making this the twenty-seventh straight year without changes to the officers.
– The new budget is brought to the table and Mrs. Brewbaker brings up that the assistant pastor has not had a raise in five years and Deacon Holstein reminds her that he also hasn’t increased his office hours in ten years either and has missed ten days of work this year due to being deathly ill and by gum that any employee of his would be lucky to have a job at all much less a raise. Mrs. Brewbaker decides to withdraw the matter. The budget is passed unanimously without further discussion.
Pastor Hiembaugh closed in prayer and thanked God for the opportunity to meet together and do His work. What of God’s work got done in tonight’s meeting was unspecified.
(I would thank stan for the reminder about the joys of church business meetings if they weren’t so painful that thinking about them makes me want to tear out my own eyeballs.)