Can I Get a Witness?

Wow…it has been a long time since I wrote.  I guess it is testimony to the season of my life.

Yesterday a man came into the store.  He has bought a lot of knives from us and we always spend a bunch of time talking.  Mostly knives.  Yesterday, we talked life.  We shared our stories.

He is a college president.  He doesn’t have much of a faith, but seems to be genuinely seeking God.

He asked my story.  I told him my knife story.  He asked about why I moved to Oregon.  So I told him my pastor story.

I talked about my calling.  We talked about the difference between rules, religion and following Jesus.  Then I got to the part of my story about Singing Hills.  I had to tell him how they invited me to Oregon, treated me very badly, then very unceremoniously fired me, having begun searching for my replacement just weeks after Wendy’s last surgery.

“Typical church,” was his response.

I wanted to scream, “It is not!” but I couldn’t.  There are far too many of these mean, little churches.  The Kingdom is so poorly represented by the petty “church” politics.

I honestly don’t know the pressures the elders did or did not feel from the congregation.  I don’t know their thought processes.  I don’t know how much they prayed.

What I do know is that the story of Singing Hills–especially as it intersects with my story is a terrible witness to the God who so loved the world.  I wonder how many of these bloody intersections in people’s stories it takes before Jesus removes the lampstand from a local church.

If people in the world we are trying to reach–if people in the world for whom Christ died keep hearing the ugly stories about the church, why would they want to be a part?

The Church is the bride of Christ.  She is beautiful and she has a beautiful story.  Jesus died to make her story beautiful.

Please tell beautiful stories about the Bride.  More importantly, inasmuch as you are a part of the Church, make your life write beautiful stories about the Bride.

An old tradition in church worship services was to ask people to share their stories about how God was interacting in their lives.  They did so by asking, “Can I get a witness?”

So Church, I am asking, “Can I get a witness?”

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10 Responses to Can I Get a Witness?

  1. June Gardner says:

    Hi Derrick,
    The last year or so of Lloyd’s life, Singing Hills brought ‘church’/fellowship to Lloyd and I in the form of Tom Moyers, Tom Dodson and Marv Shrom visiting frequently. Other’s in the congregation brought food and encouragement after my Surgery last year in September..Those were women with whom I had gotten acquainted during Women’s Bible study and retreat. In all the years of going to church, we had not had the experience of having people minister to us as they did.
    So I can tell you that I have felt blindsided, experienced grief, anger when the firing of you and Tom occurred. I still do not have an adequate understanding even with explanations that have been given to me about “what happened”.
    This was the 3rd experience of a church split/problems that I have gone through. The second one felt like a divorce! And for many years I participated minimally in the church body. The first one split over music..Lloyd and I had come out of SDA and LDS backgrounds and really didn’t understand what had happened, and it is a wonder ~ God’s grace really, that we didn’t loose our faith.
    I wish there were a perfect church, with people who were so committed that the command to “love one another”, “think of other’s more highly than yourself” really was a lifestyle..but instead the church is made up of sinners, myself one of them, and we fall short of the ideal. How does one go on then? It’s hard and the focus has to be on Christ, His love and forgiveness. With His understanding of human nature He still endured the Cross for us..I have to cling to that core of the Gospel as I search for what He would want me to do.
    I am currently either not attending church or bouncing back and forth between SHCC and going to church @ Beaverton Foursquare with my son Stan and his family. Not a perfect solution.

    • Derrick says:

      June–

      I certainly did not intend to paint all of Singing Hills with one brush. There are many people there who are committed followers of Christ and who bear the light in a dark place (meaning the world….) What I did intend to say is that the way the elders treated Tom and me, and the manner in which they deceived us and the church was horribly wrong.

      This bloody intersection of my story with Singing Hills Christian Church is a horrible witness to the community and the world. It is, as my customer so aptly put, the way the “Typical church” is perceived by those on the outside. Singing Hills Christian Church (through her leadership) is a part of the problem and not the solution when it comes to the negative perception of the church.

      Many, many people at Singing Hills have been well ministered to in the past. Many, many people have been wounded without remorse as well. It is a hospital that abuses a great number of its patients.

      • June Gardner says:

        Hi Derrick, Yes, I do understand you are not painting the whole of the church with one brush. 🙂 and that the leadership is the focus.
        I guess what I was getting at was that as we were ministered to in our home, and when I could get to a service, I did not perceive any major difficulty that would necessitate the firing of either of you, let alone both! Even after explanation from an elder was given to me in person, I am still questioning… Unfortunately, in 2 of the other situations LLoyd and I were ‘involved’ in, the eldership was the source. Never understood what happened, and there was no encouragement to question their decisions.
        I don’t know about you, but I expect more from the church both leadership and congregations in their ability to work through differences, solve problems..but my experience has shown the opposite. Once I give my loyalty, I give it wholeheartedly, but if it is abused, my loyalty is very hard to be won back…
        I have worked hard on my own attitude and focus because I can’t do anything about the other person’s / leadership’s decisions that have affected me so negatively. I just don’t want the experience to affect me in such a way that I would decide being a Christian wasn’t even worth it and being in community was a total waste of time…Unfortunately, I tend to head that way and can only thank the Lord for ‘holding on’ to me..
        God bless your heart and mind as you work through the aftermath of this terribly difficult situation. Your friend, June

  2. Carol Samples says:

    Derrick, I am truly sorry what you and your family have had to experience. As your friend above said, church is made up of sinners, and that means imperfection at its best. There is so much your ministry through God’s leading has helped me with and the guilt I have been released from because of your understand of God’s word, I cannot say “thank you” enough. I would like to say this will never happen again, but I am not able to say that. Lay up your treasures in heaven because things of this earth will pass away. Church will be perfect in heaven!

  3. Tom Dodson Sr says:

    Derrick, Your right, it’s been a long time. Too long for me. I encourage you to write more often. What you have to say is usually germane to what I am involved in or will be shortly. Thanks for your words of wisdom. Tom

  4. Wendy says:

    I have good stories and bad stories of the Church. Just as you could find good stories and bad stories about me. Ultimately, you have to make a determination about me with more than a handful of stories. But with time spent searching my heart with love and forgiveness a part of the filter, you hopefully would be able to see a glimpse of who I want to be, and God willing, I am becoming.

    • Derrick says:

      It is often about your trajectory. What are you moving toward? What are you leaving behind?

      Those are the questions that determine what or whom you are seeking. The answers to those questions make a difference in how people react to your story.

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