I am in the process of reading my friend Jeff Berryman's novel Leaving Ruin. I put it off for a long time because I wanted to be able to take my time with it. I am only reading between 25-50 pages a night...is that slow enough for you? I don't read fast anyway...well...that's another story.
I think I also put off reading it because I knew what it was about and I was afraid it might make me angry. Well, Jeff...it's making me angry!
For those of you who don't know me or the book, let me give a brief explanation. Leaving Ruin is about a pastor who is in the process of getting run off from his church. I used to be a minister (not pastor) who witnessed others getting run off and then got run off himself...twice. So, needless to say, this book resonates with me. Oh, does it resonate.
I could comment on something from nearly every page but I can't do that. But last night, I was reading about Cyrus's (the pastor) encounter with Harry Johns. I have known a Harry Johns in every church I've ever served in or gone to. He's the rich fellow who is about as spiritual as a wooden billy goat but throws his Mammon around in a big way. He never gives a financial gift unless he can guide it's use in some way. Spineless pastors always cave to the will of the Harry John's. Strong pastors stand up to them and then find themselves jobless. I've experienced both scenarios.
My first church's pastor was a great guy who had recently experienced the loss of his wife. Over the first few months of my tenure as youth minister under his leadership, he started dating a woman...someone he had known as a teen. She had recently been divorced because her pastor husband was cheating on her with the church secretary. (that never happens) Well, as you can guess, folks in our church got all up in arms because the pastor was dating a divorced woman. He fought as long as he could but, in the end, he left. On his departure, he explained that he had been buffering me from alot of gried and to watch out. Boy, he wasn't kidding. They hit me with both barrels. In this particular case, there were a lot of Harry characters. The church was dying but rich. They had half a mil in the bank. They bullied me but, being spunky, I fought back. Eventually I had to resign because it was all too exhausting. But my departure made them mad because it wasn't on their terms. Good for me.
The second church I served in had a bigtime Harry character. A major league Daddy Warbucks for the church. Because the church was struggling financially, the pastor allowed this fellow to have power and influence he probably shouldn't have had. I can't say for certain, but I'm sure the Harry Johns character at this church had some say in my dismissal. For all I know, he's probably still there sitting in his fat cat seat doling out dollars when it suits him.
That's my experience. In the book, Cyrus ends up being threatened by Harry Johns and the encounter becomes physical. Cyrus handles it pretty well. My point about all this is that while I was reading it I was getting so mad. It took me back to all those times I've had to sit by and cowtow and kiss ass while these fat cats ran the show. I wanted to jump into the book and hold that sucker down while Cyrus beat the living daylights out of him.
I'm only on page 116 of 361. What's next? Arrgh! Ooh, I could chew nails and spit bullets right now. Berryman, look what you've done!