Here is the final part of the 353-344 DTG (days to go) series.
Such a lot happened today (349 DTG). Talk about drama! And church politics! I know that it’s not good practice to vent like I will but I need to. So, count yourselves privileged to being privy to my thoughts. 🙂
The short story
As you know, our youth had to organise a mini-campaign earlier this year. We postponed it to 3-9 May because three of the speakers cancelled and the team member in charge of music didn’t do her job. I took the postponement to the church board which okayed it. The original plan was to have the mini-campaign run from 4-10 May but the speaker we got could not preach on 10 May. He was available for the evenings of 3-9 May. So we secured him for that. We tried to get a speaker to end off the mini-campaign Saturday, 10 May. He is a very popular speaker being the director of the youth in our conference. But since he couldn’t speak on 10 May, he cancelled a long standing engagement so that he could preach on 3 May. My cousin (a.k.a. S) called me one Wednesday in March informing me of this.
I immediately called the youth elder and the head elder asking them if we could swap the speaker scheduled to preach on for 3 May to preach on 10 May so that the Conference Youth Director could speak on 3 May to launch the mini-campaign. They were supposed to get back to me that Saturday. I did not follow protocol by asking the head elder but I saw no choice because the youth elder disappointed us previously in a matter that concerned the speakers for Divine Service at church. Alas, they did not get back to me on time. We were still sorting the preaching schedule out tonight.
After the youth executive committee decided to postpone the mini-campaign, the church board met. In the church board meeting, the elder-in-charge-of-the-preaching-plan asked whether the speaker we got to preach on 15 March would still preach on 10 May as he’d been scheduled. No one responded. He phrased the question in such a way that it seemed to be a problem. So, I saw an opportunity and seized it. I told the church board that it worked out well since we, as youth, usually get two church days for the annual mini-campaign. We already used one church day. Therefore, it would be fitting if our speaker for the week could preach on 10 May too. The church board was fine with it.
I then called the preacher, a pastor (not the Conference Youth Director), and confirmed that he would conduct the mini-campaign. He said that he would not be able to preach on 10 May but would see if he could organise something. I told him that it was alright, that we would get someone to preach on 10 May. And that is how we got the Conference Youth Director involved.
Since someone had already been confirmed to preach on 3 May and the Conference Youth Director could only come on 3 May, we approached our youth elder to solve the matter among the elders. He willingly took the matter up.
A church community meeting was held in which church members were informed of church business. The matter was mentioned at a church community meeting (where members are informed about church business) and the elder-in-charge-of-the-preaching-plan said that he would contact me. I did not attend that meeting and waited a week and a half before I called him!
He didn’t even remember his decision to call me! So, I had to fill him in from the beginning. He said that he was going to call the elder-in-charge-of-the-preaching-plan. I was amazed! Why did he carry the title when he didn’t do the work? I wondered.
Not much time passed before the real elder-in-charge-of-the-preaching-plan called me to verify what transpired. He wasn’t pleased. I explained the situation to him. He said that he wouldn’t cancel the speaker of 3 May because the appointment had already been confirmed.
I then spoke to my team who said that they would not cancel with the Conference Youth Director. S was adamant because she begged him with tears in her eyes to preach that day.
Again I called the youth elder to speak to the elders to sort the matter out. We requested that the elders cancel with the Conference Youth Director because we were too ashamed to do so. The preaching plan was their baby anyway. We thought the matter was sorted.
A fateful Wednesday
A week or two later, S, along with the head deacon and pastor of our church, witnessed an argument between the head elder and the elder-in-charge-of-the-preaching-plan after prayer meeting. The head elder wanted the Conference Youth Director to preach while the elder-in-charge-of-the-preaching-plan said no. The pastor, according to S, said that the youth were entitled to having their preacher(s) preach on two church days for their mini-campaign whether the campaign was postponed or not. The elder-in-charge-of-the-preaching-plan wasn’t happy.
Soon after this, the youth elder called me to hear what the arrangements were for the mini-campaign. I told him the whole story leaving out the events that transpired that fateful Wednesday night after prayer meeting. He said that he would take the matter up. He actually wanted to hear about the preacher for 3 May. He assured me that the Conference Youth Director would preach on 3 May. He said that the head elder had spoken to him already and confirmed. However, it turned out that the head elder had spoken to the pastor who would conduct the mini-campaign. I kept my team in the loop every step of the way but did not tell them of the confusion between the two mini-campaign speakers. It would only ruffle their feathers.
So, on Sunday passed (352 days to go), the youth elder invited the youth executive committee to a meeting with the elders. I informed my team immediately. One promptly excused herself. This morning (349 days to go) I reminded my team about the meeting with the elders before prayer meeting tonight.
So, S responded to the whatsapp text “Who is you[r] exec, , unfortunately, I can’t make it tonight”.
I said, “We all serve on the exec [cuz]”.
The girl (she’s a woman actually) who excused herself from the meeting reminded us of that fact. This girl’s cousin also excused himself. I was fine with that.
Later that day, I informed them about the music. The pianist we had initially asked to play had told me that he would not be able to play anymore because it was crunch time for him. (I reported that it was crunch time for him that week, but now I remember that the whole month of April was crunch time for him so he wouldn’t have time to practice. It amounts to the same thing though since he does not play without practicing with the praise team first.) I told them that the pianists I got as substitutes were only availabe for certain nights and that there would be two nights where they could not play due to prior engagements. The team was shocked. My cousin (S) belittled me in the Instant Messaging group when she said the following, “E, [you] did not listen to A properly, he is available that week just specify which days, A and N already spoke how they are going to do this..please [don’t] let this thing be disorganized // Talk to A properly and listen”
“S, that is what he said to me, but I will contact him again // That is why I don’t want to be involved with the music,” I said.
“They spoke on Sabbath in front of me [about] how they’re going to do this.”
“I see,” I said.
“This is actually D’s baby so D please lead.”
“Guys, chil,” D said. “I will speak to A.”
My cousin, the girl who excused herself from tonight’s meeting and I all were happy with this arrangement.
As I said before, I’m a reluctant leader. I don’t like the responsibility but when things don’t get done I will usually step in to see that they are done. But, S’s comments really upset me. They shook me to the core. They sent me into a flat spin. I was so angry, so hurt, so upset that I couldn’t help the profanities that escaped my thoughts although I apologised to God for them. I just wanted to cry. I cried in my soul. I really felt like quitting. Who was she to speak to me like that?
On my way home from work, my anger turned to sadness. I questioned my ability to lead. Ever since I decided to quit, I’ve been second guessing my leadership skills. I wondered whether I would ever be successful. I saw how I sat at my desk typing away on my laptop surrounded by a life fraught with failure. I imagined how after this debacle I would resign as youth leader and sideline my whole team. But, I couldn’t hold that vision for long. It was too painful. I couldn’t cut all of them out of my life neither could I only cut my cousin out of my life; it would not be Christlike.
As I walked home, I wondered how people perceived my facial expression. Did I appear angry or sad? My team disappointed me by excusing themselves from tonight’s meeting with the elders. I prayed that God would give me the right tone of voice, facial expressions, body language and words to speak so that I could stand my ground and stand by our request.
I also thought about my ability to take a stand up for my team. I honestly don’t see myself as someone with a backbone. I shy away from conflict as much as possible. The way of the leaf is what I follow (a term I learned from the late Robert Jordan). But, it’s more like the way of the Lamb. When confronted with rage or anger, I’m taken aback. I cower before the torrent of people’s rage. Then, later, I would berate myself for not standing up or saying something. So, no, I don’t have a backbone.
My dad is fond of relating how he put one elder in his place when my dad had just become a youth leader, of sorts. My dad was a 16 year old teenager then. The man was the church’s head elder. But, I could never aspire to back chatting a church elder or responding in anger to one. (My dad made sure to beat that spunk out of me as a kid.) I deal with conflict by enduring the tirade and then stating my case after some time elapsed—usually less than a day.
Once I got home, I sent S a private message telling her that it wasn’t necessary to be rude. She replied, while I related the events of the day to my dad, saying that she was irritated with team mates not doing their job and thus shove their responsibilities onto the rest of us. At that moment I wanted to tell her why I intervened, but my dad said that I should not respond.
Before the tribunal
My sister and I left soon after this so that I could meet with the elders. Another cousin of ours was there. I was surprised to see him. We met the elder-in-charge-of-the-preaching-plan outside of the church. He had rushed to unlock the church but found it already unlocked by the youth elder who had a set of keys. The youth elder, it turned out, did not inform the elder-in-charge-of-the-preaching-plan about the meeting the youth executive committee was to have with the elders. I wanted to tell the elder-in-charge-of-the-preaching-plan about the meeting but it wasn’t my place. And since the situation among the elders is quite volatile, I decided not to. I don’t want to cause conflict.
He wondered why my cousin and I stood in the foyer of the church. When he asked whether we were going to have a meeting, I could not deny it. I told him that we were meeting with the elders. The youth elder entered the foyer at that moment and explained the reason for the meeting. The elder-in-charge-of-the-preaching-plan, while looking at me, said that he had already discussed the matter with me. I confirmed this and said that I had informed the youth elder. The two elders went to speak outside the church. I took the opportunity to point out to my cousin, who also serves on the youth executive committee, that they didn’t even invite the elder-in-charge-of-the-preaching-plan to the meeting. That elder did not stay for prayer meeting. He sped off as soon as his conversation with the youth elder was done.
My cousin and I waited in the foyer until another elder came. He was the one who I was told arranges the preaching plan. He was invited to the meeting and actually chaired it. The youth elder brought him up to speed in another room of the church while my cousin and I waited for them in the pews. The head elder had also been invited but he did not pitch. The meeting took place without him.
The chair person recapped the story. He gave me an opportunity to complete it. I stated that my team and I relinquish to the elders the responsibility of informing the Conference Youth Director that the church does not want him to preach because the preaching plan is their responsibility. We thought that we did the church a favour by securing the Conference Youth Director for Saturday, 3 May since the elder-in-charge-of-the-preaching-plan couldn’t get a hold of him. I confirmed that the Conference Youth Director was going to open the mini-campaign and the other pastor will conduct the rest of the campaign. Our position was that if they decided to cancel with him, they were the ones who should inform him. We begged him to come. He cancelled another appointment in order to preach by us. We could not now turn around and say that he couldn’t come anymore.
The chairperson rephrased what I said adding that we insist that he should preach that day. But I just restated what I had already said. He then said that the elders will decide the matter and will inform us of their decision.
The mini-campaign is less than two weeks away.
I saw the meeting as a total waste of time. I didn’t tell my cousin that.
On the operating table
During the post-meeting analysis with my parents and sister, they strongly advised me to quit. My dad said that the elders were out to tear me down due to my pedigree and the role I play in the youth leadership. My mom said that my team mates were using me, making me the fall guy. “It was really bad of them to not pitch for tonight’s meeting,” they said. “S who invited the Conference Youth Director was supposed to be there.” I didn’t tell them that the cousin who was there basically said that I was the middle man in this situation having to do the dirty work of both parties. I didn’t tell him that I felt like I was trying to save a sinking ship. When I used this simile with my dad tonight, he said that I was not the captain of the ship. It was not my job.
At the end of this whole fiasco, one thing is certain: I will hand in my resignation as youth leader at the end of the mini-campaign. My mom doesn’t want me to tell the team that I will resign, but I will tell them just before I email the letter to the elders and the church clerk. My parents have been pleading with me to give up church leadership positions so that I could focus on my studies, but for the past three years,I did not listen to them. The time has come to follow their advice. Whether I’m a good leader or not, I still don’t know. I see myself as a follower. My heart isn’t in this leadership post anymore because my team mates aren’t doing their bit. Some didn’t even inform me that they wouldn’t be able to make it tonight!
One last thing before I go, upon telling my dad that I feel as if I’ll be running away, he said that I won’t be not running away. I’ll be doing what is best for me because the elders are out to sabotage me and my team. They are just the sort of people who will stop at nothing to tear people down because they want to be number 1.
A work in progress
So, with this account, some of you might feel that your sentiments toward Christ and Christianity are validated. But don’t let their example, or mine, put you off from following Christ. Look at James and John, the sons of Zebedee, and Peter before Pentecost! I am no saint and neither were they! The elders of my church aren’t saints either. But, we’re following Christ as best we can. I don’t know what goes on in their hearts, only God knows. The intentions behind my actions and their interpretations of my action might very well be diametrically opposed. To them, I might even be the villain. So, don’t judge them.
Every church and every religion has some form of power struggle taking place in its ranks. It’s everywhere! Yet, I am reminded of when Christ asked Peter if he loves Him, to feed His sheep, and to follow Him (John 21), Peter looked back at John. He asked Jesus what would happen to John. Christ just said that Peter shouldn’t worry about John. If He decided John should live forever, then, that’s between Him and John. All Peter must do is to follow Christ, to keep his eyes on Him and, thereby, be a true disciple of Christ.
Their attitude and ineptitude won’t keep me from Christ. I realise that it’s part of the human condition and is exactly why Jesus came to die on the Cross. It’s the reason why He took my sins, and their sins, upon Him so that we all might live a life according to the Divine Model. We will never be morally perfect this side of Heaven. So, cut them some slack. You and I are no better. We all need salvation from sin and from self.
The wisdom of posting this will prove itself in the end.