This pastor’s favorite guilty pleasure

Everyone knows what a pleasure is. A guilty pleasure is some activity that you enjoy but over which you feel a tiny pang of regret, as though perhaps you should not be enjoying it quite as much as you do.

Okay with that?

Most of my pleasures are completely unrelated to guilt. I love a good meal, a wonderful visit with a friend, an old 1940-ish black/white movie, a ball game, an hour on the patio enjoying watermelon with my grandchildren, and a social at church with two dozen freezers of home-made ice cream in every flavor imaginable.

But I do have one guilty pleasure.  This activity makes me feel good but I feel a tinge of guilt associated with it, like maybe I shouldn’t.

I love to watch a bully get his comeuppance.

1) Like, on the highway, for instance.

The traffic was stopped for miles while crews cut fallen trees from the road ahead of us. Tornadoes had been through that part of North Alabama the night before and left their mark on a couple of towns, several rural homes, and a lot of trees.

The highway was two lane with no shoulders. The traffic would move ahead for a mile or two, then stop for 15 minutes or more.

Some of the other motorists and I had gotten out of our cars and were chatting, just killing time. Traffic was backed up as far as we could see. Once in a while, a highway department truck or sheriff’s car would come from the front of the line and zoom past us.

Suddenly, we spotted an 18-wheeler coming toward us from the back of the line, passing everyone on the highway. I suppose he got impatient or something.  My group stopped talking to stare at this sight.  Someone said, “Where does that guy think he’s going?”  Then, at that moment, an Alabama Highway Patrol car arrived from the front of the line.

It was almost funny the way the trucker begin inching that rig over toward the line of stopped cars. There was literally nowhere for him to go, no place to hide something that huge.

The officer stopped, got out and walked over to the trucker.  Someone in our group called, “Write him a ticket.”

A minute later, the patrolman stepped over to us and said, “I made him go to the back of the line.” As we watched, that trucker threw his 18-wheeler into reverse, and began so slowly and ever so carefully backing his rig up the narrow highway in the direction from which he had come. It must have been two miles.

That felt good.  You never see a cop when you want one, but that day we did.

Later, I began to second-guess my feelings of satisfaction. Was it pleasure at seeing justice done? What if the trucker lived just ahead and was planning to turn off the highway? Why did I assume he was playing the bully?

2) And, at church, too.

We’ve told Robert Jeffress’ tale of this very thing. (He’s the popular pastor of Dallas’ First Baptist Church.) In an earlier pastorate, a little gang of self-appointed leaders decided Jeffress had to go, because he was not taking their orders or following their lead. In a church business meeting, the chairman of deacons, their spokesman, presented a list of trivial grievances against him and asked the church to vote to “vacate the office of pastor.”  When the bully sat down, the pastor–Dr. Jeffress himself was moderating the meeting–called for discussion.

With that, a little elderly woman stood up and came walking up the aisle. As she neared the front, the pastor said, “Mrs. Johnson, did you want to say something?” “No,” she said. “I just want to stand beside my pastor.” And with that, she planted herself to the pastor’s left side and stood there in silence.

Across the church someone else got up and walked to the front and stood on the other side. This was followed by a number of people rising, walking to the front, and taking the microphone. Some told how the pastor had led their father to the Lord, how his counsel had saved their marriage, or how he had ministered to them in a particularly critical time. One after another, they came. This went on for nearly an hour.

Finally, at the end, the deacon bully muttered, “Well, I guess I’ve been wrong on how this church feels about the pastor.” Within months, all of those bullies had left the church. The church continued to experience unprecedented growth and spiritual blessing.

Okay, I feel no guilt at all in enjoying this! (Smiley-face goes here.)

3) I do love to see a congregation take good care of its preacher.

Recently, a pastor whose ministry in his present church spans more than two decades told me of the wonderful fifteenth anniversary celebration the congregation gave him and his wife. Then, a  year or so ago, the church made a substantial financial gift to them.  I told him how special that was, that I know churches with longtime pastors who would give anything to see him retire and go away, and here his church is knocking itself out to honor their shepherd.

The Lord in Heaven gets great pleasure in seeing a congregation honor its faithful shepherd, believe me. (And again, it’s a guiltless joy!)

4) I love to see a church prosper when a blackmailer leaves.

He’s used to throwing his weight around in church, using the threat of “If you don’t do it my way, I’m leaving and taking my large offerings with me.”  He is convinced this church would go down the drain without his substantial checks, all given with strings attached.

Over a full half-century of ministry, I have seen this fellow and his clones threaten their church time and again, but never once did we give in to them. And when they left, it seems to have been a matter of pride with the Lord that His church never skipped a beat, did not miss them one bit.  In fact, the church was always stronger without them.

One more story, one we’ve also told here, although not recently.

When a little cadre of deacons decided to have me fired, they presented their list of grievances. As with Dr. Jeffress, it was all trivialities, almost silly things.  The major issue, they said, was “a malaise in the church.”  (The fact that this group had constantly troubled their pastors over thirty years just might possibly have contributed to that condition.)

Since the leaders of the pastor-ousting attempt were heavy-weights, men of considerable standing in the community, few of the other deacons wanted to stand up to them. It took the youngest deacon in the room and the newest one to do so.

David was still in his 20s, was newly wed, and still carried strong verbal evidence of his Mississippi upbringing.  He walked to the front of the deacons room and held up his Bible.

“You see this Bible?” he said. “My wife gave me this Bible for Christmas. I love this Bible. And you know what? It’s got a lot of great stuff in it.  Let me read you some of it.”

I’m sitting off to the side enjoying what this youngster is doing.

David said, “Here’s a passage in I Timothy chapter 3 that talks about the office of the pastor. Can I read you a little of that?”

He read how the Bible says a pastor should be thus-and-so. “That’s Joe McKeever,” he said. And a pastor should be such-and-such, he continued. “That’s Joe McKeever.”

He went all the way through the list of pastor-qualifications Paul gives in that passage, adding at every pause, “That’s Joe McKeever.”

Then, he said, “Some of you prefaced your remarks against Joe by saying you like Joe, that you enjoy being around him, that if you were going to have lunch with someone, you’d enjoy having lunch with Joe. Well, I’ll tell you one thing….”

“I hope you don’t like me.”

“Saying you like him and then want to do to him what you are trying! You ought to be ashamed of yourselves.”

And he sat down.

I could have hugged his neck.

Again, pure pleasure with only the slightest trace of guilt.

“Our God is in the Heavens; He does whatever He pleases” (Psalm 115:3).

Thank you, Lord.  Give us grace to handle whatever comes, and the courage to stand up for those who do right and confront those who would mistreat them. For Jesus’ sake.”




2 thoughts on “This pastor’s favorite guilty pleasure

  1. Many years ago serving a church in Ms. a fine old Christian gentleman, former fireman for the city stood up agin such folk trying their best to run off the Pastor who was guilty of none of their allegations and said, “gentlemen we have no problems in this church a few good funerals wouldn’t cure.” There was laughter and the bullies were put to shame for the time being. Later on they succeeded.

  2. Enjoyed your article as always! A few yrs ago I got a call from a girl I had gone to school with back in 1963. She thanked me for standing up for her! I certainly did not remember it! She was standing at her locker & a group of upperclass girls starting taunting her about wearing a football player’s jacket-she was dating him. They were saying ‘How did you get his jacket? Why would he go with you?’She said I walked up and told them she was pretty enough to go with anyone she wanted too! Now this girl who she said herself was from the ‘other side of the track’ left school and moved. She married a very wealthy man & lives in California. Actually she married one of the Shah of Iran’s body guards.Remember him?She went on to college & became a College Prof. I remembered the girl she rode my bus but I did not remember the incident. We do have to stand up for people that are being bullied.This is a terrible problem now days! Thanks for writing about it.

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