Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Flying Fish and the Pharisee

Not long ago, I asked for prayer since I was about to confront a Pharisee in our church. This man seems to have something against me. He is involved in ministry in our church and is a licensed minister. I have learned that he is NOT a pastor in our church (not a paid member of the pastoral staff), even though he insists on telling people that he is. In fact, he makes sure you know that when you meet him.

I confronted him in a meeting with our executive pastor, and one of the elders. The reason for this is that this man has verbally attacked me more than once, and always in private, when no one else is around. He said some very hurtful and condescending things to me and threatened me with not allowing me to serve in any ministries in our church.

I first apologized for any wrongs or problems I may have caused him, and then asked him to forgive me. He just brushed it off. I then called him on all those awful thigs he had said to me. He denied everything! He said, in front of those two other men, that he never said those things to me. Then he called me a liar!

This man is a modern day Pharisee! Jesus warned us about them and told us to rebuke them, which I did. But I forgot to read to the end of the red letter part of Matthew when the black letters tell us that those fellows went away and began to plot to kill Him.

I really am not 100% sure what this man’s problem is. I used to think he and I were friends and could work in ministry together. I guess I was wrong. Simply saying “Hello” to him is seen as an interruption and an intrusion.

Our church is very much involved in the Alpha Course. When my wife and I started attending our church, we signed up for the Alpha Course to get involved and meet new people. Our church’s mission statement is simply “Connecting People with God, Connecting People with People”, so we wanted to get connected.

The Pharisee previously mentioned is also the Alpha Spiritual Director (ASD). We got to know him through the Alpha Course and asked him to perform our wedding. He agreed, but as our pre-wedding counseling sessions progressed, he changed his mind and recommended we wait six months to get married. We didn’t care much for that, but we figured we had no choice. We respected him and looked up to him and considered all that he told us. He did make it clear that unless we wait six months, he would not marry us and we could not use the church’s chapel for our wedding. He said he couldn’t force us to do anything and asked that we keep him informed in whatever decision we make. And if we decided to get married anyway, there would be no hard feelings and he would not hold it against us. (he lied!)

So we decided to wait.

Then, some close friends told us over lunch one day that the husband is a licensed minister, and he said he would consider it an honor to perform our wedding. This couple knew us better than anyone at our church, so we took this as a sign from God that it would be alright to go ahead and get married. Once the plans had been set in motion, I informed the ASD of our plans and even invited him to the wedding, which we had in the Prayer Garden of our church. He never responded and he did not attend.

In fact, things weren’t quite the same between us after that. Even though my wife and I still completed the pre-marriage class, and the marriage mentoring requirements. We kept all of our promises.

Whenever I am anywhere near the ASD, or in the same room, he makes it seem as though I somehow annoy him. I say hello and try to be friendly, but he responds in an almost rude manner. So, sometimes I would go out of my way to say hello to him and be nice to him. And sometimes, I would annoy him on purpose.

I also like to have fun and get a laugh at his expense, by telling stories like this one…….

As a part of the Alpha Course, we have what is called the ‘Alpha Overnight’. It’s where we all go to a church camp about an hour or so away, and go through three lessons, Friday night and Saturday morning, on the Holy Spirit.

The Alpha Spiritual Director (ASD) for the Alpha Course drove a really big Chevy pick-up. This guy’s truck is a large extra cab, long bed truck with a camper shell that matches the bright fire-engine red paint job. I’d heard some people in the course refer to his truck as the “Flying Fish”, but I didn’t yet understand why.

Following one Alpha overnight trip, we were all heading back home down a long straight stretch of highway, about four or five vehicles in a row, when that big red truck went zooming past us. As he flew by, I noticed one of those Chrome Christian fish symbols on the back of his truck. (Ahhh, so THAT’S what they meant by “Flying Fish!”)

A few moments later, we noticed some blinking lights up ahead. A State Trooper had pulled over a big red truck. Yep, it was him, and he looked rather embarrassed as we all drove past, one car after the other.

As we drove past him, I noticed the ASD had his elbow propped up in the open window and was holding his head in his hand.

The Trooper had walked up to his open truck window and asked, “Got any I.D.?”
To which the ASD slowly looked up and replied, “…’bout whut?”

Yeah, he got a speeding ticket.
He felt pretty bad about it and apologized to everyone at the next Alpha class. To my knowledge, he has slowed down and hasn’t gotten pulled over since that day.

A friend of mine explained to me that the reason he didn’t get a ticket on the way up there is that, on your way to the event, you are on a mission for God. On your way home, you are on your own.

I don’t tell that story very often, but as far as I know, the ASD is the only one who doesn’t think it is funny. Everyone who knows him thinks it is hilarious!

(By the way, if we're going to be friends, you'll need a sense of humor and be able to take a joke. Apparently, this ASD isn't one of those people.)

So maybe that just added fuel to his fire, but I still think the real bug-in-his-backside is the issue of our wedding, since he brings it up every time he attacks me, and calls it “bad judgment” and a “big mistake”.

But he still got his way, he essentially fired me from the ministry position as Alpha Dude. His excuse was that he thought I was drawing attention to myself because of my Facebook picture. He ordered me to take it down, and I refused. (He didn’t ask nice).

Another friend, who has known the ASD for a lot longer than me, told me that whenever people talked about the Alpha Course in the past, they associated it with the ASD. Now? People associate the course with Alpha Dude. You see, this man likes to think of himself as being very important. Being important is more valuable to him than representing Christ. All Alpha Dude ever tried to do is to elevate Christ to everyone, especially those kids.
So I used the name Alpha Dude outside of church and outside the Alpha Course. I really don’t see a problem with that. It gets people asking questions. And if you get people asking questions, you can tell them about Jesus.

You know something? The ASD didn’t have to pull his stunts, get angry or fire me the way he did! I had made it very clear to everyone, that as long as I am asked, I will gladly serve in the role as Alpha Dude and present each week’s lessons to those kids. If the Alpha Director (not the ASD) does not ask me, I do not assume the job is mine and would not plan on performing the role.

(the last Alpha Director went against the ASD's orders, and asked me to be Alpha Dude anyway)

You see, my name is Scott Trammell and Alpha Dude is a character I portrayed for three and a half years in each course where the Alpha Sprout program was offered. If the Director wanted someone else to do it, or didn’t want me to do it, they just needed to say so. But the Director asked, so I served.

The following passage was used in the sermon this weekend.

2 Timothy 3
1 You should know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times. 2 For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. 3 They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. 4 They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. 5
They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that!

After the service, a few people (who knew what happened) came up to me to say that the sermon (titled: Self-Centeredness) made them think of me.
Not because I’m self-centered, but because they recognized that I was a victim of a self-serving Pharisee.
Each one had also said I did nothing wrong and that I responded and behaved correctly in that situation.

I thought that was rather nice of them to say.

As for the Pharisee, I saw him, he was there, and I stayed away from him.

Y’know something I’ve noticed?
People who are modern day Pharisees are the only ones who refuse to recognize that attribute about themselves.
So I pray for them. A lot. (I think that has something to do with heaping burning coals on their heads, and I’m okay with that).

Then I found the following scripture…..

2 Timothy 3
14 But you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught. You know they are true, for you know you can trust those who taught you. 15 You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. 17 God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.

As I said, I only served as Alpha Dude because I was asked.
I serve only one God. I have only One Master.
When I served as Alpha Dude, I performed for an audience of One.

Each Alpha Course has a different Alpha Director, and each had asked me to serve.

Therefore, if the next Alpha Director asks me, I will serve in the role of Alpha Dude.
I will do what God puts before me to do, and if the ASD has a problem with that, then he can take it up with Him.

Blessings, and thank you for praying.


CrazyDeb said...

It is people like the ASD who give Christians a bad name. I am so sorry you have had to endure this treatment and thankful to read you serve an Audience of One (love that song!). You are in my prayers and I am certain you will be asked again to be the Alpha Dude!

EE said...

Bring Alpha Dude to Woodcrest!!!!!!!!!

CrazyDeb said...

I second that EE!!!