November 13, 2016
Sunday, 11:00 p.m.
Letter #461: You’re Fired!
Unbelievably, the crazy drama amongst our church elders these past couple of weeks is over. Like, as-if-it-never-happened over. Well, as it would seem to most people who attend services, it is over. Not only do the elders appear to be getting along with each other, but things actually seem to be going better than they did before. It’s as if everyone had to get it all out of their system or something, just so they could eventually get along. The way it went down wasn’t that great, and some of us were never apologized to for bad attitudes and false accusations leveled at us, but it’s over now. Kinda.
At the end of a recent church leadership meeting, one of the elders asked why we don’t announce the Apostolic services in our services. (Yes, this is how important our meeting topics are.) His good friend (and mine), Mike, leads the Apostolic services and also sings in our choir and occasionally leads worship. My buddy, Daniel, who leads worship services for our church, answered that it was because of doctrinal differences. Things got a wee bit serious, and my name was brought up, since I have played the keyboard for the Apostolic services for several months now. I clarified my position, stating plainly that I do not believe similarly to what the Apostolics believe.
That statement didn’t go over big with my friend, who took it as a personal attack against himself and his religious beliefs. I was hoping he could just think back on all the amazing times of worship we’ve had together and not worry so much that I believe in the concept of a triune God, a one-God-in-three-persons doctrine, and he does not.
Well, apparently, he couldn’t do that. Instead, Mike turned to me and said, “I guess you won’t be there at church this Sunday!”
I looked surprised and replied, “Um, no, I’ll be there.”
He kept at it, insisting, “No, you won’t be there on Sunday to play the piano.”
I acted as if I had no idea where he was going with all of this (playing dumb being one of my natural talents). “Why? You don’t think I’ll be there?” I asked.
“No, I KNOW you won’t be there,” he answered.
“Are you firing me?” I directed the question straight to the heart of the matter this time, and he didn’t hesitate in his response.
“Yup, I sure am. It seems as if that’s what you want, anyway, right?”
I explained to him that I’d not tried to quit playing piano for the Apostolic services, just that I’d clarified my personal doctrinal position as it differs from the Apostolic doctrine.
Sometimes details don’t exactly help a matter, and in this case, they sure did not. It seemed the more I tried to make my friend feel better about my position (specifically that it was not against him personally), I only made him feel worse. He was bothered by what he perceived to be my change of position, when I’d made plenty of statements to him and the volunteer pastor that “I appreciate the service, but I don’t agree with all of your doctrine.”
Apparently, those statements never truly sank in with Mike, but the pastor knew I was just assisting with the music and leadership structuring for their denomination. Mike kept insisting that I was “fired” from helping out with their services, though, so I realized pretty quickly that it was over.
At the moment it dawned on me what had just happened, I accepted it in my heart. There seemed to be no way around it. I would no longer be playing the piano on Sunday mornings for the Apostolic services as I’d been doing for more than six months. I’d seen God use the people in that service and the messages from the outside pastor to work in my heart, so while it seemed like a relief, since I won’t have to go to services Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday, it was also a disappointment.
The fact is, I could’ve made a concerted effort over the next few days to really reach out to Mike and try to convince him that we shouldn’t let some insignificant doctrinal differences get in the way of us serving the Lord together. I could have appealed to him on the basis of our friendship or on the basis of our combined effectiveness in ministry or on the basis of him not going about his decision to cut me off in the right way. But, no, I did none of those things.
Instead, over the next week, I sought the Lord’s direction and really arrived at a peace in my heart about the whole thing, seeing it as the way God was allowing for me to move on from that ministry. While I knew I would miss the opportunity to play for an accomplished singer like Mike, and especially miss the challenge it was to sing and play along with songs I’d never heard before—with no sheet music, I knew also that I had been faithful to serve, and I had no regrets. I sensed God’s hand of blessing, and I had to thank Him for it, odd as the situation had become.
Interestingly, Mike and I became even closer friends through this entire mess of a situation. It is as if he immediately realized he’d acted out of hurt or anger when he “fired” me, and he immediately had regretted the decision.
Neither he nor I ever brought it up again, preferring to just enjoy other aspects of our friendship besides the fact that for a short amount of time, we were once a dynamic two-person worship team. We care about each other, we’ve met each other’s families at visit, and we genuinely wish each other the very best in ministry endeavors.
Not every situation has to look picture-perfect for it to be of God, who allows us to come through fires of testing, purified and useful to Him.