We all do some very stupid things. I am no exception, my choice to join the churches Spokesmen Club, which was a very important part of life in the Worldwide Church of God, turned out disastrously. However, I am getting a little ahead of myself and I need to start at the beginning…
All men (18 years and older) were strongly encouraged (actually it was a demand that the church placed upon the men) to participate in a speech club called “Spokesmen Club”. The title sounds very cool; however, the reality was not as favorable. To begin with, the purpose was to develop the whole man into roles of leadership within the church. A very noble cause and purpose, unfortunately all too often these were not an example of leadership at all but one of rulership and being a taskmaster.
I did not escape being cajoled into joining, and against my better judgment, I might add, I joined.
It did not bother me that I had zero public speaking experience. However when the need arose I was able to stand my ground with the best of them. It is just that I thought having some practical, and formal speaking experience would help break me out of the shell of isolation, and provide some sense of direction. However, the direction it went was a bit sideways and twisted; not what I anticipated or expected…
After the first several meetings, it did not seem to be terribly difficult to participate, although it did seem somewhat risky. That was because the director of the club took great, and I might add sadistic pleasure in the verbal battles of mind and will that took place during the Table Topics Session where the men openly expressed their ideas while others would attack and tear them apart. It was almost like a school of Piranha Fish feeding on a helpless victim.
The last event of the evening was the directors final evaluation of each speech. He seemingly enjoyed destroying and tearing apart each one (this was the same minister that I wrote about earlier “They Broke Our Hearts”). As he explained, he was trying to develop character in each of the speakers. But how does finding fault and embarrassing the speakers develop them into confident and capable men that are well rounded and balanced?…my question was not appreciated.
Not intimidated by this minister I had a brilliant, at least it was to me, idea. During the business portion of the meeting, jumping right in the middle of it all, I suggested that the next meeting be impromptu. That meant everyone would draw a slip of paper from a bag and on it would be his designated assignment for the evening. Everything was up for grabs. Each member had to prepare to give a speech or an evaluation of a speech, to MC the table topics session, to be toastmaster for the evening, or be prepared to act as an officer, etc. It all depended on the assignment they drew. There were 17 designated opportunities for that evening. No one knew which one he might draw from the bag. The director seemed to like the idea since it placed all the men on notice to be prepared for anything and everything.
At the next meeting, 20 out of 25 men showed up. Not surprising, there was a great deal of tension and apprehension in the air. Everyone was on edge as to what was about to take place. The dictator, oops…director (Al) passed a bag around that contained seventeen assignments and 3 blank slips of paper. Each man drew one slip. Since there were more men than tasks, the lucky ones drew a blank piece of paper. You could always tell who they were by the expression on their faces. The look of panic turned to a demeanor of complete and total relief.
As a twist of fate would have it I drew the position of president, I guess it was poetic justice since it was my suggestion that started the whole mess. This position was rather cool! The distinguished honor of being dictator with the title of president of the club (for that brief moment in time, and it was brief….getting a little ahead of myself) meant I was in charge of the club for the entire evening. My word was law…rather cool! The thrill and surge of being in charge, was amazing. It did not matter what I did or said I could never be wrong (the power of the office)…well not exactly. As a bonus I even got to sit at the head table, right next to the director, the master Al himself. Wow! I was impressed, and to be honest, just a wee bit nervous, well actually considerably nervous.
To make matters more interesting, this club meeting was a dinner meeting. This supposedly was to add to the atmosphere of the club, learning proper dining etiquette. It was not the dinner that set the tone of the atmosphere, it was the unsettling arrangements of the assignments that added a certain amount heaviness to what normally would be a light hearted evening (except for the final evaluations by Al).
He sat directly to my right at the head table. Now Al was a hardcore and militant leader. He did not lead by example, he lead by force and by fear. So sitting next to him was not a very comforting situation.
Dinner was served and I tried to start a conversation with him. However, he completely ignored me. This resulted in my feeling a little awkward; after all, I was still new to the group. I guess perhaps I was a little too nervous because when he called my name, to start the meeting, I jumped slightly and I accidentally dropped a whole fork double stacked with over cooked, soft, green peas onto his new light brown suit (he bragged about his new suit). To make matters worse, in my embarrassment, nervousness and haste I tried to wipe those suckers up with my napkin (bad idea). It just smeared them. Green smeared peas on a light brown suit looked rather disgusting. In desperation, I quickly tried to remedy the problem; I dipped my napkin in a glass of ice water to try to clean up the mess. The napkin got entangled with the glass and, you guessed it, I dumped the whole glass of ice water right in his lap. What happened next astonished everyone.
When the cold water hit his lap, within a blink of the eye he shot straight up and stood there before all the men. Of course, this got everyone’s attention and conversation ceased. All the men’s interest was drawn to the head table. They were expecting profound words of wisdom to flow from the golden and inspired lips of the director…
It was at that point it seemed like the spirit grabbed and took hold of him because the color of his face changed and he started to tremble. Even though I was right next to him I could not quite make out what he was saying, it appeared that he was trying his best to speak in tongues (actually I did understand, he was cursing me with ungodly profanity)….no one there could interpret what he was saying, actually no one dare to try. I wanted to tell him that it was unbiblical to talk in tongues without an interpretation but I felt it probably was not the wisest move to make.
The evening was not a total loss; I now held the record for the shortest club presidency in the history of Spokesmen Club. A record I might add that in over 50+ years was never to be broken. I was impeached and forever and I do mean forever, banned from the head table (at least as long as he was director).
For me, the club is now a memory of a collection of absurdities, humorous pranks, and meaningless conversations and speeches, and one very angry Al, which was the best part. It is also a memory of iron-fisted tactics used by the various directors to damage and destroy individuals for the sheer pleasure of seeing if the men could take the pressure, or would they crack.
Spokesmen Club, tomorrow’s church rulers, oops, leaders in the making!…It was a nice fantasy that they would develop into shepherds and watch over the flock; in reality they ruled mercilessly with a rod of iron. After all that was all they were taught to do by the leaders and overseers.
The only will and image we need, desperately need, to be conformed to is that of our Savior. He is kind and gentle. He always has our best interest at heart…however, if any individual acts like, and wants to be a child of the devil, He will not back down and He will treat that individual accordingly. He is kind, gentle but He is also fearless and just…He is the kind of leader we all need and should emulate.