Campus politics were very strange indeed. It was a never-ending stream of shifting positions for power and control. It was one such shift that resulted in a very bizarre story that is about to unfold.
The call came to report to the boss’s office immediately! This was a bit unusual but not a total surprise. Since my job of research (horticultural and environmental) was multifaceted, it sometimes required immediate resolution to a problem, which required his input.
Upon arriving, I was greeted by his secretary. With the tone of urgency in her voice, she directed me to report directly and immediately to the ministerial services office, no explanation was given. This was rather unsettling to say the least. Generally, such visits resulted in a witch-hunting minister looking for hidden sins or problems where none existed. Moreover, since the office was at the opposite end of the 40-acre campus so I had plenty of time to speculate what this meeting was all about. None of the speculations were good, for often-such visits lead to termination. For sure, something unsavory was brewing and the pot was about to boil over.
Arriving at the office, I was surprised as a campus security officer ushered me into a rather large conference room. As it turned out, I was among 30 other men. This was a bit of relief as misery likes company. I discreetly asked some of the men what was going on. No one knew which added to the stress of the situation. A meeting with an unknown agenda was a little disquieting, especially when it was one initiated by the ministry…all of us arrived just feeling a little anxious, one young man even threw up from the stress. (The ministry was more feared than respected.)
As I took my seat, I could not help but notice that the door was locked behind the last man in and a security guard stood as a sentry. He was not a little guy either, no one but no one was going to get through that door unless he allowed it. I felt sure I, as well as the others, were in deep trouble. Looking around it was obvious that we were a collection of the most freethinking and independent individuals employed by the college. That is a polite way of saying we were considered rebels. We probably accounted for most of the headaches that our department managers experienced.
Something else I found very unsettling, in the room with us were several Pastor ranked (rank is a bad odor) ministers. In the administrative hierarchy of the church and college, a Pastor ranked minister wielded an extreme amount of power. Literally, our destiny and future was in their hands. Very scary indeed; trapped with so many politically powerful men made even the most stouthearted individual and independent man there very compliant and quiet.
It was then one of the church Pastors came to the podium and proceeded to address the group of men. We were amazed and a little astounded as he began to speak. He actually gave us praise and said we were among the most honorable and trustworthy men in the church, (yeah, sure and the moon is made of cheese too!)
It was not that under different circumstances what we were being told couldn’t be true, at least for some of the men, it’s just that it seemed like we were being setup, but for what? It was almost as if we had entered an alternate universe! They were not out to get us at all, on the contrary, they were there to ask for our…well I am getting a little ahead of myself so let me back up a little bit so you can have a clearer picture of what was happening and why it was so frightfully puzzling.
To begin with, all the employees that worked on campus had one thing in common regardless which department they worked for; no employee worked on the Sabbath, EVER! To do so would have been cause for immediate termination and loss of salvation (we thought they had that much authority; big mistake on our part).
Well, not exactly true, as you will see.
The problem that the ministry had to resolve was campus security on the Sabbaths. The church and college was not about to be irresponsible enough to trust their god to protect the campus during this holy time. Therefore, the problem became what to do. They could not leave the campus, and the church facilities unprotected at such a critical 24-hour period. On the other hand, they could not allow the regular full time security personnel to work, that would break church policy.
The answer to the problem came as a stroke of genius. Simply, they would set up an auxiliary security patrol based on volunteers and have them work that shift that was taboo for the full time men to work. To accomplish this bizarre task, they in their infinite god inspired wisdom declared and appointed us as the Auxiliary Security Patrol. To make it legal they gave us the title of “Spiritual Levites” (only Levites, they were priests of God, were allowed to perform their jobs on the Sabbath).
So the reason for the meeting; they desperately needed our help and cooperation to make this bit of weirdness work.
During the meeting, the Pastor told us he had personally chosen each of us because of our unique abilities. He went to great lengths to explain the problem and their proposed solution. We would work one four-hour shift per month, somewhere between Friday sunset and Saturday sunset. The security supervisor would set up the schedule far in advance and assign us a time and date.
He went on to explain that by declaring us spiritual Levites it would be OK for us to work as security personnel during the Sabbaths. He further stated that they considered us as having the office of a local church Elder (lesser rank, but still wielded very powerful authority over the lives of the ordinary church and college employees).
They needed us in that position (as Elders) otherwise they could not consider us as Levites. Not that any of us would be ordained as elders, we would simply share the priesthood office with them thereby being able to work on the Sabbath. At the time it sounded very reasonable, after all who are we to question the wisdom of the ministry?
Looking around the room at the rag-tag collection of misfits (myself included) I knew right off that this was headed for some serious problems. For sure, it was a disaster in the making.
This pastor had just opened Pandora’s Box and what was about to leap out was frightening. He did not have the god-inspired sense to realize what he had just done. He did not have a clue what was about to take place. His god filled his mind with foolishness and delusion, as you will soon see. The situation when fully developed was about to bite him in the rear!
As the meeting closed, there was a question and answer period. Sure enough, the fun was about to begin. One man asked a question about our eldership. The speaker again tried to clarify it by stating that in theory not in practice the men would have the office of elder.
This was nothing more than a legal dodge that allowed them to tell us it was OK to break the Sabbath. His explanation was too little too late, all that some of the men heard was they now possessed the power and authority of elders….now that’s when the trouble really began.
The questions poured in…and no, you will not carry any firearms or even think about using guard dogs! The situation grew tense as more questions poured in. Really, to give most of these men such (assumed) authority was a step toward insanity.
It was not long, the next day, that some of the men began to address the real elders and ministers by their first names (this was an absolute taboo; we only addressed them as “Mr….”). A few men became obsessed with their newfound power and authority. They even insisted on going to the ministerial lunch, which was a big NO NO! They were lucky fire did not come down from heaven and consume them. The lunches were reserved for the élite ministry only, and they, the élite, did not like to share. That is where it all finally came to a crashing end. Enough is enough! The actual ministry was outraged! They were not about to allow such lowly scum to invade their most sacred places.
It was less than a week later; the call came to attend an emergency meeting. It did not take a genius to figure out what was up. The problem was, what were they now going to do about it? The Pastor in charge of the meeting began by thanking us for our dedication and loyalty. Right then I knew the hammer was about to fall. He went on to politely but firmly explain that perhaps he had been a little to zealous in suggesting that we hold the office, in theory and not practical fact, of an elder. He said after much prayerful consideration (and getting his butt chewed out for what had happened) our position would be more appropriately looked upon as that of a deacon. I could not help but shake my head and think to myself, this minister is obviously a slow learner. We would share the office of deacon in theory only; we would not be ordained or actually hold the office of deacon.
You guessed it! There was another horrendous clash. A few of the men took it upon themselves to exercise the office of deacon and tried to tell the real deacons where to go. That really rattled the cages of the real deacons. They went to the ministry crying and lamenting about their plight and the fact that some lowly scum were stealing their show. For several weeks havoc reigned. It was fun while it lasted…
He called another emergency meeting of the Auxiliary Security Personnel. This time the Pastor (he got his butt chewed out again) went right for the throat. He told us in no way should we consider ourselves an elder or deacon! He told us we ought to be thankful he considered us for this wonderful opportunity. He went on to state we were acting in the office of the Levitical Priesthood, not by authority, not by rank, and definitely not by power. He told us to just shut up and do the job!
Well, that was clear and right to the point! There was a great deal of mumbling among the men. Once again, more questions… would they allow the men to carry guns or nightsticks. That question really got the speaker HOT!! Before he was done we had a sneak preview of hell fire and damnation!! Boy was he HOT!! I was thankful I had the good sense to sit toward the back of the room.
No, the men did not carry guns or nightsticks…but they did for a very short period of time use dogs to assist in security…that is until a dog bit a child of a visitor on campus…seems as though there was one Pastor (guess who) that at one time had been involved in security, then all of a sudden his supervisors shipped him out to the east coast to pastor a church in some small obscure town. I wonder why?
Life on campus was like a lunatic on the loose; an adventure of Alice in Wonderland…They called it the “Worldwide Church of God”. They left the name of Christ out, and well they should for their attitudes and actions were and are, even today, anything but Christ-like. We followed them unquestioningly. They were and are the blind leaders; so all of us fell into one ditch after another with them.
Christ never intended His ministry to exercise rulership but rather leadership. This leadership is supposed to be by His example; which is one of humility, kindness and compassion. Sure, occasionally they must take firm action and use their authority for the overall good. However, such occasions should and are very rare.
If you are going to follow any man’s lead, make sure you can see the life of our Savior reflected. If His life is not there, then perhaps the direction is wrong. Perhaps you are trusting in the wrong guidance.
Some of you are still following the blind leadership from one ditch into another. The truth is not in the ministry of blind men, it is in the light of Jesus Christ and Him alone. When will we learn?
Most church leaders are and never were shepherds, they never were. They are resource managers and manipulators.
Our Savior has always been and is available. Do you hear His gentle call? It is there and He is waiting with arms open wide, and a welcoming smile on His face.