To fully appreciate this “Snapshot of the Apostasy,” you would have to know something of Pastor George. For over four decades he has faithfully served the Lord. Please understand, I don’t mean that he showed up at work every day, preached his three sermons every week and collected his two paychecks every month. I said, “faithfully served the Lord.” Yes, when it comes to representing God to His people, there’s a big difference between discharging one’s contractual duties and ministering in God’s Vineyard in a way that truly pleases Him.
For instance, early in their career Pastor George and his lovely wife Marie had labored so intently at a certain church that it doubled its attendance twice within a few years. And yet, just as the church was bounding with success, the Lord called them to quit what had become a “cush” position in favor of a struggling inner-city church. They obeyed at great personal sacrifice.
Another case in point is when they left the pastorate—again at the leading of the Lord—in 1990 to begin holding prayer seminars in churches across the country. In spite of the many hardships involved, they faithfully did this for 5 years.
Pastor George and Marie eventually retired but they never considered retirement as an opportunity to begin living for self. No, they continued to offer themselves to the Lord in whatever capacity He might present.
That brings us to the situation that caused Pastor George’s great disappointment. He was invited by Scott, the young pastor of a growing congregation in another city, to develop a prayer ministry at his church and to teach his people how to pray. This required a 300-mile drive once a month, but, even though they live on a fixed income and they were only offered enough money to cover their travel expenses, they cheerfully accepted the opportunity.
For a year Pastor George and Marie made the long drive to that church. During that time, they held a number of half-day prayer seminars, instituted monthly prayer meetings and rallied the church elders to begin spending some time seeking the Lord together before church services.
Pastor George’s disappointment began when he realized that Pastor Scott was simply not interested in being involved in this vital church function. He seemed to see prayer as another nice church outreach, but not something of vital importance; in fact, it became obvious that he wanted someone else to bring in a spiritual atmosphere without him having to be involved. Pastor George shared with this young pastor that if his church was to truly become a Holy Spirit-empowered body of believers, he would have to be the one to lead them in this endeavor. Scott did attend a couple of meetings after that—albeit arriving late and not participating—but it was clear that he was only doing it under compulsion.
At one meeting he did attend, Pastor George had just finished pouring out his heart to the handful of people who were in attendance (the low attendance undoubtedly attributed to the pastor’s lack of promotion) when Pastor Scott not-so-subtly disparaged his message by saying that people shouldn’t “get into a strain” over having daily devotions. “I only pray when the Spirit leads me,” he announced to Pastor George’s amazement and dismay.
The “final straw” occurred during a weekend in which Pastor George had planned to do his utmost to make a final push toward establishing a legitimate prayer focus at the church. He and Marie had earnestly prayed for the preceding month that the Lord would convict Scott of his apathy and lack of spiritual leadership.
I realize Pastor George’s hopefulness going into that weekend was probably a bit naïve, but he sincerely believed that God could turn this young man’s heart around. Unfortunately, the big seminar he had hoped for turned into yet another flop. Eight people from the church showed up and no one from the pastoral staff. George’s heart sank that Saturday morning when he saw the dismal turnout.
The second part to the weekend’s prayer emphasis was to be a church-wide prayer meeting to be held on Sunday evening. But after the seminar, a visibly nervous Pastor Scott asked to speak to him. “Uh, look George,” the young pastor stammered, “we’ve got a problem with the service for tomorrow night. See, the (local baseball team) are in the playoffs and will be on TV. Not only that, the (local football team) will also be playing. I think we’re going to have to cancel the meeting.”
George was crushed. For a full year he had faithfully done his utmost to rally the people of this church into seeking the Lord, praying for revival, interceding for the lost and establishing a meaningful spiritual atmosphere. But it was clear that all his efforts had been for naught. The reason? Because the church was led by an unfaithful pastor who was far more concerned about cultural entertainment and temporal pleasure than in the need to lead his people into a meaningful relationship with God.
That is the apostasy.
Pastor George’s Disappointment,