Former Senior Pastor Dennis Newkirk of Henderson Hills Baptist Church in Edmond stood before his congregation in October of 2001 and told everyone that the Church was going to take immediate steps to scale-back the churches many ministries due to the lack of funding caused by the fear that had been generated by the previous month’s terrorists attacks on the United States. The many, many people who were in attendance that day, some who had not been in church in years, were somewhat stunned that the usual upbeat leader of the church, was standing before them almost conceding defeat and giving up on them. Newkirk continued to tell the congregation that he and his wife would be taking an immediate pay reduction of $12,000 per year and would take another pay cut if he saw more ministries negatively affected.
The affluent congregation began to slowly squirm in their chairs. Some began to cry. Some just looked down at the ground. Some just crossed their arms and stared back at Dennis not quite sure what to think.
The pastor told everyone that Sunday morning, the terrorist’s actions had hit home and it was apparent that everyone in attendance was holding onto every penny they had to ensure the lifestyle they so richly coveted.
Now, that he had everyone’s attention and had afflicted the comfortable, he began (sarcastically) telling the congregation how important they thought they all were and what they needed to do to make sure they kept up with the Jones’ in these trying times.
He pointed out the “doo-dads” many of the wealthy men had on their shirts. He reminded (and embarrassed them) about how those shirts with little men riding a horse, were such an important status symbol and how necessary it was for their survival. He talked about all the hood ornaments in the churches parking lot and how those expensive cars were all backed-in and aimed at the exits to avoid the crowds and expedite the drive to the Mexican food restaurants for $100 Sunday lunches. He told the ladies in the congregation that the shoes they were wearing cost more than some people pay for groceries in a month.
Then he talked about how the church staff had planned and discussed how they would make sure all the lights were turned off in the $20 million dollar building to save money on the church’s electric bill.
Many in the congregation openly cried. Many shook their heads in shame. Many seemed to think about heading for the exits due to embarrassment.
The Senior Pastor, who was seemingly throwing in the towel and declaring that the church should probably just close then began to display on the projector screens, that only about 5% of the church’s membership gave to the church.
This message was not what this crowd had expected on this post 9-11 day. They had just gotten their asses kicked by their minister. What had been the plan a few hours earlier to show-up at church, be entertained with free donuts, coffee and over-dressed singers and musicians, had turned into a true gut punch that the church had very little money and was in trouble.
By the end of the service, the offering plates were passed back and forth of every row. It seemed to take longer than any other Sunday. People were writing checks. Men were emptying their billfolds.
The Holy Spirit was moving in the building.
The congregation left that day without the usual meeting in the greeting area. There was not much bragging of golf scores, new hair colorings or descriptions of that week’s big winners in the stock market. People wanted to get out of there and get home.
The following Sunday, the worship center was packed again. There was not much talking nor socializing. People were attentive.
The Senior Pastor who had grilled his congregation the week before, appeared from the side door and made his way down to the floor and stood on the same level as his people. The silence was deafening.
He began by telling everyone in that room how much he loved them and how proud he was of all the good deeds they were doing to help others who had been affected by 9-11. He told them how much he cherished them and how honored he was to be their pastor. He then told them that they had responded to last week’s message with an offering of more than $90,000.
The congregation roared their approval and gave him a standing ovation for more than five minutes.
The Senior Pastor stood there in front of them and cried.
The Lord had answered prayers. He told them they were all Americans and they were One Nation Under God. He told them with the Lord’s help they could overcome anything. The church gave him another standing ovation.
Our God is in control today. He is here for us. He will answer prayers if we will seek him. Say a prayer today. Ask God to help us. He works in mysterious ways and he does it on his time. Sometimes you just must get everyone’s attention and bring them out of their chairs or in God’s case to their knees.
Thanks so much for reading. I will see you next Saturday. Would you like a Progress?
Yukon Progress Publisher Randy K. Anderson can be reached at 517-5168 or firstname.lastname@example.org