It’s A Matter of Integrity… This is only a test
Integrity... yes, that word is still in the dictionary; and no, the definition has not changed! I looked it up this morning, and it still says: "adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty." I think part of the problem today is that so many think they set their own perimeters for what morality and ethics are. Way back in college (an eternity ago, I think they called it, "situational ethics." I fear this is the world in which we live in today. It seems that a person's word means basically nothing any more. The word "commitment" has come to mean, "I'll do it... so long as nothing better or more fun comes along to cause me to change my mind." Marriage vows where two people commit to keep only to their partner, til death do they part... mean absolutely nothing to so many people. I remember a time where husbands went off to war, and wives remained faithful, waiting for "Johnny to come marching home." Now days... it seems as if "out of sight, out of mind" is the rule of the day. That covenant of being faithful seems to have slipped into a mindset that says, "what they don't know won't hurt them." I grew up in a day when two men shook hands on a deal, and it was a solid commitment. Now days, even legal contracts are ignored and violated left and right.
All this leaves me to question, "Where is integrity?" Even in the church world, people tell you one thing and do another. I've literally walked through Wal-mart on a Wednesday afternoon and seen people from church there, and them say, "see you tonight at church," and then find out that they not only did not come, but that they had no intention of coming but said only what they thought I wanted to hear. And what about people who repeatedly "commit" to doing things, only to cancel or even just not show up? The Bible addresses this very subject. Better to keep silent or say "no" than to give your word and break it.
There is so much that could be said here, but let me get to the entire point of today's blog...
This morning I had a woman call me and tell me that she and her family were looking for a new church because her pastor had hurt them. She went into great detail, which kept me on the phone for nearly an hour. (Which, by the way, caused me to miss a commitment I had made to be at the church to clean with others. I apologize to those people!) The details of our conversation are not going to be shared, other than to say that this woman felt that their pastor had failed them and that they were not going back to the church they had attended for quite some time. I listened to her complaints and tried to be very careful with my words, because it seemed to me that she was trying to get me to agree with her or to get me to "run down" her pastor. Repeatedly, I said to her, "I understand what you are saying, and I can understand if you feel you need to move on, but I think that rather than talk to me about Pastor "XXXX", you really should go speak to him, in person, and tell him exactly what you are feeling and why." After more than 30 minutes of this, she finally asked me directly, "Would we be welcomed in Harvest Church if we showed up this Sunday?" I told her that they would certainly welcomed at our church, however I would still recommend, even if they were leaving the other church, that she and her husband go speak to that pastor and "clear the air." She again tried several times to get me to "jump on the wagon" and say something negative about him. She even went so far as to tell me that he did not like me or my church and often said negative things about us, and said, "How does that make you feel to know he says those things?" I simply said, "If those things are being said, it does in fact make me sad that anyone would say them about me or my church, but I cannot really do much about what others do or say, but I'm not going there."
At this point... the woman said something that blew me away. She said to me, "Pastor Garrett, I want to thank you. This has been a test, to help me in a paper I am writing for a class I am taking." I was stunned. She told me that she in an ethics course and her teacher had told them that pastors were people with some of the lowest ethics out there, and that they would do or say anything to gain a new person and their money into their church. The purpose of her paper was to prove his hypothesis incorrect. She was calling various pastors with the scenario which she presented to me and using the information gathered to write her paper. I asked her how I'd done, and she laughed and said that I had "passed the test," and said that of the 17 pastors called so far, 14 of them supported exactly what her teacher had presented to the class and suggested that she leave that church and come to his where she would be treated better. She told me that she had been stunned to find that some of these pastors were all to eager to agree with how bad another pastor was and would run them down with rumors and character assassinations. (Just to clarify: she told me that she was calling pastors in the area ranging from the Quad Cities to Peoria and pairing her choices at random of churches within a close proximity as to what church/pastor she was supposedly leaving.)
That's sad. Just sad. Is it any wonder why we face situations which I wrote about at the top of this blog, when the spiritual leaders apparently are lacking in personal integrity? I imagine the heart of the Father just breaks when he views the church if this is truly what is being seen in churches across America.