They found a piece of farmland in a neighboring community that would be suitable for expansion when the time came. The million dollar building we had just erected and moved into would not handle growth of even a 1000 more people.
One morning during church the Pastors’ presented their plan, and it was a done deal, no questions asked. The property was 27 acres and was priced at $700,000.00. It would be added to our existing mortgage.
To my knowledge, everyone was all for the idea.Thinking back, I suppose there were dissenters, because not too much later after the purchase declaration, a law came about that was to negatively affect everyone.
The Pastors, during one of the church services, declared that Bobby and Suzie XYZ, had rebelled against the authority of the church and they were unrepentant. Since that was the case, they were no longer welcome. We were told that we could say hi to them on the street but nothing more.
Our children couldn’t play with their children, we were not allowed to phone them or invite them over. They were to be cut off! The idea was to have them see the error of their ways and come back to the group and submit to the Pastors’ discipline.
In my 22 years of being affiliated with this bunch, I didn’t see anyone return. That error of thinking continues today in some of those churches. All it does is continue to divide and hurt people.
In 1978, there was abundance. Everyone was working, the economy was brisk, people from all over Canada were working in Alberta. Our church grew in numbers, many were getting married, buying houses, and starting families. The church coffers were full and overflowing.
Then 1980, the infamous National Energy Program kicked the Alberta economy to the curb! Some 500 oil rigs left the province. The construction industry slowed to a crawl. Trade wages dropped by $10.00 an hour and many of the companies still working went non-union.
Our Pastors saw their shortsightedness ( although they didn’t admit it ) in not allowing the members to go to university, because it was the university trained professionals who now had the incomes to support our burdensome mortgage. Those professionals though were few and far between. The Pastors were reaping what they sowed.
Every week the Pastors pleaded for money, we paid for the chairs we sat on during the church services, we gave our spare change, as well as our tithes and offerings. We didn’t ever miss a meal but we didn’t have anything extra either, everything was hand to mouth.
Our church had a Christian school. They used the Accelerated Christian Education ( ACE ) program. People from other churches enrolled their children. We had upwards of 50 students and 4 teachers including the principal. The school started shortly after we moved into the new building.
Back in 1978, we started a catering service but by 1980 it was dissolved because it was not profitable enough. We didn’t serve alcohol and that is where the most profit is.
In 1985, a lawyer came into our church, she was a new convert. Normally, the coveted position of Bible study leader is one that new converts don’t get until they have been around for a while. Within three months of arriving, she was a Bible study leader! Our suspicion was that she had a hefty tithe and the Bible study leadership position was a reward and kept her tied into our church.
That summer, the lawyer led a Bible study group of 20 or so people in a classroom in the church. The study group started getting ideas to begin ministries outside of our church. When the Pastor and his wife heard about this, they were outraged! These ideas would take the people away from the grande scheme of the huge church!
During this time a missionary from Mexico, a well known and respected man, came and preached on Saturday night that the people of the congregation were ready for ministry! The time was right to send the people out into all the world!
The very next day, Sunday morning, our Pastor preached to keep the congregation together! Division must not happen! He squashed all those lofty ideas of the Bible study group and disbanded the group promptly. I lost track of the lawyer and don’t know her response to the Pastor’s actions.
This was a turning point for our church, but our Pastor was blinded by his vision to have his huge local group. I think that he could have influenced 5000 to 10,000 people Canada wide if he had chosen to let the people go when the opportunity was there.
The people began to seek ways to get into ministry with the Pastors’ blessing. To move into ministry outside of the local church, one had to have the permission of the Pastors, then you were free to go. To get into ministry within the church was virtually impossible because the Pastor chose everyone himself and he had his own biases.
My wife and I chose to go to Walla Walla, Washington and join up with my mentor who was pastoring a church there. We got our Pastors’ blessing, arranged our affairs and documents, and moved in the fall of 1988.
….to be continued next week.