Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The City on the Ball: First Baptist Oil City

This is the next in a long anticipated series of my ministry memoirs!

I will never forget the time I started a Bible Study on cults. It was my first year of ministry and I desperately wanted the students to be motivated to come to our Wednesday night thing. I forgot what we called it. The only thing I can be sure of is that we didn't call it anything remotely related to X-treme. I have always hated youth ministry fads.

Well, if you want students to be interested in a Bible Study you had best be teaching on one of these topics. 1. SEX 2. SEX or 3. REVELATION. So, in light of that, I chose CULTS. I have never given in to the fleshly desire to please other people over God (and by that I mean that I often give in to the fleshly desire to please people over God). I figured that the students would really enjoy my (and by my I mean the Bible's) take on all things cultish. I mean, I am a fascinating guy with all kinds of insight and communication skills. These guys will be mesmerized by my soaring rhetoric.

And... they were. They really loved the Mormon study. They dug the Jehovah's Witness night. Things were really humming when we took on the precepts of the Unification Church.

Then came a Bible Study to remember.

I didn't know much about the Mason's. I just knew that the book I was studying had a chapter in it called "The Masonic Lodge". So, I prepared for my usual Wednesday Night X-TREME (jk) and got ready to wow the teens with another blockbuster revelation.

The air was thick with anticipation. I was a twenty year old amateur theologian with a cult-destroying chip on his shoulder. The students hurried in, their faces betraying the anticipation of a long three days sans the teachings of their spiritual sherpa. And I was ready. Thanks to Group Magazine I had a crowdbreaking game and some discussion starters. There was no light show, praise band, power point, or drama team. I was the show. And that was just fine with me. I had spent hour (the no "s" is on purpose, Jen Vestrand... it is to illustrate that my usual preparation time is best measured in minutes) preparing for this night. I knew more than the average guy about the evils of the Masonic Lodge. I ascended to the front of the room and books were opened (my notebook and the Bible), and another book was opened (the cult book). I started reading the chapter, my prose interpretation once again riveting in it's esoteric, almost mystical grasp of the text. I was launching into the third paragraph when I began to sense a rising tension in the room. At first I assumed, as I always did, that this was due to the admiration of my faithful disciples, once again put back on their heels by the power of my oratory.

And yet, something about this tension didn't feel... good.

For the first time since I began my "talk", I looked up at the teeming crowd of five who were staring at me with a combination of shock and contempt.

"My dad is a Mason!" growled one of the boys on the front row. "He says that I'm gonna be one too and there ain't nothin' wrong with bein' one... my dad is one."

And so it began.

It turned out all of them had intimate ties to the Lodge. I was sweating like a Clinton under oath. Things had gone all wrong. This study was supposed to get the students on my side. There was only one thing to do. PROCLAIM THE TRUTH! I would rescue these kids from the clutches of Masonry and deliver them to the Promised Land of Biblical Christianity!

We argued. We fought. I showed them how Masonry=Satanism and that their fathers and mothers were deceived. Finally, a break-through. Some of the girls were crying. I had achieved my objective. I had taken down a stronghold of deception that had gripped Oil City for decades. I felt like I was living the plot of This Present Darkness by Frank Perreti. I couldn't wait to tell my pastor!

The next day at 6:00 am. My pastor picked me up to go on some hospital visitation. We were a church of about 100 people and we could be doing hospital visits every day of the week and still not hit all of the patients from our congregation. I rushed to his Dodge Ram truck, eager to tell him of my spiritual conquest the night before. When the opportunity came, I began. "You know we've been studying cults, right?".

He said yes and asked, "How's it going?"

"Pretty good. The students are loving it and it is leading to some really good discussion of what they believe. But, man, last night was intense!"

"Really, tell me about it."

"First, what do you know about the Masons?"

This is when he choked on the cinnamon roll that he was eating. It wasn't like he was really choking... just trying to talk and swallow at the same time. I must confess, I wasn't ready for what followed.

"Well, first of all, I am a Mason."


This was going to be a long year.