by David Sisler

Talmadge Haddon Barclay can always be counted on to be solidly behind any position that is in total opposition to pastoral leadership. He can quote the Bible chapter and verse, but he never applies any of it to his own life. He will listen to your deepest secrets because he says he wants to make it a matter of prayer and then makes it a matter of gossip. And if the church spreads a covering of mercy and grace over a fallen member, Talmadge will expose that transgression because "someone must uphold the standards of holiness."

When I caught up with Tal, as he likes to be called, he flashed a packet of paper at me and said, "This is Pullet Surprise stuff!"

"Pulitzer," I said.

"Whatever," he answered. "Wait until you see this letter I have. It will make the stuff that North Carolina newspaper wrote about Jam and Timmy seem like Pretty Tame Lingo."

"I don't know about viewing confidential documents," I said. "Confidential, the Apostle Paul's undershirts! Brother and Sister Disgrunt sent this thing to everyone on the mailing list at 'First Charismatic.' They're real mad at Pastor Breezer, so they're taking their spiritual gifts elsewhere," he said.

I quickly read page after page of personal detail that purported to be filled with concern and Christian love.

"Who is this Pastor Wheezer?" I asked.

"They meant Pastor Breezer, I think," Tal replied.

"They've been at 'First C' since the Upper Room was a basement, but they misspelled the name of the Leader of the Flock?" I asked. "The thrust of this letter is only to attack the pastor's integrity."

"Sisler, you'd have to be an idiot or a Pittsburgh Pirate fan to miss that," Tal said. "They use the word 'integrity' 137 times!"

"But how much integrity can they have," I asked, "if they slander the pastor to the world in a way that makes it impossible for him to answer their criticism? How many babes in Christ were hurt by their bitterness? Don't they understand the danger they place themselves in by harming God's little ones?"

"I didn't show you this so you'd defend Wheezer," Tal said.

"Breezer," I said.

"Whoever. Look, I got a revelation that it's okay to take your complaints to the U. S. Postal Service when you can't get your own way. I mean these letter writers say how much they love Pastor Breezer."

"Like tethered goats love tigers," I said.

"You're not just a Pirate fan. I'll bet you think Sid Bream was out. I don't understand your attitude," Tal scoffed.

"Here is what I do understand," I said. "I understand when you attack a pastor God has ordained, you put yourself at great risk. I understand that the church has enough enemies on the outside without those on the inside doing Satan's work. I understand that when Christians become millstones, they risk drowning in their own bitterness."

"You would not recognize a great story if it fell onto your word processor," he said.

"Tal, let me give you a good story," I said. "Spirit-filled Christians disagree with their pastor and leave the church. They wash no dirty linen in public. They don't try to enlist others. They leave in peace, speaking God's blessings to those they leave behind.

"The stuff in this letter isn't news. It goes on all the time. I can show you church after church in this city that was started when a disgruntled assistant pastor took scores, even hundreds of people and hundreds, even thousands of dollars out of their former church and started their own little kingdom.

"Those new churches weren't formed by natural birth. They were like the character in Shakespeare's Macbeth--untimely ripped from the womb of the Mother Church, leaving it bloodied and weakened. And if it isn't a former assistant pastor, it's a pack of howling former members.

"And I can't believe such behavior advances God's Kingdom. It's almost like treason, giving aid and comfort to the Enemy."

"I just had a revelation," Tal said. "I'm taking this one to 60 Minutes."

"Was it a revelation or self-indulgence?" I asked. "And, Tal, Sid was safe."


Published in the Augusta Chronicle 2/25/95

Copyright 1995 by David Sisler

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