Visit to Little Hope

Travel with me to a place in my imagination, but it is real. After being in ministry for a few years I invented this place to work through some frustrations. We will visit the “Little Hope Baptist Church” in Frog Level, Arkansas.
I have since found out that there actually are churches with that name. Did they not realize how it sounded? And, yes, there are actually several places called Frog Level, but the one I saw for myself is a small community near De Queen, Arkansas. De Queen was the place of my first pastorate, and a difficult one, in the early 1970’s. That was in the day when most young pastors did not have mentors. Thankfully, this is changing. A young pastor is much more likely today to get mentor support from other ministers.
Still, over the years, I have witnessed many sad instances of churches which are not ready for pastors. They are still deeply entrenched in game-playing. One game in particular was the “Best Christian in the Church” contest. Most of us lost this one. It is a game that made appearances more important than reality. While the way we appear to the world is important, the healthy way to produce that “look” is by being real, not by being good at “make-up”. Paul made an impression on his world, yet he also did not seem to see himself as a failure when people called him weak, nor did he use “flattering speech, as you know, nor …a pretext for greed”. (I Thessalonians 2:5) In fact, he said, “we have renounced the things hidden because of shame, not walking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God, but by the manifestation of truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.” (II Corinthians 4:2)
If you are not trying to win the Best Christian in the Church contest, you are scorned or pitied at Little Hope. To someone like me, who never figured out the politics of church, it always seemed like a place far from home.
Openness is crucial to good mental health, and I think it is crucial to spiritual health, too. But, openness is still an art, since not everyone at church is a safe enough person, or a mature enough person to trust with our openness. Openness includes being open to others, as well. Vance Havner pointed out, “It is not our job to see through other people, but rather, to see other people through.” When we make our relationships (with God and with others) more important than issues, and when we love and live the truth, appearances will take care of themselves.

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