“Being jilted is a blow to one’s pride. You must do your best to forget it but if you cannot, then at least, pretend to.”
Moliere, Tartuffe, 1664
Frankly, I didn’t want to go there while on active duty but now that I’m retired I kind of want to know why those sneaky church deserters wound up jilting me. Did I want them to tell me why they were leaving? That depends. If it had to do with the preacher in the pulpit I didn’t want to know. Did I hope they would find a church that made them happier than the one I was pastoring? Maybe. Did I really care if they landed in a better congregation or not? Well, sort of. I tried to forget about the abandonments but I couldn’t, and pretending didn’t help.
I figured pastors would want to find out why their parishioners left their churches. I did an informal survey and I couldn’t find many preachers who followed up either. That helped me some but I should have made a point of asking why during my tenure.
What about those who wanted to leave but couldn’t because they had been members for six or seven decades and they felt that God had lodged them there forever? Then there were those who left, came back, but then went missing again. Hey, I paid attention. The backsliders seldom bothered me. They were often generous in their giving and ready to serve on committees. Did I think a lot about how we did with the collection plate proceeds? Well, yeah! What about those who just gave up going to churches? Maybe they needed to read the Sunday newspapers on their patios like most of their neighbors do.
Ah, and how about those who don’t like our parking facilities and they go to foreign churches with limitless parking slots?
That brings me to another phenomenon regarding parking lots. License plates on cars have a way of making a point about their family or work? What if church people were to pay a few extra bucks for special plates? Listed below is what you might see while driving through a Methodist parking area on a Sunday morning.
M T PEWS – This license plate belongs to a preacher who probably complains a lot about church attendance.
10 PRCNT – The car belongs to a finance chairperson who is trying to make a point about making budgets.
NXT YEAR – Owned by an overworked parishioner who is making a statement to the nominating committee.
NO RICE – Has to be a worn out custodian.
BINGO – Obviously somebody from another faith community.
BAPTIZD – Look out for the driver; Methodists go in for infant baptism.
POTLUCK – Must belong to a Methodist. Check for paper cups and plates on the seats.
20 MAX – You will find the vehicle sporting this plate parked next to the Pastor’s slot, a little message to keep the sermon short.
40 MIN – The car has to belong to a preacher who is not easily intimidated.
HELP – Might be owned by a youth counselor. Don’t ask.
C NOTE – Either a choir director’s or an usher who loves collection plates.
M T PEWS – Thirty years later; same pastor, new car, same plate and still whining.