Confessions of an Ex-Minister: My Story (Part Two)
This is the second "Confessions" of the series, link to reach the first is below:
I'm in the Army Now
The years rolled on, I graduated from high school and enrolled in a community college taking architectural drafting classes. It had been customary for graduates to get job offers upon graduation but the economy had changed. I decided to enroll in the US Army as an 81B (Architectural Draftsman) to
get drafting experience.
Prior to leaving for basic training at Ft. Jackson, S.C., my good church friends threw me a party and really challenged me to consistently live my faith (now that they were not going to be able to watch over me). It was Ronnie & Donnie Lance, Bud Lance’s two sons that challenged me and
lightheartedly gave me the “Chick Publications” track of “Holy Joe” about a service member and being faithful to Christ. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but that promise I made to them brought challenges.
I, like almost all enlisted, were given a pocket Gideon’s New Testament that we were encouraged to keep and read. I was assigned to a basic training unit on “Tank Hill” at Ft. Jackson. On occasion, I would read that Gideon’s New Testament. I didn’t think it was a “big deal” and I
have never been one that sought to drive attention to myself. One of the drill sergeants, SGT Harris, a black guy, either took a liking to me or decided to use me as a motivational tool to motivate other black enlistee’s fitness running levels and spirituality. At that time in my life, I could run like the wind and SGT Harris often
pointed out how the white guy (me) could outrun the black guys. On occasion, he also went out of the way to point out how I read the Bible. I get it, he was trying to motivate others but that also drew the ire of a few guys in the unit. One evening, while showering with shampoo in my hair a huge white guy named Randy from Georgia “cold
cocked” me…the fight was on! I was naked and stung by the force of the unexpected blow. The shower was on the second floor near the stairs. I recovered and won the fight that ended upon the first floor. I believe Randy got discharged for this. Nobody ever started a fight with me again in the US Army.
I was assigned to Ft. Ord, California on the absolutely beautiful Monterey Peninsula as my first duty station. I loved California…still do, just wished it could be wrest away from the political libtards! I’ve always loved baseball and soon after arriving I had asked several of the guys in the
unit if they wanted to go to a Giants game in San Francisco…off we went, the car was full! Unbeknown to me, on the way home while stopped at a gas station one of the guys bought some beer and snuck it into the car. He had earlier asked, I told him no and didn’t think anymore of it. While driving, I heard a familiar click of a beer being
opened and immediately sought to pull the car over for the guy to finish the beer outside of the car…I didn’t care for alcohol (my father and grandfather’s issues has something to do with this) and all soldiers are preached to about drinking and driving and the open container law. As fate would have it, a highway patrol man pulled me
over before I could do so on my own and started to observe me and the guys in the car. One officer found the open container and the next thing I knew I was given a ticket and had to go to court. I was distraught that night. My feelings about alcohol somehow didn’t apply…here I was being sucked into this and having to live with this mark
upon my name.
I immediate sought counsel with the pastor of the church I just started attending, Tom Knauf. Tom was a great man and so is his son Tim who is now its pastor there at Calvary Baptist Church in Marina. Tom gave me some good advice, he spoke with a base Chaplin and I went to the courtroom best
prepared that a man could be without a lawyer. The judge dismissed the charges in a Watsonville courtroom…I was relieved!
Rescue the Perishing: The "Call to Preach"
After about two months at Ft.Ord, my unit had a festival with beer and fun relaxing activities. It was a Wednesday. There was a contest between two teams pulling what was called a “Deuce and a Half” truck to see which team would cross the finish line first. Innocent enough…right? The truck
was turned off with one guy in each truck doing the steering and braking. Ropes were tied to the bumper loops and soon the race began. I was a spectator about 20 feet away. One of the guys pulling tripped, the truck kept coming and literally ran over the guy’s head…it was ugly, several guys instantly threw up at seeing the blood and
opened skull and exposed brain…the guy instantly died! Being in the Army doesn’t make it any easier to accept death or to deal with it.
They called off the activity and everyone went back home or to the barracks. My heart was heavy, I went to church that night. Ever since the “open container incident”, guys in my unit kept telling me that I should be a preacher…my retort was always the same. To my understanding, you don’t
walk into the ministry…if God wants you he will “call you”. That night while at church during the congregational singing, I’ll never forget, they were singing the song “Rescue the Perishing” and I can’t explain it…it was a mystical experience for me that defies rational thoughts. I felt “the call” and strongly felt that
I should be a minister. If my recollection is correct, Pastor Knauf didn’t offer an “altar call” that night—but I immediately sought him out and we went back to his office where I told him of my subjective experience and the events that had led up to it. He reached up upon one of his bookshelves and gave me his personal copy of
Charles Spurgeon’s “Lectures to My Students” to keep and read.
As much as I liked the Knauf’s and the Marina church, they didn’t have anything for me to do at the church. I felt that “the call” meant that I should be engaged in ministering and started looking for a church where I could “do something”. This is what got me going to Salinas Baptist
Temple and the now infamous Donald Domelle’s church. One of Donald’s sons, Allen started to teach me and show me about soul winning. We knocked on a lot of doors, it seemed that Allen would usually do most of the talking but it wasn’t because I was “new” at it….most people where we knocked on doors in Salinas spoke Spanish. On
several occasions, my preaching began at the Salinas Rescue Mission after working in the kitchen to help feed those staying there.
I have a lot of good memories of the Domelle’s of the early days. I’ve written about it elsewhere, I’ll just say here that I was so disappointed and angered to have learned about what transpired years later with the wonderful little girl that they adopted that grew into a young lady. As
good as the early memories were, the indelible impression and memory that I have learned is when someone you know fairly well withdraws and hides from you without any apparent provocation—that is all the more reason to get nosy, pry and see if you can discover why they are doing so. My fifth confession is BE CRITICAL, question those you know, question and challenge your own beliefs. The best friends you will ever have are those concerned enough to risk or question our activities or thoughts and ask for an explanation. In my life, whether it was my family, the Domelle’s or my good
friend Victor who apparently took his own life—those that shut you off and don’t want the scrutiny need it the most!
The Department of Defense had a change of plans and started to phase out Ft. Ord. I soon received orders for what was then West Germany. I was very fortunate and got assigned to V Corps Headquarters at the old I.G. Farben Complex in Frankfurt. There was a lot of history that had taken place
there. Living my Christian faith always seemed to bring unprovoked challenges from mean enlisted S.O.B soldiers that didn’t care for the faith. I had gotten involved with a great military church, First Missionary Baptist Church (at that time it was in Bad Vilbel…on the outskirts of Franfurt). I did whatever Pastor Ronnie Munson (a very
good man had asked of me….youth, pulpit supply, visitation). In my military unit, one of the sergeants took a liking to me, rather than go through the Army Chaplin, he would ask me to counsel troubled soldiers. He even closed down the barrack game room twice a week and asked me to conduct Bible study classes. This was 1984-85, I’m
telling you there was a lot of hostility for Christian soldiers. One of my superiors that went out of his way to give me grief was supposedly sent to Ft. Leavenworth for wrongdoing. I had never considered myself political but things like a sergeant avoiding a chaplin and sending them rather to me…or holding Bible study caused
problems…things shouldn’t have ever reached this point. I had a Second Lieutenant ask me what I thought was a “hypothetical question” if I was “Interested in drawing up plans for a bar?” I said no, I didn’t think it was an order..it wasn’t but only a provocation used to harass myself. Next thing I knew an E-8 that really
liked me took up for me on my side while the Second Lieutenant spoke of discipline…they fought it out over me. It got ugly and I wrote my congressman. Here I was, a motivated soldier that got promoted to E-4 in only 11 months (pretty quick in peacetime and a non-combat MOS), I had many letters of achievement and here I was the object
between people who liked Christianity and those that despised it. I received an early out Honorable Discharge and a few weeks later enrolled at Trinity Baptist College in Jacksonville, Florida. While I don’t know this, I believe the E-8 pushed hard because he wanted me to be enrolled for the Bible College of my choice for that Fall.
Trinity Baptist College Years: Unaccountable Fundamentalism Run Amok
I had chosen Trinity because Bob Gray would often come to Germany to preach. Gray would later go to Germany as a missionary. I feel that I am very critical minded, but to my thinking there was nobody upon earth that was better in the pulpit than Bob Gray! I quickly got a job at Sears loading
trucks, forklifts, squeeze trucks and Cherry pickers to pay my way through school. With a little money from the GI Bill helping me.
At Trinity, everybody went soul winning. Preacher boys (as they were called) had to be involved in a ministry…mostly busses. It was common to get visits from some of the leading Fundamentalists in America at the time…Jack Hyles, Jerry Falwell and others. Falwell’s visits were the most
interesting, he would sit down in preachers’ classes and discuss ministering…these were peak Moral Majority years. I’ll never forget him talking about perception and reality of the ministry. I recall him telling of his skeptics that want to discuss politics and his airplane…but Jerry looked us in the eyes and said that what others
don’t see are the 14-16 hour days, the heartache, pressures and blood and sweat that it takes to be effective. That you can’t be faint hearted…you need to be tough to survive. I loved those statements and it has always stuck with me. While I love true ministers that sincerely do what they do, there are also those that want an easy
life, lazy and have no business in the ministry! What I really learned at Trinity was church politics!
For whatever reason, our bus ministry numbers exploded. Of 60 plus busses, my route was the second furthest away from the church…we covered the Mayport Naval Station. Before we knew it, we were having a 100 kids that were wanting to come…even in the summertime. This was unheard of, we had to
add a second bus to accommodate the numbers. I was fortunate enough to have worked with one of the most selfless people that I have ever met, Chris Ann Baker and in my estimation the brightest of all Trinity students Steve Beale. Before long, we needed more help and regional VIP’s of the college wanted their kids working on our routes.
Why can’t ministry be about ministry rather than politics?
Being that far away, we had some disciplines about time to leave and sticking to a schedule. If you arrive at church an hour late…what is the point? Two of the spoiled prima donna VIP kids that were assigned to my route just couldn’t get out of bed early enough on Sunday morning to perform
the ministry. Timing gradually grew worse, Trinity had the finest bus director, Wayne Holder. I would run through a wall for that guy! Reverend Holder asked me why we couldn’t seem to arrive on time, I told him things changed when the two VIP’s kids arrived and their inability to get out of bed. I discussed with him that I am aware of
the “political ramifications” of two kids getting demerits and asked him what should I do?
He put his arms around me and gave me a big hug! He said he admired my work ethic and thought that “I had God all over me” (this was one of the highest compliments you could pay to a minister). He advised me to leave the normal time next week and if the girls weren’t there just leave
without them…that he would handle the rest! I did exactly what he told me. I asked him a week later if he could get two other reliable and good attitude workers and switch out the two VIP’s kids? He didn’t commit to it, but the next week he pulled me aside and alerted me that trouble was coming. I asked what for? He said the two
VIP’s parents aren’t happy with the demerits and the College President and upper leadership are discussing to call you into the office to speak about this. I said, Wayne, I did exactly what you told me…it seemed like the right thing to do and I am supposedly on the wrong side of the college heads for this? He affirmed that what I did
was right and that he was also having a problem with where this was headed.
The next week, I was called into the President’s office. All of the school’s leadership was also in the room and they were very unhappy with me. I asked if Wayne Holder had explained what had happened, if they had also spoken with the other 5 workers that were involved. It just didn’t matter! I asked if they could simply re-assign the two tardy kids to another lesser demanding bus route to resolve this? Bob Gray got huffy with me, and went off on me. My question bothered him. He demanded that I apologize to the girls for leaving without them. I asked what message does this send to the 5 others that did what they were supposed to do? Grey snorts, “Are you going to apologize or not?” I had enough! I looked Gray straight in the eyes and told him that he had perverted judgement! That I wouldn’t apologize because it sends a message that violates my values, work ethic and principles. That I would be transferring schools because I cannot respect something so petty as this!
I didn’t know it at the time but Gray had pedophile allegations that were being covered up by Trinity’s leadership. Looking him in the eyes and calling him a pervert to his face 20 years before the Trinity cover-ups became a news story is one of the most satisfying moments of my life. I
transferred to Tennessee Temple University in Chattanooga for the next semester.
My Sixth confession is this: A real "man of God" will do what is right though the stars fall; it is all about developing the soul/spirituality of those they minister to above all else. Ministers are vulnerable (aren't most of us), ministers live with a perpetual challenge, they must choose if they will conduct themselves as a prophet or a mere clerk? Most are clerks, you learn to treasure the prophets! In a congregation you have: 1) sheep (true souls that you help disciple) 2) status driven types (self centered souls that are more difficult to disciple) 3) goats that are a nuisance that prove impossible to disciple 4) prospects/visitors that you hope to attract. One's are easy, enjoyable and make you feel good about the ministry. Two's and three's are ongoing determinations that consume a lot of energy, you know you will lose some of these and replace them with fours. With this said, that is how a minister might be looking at you to make their determination just how much they will invest in you! How do you determine the worth/character of the leader? If you are a one, two or four, I always used Proverbs 13:10 as a measuring device to judge the character of a leader "Only by pride cometh contention: but with the well advised is wisdom." A congregant should be able to talk with a minister and ask questions...a spiritual man isn't easily offended, isn't haughty, nor proud but humble. Questions are OK, asking for an explanation shouldn't offend a spiritual leader...when it does, this should bring "red flags" about the capacity or fitness to serve as a leader. Be careful, if ever in doubt, try to be discerning with your questions, if in doubt, ask in private. Those that react or run and hide have spiritual leadership issues and perhaps they shouldn't be in a position of leadership!
(this was Part Two...to be continued as time permits)
This was the second "Confessions" of the series, link to reach the first is below:
this article was written by Brian Worley
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