There I was sitting in the living room of a dear friend, Eleanor Grant. This remarkable Christian woman is a handful, to say the least. She is well versed in what it means to be intimately connected to The Divine. Without any formal training, she possesses an obvious depth of theological understanding that would stagger most seminary professors. Not only is this senior citizen still a raving beauty, she is one tough cookie. She will not take any guff from anyone unless Christ is at the beginning, middle and end of the circumstance.
Eleanor is most assuredly a product of her environment. She is a highly intelligent African-American woman who grew up at a time when women, much less women of color, weren’t given many opportunities to move up the ladder of corporate America. Within this atmosphere of suppression and assumed cultural limitation she managed the historical realities to put herself in a position to be one of the first women to lead a large contingent of men in a major airline.
In addition to being a practically determined creature, she is also a genuinely sensitive and caring soul. Without a doubt, Eleanor is uniquely qualified as an unusual soul that perfectly combines toughness and gentility; competitiveness and generosity; as well as charity and accountability. I have personally witnessed this philosophy, as she puts it, “on the other hand” way of approaching life when she reached out to a young women who had been devastated by domestic violence and quite literally gave her the shirt off her back and the room at the end of the hallway in her own home. The very next morning they sat down at the kitchen table and began a “no nonsense” approach of how her guest would begin to rebuild her life. She did this, of course, without regard to gaining any self-serving attention.
Given this background on the good Sister Eleanor’s attitude and demeanor, I found her on this particular day extraordinarily passionate in her language and opinions. As it was my custom, whenever my friend Eleanor was in one of these moods I would just sit back and enjoy the ride.
As I entered her home, she placed herself in the corner of her living room in an old, but comfortable chair where she has grown accustomed to sitting when entertaining visitors. As she adjusted herself in what came to be known to her close friends as, “Eleanor’s Throne,” she told me her initial rules for the conversation between her and I on this day. Eleanor said there was to be no “church stuff” talked about. Even though the conversation began with subjects like; the Denver Broncos, Washington, DC politics, and her grandchildren, it eventually returned to one of her favorite topics…the dramatic need for the restoration of the Christian church and its powerfully loving and inclusive message of God’s grace.
As the two of us began this journey into the American Christian experience, Eleanor, as usual, was not shy about describing how thoroughly upset and frustrated she has become with the current state of affairs. Her frustration and rather obvious anger was directed at not only her own local church but also far too many churches all across the denominational spectrum of Christianity.
She began by telling me that she is particularly tired of “fools and idiots” pretending at religion. Then she looked right at my wife, leaned over the front of her chair, and said,
“Most of these folks haven’t got a clue of what is needed to get closer to God, and too many churches are being led by idiots who haven’t got a clue either!”
Her basic point of concern was that between the pretentious pretenders who are merely showing up at church to try and prove to others that they are religious, and the idiots that flap their arms while shouting a few Amen’s and what they think is the required amount of “speaking in tongues,” all God is receiving for His abundant grace is a clamoring of noise. Eleanor was convinced that The Divine ought to be furious at the lack of understanding and depth of sincerity.
Eleanor has a long history of getting right to the point and not mincing her words. She is respectful in what she says. However, no one has any doubt of her meaning if they’re willing to listen. So when she stated how sure she was that churches all across the American landscape needed a complete overhaul when it came to the people standing in pulpits, I took immediate note. In her passionate opinion, there is a great need to provide immediate restoration of God’s call of sharing the Gospel of Christ through better trained, spiritually tested, intellectually competent and emotionally stable preachers.
She told me that she didn’t know who she should be angrier with, the churches that stupidly accept what she called “jack-legged preachers,” or the religious institutions that think you can’t have a decent minister unless they have twelve degrees behind their name. At this point you could see the proverbial steam coming out of her ears.
If some of you haven’t heard the term “jack-legged preacher” before, let me attempt to enlighten you. This rather unflattering ministerial designation refers to a man or a woman who announces their calling at Wednesday night prayer meeting. Thursday they claim to have memorized eighty percent of the King James Version of the Bible. Friday they miraculously have been ordained by Bubba’s BBQ Stand and Bible College. On Saturday they received their doctorate degree in “God-ology” and on Sunday morning they now call themselves the right reverend, apostolic prophet and proclaimer of divine truth. Her point was one of hyperbole, I will grant you. However, her feelings were honest and sadly more accurate than one might assume is the reality.
Along with her open disgust regarding the “spiritual wasteland” that she sees growing daily in our Christian churches, is her disdain for those who approached the service to God’s church as merely an employment opportunity. She firmly believes that leading a congregation of Christian souls, as well as the evangelistic outreach that is also required of all ministers is a “calling,” not a job. Potential ministers should take their time – a long time – and let God and others profoundly speak to them before they jump into any level of Christian leadership.
She told me how insulted she had become as churches try to “convince” her that someone who is obviously not prepared to lead is forced upon them. Eleanor made it clear to me when she said, “I told you before Ed that I may have been born in the morning, but I wasn’t born this morning.” She went on to express that she was tired of those idiots who try to fool her and others in believing that they have some special knowledge regarding God, when in fact, they are as crippled and faulty as the rest of us”
In our Bibles, it plainly tells us that there is a long list of duties every minister has in their daily responsibilities to God. Ministers are called to be competent and show obvious fruit when displaying their abilities to be:
- Ambassadors for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20)
- Holy messengers of the church itself (2 Corinthians 8:23; Revelation 1:20; 2:1
- Apostles of Jesus (Luke 6:13; Titus 1:1)
- Defenders of the faith (Philippians 1:7)
- Bold evangelists (Ephesians 4:11; 2 Timothy 4:5; Matthew 4:19)
- Sincere laborers and practical examples of God through Christ (John 5:35; 1 Thessalonians 3:2)
Beloved, in her own special “Eleanor way,” she boldly proclaimed, “How in the world can two people, each one with a broken leg, get anywhere on one crutch?” Given the above list of broad ministerial responsibilities, it is sincerely doubtful that any kingdom building effectiveness could be reached – much less sustained – if you have a minister who is severely crippled spiritually, academically or emotionally trying to “lead” others who are also in the same circumstance.