Fiction Friday: The Cost of Affluence

By Jenny Fulton

Cynthia Green critically assessed her appearance in the mirror. Her shoulder length blond hair was getting a touch of gray, but styled as it was, gave her an aura of greater dignity. Her eyebrows were arched a little high, but with the right touch of makeup, they managed to not look too severe. The pearl earrings and necklace went well with her red tailored skirt suit. Overall, she was pleased.

She looked over at her husband who was carefully shaving. Had it really been twenty years since they’d started their church? They had been so young then – two newly-weds, fresh out of seminary with dreams of doing great things for the Lord. They had started their church in an upscale neighborhood with a mere dozen families, and over the years, the Lord had certainly blessed them. It was now one of the largest and most esteemed churches in the city. With such a prestigious claim, who could contest that the Lord’s favor was upon them?

Cynthia’s husband glanced over and caught her watching him. “You look perfect as always, Pastor Cynthia,” he said with an approving nod.

“Well you don’t,” she pertly responded. “Not yet. Now hurry up and get ready, Pastor Ron. We have to look perfect together.”

“Do you have your speech prepared? We need that new addition to the foyer. It will make us the premier church for conferences, and you know how much money that will bring in.”

“Of course it’s prepared. You’ve heard me practicing. Now, don’t worry. God knows how hard we’ve been working, and He’ll bless us as He always has. Nothing can stand in our way.”

Ron nodded, then finished getting ready, rehearsing his own sermon as he went.

Later, as the two walked out the door of their large three story house, Cynthia looked back to admire its beauty. Then they settled into their Mercedes-Benz and headed to church. No one could deny they were living the blessed life.

They arrived at church early, as usual, to go through the lighting and sound check. The new tech guy seemed to be doing fine, so far. Cynthia only hoped he wouldn’t allow a microphone glitch like the last guy had. The sound had been working fine that day up until the moment she’d stood to speak about how they needed more money to support their orphanage in Romania. As soon as she opened her mouth, her microphone had stopped working. Clearly the sound guy had something against her, for why else would the microphone have been muted? They obviously couldn’t allow someone to work for them who didn’t support their leadership. Granted, the sound had returned soon after that moment, but the damage was done. Immediately following the service, she and Ron had quietly asked him to leave.

Today, however, everything was checking out fine. The lighting was right on cue and every microphone was working. Cynthia thought she detected a glint of fear when she spoke to the volunteers but brushed it aside.

The first service ran smoothly. As the choir’s emotional song drew to a close, the lights dimmed. A single spotlight shone on Cynthia as she delivered her impassioned speech on the need for people to trust God with their finances and give to the pressing needs of the church.

Everything had gone perfectly, and Cynthia could scarcely contain her excitement as she waited for that same moment during the second service.

Before she knew it, the anticipated moment arrived. The choir’s song drew to a close. She took a deep breath and walked confidently onto the stage. The lights dimmed. And then, they blacked out. Cynthia waited at the pulpit. She suddenly felt very vulnerable and uncertain. Her confidence wavered. What was going on? This wasn’t supposed to happen! Indignation quickly replaced the insecurity. It was the light guy’s fault. He didn’t like her. He was trying to sabotage her influence!

A moment later, the lights came back on and Cynthia presented her speech. Her main source of comfort for the rest of service was that justice would be served. That new sound and lights guy would be quickly and easily dismissed, just as the others had been.

* * *

Craig Sullivan walked slowly away from church for the last time. He still didn’t know what had caused the blackout during service. After years of attending and serving at the church, he’d been dismissed, just like that, one among a string of others who’d gone before. His thoughts turned with sadness to the pastors of the church: to Pastor Ron and his wife, Pastor Cynthia. The two of them were winning the game of affluence, but what were they losing?

_ _ _

Author’s Note: This scenario is based on a true story.

To those who have been hurt by leaders in a church, please know you’re not alone. Those who hurt you behaved poorly. They did not represent the God they proclaimed to serve. They are without excuse. Know, too, that not every church or every pastor is like the one who hurt you. Though it may take time, there is hope for healing from the one true God who sees all, knows all, and loves you so much more than you can imagine.

To those who are in church leadership or are aspiring to reach and influence a multitude, let this be a warning to always keep God and those you are shepherding first, and yourself last.

_ _ _

*Image by freestocks-photos from Pixabay


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