I came back from ACM with a head full of knowledge, but no real sense of what I should be doing ministry wise. Melinda and I were not yet married, but started attending Joondalup Church of Christ with pastor Glen Smythe.
It took us a while to work out how the church worked. Glen was following a pretty full on ‘Willow Creek’ model. This meant that Sundays were ‘Seeker Sensitive’ and Glen did an excellent job. He himself was incredibly personable and likeable, and carried the service. One week we might have Tommy Emmanuel as a guest, the next week we might have had then Premier Richard Court. They were exciting days. I helped lead a small group with someone who became a friend, Hayden Nelson, who will feature later in this story.
On Wednesday nights, as we later discovered and started attending, they had what might be described as your regular church service. Communion was celebrated, lots of Christian praise and worship, and good fellowship.
But there was an issue, which started on our wedding day where Glen did the service, and did an excellent job.
The rest of this story is perhaps moving into areas where I have first hand and then second hand knowledge of events, so I need to be careful. Many of the people in the church were involved with selling Amway. Melinda and I had never come across that before. That much is certain.
Melinda’s aunty, who was struck by Glen’s ministry at the wedding, and had not been to church for many years, had him over for dinner. The next bit may or may not be accurate, its a second hand relaying of what happened. But someone alleges that at the dinner, Amway, and the buying of Amway was brought up.
Melinda and I received a call to Bedford Baptist Church shortly after we were married, so we moved on from Joondalup Church of Christ. Later on I heard, and actually received a letter stating that Glen Smyth had been asked to step down from Joondalup Church of Christ. I was saddened and dissapointed to hear this. What was stated was that Glen’s involvement with Amway was conflicting with his role as Pastor at Joondalup Church of Christ. In my view the kingdom lost a very effective Pastor that day, that much is certain. I admired Glen’s tenacity, purposeful approach to ministry and amenable personality. He did pre-marriage counselling with Melinda and I, and was very effective for us.
That does not mean I disagreed with the decision, now or then. As the elder at the time, Hayden Nelson, dealt with the issue, it seems to me he was fair, but also wise. He gave Glen a choice, and Glen made his decision.
I learnt some valuable positive and negative lessons from Glen and my time at Joondalup Church of Christ. The main focus of a church should be to see the lost saved. No compromise on that. While a church may care for its members, heal the sick, provide for the poor, its ultimate message is to reach lost people for Christ. Don’t bother disagreeing with me on that one, because I am convinced that is the testimony of scripture and my own heart.
Be a positive pastor, a cheerleader! Glen was called ‘smiling Glen’ for good reason. He was a joy to be around, and was always looking for the positive in people and situations. a positive and visionary pastor will take a church places.
Don’t compromise your ministry with manna from outside the church. By all means some pastors have to work outside of church ministry. But it is not our focus as church leaders. Amway is a tireless mistress, and she will drag you from what is important. I don’t allow people to spruik their own wares from the pulpit, or allow selling to be confused with relationships.
I don’t like Amway, I don’t like pyramid selling, and to be honest…I don’t really like tupperware parties. If you are my friend, lets have a meal or a good coffee together, don’t try to sell me stuff, and as your pastor, I wont try and sell you stuff, I don’t have time for that.