Two phone calls in the past 3 days have jostled my world. Not because of anything that affects me personally, but for the seismic tremors that have shocked and shaken two of my very dear friends down to their very core.
They were laid off from good paying creative jobs as video editors for a very large church here in Southern Cal. I am not allowed to name the church for the real fear of a lawsuit, because the very same group shoved a termination agreement across the table at me awhile back too. Sign it, and you get a couple weeks severance pay. I signed it. The deal is, I can’t name names. Okay.
Both friends, on separate days this week, called me directly on their cell phones as they were driving home from their blindside terminations. I prayed they wouldn’t crash into a telephone pole while on the phone.
Their lives were now in turmoil, their worlds turned upside down. How to pay their mortgage or rent? How are they going to keep the electricity on, groceries in the fridge and the basic bills paid? Tough questions, for sure.
Their dismissals were handled rudely, terribly. In one case, the media boss across the desk fibbed to my friend that outsourcing the church’s tv show to a major media agency would cost less than his annual salary, saving the church money. Liar. We added up the numbers. It’s an impossibility. Costs will go UP.
But the boss got what was truly wanted…my friend and colleague gone, out the door, hat in hand. The manager had been looking for a reason to can him and had spied on him for years, doubting his sincerity, attitude and “faithfulness.” A downturn in church giving and a massive mortgage on a new building were convenient reasons enough to throw him under the bus with glee.
He’s devastated, wonders if he’s going to lose his home. He’s not alone.
My other colleague wasn’t even given time to make copies of his work to show as samples for future employment. Sorry, but please leave! All access to his computer was locked, passwords changed, accounts frozen. They finally came to a deal on his projects. But the spiritual damage had been done. Two other broadcast ministries previously had done the same to him. Third time’s a charm.
This morning I took both out to breakfast. At one time I was their boss, and still consider them dear friends, come what may. The chips are down, and they’re hurting badly. My being thrown under the same bus awhile back was an experience maybe I could share in some manner or way. My pain is distant, theirs is fresh and raw. But I know exactly where they’re coming from and going through. Out in 30 minutes, we need your keys, sorry about this–couldn’t be helped..
Over coffee, toast and eggs, one friend cried, the other looked miffed. Termination came out of nowhere. No warning, no telling staff that things look bad, better polish your resumé. No furlough days, reduction in pay or other viable options. Just cut and run. Christians behaving badly.
My colleagues are in shock. As well they should be. This is when you find out who your true friends are. How much your wife loves you, through good times and bad. Richer or poorer. I prayed for their marriages in my morning devotions today. Dear God, make them strong and sensitive.
And my respect – whatever little was left of it – for the church’s leadership is now nil. A pastor who offers his devastated staff cake and coffee at devotions after dropping them the bomb of massive 30% layoffs over the next 24 hours. Then walks out to escape their anger and shock.
That’s not a pastor. That’s a spineless jellyfish.
I expect – after decades of working in the rough-and-tumble media world – for secular bosses to do that. But I’ve been truly treated better by more sinful leaders who would never claim Jesus as Lord than by those who preach 5x each weekend and claim to have just heard from God.
Somewhere in heaven, Jesus is both crying and angry. He’s probably just as miffed as my buddy was at breakfast today over church leadership messing around with people’s lives like kindergarteners pushing and shoving in a sandbox or arguing over a toy.
And you know what? The verse “be wise as serpents and as harmless as doves” (Matt 10:16) sure has some very new meaning this week.
God forgive them. Show my friends how to forgive them. And Lord help all of us with the forgetting part.