Chapter 3.     Pastor Ganley Toogood

That same night, in another part of town, Ganley Toogood had been leading a small mid-week prayer meeting in his home. Three middle-aged women and a couple in their early thirties had attended, along with Ganley's wife, Valerie.

Their home was comfortable, clean, and well-furnished. A fully equipped entertainment centre dominated one wall of the lounge room, while a large painting of the head and shoulders of Jesus looked at it from the opposing wall. The thick, shaggy carpet was of f-white, and the furniture featured polished timber, carved ornately and supported by shapely timber legs. The whole scene was cushioned by soft lighting from a number of lamps around the room.

The group had just finished a rather routine Pentecostal prayer session, punctuated by a few messages in tongues and the traditional interpretations about God wanting ever so badly to bless everyone present with health, wealth and all the desires of their hearts. Ganley had led a short Bible study on the gifts of the Spirit, and then finished by laying his hands on two or three women who wanted special prayer for one thing or another.

Now the group was settling into more natural conversation about husbands, children, and the af fairs of the week. Valerie was bringing out cakes and cof fee while Ganley kept watch over his little congregation.

At some point in the conversation, Ganley saw Roger Seeker, the only other male present, pull out a piece of literature and show it to one of the women.

Ganley, like most ministers, had an instinctive distrust for unauthorised literature appearing at any of ficial church function. He pulled himself away from a description of Marge Philps's newest grandchild to join in on whatever it was that Roger was talking about.

"I got it from a woman in the city today. She was giving them out in front of Hoyts," he was saying to June Bradshaw, a good-natured mother of five children, three of whom were teenagers. "What are you showing her?" asked Ganley, realising too late that he had let a little panic creep into his voice. "Slow down. Stay cool," he reminded himself.

"It's a list of the commands of Jesus," Roger replied. "Here, let me read this bit out. It says: We challenge you to ask your minister or priest to list ten things that Jesus instructed his followers to do. Not stories or promises or miracles, but actual commands. We can almost guarantee that he won't be able to do it.

"How about it, Ganley? Can you list ten things that Jesus told us to do? Can you?"

"Of course I can," said Ganley. "But what's it all about? Who wrote it?"

"I don't know. I got it from some woman in the city today. Go ahead. Tell me ten things that Jesus said for us to do. See how many you can get."

Ganley was speechless for a few seconds. Then he spoke up "Can't you see what they're trying to do, Roger? They're trying to undermine your faith in the ministry that God has established. I think you should give that paper to me."

"Oh, no you don't," Roger said playfully, as he pulled the paper away from the pastor's grasp.

"It's just a game, Ganley. See if you can do it?" Roger was surprised by his pastor's reaction to a rather innocent tease, so he tried to reassure him of his neutrality in the matter. "It's harder than you think," he said conspiratorily. "I tried, and I could only get three or four without peeking. How many do you think you can get?"

The others in the room were listening now. Ganley was trapped.

"Well, let's see. He told us to love one another, of course. He said we must be born again. He said we would speak with new tongues..."

"Technically, that's not a command. It's a promise," said Roger. The paper says that commands are sentences where there is no subjectů things like 'Shut the door,' or 'Love one another'. But that's okay. I'll count the first two. Carry on."

Ganley could see that he was never going to get ten commands without a lot of embarrassing ef fort, so he tried a different tack.

"What's the point of it, Roger? Jesus said that if we love one another, that covers everything. You don't need to know anything more than that."

"True. But what they're saying, Pastor, is that everything else tells us how to love one another. Remember how you were saying that we shouldn't forsake assembling together for meetings each week? Well, that's an example of how to love one anotherů except it comes from the book of Hebrews and not from the teachings of Jesus."

"What's the difference?" said Ganley, sensing a new escape. "It's all the Word of God, Roger. Even the Ten Commandments are the teachings of Jesus when you think of it. The same Holy Spirit that talked through Jesus was talking through Moses, and he was talking through Paul too." Ganley's wife, Valerie had stopped playing hostess, and was listening with everyone else in the room.

"But even if that's true," said Roger, "why is it that we don't know the actual commands of Jesus, but we do know the other stuff? I know a lot of things Paul said, and I know the Ten Commandments, but I couldn't hardly remember a thing that Jesus told us to do, until I peeked at this little pamphlet. And yet Jesus is the only one who is perfect. The others were just normal humans like you and me."

"I'll tell you what I'll do," said Ganley, addressing this to everyone present, "I'll plan a study on the subject next week. It's a bit late to start a discussion on something as deep as this tonight. You give me the paper and I'll prepare something we can all sink our teeth into next week."

Roger handed over the paper and let the matter drop. But he had seen something in Ganley that night which he had never seen before. His pastor had always shown confidence when faced with a debate on theological issues. He was always fully persuaded of the superiority of his own position. But something in that paper had unnerved the keen young pastor.

Roger looked forward to seeing what would develop at the next mid-week Bible study.

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