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Author Topic: Beloved Apostate: A Novel by Josprel - Excerpt Three  (Read 1051 times)
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« on: December 25, 2006, 12:34:59 PM »

                                                                             Beloved Apostate

                                                                               CHAPTER ONE                       

Nothing about forty-seven-year-old Darnel Ladner, senior pastor of Highway Christian Center of Clarion, Ohio, came close to the public image of a minister.  Not the degree in applied mathematics he earned before a six-year hitch as a Marine jet-fighter pilot.  Not his tall, strictly maintained, iron-muscled physique.  And, especially not the long, russet ponytail and horseshoe mustache he grew in seminary, after his release from active duty.  Conspiring with the ponytail and mustache, his penchant for taking the pulpit garbed in jeans and cowboy boots kept Highway's more traditional members perpetually offended.

From its onset, Darnel's association with Highway was without deception, even to his being interviewed for the pulpit in jeans and a cowboy shirt.  Without waiting for the pulpit committee to recuperate from its perplexity at his appearance, he had stated, "What you see is what I am.  If that's a problem, reject me now.  We'll save time and part as friends.  But, if you accept me as a candidate for this pulpit, please know that I'll not conform to the conventional image of a minister."

Despite this, the committee presented him to the church board for consideration as a pastoral candidate.  Most of the older members voted against him.  However, the younger element - over two-thirds strong in membership - elected him the new pastor.  Darnel's opponents made two futile calls for another vote.  They even filed a complaint with the officials of Highway's parent body, the Fellowship of Christian Assemblies (FCA).  When they received no response, the old-timers realized that contemporary hands now held Highway's helm.

Darnel understood, even pitied, the old guard.  Like his parents, they were (as he publicly labeled them) "old-era Pentecostals who loved God, but could never fuse with His revival for this generation."

In private though,  'old wineskins" was the tongue-in-cheek tag he placed on the old-timers.  When they threatened to leave, he refused to appease them, citing the Bible's warning against filling old wineskins with fresh wine.  That was some twelve years ago.  Since then, Highway's congregation exploded from some 300 to over 68,000 - mostly young families, not bound by dogma.  Its latest facilities, built three years ago on 200 acres of donated land, already required enlargement.

Shrugging off his critics as bigots and second-raters, Darnel cited his success as proof that his anointing came from God.  His boasting was not without merit.  Highway now was the nation's premier congregation.  It owned the New Beginnings Primary Schools, the Darnel Ladner High Schools and Junior Colleges, the Highway Colleges of Arts and Sciences, and the Fresh Wine Seminary for Integrated Religions.

The church's large printing plant, Highway Publishers, with bookstores throughout America, served as the publication arm of the Fresh Wine Movement.  Moreover, Darnel's network of fourteen clear-channel radio stations, and the eight television transmitters which the church owned -- all affiliates of the National Fresh Wine Network -- beamed his programs to Highway's own satellite, spanning America and most of the world with his messages.  Free drug rehabilitation programs, sponsored and staffed by Highway, were available to the public, as were shelters for abused women and the homeless.  Highway's homes for pregnant teens offered an adoption service for those who desired to use it.  In addition, in the nation's larger cities, daily Fresh Wine Canteen Vans canvassed areas frequented by street kids, serving them hot meals.  An efficient cadre of some 850 full-time employees, backed by an army of carefully screened, dedicated, church volunteers, staffed this vast enterprise.
                                                                                   Chapter One Continued
« Last Edit: December 25, 2006, 12:43:40 PM by Josprel » Logged
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