Serial The Anointed: 8. A Donation Of Ten Thousand Dollars!

Serial The Anointed: 8. A Donation Of Ten Thousand Dollars! December 30, 2023

A silhouette of a man lifting his hands in worship against a backdrop of an evening sky. Next to this man are the words: "The Anointed - a faith-based serial."
Follow along with this thrilling serial about the highs and lows of Pastor John.

It’s 2013. Following an extensive article in Christianity Today about our missional church planting project in Fairhill, one of the poorest neighborhoods in North Philadelphia, John has invited me to come and speak at the Joy church.

This week everything is happening at once. With our missional church planting project, we’re on the cover of the Christianity Today magazine. Our ministry has never received so much publicity before. We get a lot of responses from all over the country. One of these responses is an unexpected phone call from John. ‘I saw you in Christianity Today this week. Congratulations! What a fantastic project! How would you feel about coming to talk about your work at our service next Sunday? We’d like to give attention to your wonderful ministry. Do you have time for this?’

I tell him that I would love to come. We chat a bit about this and that and agree that I will be there at 9 AM. The service doesn’t start until 11 AM, but this way there’s enough time for makeup and to go over everything with the worship director.

That Sunday, I am well ahead of time at the Joy building on the outskirt of New York city. This time I need to go to the back entrance, not the large main entrance. As I park the car and walk to the door, I see the two familiar signs already there. Pastor Abigail and Pastor John have their own parking spots. Judging by the two very expensive cars, they are both already there.

‘Abigails exudes perfection. She’s wearing an expensive suit with perfectly styled hair and eye-catching jewelry. I think she might even have had breast augmentation.’

In the hall, I am greeted by a receptionist behind an oak desk. Abegail comes to fetch me. How she has changed in the last twenty years. That’s how long it’s been since I visited them in their small apartment next to the old church, and look at her now… she radiates perfection! As she walks towards me with quick, small steps, I take her in quickly. She’s wearing an expensive suit with perfectly styled hair, fire-red nails, and several eye-catching pieces of jewelry. I wouldn’t be surprised if the jewelry is ‘real.’ It looks like Abigail has also had several cosmetic surgeries over the years. Multiple Botox treatments, maybe even breast augmentation; though as a Christian man, perhaps I shouldn’t dwell on that too much.

Abigail welcomes me with open arms and kisses me three times in the air. ‘It’s wonderful that you can come. John has told me so much about you.’ I think she’s completely forgotten about me and my disastrous visit twenty years ago. She takes me by the arm and leads me through the building to the office of John’s personal assistant. Here she hands me over to be prepped for my part in the service.

‘I notice that everyone I’ve seen here so far looks attractive, young, and successful.’

As a makeup artist applies my makeup, Claire, John’s personal assistant, instructs me about the interview. While I listen to her stories about the broadcasts on local television and the internet, I realize that Claire is not the spitting image of Meg Ryan as I had imagined years ago. But she’s certainly not the image of the retired nurse either. I notice that everyone I’ve seen here so far looks attractive, young, and successful. Even Abigail in her forties falls into this category. Is there room on the stage of this church for unattractive and less successful people?

‘I suddenly feel old and completely out of place. What am I doing here in this show of success?’

From the side, I can follow the show on the stage well. The worship leader is a young, radiant girl of about twenty-five. She could have stepped right out of a fashion magazine. The band too is flashy, both in clothing and hairstyle as well as in presence. I suddenly feel old and completely out of place. What am I doing here in this show of success? The worship director whispers in my ear that I have to go on in two minutes. John and Abigail walk onto the stage hand in hand. The church gives them a standing ovation that seems to last for minutes. John asks who in the congregation reads Christianity Today. A large number of hands go up. It’s my turn…

‘The check is made of thick cardboard and is about a meter and a half long. It has an amount of ten thousand dollars on it! What a great gift!’

John and Abigail introduce me, and as I walk onto the stage, I also receive warm applause. John talks about our long friendship and how proud he is to have this man of God in the church today. I briefly get to talk about our work. John cracks a joke and then asks the audience for silence. I assume they are going to pray for our work, but instead, a young girl with a gigantic check walks onto the stage. The check, made of thick cardboard, is about a meter and a half long. On the check, it says ten thousand dollars. Ten thousand dollars! What a gift!

John tells how proud they are to be able to hand us this check as a sign of friendship and appreciation. A donation to support our great work. I accept the check and thank John and Abigail and, of course, the congregation heartily for this wonderful gift. Under thunderous applause, I walk off the stage. Behind the scenes, the director is waiting for me. The check is quickly taken from me, and I am taken to the dressing room to be made up. Claire comes in a few minutes later, compliments me on my contribution, and asks for our financial details. She promises that the money will be transferred as soon as possible.

‘It’s sometimes messy, and they make mistakes, but mistakes are allowed. Everyone gets the chance to learn, practice, and grow.’

On the way home, I marvel at how different we are as churches. In our missional church plant, we want to give as many people as possible the opportunity to be involved in the service. Anyone who wants to can learn to lead worship, speak, and give testimonies. People also do this. It’s sometimes messy, and they make mistakes, but mistakes are allowed. Everyone gets the chance to learn, practice, and grow. We don’t want to be a church where people sit and receive, but a church where everyone has something to give, except money… It struck me how different we are from the Joy church, where if you don’t look good, you probably never stand a chance of having a role on stage.



About Matt Vlaardingerbroek
At 52, I’ve worn many hats. For 14 years, I have been a church planter in one of Holland’s tough inner-city estates and served as a pastor, deeply immersing myself in community life. I have authored three Christian books and am a regular columnist for the Netherlands’ premier Christian website. A role close to my heart is that of a Christian children’s artist. Using ventriloquism and magic, I breathe life into Bible stories, sharing God’s tales in schools and churches. My creative streak also led to, a rich resource offering over 1,500 Sunday school activities. This platform aids children’s workers, teachers, and parents globally in imparting Biblical lessons to youngsters You can read more about the author here.

Browse Our Archives