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Chapter 11: Cross

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A novel about life behind the scenes for an evangelical pastor's family: in the church, the parsonage, the community.

© 1996 G. Edwin Lint
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It was a gorgeous early August afternoon, warm and sunny but without the humidity and haze usually associated with dog days. After checking his watch for the umpteenth time, Jim finally succumbed to temptation and shoved back his chair.

"Think I'll go out and give Charlie Butcher a break," he mumbled to Sandy on his way out the door. "If you need me, come out front and give a wave. I'll stay where you can see me."

Sandy smiled in response to Jim's announcement and then turned to Rebekah Ottinger who was running Sunday's bulletins through the folding machine. "You know the only difference between men and boys? The size and price of their toys."

"Yeah," Becky grinned back, "and Charlie wants to play just as much as Pastor Jim does. Of course, he's an old marine so he knows rank has its privilege. So, he'll be in here bugging us any minute."

Both ladies giggled conspiratorially as Sandy reached for the ringing phone.

Jim found the August afternoon to be even more gorgeous than it had appeared through his office window. Charlie had squared off a major section of the front lawn and was just finishing his second cycle when Jim flagged him down near the main side walk.

"You look like you could use a break. Why don't you go inside and put your feet up for a minute or two. I think Becky just made some fresh lemonade."

Charlie grinned good-naturedly as he throttled back the brand new John Deere estate tractor and pressed the hydraulic control which lifted the 42-inch cutting deck. "Saw you at the window a minute ago and figgered you'd be out to give me a hand. Not that I blame you. She drives like Ruth Carson's Town Car." Charlie hopped down and Jim took his place in the well-padded saddle. "Everything's marked really good. Can't go wrong." He headed for the lemonade.

Jim had never driven Ruth's Town Car but the big John Deere sure was smooth and quiet. But after only one trip around the plot of lawn Charlie had started cutting, he saw Sandy waving from the sidewalk. Reluctantly he pulled up beside her and cut the engine back.

"Some guy by the name of Ray Benson is on the phone. Says he's a TV producer from Minneapolis."

"Do I know him?"

Sandy shrugged. "Says he knows you. Met you back in January during that question and answer thing you did right before you came here."

"Think I remember him," said Jim as he swung down from the John Deere. "Didn't he say something about doing a Christian radio talk show with live phone calls?"

Again, Sandy shrugged. "I honestly don't remember. Of course we had so many questions that day there's no way I'd remember everybody."

"Want to give it a couple spins?" asked Jim, pointing to the tractor's comfy seat.

"No way! I'm sticking to my Macintosh."

Jim laughed. "I won't complain about that, the way you handle that mouse."

As they got to the door to the office wing, Charlie was just coming out with a large sipper filled with crushed ice and lemonade. "That sure didn't last long."

"You know how it is," cracked Jim. "These ladies can't handle the office very long without me."

"Yeah, yeah." smiled Sandy as Charlie hurried back to his beloved tractor."

Inside, Jim picked up the phone. "This is Pastor Hogan."

"Ray Benson, here. 'Christian Radio Over Satellite Systems' in New York. Met you back in January the day you did that question thing."

"Yes, Mr. Benson. I remember you vaguely. Weren't you doing TV then?"

"Yes, but I just took a new job. Executive vice president for an evangelical communications conglomerate. I'm in charge of a service known as 'Christian Radio Over Satellite Systems'. We call it 'CROSS Radio'. Right now we're syndicating three music formats to radio stations throughout the country. One format does contemporary, the second does southern Gospel, and the third does easy listening. We multiplex all three formats on the same signal. That way, a station has a choice of music with just one down link. We have several AM-FM stations which run, say southern Gospel on the AM side while they do easy listening or contemporary on the FM side. Or whatever they choose."

"Sounds fantastic! Great name, too. CROSS Radio. Like the sound of that."

"Most folks do. By the way, we're about ready to add an Internet feed that will send our signal to any place in the world that has Internet access. Say, Jim-- Okay if I call you 'Jim'?"


"Let me get to the point of my call. When I was there in January, I asked your sound man to send me a copy of the questions and answers you were doing that day. Kind of filed it away in case I might want to get in touch with you some time. Well, when I got this new job, one of the first things I did was get out that tape. Stuck it in my car's tape deck and listened to it off and on for two, three days. I had a very strong positive impression of your content and delivery when I heard you live, and listening to that tape has absolutely confirmed that first impression. Man, you belong on the radio."

"Thank you very much for your kind words. I really haven't been thinking about doing any radio, though. I don't have any DJ experience, you know. Can you be a little more explicit when you say I belong on the radio."

"We have DJs hanging all over the place. What I'm talking about is something I already know you're very good at. Answering questions, and preaching?"


"Yeah, I guess I have a confession to make. When I asked your sound man for the question and answer tape, I also asked him to send me a tape of your morning service that very next Sunday morning. The service starts with some guy playing a great horn, 'How Great Thou Art'. And then you preach on the four beggars with leprosy. I didn't listen to that tape until last weekend and that beggars sermon sure put me on my knees!"

"To God be the glory." Charlie's John Deere was droning away in the background but Jim didn't so much as glance out the window.

"How long does your morning service usually last?"

"Well, the eight thirty service lasts about seventy-five minutes. At eleven, I'd say an average of ninety."

There was a pause in the conversation as Ray Benson did some thinking. "Try this on for size. Let's say we broadcast your eleven o'clock service every Sunday for ninety minutes. And then, during the week, we do a live call-in talk show for an hour every afternoon, maybe three to four Eastern. What do you think of that?"

"Sounds mighty expensive, in my time and the church's money. And, I'm not sure I want to be bound by the constraints of a radio program during our main worship service of the week."

"Those are valid concerns. Let's look at them one at a time. As far as your time goes, you'll have to commit an hour every afternoon, that's true. But there is no preparation involved since you'll be responding to listeners' questions. As far as you being limited during the worship service, that just won't happen. We want you and the Holy Spirit to have full control of that service. The radio part will just work in around you."

Jim was very pleased by Ray's comment about the Holy Spirit being given full control of the service but he still had concerns about cost. "It still sounds expensive in terms of dollars, at least as far as the church is concerned."

"It won't cost, it will pay. First, we'll put in all the hardware, on a long-term loan basis. That'll include a dish, a small one that won't be any more obtrusive than an air conditioning unit. Then you'll get the up link and down link black boxes. And we'll put in an 800 number with rollover capabilities and auto-hold. We'll add more rollover lines as more people start to call. Oh yes, and we'll put in a console for the call screener with a monitor for you to pick the caller and topic you want to answer next

"Second, we'll pay you and a call screener a talent fee which can be kept or signed over to the church. If I've read you right so far, you'll give yours to the church."

"Absolutely. That is, if I do it at all."

"You will need to hire a combination call screener and on-site engineer for the talk show, about two hours a day. My guess is, your sound man can handle the Sunday morning broadcast without any problem. Incidentally, our people will come in the first week or so and provide demonstrations and on-the-job training for everybody concerned. Getting interested?"

"Can't deny it, I am. But I think I need a little time to think about it, discuss it with my wife, maybe take it before the board as a trial balloon."

"Why don't you do that and then call me back, say in a week or so. Here's the number: 800-555-2211. Will a week give you enough time to see if you have green lights at your end? And then if you do, I'll run up there for a couple hours and we'll put together a written proposal which you can place before your board.

"Oh, Jim, there is one possible expense I forgot to mention. The room where the call screener answers the calls and the room where you talk to the callers on the air need to be adjacent, with a window between them. Might require cutting a hole in a wall, something like that. If the rooms can't be adjacent, we could rig up closed circuit TV but I think you'll be happier with adjacent rooms and a window."

"If I can get everything else past the board, I don't think cutting a hole in a wall will be a problem."

"Gotta run but let me do just a little selling before I go. You are one man who has something to say to the world and you have a very effective way of saying it. So in addition to the Sunday morning broadcast being an outreach for your church, the daily talk show will be an outreach, too. Maybe even more powerful than the Sunday thing in terms of the kinds of people you'll reach. Pray about it."

"You can count on that. And thanks for calling, Ray. I really appreciate your kind words despite how this whole thing turns out. I'll be back in touch within a week.

Both men said good-bye and Sandy stuck her head in the door. "We're closing up out here, Jim. Need anything before we leave?"

Jim knew it was a little after five. "No, you go ahead and I'll be right behind you. Anyone else in the building?"

"Pastor Jason has a client in for counseling. I'll leave him a note that he'll be last person out and that he should set the alarm system."

Jim nodded, strongly tempted to ask Sandy how she'd like to work in radio for an hour or so every day. He had already decided that she would be his first choice for call screener. She was terrific on the phone. And anyone who could wrap a Macintosh around her finger like she did would have not trouble with the equipment. But he wanted to savor the whole idea of doing radio and share it first with Debra, so he said nothing to Sandy for the time being.

Monday evening was family night in the Hogan household and Debra usually planned something which was not directly related to church business. Tonight, she had invited Tim and Sally Grover for dinner and table games afterward. Tim pastored the Gettysburg Community Church. The Hogans and Grovers had gotten to know each other at the softball tournament in May and they had become close friends. Debra always felt she could relax just a little more with a family outside the church, especially when Ben or Shelly started to say something. No telling what was coming out next.

When Jim got to the parsonage, he was all set to talk radio but Debra aimed him at the patio and the gas grill. "Honey, can you keep an eye on that chicken on the rotisserie? It's been going for about an hour and I'd like you to start basting it every five minutes or so with barbecue sauce. You did remember we're having company tonight, didn't you? Tim and Sally are coming over."

"Great! While the chicken is rotissing, maybe Tim and I can throw the ball around a little."

"Don't let that chicken get dry or it'll take more than a grand-slam home run to get you out of the dog house."

Ben raced into the kitchen with his glove and cap on. "Can I play, too, Dad? My arm's a lot gooder than it was last year."

"Your arm is 'better', Ben," said Debra lightly.

"That's what I said. Come on, Dad. Let's you and me play till Pastor Tim gets here. I'll warm you up."

"Okay. Just let me wet down this chicken first. Want to use the rubber ball?"

"Nope," Ben shook his head firmly. "That's for babies. I'm ready for a Blue Dot!"

"Suit yourself, but keep your eye on the ball and watch out for your nose."

Shelly wandered into the kitchen with a carefully bundled Cabbage Patch doll in her arms. Debra could see she was pouting.

"Why don't you get your glove and play ball with Ben and your Dad. They're out back."

"Nope. Ben says I throw like a sissy. And then if he misses it, he makes me chase it. Besides, Molly is cutting a tooth and she needs me."

"Oh, I see you've named your new dolly after Molly Wynn at church."

"Yep, and if I get a boy, I'm gonna call him Dave. They're the bestest grown-up friends I got."

"They sure are nice, aren't they. Tell you what. Why don't you go wash your hands and then you can toss the salad."

"Bare handed?" Shelly asked hopefully.

"If you wash your hands very carefully and let me check your nails, too."

"You bet!" and she raced into the living room to put Molly to sleep on the couch so she could work on dinner. Debra couldn't help but laugh. Shelly had a thing about working in the kitchen bare-handed, as she called it. Tossing salad, making hamburger patties, even stuffing a chicken--Shelly loved getting her hands into the food. In a jiffy, Shelly was presenting her hands and nails for inspection.

Debra's inspections before Shelly bare handed food were not routine. "Isn't that finger paint I see between these two fingers?"

"Aw, Mom. You know paint don't come off."

"Finger paint does. Now you get back in there and this time, use soap and a wash cloth," and she shooed the little girl back into the powder room which was just off the kitchen.

Just then the door bell chimed and Debra went to meet her guests. Tim had his glove under his arm and went straight through to the back yard and jumped into the game of catch with Jim and Ben. Debra stuck her head out the door to remind Jim to keep basting the chicken. Then she and Sally enjoyed chit chat as the indoors part of the meal was finished.

Soon the two families, including Ben, Shelly, and Jessi, were sitting down to a fine meal of barbecued chicken, which Jim hadn't neglected in spite of the game of catch.

"I got a riddle, everybody," Ben announced immediately after Pastor Tim had thanked the Lord for their food. Jim and Debra both winced, Shelly pouted at the attention she knew Ben would be getting, and Jessi groaned aloud. Jim and Debra were feeling mild pain because they never knew what Ben might be coming out with next, especially when he indulged his addiction for riddles.

"Okay," Ben continued importantly, "see if you can guess. Who is the first person in the world to deliver mail?"

"Benjamin Franklin," Tim said after a fairly long period of silence.

"Wrong!" said Ben with pleasure. "Anybody else?"

"The Pony Express riders," offered Debra in the interest of keeping the game going for the sake of Ben.

"Wrong again!" chimed Ben with relish. "Any more guesses?" There was another period of silence. "Okay, I'll tell ya. The first person to deliver mail was Eve, in the Garden of Eden! Get it?"

Jessi groaned even louder than before. Shelly's pout changed to a look of confusion. Jim and Debra relaxed; it could have been much worse. Tim and Sally laughed and clapped.

"That's a good riddle!" praised Sally, still laughing. Maybe your Dad can use it in a sermon sometime."

"Don't encourage him," warned Jessi, "or you'll have more riddles than you care to hear by the time the night's over."

Shelly made a mental note to ask Ben what in the world Adam and Eve had to do with delivering mail.

Jim enjoyed the fellowship with the Grovers but all evening he kept thinking about Ray Benson's proposal and was just aching to discuss it with Debra. When their guests left around eleven, Jim told Debra about the radio proposal Benson had made on the phone late that afternoon. Debra was a very positive person in terms of general outlook on life but Jim always tried out new ideas on her because she could take an opposing view and ask some very penetrating questions.

"Do you think you can afford to take an hour out of your schedule every day? You always tell me how hectic your days are with phone calls from church people, and hospital visits, and counseling, things like that."

"It's only fifty-four minutes a day, actually. The network carries five minutes of news at the top of the hour and then there's a sixty second cutaway for a local commercial spot or a weather forecast. Then the talk show starts at seven after the hour."

"Sixty minutes, fifty-four minutes, it's still a major interruption in the middle of your afternoon. And suppose you're called away on an emergency just as your phones start ringing. Then what?"

"My backup will take over."

"And who will that be?"


"Like fun it will. I'll say what Jessi would say at a time like this. The Lord may have called you to answer phone calls over the radio but he sure didn't call me."

Both had to laugh at that, in spite of themselves; it was so like Jessi. "Seriously, Debbie, what do you think."

"I've been telling you what I think. It's a major responsibility which will cut into your pastoral time. What will the board say?"

"We're having a meeting tomorrow evening. I'm going the run the basics by them then. But how about you? Don't you see any merit in the idea at all?"

"Sure I do. Talk radio is very big on secular stations, and I think born-again Christians have just as much right to talk about their values and beliefs as anyone else. But does it have to be you? Why not let someone else with a smaller church carry the ball on this one?"

"Maybe God has singled me out for this because He believes I'm the man for the job."

Debra's eyes softened and she went to sit on Jim's lap, putting her arms around his neck. "That, my dear," she said, kissing him full on the mouth, "is strictly between you and God." And then she jabbed him in the brisket, causing him to howl in ticklish agony. "Quiet! You'll wake the twins."

"Be your fault if I do," and he smacked her lightly on the back side. "Come on now, be serious. I'm trying to talk sense here."

"I already talked all the sense I have to give, except for this one thing. Why don't you put out a fleece, like Gideon did in Judges chapter six. Tell your friend Benson that you'll agree to it on two counts. First, the time has to be from five to six Eastern. And second, the original agreement will be for thirteen weeks only. If you do it at five, your main work day will be over but you'll still be in a good time slot in all four time zones. Oh, and one more thing. Let's both really do much praying on this thing."

"Agreed on all counts," said Jim readily. "I really like the idea of doing it from five to six. I was somewhat worried that something in the middle of the afternoon would be disruptive. The next thing is to see how the board feels about this thing.

"What are you going to call your new show?"

"Hadn't really thought about it."

"Well, since you'd be taking calls in your office, why don't you call it 'The Pastor's Study'?"

"Hey, I like that." He picked up the living room phone. "Hello, Donald in Little Rock. You're in The Pastor's Study. . . No, it is not all right to smoke and drink and go to Saturday night dances." Both laughed.

"Oh, by the way, Deb, I forgot to mention one thing. If I do the talk show, the network will carry our eleven o'clock worship service every Sunday morning for ninety minutes. What do you think of that?"

"Sounding better all the time. My husband the talk show host and radio preacher! You'll have to go out and buy a whole new wardrobe of hats."

This time it was Jim's turn to point an index finger at Debra's ribs, who was just as ticklish as he was. Knowing what was coming, she ran squealing for the stairway, Jim right on her heels. Jessi and the twins slept through it all. It wasn't the first time.


The Tuesday night board meeting had a light agenda and quite a bit of time was spent on the non-agenda radio item. When all issues had been considered, including cutting a hole in the wall between Jim's office and the clerical area, the pastor called for a secret ballot. The board voted seven-zero to pursue the offer made by Ray Benson and CROSS radio.

Jim couldn't wait to call Ray Wednesday morning and tell him that all the lights were green as long as he could accept the five to six time slot and the thirteen-week trial run. However, he deliberately got to work an hour early and spent that time down at the sanctuary altar. Oh Lord, if this thing isn't of You, if this is just my ego talking, please show me your will right now.

When Jim did call, Ray was nothing less than bombastic in his enthusiasm. "Jim, that's fantastic! When can we get together to work out the details?"

When Jim told Ray about wanting to start at five and just sign on for an initial thirteen weeks, the producer laughed aloud. "That proves the Lord is in this thing. I've been thinking about five o'clock as a start time all along. Just forgot to mention it the other day when I called. And as far as a thirteen week agreement goes, that's fine, too. Say, good buddy, you didn't happen to have a fleece out, did you?"

Jim felt a little sheepish but acknowledged that's what he had done. "Which was it? laughed Ray. "Was the fleece wet and the ground dry, or was the fleece dry and the ground wet?"

"Take your pick," said Jim and they began working on their calendars to set a date for Ray's trip to Mechanicsburg.

After hanging up with Ray, Jim spent a couple hours on his Power Mac, developing on outline of all aspects of the radio proposal which he and Ray had discussed, both today and Monday. When he was finished, he did a save to 3.5-inch disk in the external drive, and slipped it into his shirt pocket.

Later, he casually wandered out into the clerical area and sat down beside Sandy's desk. "How would you like to work in radio," he asked with a twinkle in his eye.

"You're not getting me in front of a microphone," she said quickly but not sharply.

"Why not? You talk on the phone all the time and that's a mike, kind of."

"You're up to something, aren't you?" Sandy responded with a twinkle of her own. "You've been acting funny all week."

"Didn't Miles tell you about the board meeting last night?"

"We rarely discuss church business at home," she said with a little laugh. "Sometimes we go for weeks without even mentioning something that both of us have known about all along."

"That's commendable on both your parts," Jim said approvingly. "Everyone involved in church work should take a lesson from you two. Anyway, now I'm going to tell you something which Miles already knows about and so you'll have a dinner topic for this evening. The church is thinking about going on the radio."

"Really? What type of radio?" she asked with interest.

"Two levels actually. Monday through Friday it'll be a talk show from five to six. And then on Sunday mornings from eleven to twelve thirty, we'll broadcast the worship service live. I have all the details right here," Jim said holding up the disk which he had just taken out of his shirt pocket. "While you're spell-checking and fine-tuning this outline, you can read it, too." Sandy nodded and started to reach for the disk. "But one thing first. I really do want to get you involved in our radio ministry." Before she could protest again, Jim added, "As a call screener."

"A call screener? What would I do? she asked with more than a hint of interest.

"First, you'd have to be willing to work an hour of overtime every evening."

"That's no problem. The way Miles works, we don't eat till seven thirty most evenings anyway. But I still don't know what I'm going to be doing while I'm working this hour of overtime. Not talking on the radio, is it?"

"Nope," Jim said with a grin. "Talking on the phone."

"Really? Well I should be able to do that by now."

Jim went on to explain the process of screening calls and deciding which ones should be put up on the monitor screen which he would be seeing.

"We'll work out some guidelines ahead of time so you'll have an idea of whom to accept and whom to reject."

"What if some guy decides to cuss you out on the air while you're talking to him?" she asked seriously.

"You know," Jim said after a little thought, "I'm not sure of the answer to that question but I'm surely going to find out. They must have some gimmick to keep foul language from getting on the air. Some of these shock jocks might not care but I certainly will. I'll ask Ray Benson when he comes up Friday to put together a final proposal."

Parsonage Table of Contents
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