LOS ANGELES, Calif. --- Within a week of rookie youth pastor Robert Spangler's engagement to his college girlfriend, his ministry was sent into a tailspin.
The first sign that something was wrong came as Mrs. Bracewell rang with a crisp retraction of her original invite for him to have Sabbath lunch with her and her daughter who was visiting from Loma Linda.
Ever the optimist, the youth pastor decided not to make much of the abrupt cancellation.
Then came the hit to his typically vibrant Wednesday night Bible Study. Liv Trubey, Lindsay Maxwell, Sarah Meyers and Bethany Lopez --- faithful and enthusiastic regulars of the six-person small group --- were all no-shows, leaving just Spangler and the only other male, Brenden Weaver, to awkwardly discuss the week’s topic, “Biblical principles for church growth”.
Later in the week, when most of Spangler's all-female agape feast setup team started to text last-minute cancellations, Spangler sensed that something was genuinely askew.
In an effort to attract some form of validation he posted a picture of a puppy and a stock Hallmark quote on his Facebook wall, confident that his pastorly show of wholesome humor and male sensitivity would garner the usual torrent of Likes and fawning comments of admiration.
Instead, Bethany Lopez's reply of "STOP SPAMMING!!" drew 56 Likes (some, from people Spangler didn't even know) and 26 variations of "Hit him straight," "You go girl!" and "Preach it!" in the comment section.
Shaken, Spangler had no alternative but to soldier on with his sermon prep for the weekend. The young pastor labored long and hard over his remarks and some slam-dunk PowerPoint slides from which even he got a little chuckle.
Nothing could have prepared him for the stony reception that Sabbath. Instead of the competing choruses of "Amens" and adoring looks from his fan base, he was met with icy stares, yawns and texting. Everyone that shook his hand afterward was over 50.
"I can't understand it! I did everything the same as always!" blurted out an exasperated Spangler as 63-year-old Glenda Brown shot him a sympathetic glance on the way out the door.
"You sure did, son. Don't take today personally. Those sermons weren't that hot in the first place," she said before stepping into her scowling niece's revving SUV.
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