Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Guarantee #8: Pastors and Churches

If the preacher preaches the Word of God and his family is halfway decent, the church will love him and cherish him. Is this guaranteed?

I found this belief system in many of the pastors' wives attending the Pastors and Wives Seminars that Paul and I have led.

And I found that the older ones had pretty much left this belief, the younger ones still held to it, and then there was a group who were still struggling with it. This is an interesting discussion. The bottom line is that this is not a guarantee. And a quick reality check shows that in the majority of pastors' experiences just the opposite is true. There is a lot of hurt out there among pastors and pastors' families.

I could share many experiences I've heard and empathized with, but I'll limit my sharing to my personal experience. I was a pastor's wife when I married at age 17, so I just grew up thinking this was a normal life experience. I loved being a pastor's wife, and overall our experiences were generally positive. There was always the criticism and people leaving the church because they didn't like something; but that was offset by others joining and many successful endeavors. 

One of our best learning experiences, and one I wouldn't wish anyone else to have to endure, was when we were at one of our churches. The previous pastor had moral problems and had left the church in disarray. Paul is a great preacher (of course I would say that, he's my man). He's been my pastor most of my married life, and I think he's the very best preacher I've ever heard. Okay, okay, I'll quit.

I say that to make a point. Paul's a good preacher and a good pastor. Our family had its issues, but we were okay, nothing to be ashamed of, just regular parenting and kid issues. Overall, a good family.

Now for the guarantee: Why didn't the church just love having us as did our previous pastorates? Reality: Paul was criticized because he wasn't the people person that the former pastor was; i.e., the one who had slept with three women in the church, one a staff member. Hmmm...  

Paul was criticized because of his preaching. Everyone had an opinion and let him know what he should preach. He chose to do what he had always done up to that point, not be a crowd pleaser but be a Bible expositor, letting the chips fall where they might. Hmmm...

All this time people were joining the church. The church was growing, but the personal attacks were tremendous. Our young son had to listen to criticism of his Dad in the Sunday School class. It really hurt him. Hmmm...

My learning process through this was first confusion, then anger, then searching the scriptures why these things were so. Oddly, the church loved me and I could do no wrong. Now isn't that a fine set of circumstances? Not one to be cherished.

However...
This time in my life was one of the richest learning times I've ever had. I learned firsthand that there are no guarantees in scripture except that God loves me and will never leave me. It was at this time that Hebrews 11 came alive to me, and I discovered things in scripture like Peter and James in prison, one was beheaded, the other experienced a miracle. And the experiences of Peter and Stephen compared; one preached and 3,000 were saved, and the other preached much the same sermon and he was stoned to death. Huh? 

Why had I not seen these things before? I probably had, but had skimmed them because I wasn't ready to receive them. Now that I was hurting and looking, I was ready and these examples in scripture were of great comfort to me, showing me that there are no guarantees as I had thought there were. In fact, quite the opposite seemed to be the teaching of the scripture. Hmmm...

I came through this experience greatly enriched. Prior to this, I'm afraid I had the attitude that if you had problems, you either created them yourself or God allowed them and he was seeing you through. Now that might sound good, but it's quite arrogant. And because of this belief system, I had answers for you if you came to me with a problem. Hey, girl, just trust God to get you out of this and try to find out what He's teaching you, or if you're sinning, quit. That's it! What's so hard about counseling? (Isn't that unbelievable? But that was me. (oops, That was I. And I'm an editor.) A very arrogant and not very empathetic counselor.

Okay, to wind up this long post, let me say that bottom line is that God loves me and is with me. He will never, never, never leave me. That's it! My experiences in life may be rough and hard but these two promises are my foundation and I can stand strong and have confidence.

These guarantees are mine whether I'm a pastor's wife, in the corporate world, or wherever I am in my life. That's a message worth sharing.
MB

7 comments:

DT Boy said...

I think something else to keep in mind with this is to look at the lives of the profits. Many were persecuted for what they said. At other times their council was sought and followed.

I know from my own ministry experiences that pleasing people is not what I am here for. I am here to be the kind of minister God has called me to be. I try to do, say and lead the way He would want me to. Sure, I mess this pattern up but it is generally at the heart of all that I do. People/parents have been frustrated with me at times. Some of it has been justifiable and some of it was not. Those moments and times can be difficult but I take comfort in knowing that God is with me and that He has a plan and a path for my life/ministry.

Pleasing God must take precedence over pleasing people. Ultimately He is our Lord and Judge.

Perfectly His said...

Rebel4Reality,

Thanks so much for your post. I love a reality check!
I'm a pastor's wife and have come a long way from these stereotypes. Still, now and then this 'deceiving spirit' wants to haunt me. So I thank God for a good read and a reminder of his promise to love me and accept for who I am.

Blessings,
HisPerfect

Rebel4Reality said...

dt boy, Thanks for your words. Very true. I would hope that most believers have in their heart of hearts the desire to please God and not necessarily men, but it sure is nice when you're in a body of believers who have the same heart and you experience great fellowship.

It's not so easy when you experience criticism or when you're among a group who don't agree with you. And yes, it is comforting when you're fairly sure you have God's blessing on what you're doing. Comforting but hard.

perfectly his, Thanks for stopping by. I have a special place in my heart for pastor's wives. Been there, done that. Some of my greatest times are the groups who spent a week with Paul and me in our Pastors and Wives Seminars we used to hold. And when we were in Fort Worth, I had a seminary wives' class that met every week. Great girls. Great sharing.

It was fun to hear their fears and dread and then through group discussions and input to be able to put many of those fears to rest and to change perspectives to excitement and anticipation. Special group of people.
MB

DT Boy said...

My wife and I entered into ministry with our eyes as wide open as possible. Even for us we have experienced some intense levels of frustration and doubt.

One of the best things we ever did while I was in Seminary (she had graduated from SWBTS right before we got married) was attend a small group class called "Life in the Fish Bowl". This class was lead by Bro. Al and Kay Meredith at Wedgwood. It was nice to hear about some of their struggles and how God had brought them through it.

As I work with students I try my best to teach them about the realities of being in ministry. Unfortunately some lessons can only be fully learned from experience.

Thanks MB for helping to spread the word on reality.

Mary said...

"...bottom line is that God loves me and is with me. He will never, never, never leave me. That's it!"

I wanted to tell you how much I appreciate this, and what a hard lesson it is to learn!

I was a pastor's wife for 20 years and thought I knew this--at least until God was all I had left. My husband died suddenly at a young age (he was 43, and I was 42) and suddenly just my son and I were left to go thru life by ourselves.

I struggled then with my own reality check. We were serving God --willing to go wherever He wanted. Although I realized that I wanted it to be both of us going wherever God wanted ;-) It just wasn't fair that we were doing so much and God took my husband out of the game so early.

I have learned, though, that God is with me and will never forsake me--and it doesn't matter whether I want Him there or not, or even if I can feel His presence or not. It does not depend on me--which is such a good thing ;-) I wish I could have learned this another way--but the lessons you work the hardest at are the ones that stick with you the longest.

Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts--they have mirrored my thoughts/beliefs so much. I have discovered thru all this that what we want as guarantees and what God will give us as guarantees are sometimes total opposites.

Rebel4Reality said...

Mary,
What a nice name you have. ;-) (It's mine also.)

And thanks for sharing. What a tough, tough journey has been yours. Your words seem free of bitterness or blaming God. Too often that's the fork in the road taken by many who have become believers thinking that doing so guarantees them health, wealth, and happiness. God does grant spiritual health, spiritual wealth, and great joy. That's just not what many think they are promised.

Some of my hard, hard experiences made me question and filled me with grief. Later in hindsight I often realized that I wouldn't wish that on anyone and I wouldn't want to go through it again, but I wouldn't trade for what I've learned. Interesting stuff.

Again, thanks for sharing and I hope you stop by and comment often.
MB

Mary said...

You caught me on a good day ;-) Seriously, it has been 3 1/2 years since my husband died and I have certainly had my share of bitter moments and anger over what had happened. I really have no answer as to why my husband was taken early--but that doesn't eat me up like it used too. At some point I realized that even if I did understand "why", it wouldn't make me feel any better. So, I made a conscious decision to just trust God and accept His actions. Not that I am perfect--there are still times that I have such a heaviness in my heart over what my life is now. But, as my husband preached many times, you cannot let your feelings determine your relationship with God. Feelings change, God does not.