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.
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.