It’s pastor appreciation month, and while baked goods, tie trinkets, and gift cards are usually welcomed (though not expected!) your pastor may be blessed by something a bit out of the box this year.

My husband, Chris, is a senior pastor and I have seen the best and worst sides of church people. We have been blessed beyond measure (a trip to Paris!) and wounded more deeply than I knew was possible, both through the actions and inactions of people in the pews. Although there can be difficult, unstable, and/or power-hungry people within the walls of the church, most of the heart-level hits a pastor receives are from the “everyday” church member: Words spoken or not spoken. Actions taken or not taken. Groups forming or splitting. All in the name of what they think is best for the church.

Chris and I have loads of pastor friends and I reached out to some pastor’s wives this week to help me with this post. Because as wives, we see what no one else sees. We know what church ministry does to our husbands. How it continues to forever change them and shape them—for good and for ill. As I submit this post, the comments from my pastor’s wife friends are still pouring in. With over 30 wives contributing, the thoughts below are a collaborative effort. Just like any wife would, we long to stand up for our husband, but because he is the pastor we often feel we can’t. It just seems self-serving. We each want to help our husband and support him in a public way but, selfishly, we usually lay low out of fear of putting our own conduct in the cross-hairs, if it is not already.

If you love your pastor and want to bless him this month (and beyond), we urge you to prayerfully consider these three deliberate choices:

CONTINUE READING at LifeWay Voices …

With summer in full swing, you may find yourself on the road. If so, I encourage you to use this opportunity to visit another church!

About twice a year we get to visit other churches while we are on vacation. We make it a priority to attend church, even when on the road, and it is always a refreshment for this ministry family to sneak in the back and worship without feeling the pressure of so many eyes on our every move.

The benefits of attending a new church are not reserved for the ministry family, however. I think it is a great practice for all church members to use their Sundays away to visit another church. Here are three reasons why:

It reminds us of what it’s like to be the newbie

We’ve all walked into someone’s home to be hit in the face with some strong smells. Often, the owner of the house can no longer notice it. Whether it be mold, trash, or pet problems, the smell is most obvious to the nose that is new to the offense. Similarly, the visitor notices things we don’t. Or maybe we noticed it way-back-when but have forgotten all about it.

Not only do visitors notice some of the oddities we ignore, they also don’t know how things work. Too many churches assume that everyone understands where the nursery, bathrooms, and/or fellowship hall is located. Bulletins are filled with event names with no description, groups with no specifics, and loads of information with out any invitations.

Additionally, when we visit a new-to-us church, it reminds us of how uncomfortable and vulnerable it can feel to walk into a crowd where no one knows you. It gives us a new urgency to be a friendly face to the visitor when we return home.

Being the newb—even for just one Sunday—can be a powerful agent for change in our church back home.

It gives us ideas for how (or how not) to do something

We’ve been a part of several churches where many of the attendees have only attended that church. For others, they have maybe only attended 2 or 3 churches, all in the same area. This is a situation ripe for an in-grown and shallow view of what Sunday morning church should look like. Just because it’s all you’ve ever known doesn’t mean it is the authoritative way to do things.

The Southerner can learn from the West Coaster. The Northeast from the Texan. There is even more to observe between nations. In Haiti, years ago, we attended several church services and there was much to learn from their passion, reverence, and devotion to the urgent and sincere hearing of the Word of God.

Using our travels as an opportunity to get out of our “this is the best way to do things” bubble, can be a powerful agent for refining change in our hearts, which can overflow into our church experience back home.

It reminds you of what you love about your own church

Hopefully! Even when visiting a stellar church who seems to get so many things right, being away from your home church ought to give us a sense of missing out and an urgency to get back home.

Say it with me now,

This is not my church.

Church is not about me.

My pastor is not out to get me.

We’ve been chatting about the mindset shifts we all need to make for the sake of the church and reflection of Christ. Here is one more along with an action plan we all need to consider: My pastor has been called to be my pastor and I need to follow.

Your pastor has been hand-picked.

We’ve been through the pastor search committee process three times now. All of these committees were either close to or over a year in the process when Chris was finally called to the position. If you’ve ever been on a search committee, you know what long and difficult work it is. In case you haven’t let me paint you a picture of how much effort those team members put in.

Even a small church might get 50 applicants. Some of the really large churches receive thousands of applications. This last job Chris accepted had around 400 applicants. That’s 400 applications that were read through, considered, and narrowed down … which brought them to the end of the first round of eliminations and dozens more rounds to go. Every search committee narrows the applicants down using different methods, but they all (if the committee is doing their job well) include researching (which would include things like a bit of Facebook stalking), reference checking, follow-up interviews via email, phone, and/or Skype, completing background checks, and sometimes traveling to view the pastor in his current church. Countless sermons are listened to, tons of discussions are held at their committee meetings, and many, many hours of prayer are put in.

From the other side of things, it feels a lot like American Idol. At first, we are just another number in the masses. Then we make it to the top 24, then 12, then the final 3. At this point, there is usually another round of interviews, often including me (SIDE NOTE: There aren’t many other jobs where an interview with the wife and a consideration of what she “brings to the table” is normal. But it is very much expected in this process.) Sometimes we’ve been picked, and sometimes the team decides to go with someone else.

Here’s my point: This is not applying for a job at Burger King and getting hired on the spot. It is a long, drawn out, prayerful, Spirit-led process. But it is a year-long journey (again, if the team is doing their job) that God uses to guide a church to the man He has chosen for them, and vice versa. So when you begin to second-guess your pastor’s decision making, preaching style, walk with God, and facial hair choices, remember that he has been appointed by God to be your pastor. He’s been called to serve God through this unique role, which includes leading your church toward God’s will.

Your pastor has been equipped.

Just in case the fact that the man you call pastor has been hand-picked and called to be right where he is right now isn’t  enough to get you to follow him, pray for him, and support him in every way you can, here’s one more thing to consider: He’s been trained to do this job! Now, I know not all pastors have been to seminary, but the vast majority of them have. They have attended classes, read books, and written papers all about how to do their job. They’ve hit on topics such as how to deal with the difficult people in their churches that just won’t follow…

In just about every other arena, someone who tells someone else how to do their job is considered rude. In the church arena it’s unfortunately, it’s considered common.

Your pastor deserves to be listened to, respected, and followed.

It should go without saying that your pastor is not perfect. He will make mistakes and have mixed motives. But just because he’s not perfect doesn’t mean you get to disrespect him.

I am not calling for congregants to shut up and sit down. I am calling for the people of God to consider that the man of God behind the pulpit has feelings, too. And there is not much that will take the wind out of his sails than pews filled with people who refuse to trust him. Who chose to just drag their feet until he picks up and leaves. Or worse—who manipulate, plot, and make life as difficult as possible in order to force him out.

If you want him to boldly lead you through the big stuff, let him lead you through the little. If he meets resistance at every corner … and if all he’s tried to do so far is update the toilet paper dispensers in the bathroom and spruce up the website … it’s going to be really hard for him to believe that you are going to follow him through the important decisions that are going to lead to the lost walking through the doors of the church.

Lord, give us mercy.

Not only do we each need to make the mental shift that This is not my church and Church is not about me, but we also need to take a look at how we view the pastor.

Your pastor is not out to get you.

I know that there are some bad apples out there, but the vast majority of pastors I know have given up much to become a pastor. They’ve given up higher salaries, being closer to family, having a normal work schedule with reliable, predictable boundaries, and other sacrifices you will never know about until he is rewarded in heaven. There can be loads of blessings and “perks” for the pastor, and it is a high and worthy calling. But the job is extreme and there are constantly targets on his back. If he was all about just pushing people around and getting a power fix, I think he would have chosen a different profession.

Yet, there are some of you who have a tendency to see every move made by the pastor as an attempt to take away your power. Again, I know that there are some men out there who are in the ministry for all the wrong reasons, but most are there to serve, to build up, and to glorify God with their moments as a pastor. But if you are viewing everything from the lens of power, influence, and/or attention there is bound to be trouble.

If there is one action step I could encourage you to take, if you struggle with feeling attacked, ignored, or marginalized by your pastor’s decisions, it would be this: Believe the best about your pastor until he gives you ample evidence to believe otherwise.

What does this look like? Here are a few examples. Choose to believe that:

  • He is there to faithfully preach the Word in the specific way God has gifted him. He works diligently for hours, prayerfully crafting each week’s message, and depending on the Spirit of God to help him deliver it.
  • He is there to steward the people, resources, and time God has given him with this assignment and he does not take this call lightly. He does not make decisions lightly. He is prayerful, careful, and when he choses to do or not do something, it is because he believes it is what is best for the church. (Also, he can’t do everything at once! Change takes time.)
  • He is there to love on and reach out to the lost in the community surrounding your church. He is continually thinking of how to connect with and serve the needs of the community.
  • He is there to teach, train, and employ the saved in his church to reach those lost in the community. The job of evangelism is not primarily on his shoulders. It is a commission given to each and every believer. The pastor is there to assist, encourage, and equip YOU for the work of evangelism.

There are many more I could list … but these are several that I think many churchgoers need to be consistently reminding themselves of.

Bottom line, I think more churchgoers need to stop taking things so personally. There is NO WAY IN THE WORLD that the pastor can keep everyone happy—nor is that his job. Yes, he ought to lead with compassion, sensitivity, and love, but that doesn’t mean he will always agree with you or make the same choice as you would. (In most cases, he may not even know what your opinion is! A pastor is many things, but a mind-reader he is not.) So if he makes a decision or doesn’t do something that you think he should be doing, pay attention to why you are so upset about this decision. Is it really because you care so much about whatever the decision was about … or are you miffed because you feel disrespected or overlooked somehow.

Lord, give us grace!

So where some of us, like me, need to grow in seeing things through the lens of the faithful men and women who have served and served and served and served God’s local church for decades, there is yet another group who needs to be willing to let go. Because this is not your church either.

Today I want to address those who have been in church for a while. This is not about generations, or age. This is about mindset. There are many faithful men and women who I know that have served the church for 50+ years that I would not put in this group. Moreover, there are some who have attended church for only a few years but they do fit in to this category. In fact, I think the majority of churchgoers have their chubby little hand in this cookie jar, and they need to seriously contemplate how they view the church (not only as “mine” or as God’s) but also why church even exists.

Church is not about you.

This is the other side of the this-is-not-your-church coin. You are not the captain of the ship nor are you a passenger to be pampered. The church does not exist primarily for you, or me. The church exists to reflect the glory of God. All aspects of church life ought to be primarily about God’s glory. Period.

There has never been a day in my church ministry where everything has gone the way I would have liked. I would have chosen different songs, on a different key with different instruments. I would design systems differently, make changes to the sanctuary, and nix a ton of (what seems to me) ineffective events. But I’ve had to learn that church is not about me. I am not all-knowing. My point-of-view is limited. And what I think is the best route to take is often, simply a deep-seated preference I am unwilling to let go of. I’ve learned the hard way that sometimes those antiquated systems were actually the very thing that gave God most glory. The broken systems that shouldn’t have worked showed off the power and provision of God.

I am not God’s gift to the church. Neither are you.

So, let me spell this out plainly:

  • Worship style is not about you.
  • The sermon format and length is not about you.
  • Church curriculum is not about you.
  • The sanctuary colors are not about you.
  • Budgeting details are not about you.
  • The landscaping is not about you.

Now, I’m not trying to say that we shouldn’t care about these things nor am I saying that we should never speak up about them. We should. But only so far as we are called to.

Because, church is not about you.

If you are a church attender seeking a church home, you are in gathering mode, and should be. This is a time for observation and contemplation, but be careful to keep first things first. Pay more attention to the CONTENT than the DELIVERY. Because worship teams can practice and get better. Church leadership can grow and get more organized. Preachers can become more polished in their delivery. Children’s programs can grow. But if the Word of God is not being faithfully preached, and the kids’ program is primarily glorified babysitting, that is most likely not going to change until there is a new pastor, and maybe not even then. If this is a church that is used to their ears being filled with feel-good fluff, their next choice will probably be full of the same. I can’t even count how many times I’ve seen people choose a church primarily for their worship style and/or children’s ministry, while the pulpit lacked any sort of solid truth being delivered and the kids (though snacked-up and entertained as they are) are given a watered-down moralistic version of the Gospel.

May I also encourage you to look for a church who needs what you can give. What has God gifted you to do? What are you passionate about? What experiences and expertise do you have that can help the church better shine for God’s glory? Don’t just look for a church home that you can settle into and get comfortable. God has given you specific gifts for the purpose of serving Him through loving on the local church (see 1 Corinthians 13). Don’t waste your time being a pew-dweller. Get to work.

Because, church is not about you.

If you are a church member, you ought to be an informed and involved one. You should feel freedom to directly* state your opinion and/or concerns on any one of these things, in gentleness and respect, at the appropriate time (HINT: this is typically NOT on Sunday morning as the pastor is preparing to preach), in great humility, knowing that you do not have all the information (nor all the training and experience). I encourage you to consider the following when it comes to your complaint:

  • Bring it first to the Lord.
  • Bring it second to the leadership of the church (so, not to all your friends, in a spirit of complaint).
  • Bring a preparedness to be the answer to the problem.

If there is a certain area that continues to bother you, week after week, and month after month, and that area is suffering because there is no one overseeing it, or the person who is serving there is overworked and out of ideas, consider the possibility that God is nudging you to step up and serve in order to fill that very need which is pressing on your heart.

*Directly=not complaining in a Facebook post or over lunch to your buddies where everyone can hear. Directly=to the face of your leadership. Not through an anonymous letter, or passive-aggressive behavior (like stopping your financial giving or attendance to make your point.)

Because, church is not about you.

If you are on a committee/team that serves one of these elements of church, you ought to lead prayerfully and with confidence. Use your expertise and passion in a synergistic way with the rest of your committee members, and any other committees you overlap with to make that area run with excellence. (And, of course, all of the above suggestions for the church member applies to you, too.)

Because, church is not about you.

So what should you do when opinions clash? Remember that church is not about you.

When you want blue carpet and everyone else wants red? Remember that church is not about you.

When you love upbeat songs that are familiar to you but a solemn song you don’t know is played? Remember that church is not about you.

When someone does or says something that wasn’t quite the “right” way (according to you)? Remember that church is not about you.

And please, please, please (as I say often to my kiddos): be kind or be quiet. Because some of the most damaging things to the image of Christ, to the fame of His name, to the reflection of God’s glory to the lost and dying world around us? The words of His people to one another. The mean, selfish, foolish, prideful, angry words we sling at one another.

If we say that we follow Christ, then we ought also to follow in His footsteps to be about His Father’s business. And the Father’s business is all about His glory being known among the nations (which includes the lost souls in your family, neighborhood, workplace, and grocery store). Why on earth would we expect those who are perishing without Christ to tag along with us to this building we call church, to spend time with people we don’t really like anyway, and listen to music we can’t stand, and a preacher we constantly complain about?

We must pay attention to our motivations. There are more preferences and opinions than can ever be satisfied—even in the smallest of congregations. But if we can each learn to be driven primarily for the glory of God—not the glory of an individual or the glory of the church itself—we can finally begin to move forward TOGETHER in UNITY toward that goal. Because, once we have this point settled in our minds, we are able to view our preference and opinions through the lens of what gives God more glory. Blue carpet or wood floors? The organ or electric guitar? Jeans and flip-flops or a 3-pice suit? We will see them for what they are: surface-level stuff. Small potatoes. Instruments that God can use equally for His glory if He so choses.

Lord, help us.

There are always topics that lay heavy on my heart. Some never make it past discussion with my husband Chris. Some make it out of our house into the circles of my trusted friends. Some I’ll chat about with acquaintances. Every once in a while there is a topic I feel led to “discuss” online. For the most part, I find that difficult topics are usually best kept around the table, where we can observe each other’s body language, hear the tone of our voices, and believe the best about each other when we don’t quite understand the other’s point of view and/or conclusion on a matter. And while this topic is not the biggest hot-button out there that I could push, I think it may still ruffle some feathers. In fact, I kinda hope it does. Not because I want anyone to be hurt (SOOO not my heart) but because I think sometimes we need to hear the hard things.

Plus, I might just be preachin’ to the choir. But we’ll see.

I’m in several pastor’s wives’ groups and it breaks my heart that almost monthly there is another woman sharing her story and asking for prayer over how she and her pastor-husband have been mistreated. Some situations are mild, while some are very, very extreme. Many of these women I do not know personally beyond a computer screen, but I do have dear friends who have walked through horrendous seasons (some still are) of hurt and loss. And the primary source of this pain is not from outside of the church, but from within.

I have seen and heard of mistreatments and manipulations from church members and leaders that would make anyone—even a non-believer, who has no framework for the Biblical picture of a healthy church—cry, “This is wrong!” Though we’ve not personally experienced the brunt of evil that is within the church (Yes, I said evil. Satan has some power players in those pews.), both Chris and I have together and individually heard, seen, and experienced enough controlling comments, blatant disrespect, and passive-aggressive actions to make some people never want to enter a church building again.

I have loads of thoughts about how the church treats the pastor and his wife, but right now my heart is aching and burning with these thoughts for the churchgoer who just doesn’t think about how their actions/inactions affect the man they call pastor, and the woman who is trying her best to follow and support her hurting husband. Or maybe for the person who does know what he or she is doing, but simply ignores the Spirit of God within them who is staying, “STOP.”

Here are a few things I think all who follow Christ need to consider.

This is not your church.

Now I’m a HUGE proponent of church membership. I believe that God’s best plan is for every believer to be in a covenantal connection with a local church, and actively attending, serving, loving, and praying for their fellow church members. And in some sense, yes, the church each of us attends and/or are members of is our church, but ultimately, “your” church is not yours. It’s God’s. This is a gigantic shift we each need to make, both mentally and emotionally. If we primarily see the church as God’s church, for God to do with as He sees fit, we can all avoid a whole heap of church troubles. Not only will this dramatically change your relationship with your pastor, but also with your fellow church members.

Over time, and through many, many tear-stained conversations with my much-more-level-headed husband, I have learned to look for and attempt to understand how each church member views the church (and the physical items within the church building). Where I see a worn out pew, others see the financial sacrifices their parents made so they could make significant offerings above their tithe for those seats to be purchased. The outdated wall hangings, floral arrangements, and recognition plaques that make me roll my eyes are like stones of remembrance to some, which point them to God’s past faithfulness. (Not always … sometimes it’s just the type of trinkets people really like … and still have in their own houses.) Events, traditions, and services that I think are sorely antiquated, completely ineffective, and/or pointless are part of their weekly spiritual rhythm—and have been for decades. If taken away abruptly, could negatively impact their spiritual life.

I don’t always understand it. I often think it is some of the stupidest things that people get upset over. But the Lord has cultivated in me … s-l-o-w-l-y … the eyes to see things through another’s viewpoint. Because this is not my church, either. And I praise God that I am not the one in charge. Instead, it’s my patient, wise husband who knows that being a human bulldozer is not the best way to move a church forward. Yes, we may be able to clearly see the boulders that keeps a church from moving forward, but we cannot move them on our own. It has to be a group effort, led and fueled by the Spirit of God. Not by manipulation, or shear force. By God’s powerful and gracious and patient hand alone.

So where some of us, like me, need to grow in seeing things through the lens of the faithful men and women who have served and served and served and served God’s local church for decades, there is yet another group who needs to be willing to let go. Because, this is not your church either.

… continued in tomorrow’s post.

The church has been on my heart and mind much lately. It is a heavy weight when you see what God’s people can do to one another; what they do to hurt one another.

Sometimes is it unintentional and innocent. Sometimes it isn’t.

Chris and I have moved around quite a bit over the past 10 years. We’ve been members of 5 different churches since we’ve been married, and I was a member of another before we were engaged. We’ve seen great models of leadership as well as great failures. We’ve served alongside men and women who truly “get it” — the purpose of the church and their roll in it. We’ve also witnessed  men and women who seem so far away from God’s heart for the church that it gives me a greater appreciation for God’s kindness and patience. (Because if it were up to me…thankfully it isn’t.)

My hope for each of you is…

You are an active member of a vibrant, Gospel-centered church. There is no perfect church or perfect pastor, so if you are waiting for that ideal church to pop up in your neighborhood you might never become a member of a church. Membership should be taken seriously. We should not rush into the commitment, but we should not skirt it either. The church is the bride of Christ, and not being a member of a local church is like saying that you would like  to be friends with my husband, but ignore me. The bride and the groom go together. You cannot have one without the other.

You understand that church is not all about you. Yep, that’s right. The pastor’s job is not to make you happy, and the church does not exist to make you comfortable. God designed the church to be a reflection of His glory, and when you and I bicker about worship style or where the pews should be situated, we waste time and we shame the name of Christ.

You have a steadfast commitment to the Word of God above all else. Above what makes sense to you. Above the traditions you’ve enjoyed. Above what the by-laws of the church say. Above what your friends and family thinks is right. If we walk away from God’s Word as our foundation as a church or as individuals we are treading into dangerous, volital territory

You are willing to follow the Spirit of God where He leads. If that means change, then change is good. If that means no change where you think there should be, then stay put and don’t make waves. God is our faithful, loving shepard and He has good plans for us, even when we can’t see what is on the horizon. Keeping in step with the Spirit is always what is best and safest.

What our churches would look like if we all got a vision for God’s plans for our lives and congregation! How we would truly be reflections of His glory if we got out of the way and let Him move, instead of cling to our own plans!

Praying that we will each be willing to lay down our selfish ways and follow Him…starting with me.

What are your hopes and prayers for the church today?

If ever there was a time that the Holy Spirit may have been moving me towards baptism, it was about three years later…(click to read part 1)

…Chris and I were newly married. After we had gotten engaged, I moved my membership to an Evangelical Free church that Chris had been attending for a few years. Since the time I had first moved to Jacksonville my doctrine had changed, and my desire for deeper preaching had emerged. I was ready and excited for the move to this great Bible-teaching church. We attended this church for about three years.

They had regular baptism services, and every once in a while I thought, I wonder if I should do that some day? There was a class we took at the church, on the essential doctrines of Christianity; baptism was something we looked at. I do think that during that lecture the Lord was prompting me to be baptized. But, I was too prideful (and too busy). I worried what others would think about me being baptized. I had been a Christian for quite a while, and was in full-time ministry. Why would *I* need to be baptized?
A few years later, at our next stop on the Orr Family Tour of Churches (we’ve moved around alot!) We attended a non-denominational, mega-church, which we loved. My absolute favorite thing they did was their baptism services. They did them fairly often, at least quarterly. It took up the whole Sunday morning service. Each person being baptized went through a baptism class, where they were taught about the doctrine of believer’s baptism, and were given a chance to do an interview. This interview was videotaped and presented at the baptism service.

It was such an amazing, God-glorifying way to do baptism. Video, after video; story after story; telling of what God had done in each soul’s life, and each grace-received soul telling us why they want to be baptized: because they want everyone to know that they love Jesus! I would have loved to have been baptized then, and was completely willing to. I considered it a bunch of times. But, the dates just never seemed to line up right. We were only there for about two years; of which we spent a summer in China, then Colorado the next summer, had our second baby, attended about a dozen conferences. If there was a time that we had ever felt settled, we then were called to move again.

Fast forward through the next two years. A career change for my hubbie, another move (in with the in-laws), a part-time interim job, an across town move (to our own itty-bitty apartment!) Provision of a full-time job, which led to another move. Three months later baby #3. Excuses not to be baptized? Maybe. But, in my heart, I don’t feel like it was. I never felt like I needed to push the issue, and force it to happen, during those difficult years.
So here I am. The Lord has been clear with me for a few months now, that it is time. Chris and I believe 100% in believer’s baptism. That is, it is an act of obedience to be baptized, as a believer in Christ. While I am thankful for the heritage and dedication that my parents gave me, their decision to baptize me thirty-two years ago cannot be how *I* give my complete obedience to Christ. Baptism is an observance that every believer in Christ should follow in, out of obedience and overflow of their walk with Christ.

This feels right now. I want to do this. I am not doing this because I think that God is looking down at me, wondering, “Why won’t you just be obedient? Can’t you at least do this one thing for me?” When He looks at me, He sees Christ’s perfect obedience. If something were to happen to me tomorrow, and I never get a chance to be baptized before I see my King, I am still accepted into His Kingdom. I am completely acceptable to God through Christ; a Baptist pastor’s wife who has not been baptized by immersion.Yet, I want to take seriously His Word, to work out my own salvation with fear and trembling. He has told me to do it, and I will do it.

One of the coolest things: my husband will get to be the one who baptizes me! And, who knows? Maybe the Lord has had me to wait this long so that some of you may be spurred on to do the same?