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Church conflict is no fun. Understatement of the year, right? Whether it is a small fire that pops up in a small group or a full-blown congregational wildfire, church conflict is inevitable and ubiquitous. The church is filled with imperfect people in progress. Therefore, we will encounter trouble, and it is in these troubling times that your pastor needs your support the most.

Here are three gifts you can give your pastor, especially in times of conflict and unrest:

YOUR PRAYERS

Let’s face it: When it comes to church, there is no shortage of strongly held opinions. Criticisms abound and receiving those critiques is a weekly (if not daily) part of the pastor’s job. Sometimes they are silly and small. Other times they are helpful and needed. It is part of his job to listen to and consider every negative comment that comes his way. However, you and I can help him tremendously by filtering our thoughts through prayer before we bring them to our pastor.

What if we made it our gut-reaction to every bit of “church news” to hit our knees and pray for our pastor?

What if we chose to take our concerns to God first and ask Him for guidance and leadership and discernment to know if our critiques even need to be vocalized?

What if we prayed for our pastor more than we complain about what he is or is not doing?

Not sure what to pray? Here are some great places to start:

  • Pray for his spiritual well-being and protection.
  • Pray for strength to walk the road God has chosen for him.
  • Pray for wisdom as he leads.
  • Pray for protection from the enemy.
  • Pray that he gets rest both physically and emotionally.

YOUR PRESENCE

Once we’ve prayed for our pastor, as our first-response to concerns and conflict, now we can bless him with our presence. Empty seats bring forth feelings of defeat. Especially over time, the collective effect of seeing church members choose other pursuits (kid’s activities, family time, sleeping in, cleaning the house, constant traveling, etc.) over the body of Christ, again and again, is incredibly discouraging.

If you really want to bless your pastor—especially in times of dissension—show up. Prioritize your relationship with God and your commitment to His church more than your career, your family time, and your self-care. Those things are certainly important (and I am not saying we need to stop pursuing those things) but let’s be sure to make the weekly gathering with God’s people and the faithful serving the church body a non-negotiable in our lives and schedule these other important pursuits around our commitment to our church family. Being a healthy church member will enhance the health of your church and in turn the health of your pastor.

Beyond the commitment to being a faithful church member, if you encounter a specific concern, meet with him (after you give him the gift of your prayers first). Give him the chance to answer your questions and clarify any misunderstandings. Avoid passive-aggressive actions such as withholding your giving or attendance. Don’t give in to talking about your concerns to everyone but your pastor. That’s exactly what the evil one wants. Plus, it hurts the body of Christ and the reflection of God’s glory more than it hurts your pastor.

YOUR PUBLIC AND PRIVATE SUPPORT

Hopefully, after you have prayed for your pastor, and have come to him with any concerns you have about the church or decisions he has made, you can walk forward in support of your pastor. As you hear concerns expressed by others, encourage them to give these gifts of their prayers and their presence. If you see dissatisfaction and dissension forming, enter the discussion and be a gentle encouragement that points them to pray for the pastor, and taking their concerns directly to him, not primarily to each other. We’ve all played the game of “telephone” and seen how truth changes they pass from person to person. Support your pastor by debunking half-truths, and imploring people to take their concerns directly to the pastor.

Beyond your support within private conversations, be sure to support your pastor publicly, too. There is a tendency for church members to neglect the opportunities to support their pastor when he needs it most, particularly in business meetings. It’s one thing to tell your pastor you are on board with an upcoming change, it’s quite another to be present and vocally supportive when that change is being initiated.

Oftentimes, at the first sign of resistance, men and women who have told the pastor they are with him, unfortunately, fail to publicly state their support of the change. Most churches have some sort of meeting where church members are able to participate in the governance of the church. Don’t miss out on those important spaces where you can bless your pastor tremendously by not only casting your vote but also showing your clear and public confidence in his leadership.

Don’t underestimate the cunning of our true enemy. Satan loves it when we turn on one another. Because if we are too busy fighting ourselves, we won’t be bringing the gospel to the nations. When we choose to refuse to do anything that will add to the fire of conflict within the church, we put a damper on the evil one’s schemes. And if enough of us choose to do the same, the damaging fire will have no fuel to thrive on.

Ultimately, these three gifts are not about the pastor. It is about our obedience to Christ. We are all called to share all good things with our teachers (Galatians 6:6), to honor them (1 Timothy 5:17), trust and follow their leadership (Hebrews 13:17), and to respect them (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13). This is especially important for us to remember when we walk through difficult times as a church.

Lord, help me to love and honor my pastor better. Forgive me for the times I have been silent and have not stopped unhealthy and unhelpful conversations. Forgive me for the times I have entered willingly in spreading gossip. Give me the grace and resolve to treat my pastor with respect. Lay a great burden on my heart to pray for him regularly. Lead me to see your plan for our church, and how you are using this man to guide our church to greater growth so that we can glorify your name in our community. Show me what I need to change. Help me be a better church member. I long to be a blessing to my pastor and a benefit to the body of Christ. I thank you for my pastor.

This post was originally posted over at LifeWay Voices.

I’ve been a pastor’s wife now for over a decade. It is a beautiful privilege and heavy responsibility. It is a role that comes with many joys and sorrows, benefits and sacrifices, unexpected gifts and unstated expectations from others. That last one is often the hardest dose to swallow.

Most churchgoers don’t realize it, but they have a picture of the perfect pastor’s wife in their mind, and that projection paints every interaction they have with the wife of their pastor.

Your pastor’s wife is in a very unique position. What she does (or doesn’t do) affects her husband’s ministry. For those of you who are married (except in the rare case of some very particular jobs), your behavior, your spiritual growth, your words, your involvement in church has no bearing to your spouse’s job security. He was most likely hired without as much as a glance your way. Nor are his clients, or whomever he serves day-in and day-out, holding strong opinions on what you should or should not be doing right now. This is not true of the pastor’s wife. Just last month a pastor’s wife friend shared that her husband, an interim pastor (who had previously served the church for years in another role), was not offered the permanent pastorate job because they thought his wife wasn’t pulling her weight.

Bottom line, so many people have tightly held opinions on what the church, the pastor, and his family should be/look/act like. Some realize it. Some don’t. Because of these realities, your pastor’s wife most likely feels that she cannot be herself. Consequently, she often finds herself with a heavy armload of her own secrets. Here are a couple:

“I am not perfect, but I feel like I need to be.”

As stated already, your pastor’s wife lives with the constant pressure of living up to the expectations of the congregation. Most churchgoers expect her to be more mature and knowledgeable than they are. All of this, alongside her desire to be an encouraging role model for the women of the church, leads to her feeling a massive pressure to be perfect. However, she is far from perfect. She messes up all the time. She is likely trying to live up to the pedestal on which she’s been placed yet, at the same time, she wants to be authentic and real.

This all leads to the feeling that there is no safe place within the church for her to lay out the messiness of her own soul. If she shares too much, she fears that your opinion of her will change (or worse…you’ll use this against her when conflict arises), and thus her and her husband’s ministry effectiveness is damaged. However, if she never shares her junk you will accuse her of being unapproachable and stand-off-ish (at best) or an arrogant snob (at worst).

“My church is not perfect…but I feel like I need to pretend that it is.”

There are things about your church she dislikes and is disappointed in. There are processes she wishes she could change, traditions she wants to undo, and people she would love to quiet down. It may very well be the case that if she were a normal church-goer she would have continued on in her search after visiting your church.

Ironically, though the congregation typically expects more from the pastor’s wife, her voice for change is often smaller than the average church member. She often doesn’t have an official place in the leadership of the church. Sure, she has the pastor’s ear at home, but beyond that, she has to be careful with her comments. Much of what she suggests is misconstrued as self-serving. Her motives are often in question. She can’t simply have an opinion about how something is run because many churchgoers take it as her just trying to get her husband elevated.

The evil one loves to stir up dissension, and often his first attack is on the church member’s view of their pastor and his family. If Satan can get church members to question their pastor’s motives and character, then he can easily erode the pastor’s ability to lead. The next best thing is to have them criticize the pastor’s wife’s motives and actions.

More secret thoughts of the pastor’s wife:

Here are even more secret thoughts your pastors’ wives may be thinking:

“I’m friends with both everyone and no one.”

“I can’t help with every ministry!”

“Parenting in the pew on display for the whole church is the hardest ‘ministry’ I engage in every week.”

“I’m more than ‘the pastor’s wife’ and my kids are more than ‘the pastor’s kids.’ These titles do not encapsulate us…we are real people also.”

“I want real friends who want to do fun things, people who don’t see me as eternally ‘on the clock’ as a pastor’s wife. Let’s just hang out and eat pizza.”

“My children and my marriage do not belong to you. Please don’t feel the freedom to demand information or offer ‘advice’ that wasn’t solicited for and give me the freedom to not follow it.”

“It’s hard for us to accept help/gifts. I don’t know if it will be used against us later.”

“I may not know everything that is going on in your life. Please don’t assume that I do.”

“I thought we were friends and then you left the church without telling me. It really bothers me.”

“Just because I am the pastor’s wife doesn’t mean I am an instant volunteer for every plan you come up with.”

“I’m lonely. It may look like there’s a lot of people around us on Sundays, but during the week people don’t reach out unless they need something. This fuels the lie that ‘I’m only useful/needed based on what I can give you.’”

“Trying to use me as a voice to speak to my husband or other leaders is annoying and not useful. I am not their secretary, administrator, or adviser.”

These are actual comments from pastor’s wives I interviewed recently. Can you hear the hurt, loneliness, discouragement, and exhaustion behind these comments? Unfortunately, these secrets are held by the majority of pastors’ wives, not the minority.

Here’s the bottom line:

It is very hard for your pastor’s wife to let you know what she really thinks and feels.

How you can help your pastor’s wife

Pray, pray, pray for her to experience the freedom of being her real self, even if just to a few trusted women in the congregation.

Think about how your words affect your pastor’s wife. I’ve had ladies tell me what my job as a pastor’s wife is (personally visiting church members in their homes, with freshly baked pies in tow), make comments on what I should or should not wear because I’m a pastor’s wife (Jeans? In the service?!), ask me to convey a message or ministry idea to the pastor (why not tell his office assistant?), and ask me where I was at some church event I was unable to attend (and it wasn’t because they were concerned that I was sick). None of these comments would have been verbalized if I was not the pastor’s wife. You may not think that your small comment is a big deal, but it is most likely not the only comment she has received that day. The weight of those comments and requests begin to add up.

Allow her to be a normal church member, and don’t expect more from her just because she is the pastor’s wife. You hired her husband, not her. She has her own jobs to take care of.

Pray again for your pastor’s wife: that her significance would be rooted in her relationship with God. That her moments would be continually dependent on the power of His Spirit. That her heart would be renewed through the promises in His Word. And that all this would lead to resiliency and grace to navigate this unique role she’s been called to.

This post was originally posted over 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.

So much of my life has been spent leaving. Leaving California for Auburn. Leaving Auburn for Jacksonville. Leaving Medical Technology for full-time ministry. Leaving Cru to go into church ministry. Leaving Florida youth ministry for a full-time Kentucky pastorate. Leaving Harrodsburg to move back home to Florida.

In some ways, leaving is easier each time because you’ve experienced God’s provision during the previous move. Yet, inevitably it just all catches up to you. The goodbyes. The loss. Even the little things you miss out on simply because you are no longer there.

And there are always regrets. People you miss. Choices you wish you made differently. Time wasted that you long to redeem.

Yet with each move and new city, with each new relationship and assignment, there is grace. We receive an opportunity to learn from the past and start fresh.

Leaving naturally leads to looking back. And a backward glance allows you to see the providing hand of God in ways that are simply hard to see when you are in the throws of the moment. And as I look back on the dreams that I had for my life, the visions of what life would be—and who it would be with—is so much different and so much smaller than what God has had planned for my life.

So, yes. Leaving has been a big part of my life. And instead of focusing on the pain and tears leaving has caused, I choose to believe wholeheartedly that leaving—again and again and again—has been His call, His plan, His desire for me. I choose to focus more on what I’ve gained from each experience instead of what I’ve lost.

And as I stand here today so very tired of leaving—still counting the loss, still morning, still waiting for the emotional space and energy needed to make new relationships in our new place—I’m grateful. I’m grateful for every assignment. Grateful for every friend. Grateful for every goodbye. Grateful for the promise that even if God calls me to leave again, He will never leave me.

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.

So, I turn 40 really soon.

I can remember when 40 seemed SO OLD. Over the hill.

But as I stare 40 in the face, I’m excited. Truly. I feel like I am just now REALLY figuring out what life is all about and what part I’m supposed to play—who I have been created to be.

I’ve also been feeling an itch to write. Not necessarily for a specific purpose, but just to get all my thoughts out. Get back to the personal, heart-level writing that just feels good to do it. I do love writing Bible studies, preparing training courses, and crafting teaching talks. That’s one of the things I’ve uncovered as one of God’s purposes for me, to teach the Word and encourage and equip others to enjoy God’s Word on a daily basis. I really do love it, but it is hard work. It’s the type of writing that is a fight. It does not come easy.

So, I’m going to try to write something everyday, for 40 days. Something that just helps me process life. A look back, a look forward, a note about today. or maybe something entirely random. And because I do better with consistency if others are plugging along with me, I’m inviting you to jump into the journey. You can either come visit me here everyday to see what transpires, or you can join me in the actual writing! Make your own goal of how many days you want to write, or jump into 40 days with me. You don’t even need a blog, you can simply post 40 different things you are thankful for on Facebook, Twitter, and/or Instagram.

I’ve brainstormed a load of topics that I’ve been wanting to write on, but if there is something specific you’d like to hear about, let me know! Although, I primarily want to journal through my journey, and recount the faithfulness of God over the past 40 years.

Because He’s been so, so good to me.