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.