For when one says ‘I am of Paul,’ and another, ‘I am of Apollos,’ are you not carnal? — I Corinthians 3:4
I treasured that young couple in my church. They were attractive, friendly, and faithful. That’s why their letter was so stunning.
We hated you for most of this year. You took the place of the pastor we loved so much. But now, we are gradually coming to love you too.
I was not prepared for that. And here we are, many years removed from that moment, and I am recalling everything about this letter that landed like a blow to the solar plexus. (Note: If you write a love note to your pastor, please do not tell him what you did not like about him at first or how long it took to warm to him. He does not need to know the obstacles you worked through to come to this point.)
The other evening a stranger approached my wife in our church fellowship hall just before a Christmas program.
“Be anxious for nothing…” (Philippians 4:6).
“Why did you fear? Where is your faith?” (Mark 4:40)
Worry, they say, is spending energy and resources on needless situations. Crossing bridges we may never come to. Paying bills that never come due.
Worry is a waste of the imagination, someone said. And almost everyone agrees that, for a believer, worry is sin.
But that doesn’t help, does it? Telling someone not to worry is the equivalent of instructing passengers not to be afraid when the plane is in a nosedive. A lot of good that would do.
Now, what one person calls “worry” another may call “being concerned” or “caring deeply.” When a husband tells his wife he does not worry about some upcoming crisis, almost always she interprets that as his not caring. When the church treasurer said he lies awake at night worrying about our finances, I replied, “Not me. The Lord is going to be up all night anyway; I let him worry about it. I sleep like a baby.” He was thereafter convinced I didn’t love the church as much as he did.
That said, my experience is that some issues do indeed occupy space front and center in the minds and hearts of God’s ministers.
When a church is pastorless, no one knows who the next pastor will be. While we pray for the Pastor Search Committee regularly, has it occurred to us to begin praying for the object of their search? Here is how I’m praying for our next pastor.…
Please send our church a pastor who will be Thy choice first and foremost. Let him know it, let our search committee know it, and let the church be just as confident about it. May the pastor’s family be supportive also, and even excited. And then…
–protect the pastor and our church from anyone who would rise up later and claim this was a mistake and try to oust him. Dear Lord, protect Thy church.
Send us a pastor who will be loved as dearly as any pastor has ever been loved. This congregation wants to love its pastor.
“Let the wife see that she reverence her husband.” (Ephesians 5:33)
“My husband is always confident–and sometimes right.” –What Mrs. Mark Devers says about her pastor-husband
My wife Margaret–a pastor’s wife for 52 years–was watching a panel discussion of some type or other in which four pastors’ wives were discussing their lives, their homes, and their husbands. One said, “My job is to keep him grounded. I tell him all those people at church see you as some kind of saint, but I saw you this morning in your underwear.”
The audience laughed; Margaret was offended.
She was embarrassed for that husband/pastor. “It was unbecoming to him,” she said. “She could say that sort of thing to him in private, as a tease, but should not say it in public. It was wrong.”
Wish we could take a poll at this point, and ask every spouse of a minister to register whether they agree or not.
“It’s not about you, honey. Some people will love you more than you deserve, and some will despise you without ever giving you a chance. You must not take it personally.” –My advice to my Granddaughter
Erin just turned 21 and earns a living waiting tables at a nice up-scale restaurant in the Mobile area. The other day, she came home in tears.
The restaurant had been crowded, with long lines of people waiting to get inside. The kitchen was running behind and diners had to wait an unusually long time for their order. Erin ran herself ragged all evening. She specifically thanked people for their patience and apologized for the slow service. She didn’t have a moment to catch her breath.
This particular table had two young men and a middle-aged guy. They seemed nice enough. Since the kitchen was running slow and they had ordered pizzas which had to be made from scratch, requiring at least a 30 minute time frame, several times Erin stopped by to thank them for their kindness and patience and to assure them the pizzas would be out soon.
Then, when they paid their tab, she found out a different side of them.
First, love the congregation, every single one of them, particularly the hard-to-love. And second, never underestimate the power of your presence.
Two stories of two great ladies.
Cissa Richardson went to Heaven this week. She was the beloved widow of Pastor James Richardson who served two great churches in our state for some forty years. James died over 10 years ago. We were neighboring pastors for years and great friends since the first day we met.
James and Cissa left quite a legacy. Their three sons–twins Gary and Jay, and younger brother Ian–are all in the Lord’s work. The twins have been pastors for decades and Ian was first a worship leader and musician and for years has headed the audio-visual department for our state Baptist convention.
This week at Cissa’s funeral. Son Gary told something about his mother I’d never heard.
Bertha and her husband Gary were young and just getting started in the Lord’s work. Gary would sometimes be invited to preach in a church and at other times sing. This particular Sunday, after the service Bertha waited while her young groom stood near the piano talking with one of the women in the church.
The woman’s daughter, perhaps 9 years old, stood nearby staring at Bertha. At length, she spoke up.
“Do you sing?” she asked.
“No, I’m afraid I don’t sing,” said Bertha.
The child was quiet a long moment. Then, “Do you play the piano?”
“No,” Bertha answered. “I don’t play the piano.”
The child stared at her while processing this information. Finally, she blurted out, “Don’t you do anything??”
“Let the wife see that she reverence her husband” (Ephesians 5:33).
(Disclaimer: I write as a Southern Baptist, where all our preaching pastors are male. While I know a few women pastors, they’re in other denominations and I know zilch about what goes on in their households and how they relate to the husbands. I respect them highly but for me to write about what they need would be presumptuous.)
A pastor’s wife’s greatest ministry is to her husband first, and her children second.
We were two weeks away from beginning a new pastorate. A couple of days earlier, we had been informed that the church had voted 85% to invite me to become their new pastor. After praying long and hard about such a less-than-unanimous call, we felt it was the Lord’s will that we accept.
It was a difficult time in our lives. I had just come through the most difficult three years of ministry in my life, and the church to which we would be going was still reeling from a massive split just 18 months earlier. It was not going to get any easier.
Nothing about this was fun. We knew going in that we were bruised and that the people we would be shepherding were hurting.
My journal for Monday, September 3, 1990:
Then, here is what I would say to you….
One. –It’s an exciting and sometimes scary life. You get to see the work of the Lord up close; you also become the target of the enemy’s work.
Okay, you’re wondering why you would become a target, when all you want to do is to be married to this terrific guy who has heard God’s call to spread the gospel. What could anyone possibly find wrong with that? Answer: You have three enemies–the world, the flesh, and the devil. The world is the system around you and it is no friend to grace; the flesh is the nature within you and it is hostile to God; and the devil is, well, you know who he is.
In Acts 20:28ff, Paul tells the pastors of Ephesus to expect trouble from two sources: bad people outside the church and troublemakers inside. That is still in effect today.
“What are these wounds? I was wounded in the house of my friends” (Zechariah 13:6).
A year or two back, I wrote an article on pastors’ wives that has traveled around the earth a couple of times. “The most vulnerable person in the church” struck a nerve with a lot of good people, many of them hurting from mistreatment by the Lord’s finest.
If something about that seems backward to you, then join the party.
Pastors’ wives seem to be more at risk than anyone else in church. The expectations on them are the highest, the support the weakest, and the attacks arrive from the unlikeliest of sources.
Periodically, these women send me their stories. Most are happy to be serving their churches, possess a strong sense of God’s call, and are grateful for the love of His people. Once in a while, however, their stories make me cringe. More than once, I have shed tears at the way church people make impossible demands and place heavy burdens upon these sent to lead the Lord’s congregations.