Struggle

February 19, 2009 at 5:21 am 4 comments

I have had some thoughts running around in my head for a good two or three weeks now. They are spinning around in there, trying to formulate themselves into some sort of cohesive sensibility. I know that I have the ability to put the thoughts out there, but I have a slight fear of being misunderstood and interpreted as misinformed, arrogant, self-righteous or just plain dumb. 

But you guys have read my thoughts and feelings about many things and have stuck with me anyway, so I’m going to give it a go, and have the faith that God will help me write the words. 

I’ve been contemplating ministry. Now, before anyone gets the idea that I’m about to commit myself to a life of service to God, let me just say right now, been there, done that. Still doing it! I consider myself, simply because I’m a Christian, a lifelong servant of Jesus. It is my desire to live as he wants me to live and do what he wants me to do. 

I suppose what I’m saying is that I’ve been thinking about ministers. 

I have a little experience with this subject. I’m the proud daughter of a great one. I am married to a former one. I went to college with a bunch of them. I worked at NOBTS with more than I’ve ever cared to know. Ministering through the church is probably one of the professions I’m the most comfortable with, simply because I’ve been surrounded by it all of my life. 

Sometimes I wonder why God didn’t surround me with rock stars, or environmental activists, or professional kayakers, but he didn’t. 

I have to say up front that the example set by my father has raised the bar so high, it’s hard for anyone to measure up. He would hate that I said that, but it’s very true. I grew up with a man who is never self-serving. He is completely humble. He is incredibly talented, and uses those gifts solely for God’s glory. He desires for everyone he meets to know Jesus Christ. He’s funny, smart, giving, and is just the best minister I’ve ever known. He treats EVERYONE as if they are special, and somehow finds tolerance for the yucky stuff, and handles it with grace. I’ve always been in awe of his selflessness. 

So, that makes it kind of hard for a girl like me to accept less than that! 

There’s the struggle I’m talkin’ about. 

Now, before someone misunderstands (my biggest fear!), let me say that I know some guys and gals who are just that wonderful. I know pastors who are serving gladly, and wonderful things are happening in their churches, and their attitudes are “like that of Christ Jesus”. They are encouragers, they are good to their staff, they are constantly seeking God and want him to be glorified in his church. 

And then there are those who aren’t. 

This is the hard part for me. I’ve worked for guys in ministry who were controlling, micromanaging everything I did. I’ve known pastors who don’t support their staff at all, constantly criticizing and looking over shoulders. I’ve been humiliated by ministers in the local church. I’ve been disrespected and taken advantage of, after I offered my help. I’ve heard them use bad language in their home. I’ve seen them say one thing and do another. I’ve certainly experienced being on the outside, while the minister had his favorites that he catered to. 

Now here’s the part where I have to say that I absolutely understand nobody is perfect. I understand that people, ministers or not, deal with a sin nature. I don’t expect anybody to be saintly. Good grief, I like people who are honest and human! My dad’s a great man, but he’s far from perfect. I hope I don’t sound legalistic at all. I’ve been open and honest about all of my faults on this blog, I hope you know that I don’t hold anyone to a perfect standard, because I don’t want to be held to one! 

What I am trying to say is: I think that a lot of people go into church work because they think it might be easier than a “real” job. There, I said it. Now, let me clean it up. 

I think there’s a breakdown somewhere in the process of being called to ministry and actually doing the ministry. I think that there are several types of people who are called. There are the “legacy” ministers, who go into the field because granddaddy and daddy were preachers too. There are the “180 degrees” ministers, those who were living apart from God and had an experience with him, did a 180, and are now serving him. The “seemed like a good fit” ministers, those who grew up in a Christian home, and did the right things and are just such a nice guy or gal that it seems like a good fit. 

I’m sure there are other categories I could use, but that’s all I have in me for now. 

So once he or she is called to ministry, there seems to be a point where it becomes less about serving the God that called you and more about getting to where you want to go. 

Again, I’m not talking about everybody, but there are some to which this applies. 

I wish I knew where that point was. Is it seminary? Is it being surrounded by professors who are relatively successful in ministry, and so it’s a temptation to want to climb that ladder? Is being surrounded by other students with supposedly the same call as he or she a threat, so you do anything you can to get noticed and get that good paying job? Is it money? Seminary life is a struggle, is the desire to get out of that struggle so strong that making money is the driving force? 

Or maybe it’s not seminary, but church people. Church people can be hard. I am one now, so I know! Our expectations can be way too high, and we can be so quick to judge and complain. I think God has had me on both sides, so I can maybe understand a little better the struggle that both the minister and the congregation feel. But I think that sometimes ministers get so frustrated with those that are “in the world” that they get the attitude that everyone is just less holy than they are and why should any time or talent be wasted on those who will just complain anyway. 

Then there’s the situation of the paycheck and responsibility. In several churches, ministers make pretty good salaries. And in a lot of situations, it’s a great job, because you can get out to go visit people, you can meet people for lunch. You get invited to all the Christmas parties. People bring you food and help you out when you have a need. You aren’t at a desk all day most days and usually aren’t doing things that people in the business world would be dealing with. This can be a temptation, I imagine, for many people who like a good life with good money. I’ve met several ministers who have made jokes about being paid not to work, and I always have to hide the shocked look on my face (that’s hard to do, I’m pretty expressive!). But there can be an element of laziness, I think, in the choice to go into the ministry. And that makes me sad. 

I don’t know. All I know is that in my personal experience, I’ve been disappointed more than I’ve been impressed. I’ve wondered why doing something halfway is acceptable. I have heard every excuse in the book as to why things can’t get done. 

And I think to myself, “If I have a hard time with this, and I have lots of experience with ministry, imagine how frustrating it is for someone who doesn’t know church work inside and out!” Sometimes it breaks my heart to think of the lack of witness that so many ministers demonstrate. 

I have no answers, just a lot of questions. I just wanted to get these thoughts out of my head. I’d love to hear your thoughts, too. I hope nobody is offended at this. I am friends with so many people in church work, and if you read my blog (and I know you read it), I hope you know that I would never be directly hinting at you or anything you do. I think the world of people who are living their call every day, and I know that Jesus is glorified in you doing so. 

Thanks for letting me hash this out. Of course, I’ll reread it a million times before that Publish button gets clicked. 

That’s just me being me. I want you to like me and like what I write. I want to be an encourager, but I also feel responsible for saying what God lays on my heart. So thanks for reading and understanding.

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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Katie Walden  |  February 19, 2009 at 5:47 pm

    I completely agree with you. I’ve had many youth ministers and preachers in my life. And there is one of each that I compared all of them to. I’ve had great and I’ve had horrible. The ones you talked about. The ones that picked favorites and didn’t live out what they taught. And that’s hard to see when you are a teenager growing up and it makes you seriously doubt what this Christianity thing is all about.

    I’ve been a Christian since I was seven and I am just now really starting to figure out what the Christian life looks like.

    I totally agree with you about the fact that when you are a Christian, you are a minister. That’s just not your title all the time. We, as Christ followers, should all be committed servants of the Lord and it should always be full-time.

    I’ve struggled with the idea that God is actually calling me to be in “the ministry” though. It’s tough because I often think what a great way to do life, living it out for my Savior. But then I think about all the sin that we struggle with. And selfishness creeps in. And the gross question comes up — is it worth it to give all that good, sinful stuff up?

    Of course, we answer yes. But are we really committed to that. It’s so tough.

    Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that I agree with what you are saying. You articulate what you are feeling in a very real way and I appreciate that. God has definitely given you that gift. Bless you.

    Reply
  • 2. nicki  |  February 20, 2009 at 3:40 am

    AMEN! AMEN! AMEN!!!

    Dan and I have had SO MANY conversations about how ministry is a tough job but the EASIEST job in the world if you are lazy!!!! Why do ministers think they can constantly complain about all they do and how they never get caught up (because of their lack of planning) and expect people to feel sorry for them!!!!!

    We had a staff member recently that spent more time telling people how tired he was and why he was behind on things than actually working. Uuughhh!!! GROW UP!!! The sad thing is that people bought it and babied him rather than expecting him to do a better job. It makes me sad that the church allows such laziness. How will we ever attract lost people who work hard for everything they have when we hand it to ministers who don’t plan ahead and give 100% to their calling!

    GREAT POST and just what I have been dwelling on!!!!

    Reply
  • 3. Lisbeth  |  February 20, 2009 at 3:46 am

    I don’t think what you are talking about is exclusive to the ministry either. Perhaps you see it more b/c of your closeness with that particular “profession” (let’s call it). Unfortunately, laziness and wanting to get paid to do nothing permeates every field, I think. I know Kendall and I both complain about these same traits in people we work with. It is sad all the way around, but definitely more sad when people are looking for direction and seeing a bad example.

    Reply
  • 4. Jennifer  |  February 20, 2009 at 3:54 pm

    My expectations of Christians are higher across the board. And when I see church members/ministers/Christians act like babies and want to get away with doing as little as possible to get by it makes my heart break. Joey is such a hard worker and we have worked with other ministers like you describe in this post and it makes us frustrated because he does his job to the best of his ability for the Lord who has called him.

    Growing up I never looked at ministers as the untouchable people. I just saw them as men and women like me who happen to work full time at the church. I am sure that was the way the Lord prepared me to be married to a minister and understand that we are all the same. We all are called to love and share Jesus. And in whatever profession we choose/are called to do we should do that with passion.

    Good post…

    Reply

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