I came across a Twitter feed that pointed to an article by James Ross, a pastor who, like me, writes about his family, faith, and church. The article caught my attention because of the title and nature – you can read it here. It did get me thinking about my own experience in leading a congregation, and some of the ways people reacted to our leadership, our family and our choices.
I am hesitant about creating an image that The Church is a bad place or a place where only hurtful things happen. Far from it. Our experiences were filled with joy, faith, God changing, loving, generous people. We saw lives changed and families healed. So I will endeavour to follow up this blog with some of those stories.
The book of James points out that we should trust God with all our problems – health, family, sin, relationships. So that’s the point I would make – in the midst of hurtful or dumb things said to us, we believe that God is at work, in us and through us. Sometimes God’s people, caught up in their own issues find the pastor a good target. We love them anyway and pray they find healing for their own needs.
So here goes, things said to us over 20 years of congregational leadership:
- following a strategic planning session with our church leaders – “I suppose that this is good but I don’t see you as being able to lead us through this”
- following a lovely Sunday morning service and while shaking my hand at the door – “you’re an idiot”
- in front of the church leaders, and said by a man who we suspected was taking money from the youth group funds “I don’t trust you – you have no integrity”
- while dealing with a man accused of inappropriate behaviour with children – “I am going to sue you and this church”
- while visiting a dying member of the congregation “we don’t want you to do the funeral, we’ve called (my predecessor)”
- while struggling to make ends meet on what was a meager salary and benefits, told that I was lucky because the denomination “looks after you. You could never survive in the real world”… of course somehow I use to live in the real world, working, paying bills, arranging my life for service to others as well as holding down a real job and commuting.
Now that’s not the whole story…. our children received less than kind compliments as did Wendy and yet we believed God called us and sustained us through it all.
So if you’re the member of a congregation – encourage your leaders. If you’re the leader of a congregation – love your people and be encouraged and strengthened by what God is doing around you and through you every day.
Positive stories to follow!