Sitting on the side of the road next to my bike, holding my scraped and bloody knee. This is a scene that has been etched in my memory. Not because of one isolated incident, but due to how many stinkin’ times I ‘biffed it’ trying to do something impressive (stupid) on my bike.
Remember when you were 7…8…9 years old? Did you ever skin your knee or elbow on the pavement? It only takes a moment thinking about it to vividly remember the pain and emotions of the moment.
I’m not sure why this is one experience that just happens to be almost a ‘right of passage’ through childhood. But it is….not for all of us, but for most.
Recently, I received my Ordination (transferred from previous church) as a Minister in the Free Methodist Church. Sure, I’ll now be able to officiate weddings and funerals in GA. But this is a mile-marker much bigger for me. The reason?
I’ve skinned my knee on the pavement of ‘church hurts’ too many times to count over the last 22 years. My Pastor even suggested that I was suffering from a form of PTSD during one of our early talks! When my family moved to GA 3 years ago, my wife took a Children’s Ministry position in our current church. At that point, I pretty much saw myself lying on the scolding hot pavement, holding my skinned knee, and determined I’d never ride ‘that bike’ again! I had not lost my faith in God…..just my faith in the Church!
Now that God has brought me out of that pity-party of suffering, I realize that last statement was ridiculous! We can’t have a relationship with Jesus and reject the Church…His bride. It simply doesn’t work! I’m incredibly blessed to be serving again on staff at a church. Now, I realize that I may scrape my knee again in the future. I’m OK with that now….really.
Look at this…
Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I (Jesus) have overcome the world. John 16:33 (NLT)
In this passage, Jesus is specifically talking to his disciples about the impending troubles they were about to endure following his death. But for me, it has taken on a very specific encouragement. Here’s my paraphrase as it relates to the topic.
While doing ministry work you will have many seasons of pain, dysfunction, and sadness. But never forget, I have power over these things. Stay the course.
Let me share my definition(s) of church with you.
church – simply a community of believers learning how to do life and faith together. We all vary in maturity, hurtful experiences, and resilience to life.
Church – the holy, pure ‘bride-to-be’ of Christ.
That said, my past wounds have been caused by the church & some of my own doing. Hear me loud and clear on this. We have not be attacked, hurt, defiled by the Church!
Can I share my conclusions with you?
– Kingdom work is messy. Accept it and dive into it!
– God’s call to partner with Him is greater than the speed-bumps we will come against along the way.
– Our rewards are in Heaven. We will experience few (if any) while here on Earth. It’s not about the benefits.
– No matter how bad, painful, or ridiculous our negative experiences in church work have been (will be) …..Jesus’ physical ministry experience was worse!
If you find yourself lying on the side of the road reading this blog, I pray you find encouragement. The numerous miles of riding down the road with the wind flowing through your hair should not be completely taken away from you due to a handful of scrapes and bruises.
May you find healing, joy, and purpose in all that God has planned for you.
How have you moved forward in ministry work? Join the conversation below.
More than 2000 pastors are leaving the ministry each month (Marble Retreat Center 2001)
80% of pastors believe the pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families (Life Enrichment Ministries – 1998)
40% reported serious conflict with a parishioner at least once a month (Fuller Institute of Church Growth – 1991)
Shocking! And even more shocking that the above statistics are 14-24 years old. The situation is worse to day. I recall a seminary professor recently claiming that for every new minister beginning ministry, five step out of ministry permanently every year! Are you kidding me? This is absurd. Something has to change….and soon!
I have been in vocational ministry for almost 20 years. And I am saddened to say that I have witnessed dysfunction in every church I’ve served in. Now, we’ve all experienced hurts in the church at one time or another. There is a huge difference, however, between a church member leaving and a pastor leaving. The difference is this: partnering with and supporting the church one attends vs. having a God-ordained call to grow and lead a particular church body. Below are what I believe to be some of the leading reasons pastors leave churches…and eventually the ministry altogether.
1. The church (unintentionally) places its pastors on pedestals. Now, I’m not saying that we should not express gratitude and appreciation. Our ministers absolutely need the hugs, thank you cards, occasional gifts, and praises. They also need Godly accountability, correction, and guidance from individuals who truly love them. Thinking that your pastor can do no wrong is the catalyst toward the death of a church! Pray for your pastor….don’t idolize them.
2. Conflict is either never dealt with, or it is not handled biblically. My wife and I once made and appointment with our Pastor to discuss some concerns we had with gossip growing in many of the church’s small groups. After we had talked, he leaned across his desk and whispered, “If I don’t know about these things going on, I don’t have to deal with it. This meeting is over.” Let me say something very bold and clear. If Jesus had avoided every ounce of conflict that came his way, you and I would not have a Savior!
3. The pastor is expected (this is non-verbal) to attend every wedding, birthday, memorial, church potluck, graduation, etc. at the expense of his marriage and time with kids. I’m speaking to the pastors on this one. The single loudest ‘sermon’ you can communicate to your church body will not occur on Sunday morning within a 30 minute window. It is embedded in how you set your priorities regarding your wife and kids. Think about it. In which environments do church members see you the most? Do they physically see you hug and kiss your spouse on Sundays, or Facebook about doing something fun with your kids? And let me make another clarification here. Attending a worship service with your family is NOT family-time if you (or they) have anything to do with the leadership of that service.
The church (lower-case ‘c’) is made up of brick, steel, paint, broken and hurting people, and a million opinions of what worship style is ‘godly’ and what the pastor should preach on next week. Imperfection shouldn’t be a surprise.
The Church (upper-case ‘C’) is the bride of Christ. It is the spiritual, Holy, and blessed life partner of Jesus. You and I………we’re a part of it!
So pray for the church leadership. Pray for your ministry calling. Most of all, do what is right above what is popular or non-abrasive.
What are some things that you think would help retain pastors in the ministry? Comment below.