Message of the Beatitudes – Eight – Persecuted

 “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me.”  Matthew 5:10-11. 

When I met Earl, he had already been in the ministry 12 years, he had 3 children (10, 12 & 14 years old), and was pastoring as an abandoned single parent in a church that had about 10% of the city residents, (600 of 6,000).  I was in my mid 30’s he was in his early 40’s.  I had 2 children of my own (10 & 16 years old).  But I didn’t think twice about dating and eventually marrying a pastor.  I had been a Roman Catholic growing up, became a Baptist at 28 and didn’t see any issues with becoming a Presbyterian when I married Earl at the age of 36.

After 13 years of marriage bliss – 🙂 – I have since discovered how life in the ministry can be.  My husband has had all of the 8th beatitude negatives hurled at him at one time or another in his ministries, from insults to persecution to loss of larger church calls because he wouldn’t compromise his beliefs, and to having all kinds of evil said against him falsely on account of his belief in the Jesus as presented in the Bible.

I remember a church that would have called him, but told him that he would have to leave all his controversial sermons in his filing cabinet.  Needless to say, he didn’t take the call.  Over the years, I too, have had derogatory and untrue comments said about me.  Those have really hurt especially since I have been very actively involved at many levels in every church that we have served. 

     I would highly recommend to all church sessions, leaders, staff and church members, the book, “What Pastors Wish Church Members Knew” by Denise George.  This book says it all and then some. 

     If you take the time to read the book mentioned above, you will actually see the real world of a pastor’s life and the far-reaching effects upon his family.  Jesus warned that all those who made the decision to follow Him would be persecuted, they would be afflicted, and they would be oppressed.  In  1 Thessalonians 3:4-7, Paul writes that he advised the church that he was going to suffer affliction and then by verse 7 he states, “In all our distress and affliction we were comforted about you through your faith.”

     A pastor and his family know that according to the Scriptures, ministry is going to be difficult.  Jesus promised that it would be.  That is part of God’s call, and I am not really complaining.  But Christians need to recognize that sometimes they can be used, usually without their awareness of it, to damage a good ministry and to discourage someone who has been graced by God to shepherd and benefit the church.  With this knowledge and with a lot of prayer, forgiveness, and the strength of God, a church family and a pastor’s family can be victorious through all kinds of trials.  We can all bear much more fruit for Jesus Christ when we stop insulting and discouraging pastors and start praying for them and supporting them and respect the fact that God may be working through them.

When I read God’s Word, I am in awe of the prophets who have stood in time past and had been persecuted.  I never compare my life with theirs, but I can understand just a little better some of the dynamics and trials of their lives.  To be persecuted because of your belief in Jesus Christ is like a badge of honor because when this happens to us, Jesus reminds us of His promise, “Rejoice, and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”   (Matthew 5:12)   At least when we are persecuted on account of Jesus, we know that we are on the right side!

One of the most important and holy acts of kindness a church family and shepherds can do is to be in continuous prayer about their shared ministry together.  Jesus tells us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.  Churches that have done exactly that have seen the positive results of the Holy Spirit working in the lives of those who have had a God-change of heart.  Blessings abound for all involved when we do as Jesus directs rather than taking matters into our own hands and reacting cruelly, hurtfully or in an un-Christ like manner.

Unlike many minister families who may be experiencing more severe issues, Earl and I are doing relatively well.  I did not write this blog to imply that we are always experiencing persecution.  But some pastors and churches are going through such trials that we should not only be praying for them, but also teach and proclaim that it shouldn’t be the church that persecutes its own – even if the world does.  Many times churches and shepherds can experience great love, prayers and support for each other.  And this is how our witness should be to our culture.  But in this ministry as a pastor’s wife, I have learned what God’s call upon my life is.  As Earl ministers to our church family, I am to minister to him.  For his days are long and hard out in the ministry field.  The very least that I can do is to minister to him and attempt to make his divine call as easy to bear as possible.  We are in this ministry of Jesus Christ together – for better or for worse.

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Pick Up the Cross He Gave You!

Self-examination is always a good thing. Perhaps if we did it a little more often, we would find that the ministry God has called us to do and the cross that He has asked us to take up, aren’t as burdensome upon us as we sometimes feel.

            I was teaching a Sunday school class years ago, when I came across an analogy that helped me see the gifts that God has blessed me with and how to reflect on those gifts and use them for His Kingdom.

             When you were a child or teenager, what attracted your eye and put a smile on your face? Imagine you are walking down a sidewalk (in my case it was more like a cow path) and something off the beaten path catches your eye – a baby in a stroller, ducks on a pond, colored balloons rising into the sky, a dog and a Frisbee, or perhaps an elderly person sitting on a park bench.  What caught my eyes as a child were things like a cotton candy machine at a fair with all that pink fluff whooshing in the hot air bowl.  The bright colors drew me away from the gray cow paths on the farm in which I spent so much time.  I still love cotton candy and bright candies in all the colors of the rainbow.   So what is it that draws you away from the gray sidewalk and causes you to see bright, vibrant color? 

 

As we walk down the path of life, and all the wonderful things we are drawn to and enjoy get stashed away in our memories, do we tend to forget about all the wonderful color that still surrounds us or do we only remember it only in fond childhood visions of the past?  Perhaps we’ve had to make many dull choices along our path in order to make it in this life.  And we realize our lives just aren’t very colorful.  Are we now doing things that just don’t put a spark or twinkle in our eye?

            When Earl and I first were married, we took a call within 2 months of getting married and moved from Virginia to Georgia.  I was unclear in what was expected of the pastor’s wife.  And one day, a few months into the ministry, I looked at Earl and said, “I’m not doing anything; what am I supposed to do?”  In his usual kind way, he looked gently down at me and said, “Honey don’t worry about it, the women will start asking you to do things soon and then you’ll have plenty to do.”  I harrumphed to him.  But marking his words, that is exactly what happened.  Yet over the course of time, I would end up doing things that I genuinely didn’t like doing.  Eventually I found that the thing I truly liked doing was to invite over and feed the people of our church.  But I only discovered this because I started doing just about everything they expected me to do.

            For many years, I invited our entire congregation for an annual Christmas lunch after the choir cantata on a Sunday in December.  I would fix all the food the day before and Earl would set up the tables and chairs and help, and we would warmly welcome those 250+ friends in line as they came through our house.  It was so much fun.  We would invite Earl’s staff and their spouses every year at Christmas time so that we could show our gratitude for the service that they done throughout the year.  We would clear out the living room, set up tables in front of the fireplace, adorned with decorations, and serve them 5-course meals.  And we would enjoy each other’s company and get to know one another a little better.

            The ministry that God has asked me to do is with the flock that my husband has been given the privilege of serving. God uses the gifts that He has given me to give me joy and to bring color into the path of my life.

1 Corinthians 12:1, 4 &11 “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware.” – “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit.” – “But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.”

Walking Down the Aisle to Serve…

Galatians 5:13
“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.”

When Earl and I got married, I did very little of the planning. Truth be told, I did NONE of the planning. I did manage a week before our wedding, to take my good friend Bev and go look for a dress for my big day! Now, I am a very organized and detail oriented person. So looking back, it’s very hard for me to understand how I could have let this big day just happen.

Earl planned everything from the flowers to the music, the cake, and also the car that whisked us away after the ceremony. I got myself into my dress and waited for my queue to walk down the aisle with this handsome man on my arm. Our wedding was a full worship service with hymns, liturgies and a sermon. We spent the sermon portion of the service looking down from the church choir balcony listening to every word and in total awe of the over 300 guests present. We then took our moment to walk down the aisle together to say our vows. After saying “I do” and being presented as man and wife, we came back down the aisle to an instrumental piece that Earl had written, played on the organ…..it was magical! I still to this day, wake up to that beautiful piece of music entitled, “The Proclaimed Word” as it plays as our alarm each morning.

Why am I reminiscing about my wedding day so long ago when I’m talking to my fellow pastor wives? Well, let me just say that, every Sunday morning, I relive that beautiful day of saying “I do”.

Years ago, when I realized that God’s appointed ministry in my life was to minister to my pastor husband, I understood that Earl needed assistance after a worship service concluded. I let you know in my blog entitled, “A Rare Sunday in the Pew…”, that I walk around pre-service to meet and greet congregants and visitors. Well, an extension of that ministry evolved when I understood that Earl was being given numerous prayer requests and concerns as people left the church after a service. In the receiving line, Earl couldn’t greet everyone and at the same time write down prayer concerns I found that by sitting in the front of the church, usually 3rd or 4th pew, I could actually see the service better, but I could also take the opportunity to walk back down the aisle with Earl as he went to the doors to greet attendee’s. Each Sunday, I walk down that aisle with Earl and feel a renewal of our vows, to have and to hold, in good times and in bad, for better or worse.

I stand at the doors with him, hand him gum or a mint in order to relieve him of any dryness of mouth from speaking, and I offer him another ear. Some congregants hesitate to burden their pastor with their request feeling that the pastor has too much to do already. I am someone they feel they can inform and they know I will get it to Earl. I write down the requests, and he is free to continue to greet everyone.

I am right here beside him, being his helpmate and right here for HIM, in HIS service..to this day I say, “I do”…….

God, Family, Church?

If you are a pastor, your job is to serve Christ first and foremost.  Great, I understand that.  That would be under the God heading within a Christian’s priorities.  But within a pastor’s priorities, what happens to his/her family being second, or more specifically, the wife of a pastor being second?

I know that there must be a lot of pastors’ wives that ultimately feel that they don’t even come in a close second.  They feel that they are ranked way down on a list of priorities by their minister spouse.  Maybe they are 200th in a 200 member church.  Whatever the church roll is, add 1 and that’s where she is. It is hard to be dead last even if, at times, it is out of necessity. The reality is, the real priorities of being a pastor must at least feel different to the family.

God, Church, Family (spouse)………..and they don’t like it.

What we, as pastors wives, have to ultimately open our eyes to is what it means to serve Christ first.

It took me a little while to understand that when God united Earl and me, “for this cause a man …..shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh” (Matthew 19:5) and “Consequently they are no longer two, but one flesh” (Matthew 19:6), I too was called into the ministry.  Yes friends, we were called into the ministry along with our husbands if we are truly one flesh. 

Therefore it really doesn’t matter if he was called into the ministry before you met, while you dated or even years after you were married.  If the two were joined in marriage, they are both called, because in marriage, God does not call one without calling the other.

And since every Christian is to serve Christ first and foremost, we may not have been called to preach, but we, as a ministers wife, have been called to do one of the greatest ministries ever mandated by God.  What is that?

We were called to serve Christ alongside our husbands as a helpmate to him.  A pastor’s life is not glamorous.  The statistics on a pastor’s life are horrendous.  Take a look at these I found under the Schaeffer Institute:  Statistics on Pastors, By Dr. Richard J. Krejcir.  Here’s the link if you want to know more:

http://www.intothyword.org/articles_view.asp?articleid=36562&columnid=

  • 100% pastors we surveyed, every one of them had a close associate or seminary buddy who had left the ministry because of burnout, conflict in their church, or from a moral failure. 
  • 90% of pastors stated they are frequently fatigued and worn out on a weekly and even daily basis (did not say burned out). 
  • 89% of the pastors we surveyed also considered leaving the ministry at one time. 57% said they would leave if they had a better place to go—including secular work. 
  • 77% of the pastors we surveyed felt they did not have a good marriage. 
  • 71% of pastors stated they were burned out, and they battle depression beyond fatigue on a weekly and even a daily basis. 
  • 38% of pastors said they were divorced or currently in a divorce process. 
  • 30% said they had either been in an ongoing affair or a one-time sexual encounter with a parishioner. 
  • 23% of the pastors we surveyed said they felt happy and content on a regular basis with who they are in Christ, in their church, and in their home! 

I only took those statistics that directly related to family and marriage.  These numbers should prompt every good pastor’s wife to ACT. 

But what can we do when we hardly ever see this dear sweet, (well, not always) man of ours?

Serve him as He serves Christ!  Oh that is so politically incorrect!   But when you serve your husband the way he serves Christ’s people, you are doing a great service for God.  Who better to serve “God’s Man” than “God’s Woman”?  We need to focus on how to serve our husbands better in order that their lives in the ministry will be a little easier on them, and possibly, some of the above statistics aren’t fulfilled in your marriage.

One of the small things that I have chosen to do is to be up at 5 AM on Sundays, while he is preparing and dressing for a full day of service and meetings, and cook him a good breakfast.  Of course once he is out the door, I promptly take myself back to bed!. But this one little act (among others), has made a big impact on our marriage.  He goes out fully nourished to battle the day, and he really appreciates it.  I believe he even preaches a little better after a good early morning breakfast.  And it also puts me in a very good light in his eyes – and I believe in God’s eyes too.

A Rare Sunday in the Pew…..

As ALL pastors’ wives know, we are almost always lone pew sitters.  While other couples snuggle up, get comfortable, whisper their thoughts together during a worship service, we pastor wives’ sit alone.

Today was one of those rare Sundays where my husband Earl was not behind the pulpit, but right next to me on the pew.  Not our James Island Presbyterian pew, but it happened to be a Baptist pew…  We had a Sunday off and went to worship together.

But upon entering the sanctuary, we were not greeted by any greeter or ushered to a seat by a church usher.  We found our own bulletin, located the restrooms prior to service and then seated ourselves.  There were people in the sanctuary talking amongst themselves, couples and groups, and though we were noticed as visitors, we only had one person introduce himself to us.

One gentleman strolled up from the front of the church to shake hands and say welcome and then off he went to chat with someone that he knew.  Next, Earl got up to ask someone who was preaching (it was not listed in the bulletin), and while he was gone, a woman walked past me, I caught her eye, and she was compelled to do one of those little waves and “Hi, how are you doing?” I am not sure she heard my answer because she walked away and wasn’t close enough to have heard my response.

Once Earl and I were back together, not one other person approached us for the next 15 minutes while we waited for the service to begin.  We both felt a bit unwelcomed.

Upon reflection, I of course, had to think about our church.  Is this the way our guests feel at times?  Earl and I both try to take time before both services to welcome and to greet not only our longtime congregants, but also all those visitors who walk through our doors.  Pastors do not normally have a lot of time before a service to walk out and talk to the parishioners, they are mentally preparing and praying to hear and deliver God’s Holy Word. But they and their people all need to take the time.  I see our members walking around and talking to others every Sunday.  And I am glad.

But how does that happen?  

First, I believe that the pastor’s wife needs to take the lead and get out in the congregation and talk to people.  Not only should she welcome them, but be sure to ask about their lives.  If you know something about the person, ask about something in particular.  If not, ask what they did that week.  This gives the pastor’s wife the ability to find things out that perhaps her husband/pastor is not yet aware of.  She can fill him in and he can then be sure to contact with that individual later on that day or week.

This is also the perfect time to approach someone who is visiting for the very first time and offering him or her a name and contact person (yourself) if she/he has any questions or need to talk.  It would also help to even invite a lone person to sit with you, so he or she doesn’t feel alone in a new church environment.

But this is just me.  I am but one person.  Yet as the pastor’s wife maybe taking the lead in this, it might encourage other members to be a little more hospitable, warm, and welcoming.  Not only may there be more greeting members, but by your actions, you will be reflecting Christ to those around you and they WILL begin to follow your lead.

Hebrews 13:1-2: “Let love of the brethren continue.  Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.”

God’s peace and understanding,

Laura

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