In March of 2007, I came home to Knoxville from a week in Oklahoma City, where I had been visiting my aunt and uncle. My parents picked me up from the airport and I had an hour to repack my bag before we headed to Morristown, TN for the night as my dad would be preaching at a church there in revival Sunday – Wednesday of that week. My mom, sister and I were going up for the night to be with him for the Sunday morning service. My sister and I sang for the service. Afterward, we had a wonderful lunch with the young pastor, wife and his then 4 (soon to be 5, but now 6) children!
Anyway, that Saturday night at the hotel I shared with my parents’ something that I had written while out of town. The Lord had started laying on my heart a ministry for pastor’s families, more specifically their children. Growing up in the ministry, I had always heard of retreats for a pastor and his wife to attend in order to be refreshed in their work for the Lord but it always seemed to me the children were forgotten. While I am no longer serving in the same church that my father pastors, I have come to realize that you never cease to be the “pastor’s kid” and you are always tied to the ministry. I am thankful for the ministry and for the call the Lord has placed on my father’s life. I honestly could not have imagined growing up in any other way. I am thankful for the call the Lord has placed on my life and whether my desire to minister to pastors’ families will ever come to fruition there is one thing I can do now as a church member to minister to their families … support them.
Last Sunday night, my church had an ordination service for two of our ministers. It was a truly precious time in the Lord. The Pastor Emeritus gave the charge to the church and he did not hold back. He said things that I know most pastors wish they could say but can’t for fear of being fired. He told us that it is not our job to correct our ministers … that is the job of the Holy Spirit … but it is our job to support, encourage and pray for our ministers. I probably looked like a bobble head the whole time he was speaking. I had flashbacks of years past to those “well meaning” people who came under the impression that the Holy Spirit needed their help in pointing out a flaw or general disagreement they had with my dad or another staff member. Thanks to them I learned to practice verses like “Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?” “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!” Matthew 18:21-22. While these folks may not have sinned against me personally, attacking my daddy is about as personal as it gets and I have had to learn to extend grace upon grace.
So flashback to ten years ago and that hotel room … what did I share with my parents? Well, I had come to the conclusion that there are 3 basic categories church members fall into and the percentages will vary on the size of the church but the idea is there. And the question you have to ask yourself is where to do you fall?
The Initiator …
The Initiator is not an honorable title but like it sounds they typically are “self-starters” … in life and in the church. They are folks who do a lot for the church but are the first to pick it apart. They are the ones who go around planting seeds of doubts into other church members and questioning the leadership of the church over petty issues. Now, please know I am all for checks and balances in the church and you should hold your leadership accountable, however, when it is always just a few voices raising the questions then that should raise a red flag to the other members. Sometimes, the initiators are quiet and let the others do the talking after they have spread the poison. They make phone calls, visits, write letters to anyone who will give them an ear. They seek the vulnerable in the church for their following. They know how to play on people’s emotions.
They are small group … typically about 10% of the church is made up of them but they are deadly to the work of Christ because their focus is on typically on their needs and desires not the Church as a whole.
The Enabler …
This is where the bulk of the membership falls for several reasons …
- They aren’t involved in the church so they don’t know what’s going on.
- They hear the scuttlebutt but don’t do anything about it.
- They hear the scuttlebutt and spread it.
Those who fall under the third reason are easily whipped into a frenzy by the initiators and their feelings are typically the first thing that has been neglected by the staff – they weren’t visited enough, called enough, validated enough or the wrong staff member came to visit when so-and-so had a visit from the senior pastor before their surgery, etc … However, when they have any opportunity to have a heart to heart with the pastor most of these non-issues are easily resolved, forgiveness is received on both sides and life goes on. But those who fall under reason one and two are the most dangerous to the church because they could be doing something to help stop the issues but instead stay quiet because they do not want to get involved in “church politics” as if forgetting that the church is full of imperfect people and there will always be issues to work through. Some may say something to the staff but they will not reveal the source and their favorite line is, “now don’t get mad but I thought you should know …”
Because of this, the Enablers average about 80% of the church.
The Extinguisher …
This is a rare group … a group of committed Christ-followers focused on Kingdom work and are willing to charge Hell with a water pistol … even if that means crossing the aisle on a Sunday morning and lovingly confronting “the initiator”. These aren’t people set out to make scenes but understand the wisdom of the Matthew 18 principle and seek to practice it. So, when they hear the scuttlebutt they go to the source and say something like this, “I know you aren’t looking to talking bad about Bro. Doe, so about we go together and address this concern with him?” I may be naïve but I truly believe that if more church members sought to be an extinguisher and lovingly told “initiators” and “enablers” that they are not going to listen to their gossip or complaints it would cut out the majority of the junky stuff our church staff has to deal with on a weekly basis. Then church staff could focus on what they are called to do … proclaiming the Gospel and ministering to those in their congregation.
Extinguishers make up the final 10% of the congregation. You may recognize some of them whereas others are quiet and do their work behind the scenes not seeking the glory for themselves because of their focus on the Lord.
I have been a member of four churches in the last ten years (PK side effect … JK) since I wrote that and even though, I have only been a member of my current church for 6 days, I have found these categories to still apply. I have sought to be an extinguisher at the churches I have been a member at but I’ll be honest, I am guilty of being an enabler and I have probably been an initiator at least once or twice in my adult life. However, I have repented and covenant to be an extinguisher at whatever church I am serving in as well as not speak ill of any other man of God at any other church. There’s too much work to be done for the cause of Christ without me running my mouth with my opinions about other pastors. Besides, as I was reminded this past Sunday night, it’s not my job to correct but to support, encourage and pray for these men of God.
So which one are you? Are you willing to change the percentages and become an extinguisher?
I love you all.
Happy Father’s Day, Daddy,
Thank you for being the man who not only taught me about the Lord but also led me to Lord and continued to lead me to the Lord for many years to come. Thank you for showing me that integrity isn’t just a word but it is an action to be lived out … every single day especially when no one is watching. Thank you for the setting the bar high but for being human enough that it’s not unattainable should the Lord have a man waiting in the wings. And thank you for teaching me to work on being the “right one” rather than finding “the one”. I love you!