PK Life

Church Members: Which One Are You?

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.

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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 …

  1. They aren’t involved in the church so they don’t know what’s going on.
  2. They hear the scuttlebutt but don’t do anything about it.
  3. 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.

 

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Baptism, one week after salvation, August 1993

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!

 

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Practice Ephesians 4:2

Over the last week, I have written and deleted several posts. I had so much on my heart yet I couldn’t find the right words with which to say them. I have been and am frustrated over the political climate in our country.

I am over the moon in love with my niece, nephew, and niece to come. I had the best time

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My nephew’s hand holding his cousin’s head (my niece). 

with my family this past weekend as we all gathered to celebrate my nephew’s 6th birthday. Time is literally flying by. I have so much on my heart and mind where they are concerned. Dreams I have for them and the kind of world that I want them to grow up in.

 

I have friends and loved ones who are wrestling with some really hard things right now. Instead of giving up, they are pressing even harder into Jesus and facing the battle head on.

I try to so hard to focus on what others are going through when I am tempted to turn my gaze on to my “problems”. When the enemy reminds me again and again that someone said something that hurt my feelings or “you always have to do things on your own”. Satan is such a bully and loves to hit you when you are vulnerable … especially when you are tired … as I am today.

I can feel so much welling up in me and I am tempted to give in to that feeling. Whatever that feeling is. To become frustrated, angry, hurt and give in to despair but then I read this verse …

“Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Ephesian 4:2

I was reminded this morning to extend grace upon grace to those who need it and let’s be honest, who doesn’t need it?

When I am tired and people are being extra people-ish … Practice Ephesians 4:2.

When someone has spoken an unkind word … Practice Ephesians 4:2.

When others aren’t pulling their load … Practice Ephesians 4:2.

When someone is treated harshly … Practice Ephesians 4:2.

When someone posts an erroneous FB post … Practice Ephesians 4:2.

When I can’t find any dark chocolate and the vending machine is out of Diet Dr. Pepper … Practice Ephesians 4:2. For the safety of all those involved!

FullSizeRenderThis verse was just a much need reminder that I do not know what anyone else is going through except for me. It is not going to hurt anyone for me to extend grace upon grace because grace upon graces has been extended to me abundantly by the Father and I am the least deserving. While it may be easier to lash out at others it is far more effective to “make allowances for each other’s faults.” And when Satan wants to rear his ugly head with various reminders of ways that I have been affronted by others, I will work to hold those thoughts captive and press into Jesus even more. It takes far more energy thinking about the ways that I am offended and hurt than it does to turn those feelings and people over to the Lord!

So friends, what about you? Do you need a reminder to Practice Ephesians 4:2 today?

I love you all!

 

Random Thoughts

Making Sense of It All

I’ll be honest … I have struggled to know what to write over the last week. The last week has been hard here in East TN.

We started the week of Thanksgiving out with a horrible school bus crash in Chattanooga that saw the loss of 6 precious children. Then we had several horrible, senseless murders in Knoxville.

On Friday, I discovered my family’s storage unit had been broken into between the last time I was there on Monday til I came in that day. It had been completely ransacked. If my life were a Hallmark movie, then the police officer who came to check the situation out would have been a single, handsome and strapping man instead of a lovely woman. He would have felt a surge of protectiveness upon seeing my tear stained, yet somehow still lovely, face and felt the need to come back after his shift was over to help me with setting my unit straight. We would have bonded over our mutual disdain for thievery, almost broke up over some silly misunderstanding (how was I supposed to know that 1990s Miami Dolphins velcro wallet still meant something to him and that’s why he still carried it to this day … he didn’t want or need a new wallet? How insensitive!) but realize our love was stronger than that and be happily married by next Christmas.

If my life were a Hallmark movie, then the police officer who came to check the situation out would have been a single, handsome and strapping man instead of a lovely woman. He would have felt a surge of protectiveness upon seeing my tear stained, yet somehow still lovely, face and felt the need to come back after his shift was over to help me with setting my unit straight. We would have bonded over our mutual disdain for thievery, almost broke up over some silly misunderstanding (how was I supposed to know that 1990s Miami Dolphins velcro wallet still meant something to him and that’s why he still carried it to this day … he didn’t want or need a new wallet? How insensitive!) but realize our love was stronger than that and be happily married by next Christmas.

However …  my life isn’t a Hallmark Movie so instead I was left to pick up the pieces and deal with it as best as I could. I’ll admit that it really put a burr under my saddle. I just couldn’t understand why this would happen. Not that our family should be spared from something like this but it’s still so frustrating.

But all of this was put into perspective after the devastation my neighbors in Sevier County experienced at the hands of the wildfire and my neighbors in Polk County experienced at due to a tornado the next day.I mean, y’all, it’s been insane. People have lost their lives, their homes and for some their livelihoods.

I have struggled to wrap my mind around it all. I have thought back to my dream that I had a few weeks ago as that’s all I could think about on Tuesday night during the storms …”signs and wonders, the Lord is in control and He is coming back.”  I hope you are hearing that.

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I have never been one to talk about the end times as I still have so much that I want to experience during my lifetime but I can’t ignore what is going on around me. Nor can I ignore the fact that for the first time in my life I have complete peace over the Lord’s return. While I do not know when Jesus is coming back here is what I do know … we have 3 communities hurting and in need of love. We have people who need to see what it means when the body of Christ unites together to be Jesus to those in need. The world needs to see how we love not how we “hate”. So, let’s do all that we can within our means and our abilities to be the Church that we are called to be to those in need and to reach a world that is lost …. because friends, the days are short and the hours are few but Eternity is forever. Some are facing an Eternity in a neverending wildfire and we hold the keys to keeping them from that … what are we waiting for?

He said to his disciples, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.”” Matthew 9:37-38

So let’s go … let’s be about the Father’s business.

I love you all.

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Single Life

Season of Thanks: A Prayer and Two Dreams

In honor of Dr. Billy Graham’s 98th birthday today, I am sharing the prayer/poem that his wife Ruth Bell Graham wrote in her teens about the man she hoped to marry someday.

The Man I Prayed For
Dear God, I prayed, all unafraid
(as we’re inclined to do),
I do not need a handsome man
but let him be like You;
I do not need one big and strong
nor yet so very tall,
nor need he be some genius,
or wealthy, Lord, at all;
but let his head be high, dear God,
and let his eye be clear,
his shoulders straight, whate’er his state,
whate’er his earthly sphere;
and let his face have character,
a ruggedness of soul,
and let his whole life show, dear God,
a singleness of goal;
then when he comes
(as he will come)
with quiet eyes aglow,
I’ll understand that he’s the man
I prayed for long ago.

By Ruth Bell

fullsizerender-10A few years ago, I adopted this as my prayer too. I have it printed out and framed in my living room as a reminder to myself to continue to pray for him, my future husband, as well as the empty picture frame that sits by my bed. I posted a picture of one of my many copies that I have of it in 2011 … 5 years ago … but I still stand by what I stated then. 🙂 I would like to say that I pray for him all the time but I don’t instead I bemoan the fact that he isn’t here.

Well, last night I had two very vivid dreams. The first I ended up in a “school musical” and for the life of me, I can’t remember what it was now, however, I was a last minute addition. Let me just tell you that I have never been in a school musical theater production. As much as I loved singing, the thought of getting on stage and acting in front of people mortified me. So here I am, in my dream, thrown on stage in a school production at the last minute but it was the backstage conversation that has stayed with me all day long. I ran into a friend who was deep in grief and admitted that they had been using musical theater (of all things) to fill the void of their lost loved one yet they were still empty. I found myself empathizing with them and admitting there have been many times that I have used various things to fill the loneliness in my life that is only meant to be filled by the Lord.

Instead of seeking solace in Him, I look to things to satisfy that only work for a brief time when what I am searching for is something more fulfilling. I’ll be honest … I use food to fill that void 9 times out of 10. I’m not a glutton but if I am lonely, bored or sad then I’ll eat something. For others, it may be shopping, alcohol, relationships, your children, drugs, social media, or TV. We all have various things that, in and of themselves may not necessarily be bad or they absolutely are, we allow to fill the needs in our lives versus the Lord. And let’s just be honest, when we turn to other things than seeking the Lord first it’s ultimately a form of disobedience because we are in essence making other things our gods.

“You shall have no other gods before Me.” Exodus 20:3

“So why do you keep calling me ‘Lord, Lord!’ when you don’t do what I say?  I will show you what it’s like when someone comes to me, listens to my teaching, and then follows it. It is like a person building a house who digs deep and lays the foundation on solid rock. When the floodwaters rise and break against that house, it stands firm because it is well built. But anyone who hears and doesn’t obey is like a person who builds a house right on the ground, without a foundation. When the floods sweep down against that house, it will collapse into a heap of ruins.” Luke 6:46-49

We will never be satisfied with the things of this world or with the things that are of the Lord if the Lord is not first. It’s that simple. What kind of foundation do you want to build your life upon? Are you, like me, replacing the Lord with something? Seeking comfort in something other than Him and His word? He’s ready and waiting for us to return to our right fellowship with Him. We just have to take that first step.

In my second dream, I was sitting in a house high above a city with a large picture window. There were several others in the home with me when I looked outside and could see planes falling from the sky along with other catastrophic events happening. It was apparent that the Rapture was occurring. It was actually happening in stages. You know in movies when you see a wave of implosion slowly overtaking a city? That is what was happening in my dream but it wasn’t a scary situation. Those in the house were worried because we weren’t “taken” yet but I had this peace that it was coming and we needed to get ready. And that’s what I believe this dream was about … the Lord is coming back … it doesn’t matter what your beliefs are regarding the end times. He’s coming. He told us He is.

 “And there will be strange signs in the sun, moon, and stars. And here on earth the nations will be in turmoil, perplexed by the roaring seas and strange tides.  People will be terrified at what they see coming upon the earth, for the powers in the heavens will be shaken. Then everyone will see the Son of Man coming on a cloud with power and great glory. So when all these things begin to happen, stand and look up, for your salvation is near!”

Then he gave them this illustration: “Notice the fig tree, or any other tree. When the leaves come out, you know without being told that summer is near. In the same way, when you see all these things taking place, you can know that the Kingdom of God is near. I tell you the truth, this generation will not pass from the scene until all these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will disappear, but my words will never disappear.

“Watch out! Don’t let your hearts be dulled by carousing and drunkenness, and by the worries of this life. Don’t let that day catch you unaware, like a trap. For that day will come upon everyone living on the earth. Keep alert at all times. And pray that you might be strong enough to escape these coming horrors and stand before the Son of Man.” Luke 21:25-36

Are you ready? Do you have everything in order in your house? Because He is coming. Now more than ever it is time to be about the Father’s business and share the hope we have in Christ with others.

So today … the day before the election … the day of Dr. Billy Graham’s 98th birthday … I am thankful for the Godly example of marriage he and Mrs. Ruth set for us. I am thankful for the hope of Salvation that he faithfully preached to the nations over his lifetime. And I am thankful for the hope and assurance that Christ is coming again.

I love you all!

 

 

PK Life

Not the Norm

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“Your dad is rare.”

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MDiv Graduation 1990

A few weeks ago, I was talking to a counseling friend from my church who’s husband is on staff. As a mom of two little ones, she was asking me about my experience growing up in the ministry and how I handled knowing that church often took precedence in my dad’s life over my family. I looked at her and told her sincerely that had never been the case with my family. My dad was present for everything. Even when he was in the process of studying for his MDiv and DMin. In fact, I can remember the one football game that he wasn’t able to make due to revival during my

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DMin Graduation 1999

brother’s High School career and it was when my brother was a freshman or a sophomore. Our family sat down for dinner together every single night of the week except for Wednesday night. Even as we started eating out with the youth group after church, on Sunday nights, our parents were often at the same restaurant with us. For a while there, our youth group and parents, with younger siblings in tow, took over a whole section at Jason’s Deli on Ridgeway Road in Memphis almost every single Sunday night. Most Saturday mornings we had breakfast together. When my brother married my sister-in-law, they came over almost every week for at least one meal and we almost always ate out together for Sunday lunch.

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Wedding 2005

As I shared this with my friend, her eyes became big and she told me “your family is the exception. Out of all the pastor’s kids I have talked to I hardly ever hear that. Your dad is rare.” I smiled and said, “I know. We were/are blessed. He had seen the opposite modeled before him early in his ministry and determined to never be like that. And at every church we went to he made it clear that we were his priority. Thankfully, that was accepted and respected.” I didn’t miss the look of awe on her face.

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My baptism – August 1993

I am fairly certain that I have shared it on here before but my dad has said for years “if I fail as a father then I have failed as a pastor.” Yes, he was/is called to the ministry but his God-given priority as a man is to first to his wife, secondly to his children then to his calling. There were times he made decisions that we did not understand at all. We wanted him to fight. We wanted him to react in a fleshly way, like us, but looking back I can see how he was having to look years ahead at the greater outcome for our family than the momentary satisfaction of being labeled right publicly.

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My sister and I imitating his favorite preaching poses – July 2008

He has always been healthy thanks to his love of jogging but he is not a tall man, like my brother, nor is he someone who has ever been interested in lifting weights, even so, he’s always been the first line of defense for our family. There have been several times when my brother, sister, mom and I were attacked within our churches over silly things. Often times it was an attempt to point the finger or to make my dad look bad. My father never backed down and made it quite clear we were off limits. However, if we were in the wrong then you had better believe we were going to have to make it right. But my dad met it all head on … so if someone brought something up about us in front of a group of people then my dad dealt with it right there and shut it down. Once people tried to use me as  the source for a sensitive secret becoming exposed in our youth group, however, my dad tracked it down to the real source and the accusers had to back off his 7th grade daughter. It’s not that he thought we were angels … he was the first to admit our faults to people … from the pulpit (!) … it’s just that he knew the unrealistic expectations people had for us. He and our mom did all that they could to let us know that as long as we sought to do the Godly thing then the rest didn’t matter and that they would always fight for us.

EVERYONE
November 2015

As this Father’s Day approaches, I am thankful to have a father who is the exception to the rule when it comes to ministry. I am heartbroken for those pastor’s kids who did not grow up in a home like mine but I am thankful that we have a Father who can mend and restore what’s been broken.

Dad and I
July 2007

Daddy, 

Thank you for loving our family well, for putting our needs above your own, for showing us what a man after God’s own heart looks and lives like and for the always doing the hard and holy things of God. 

I love you. Happy Father’s Day.     –  Melody