ELEPHANT

Many folks have asked us, since we retired, how in the world we stayed in the local church ministry so long (45+ years).  It all goes back to a decision we made after our second“crash and burn” experience in just over 6 years of full time ministry.  We were young, with a still very sick baby, when the first church we were called to serve pulled the rug out from under us.  One day, Ed had a full time job, and the next, we were homeless!  We had to borrow money to rent a truck to get our stuff 500 miles north to a storage unit near my parents’ home in East Tennessee.  Unbeknownst to us that first traumatic week, we were pregnant with our second child.  In fact, Joel’s name is a testament to God’s grace and mercy during those days. Jo-el means the Lord is God. God is the “I AM”…God is who God says he is!! We figured if God could get us out of that mess, then God surely must be all God claimed to be!

We soon moved on to our second church, believing the old adage that if you are thrown by your horse, you should immediately remount.  “Surely,” we thought, “that first church situation was a fluke, and we will get things right the second time around.”  We asked every question we knew to ask, prayed hard, did much soul searching…and believed God’s hand was on that move.  Perhaps God was in that decision, but it didn’t take long for things to go awry!  In a little more than two years, we again found ourselves without a job.  This time, we had two preschoolers, a mortgage, two cars – you get the picture.

At that point, we made the life-changing decision that became one of the “secrets” to our success: Never, ever, put your eggs in one basket again! For us, that meant never again would we commit to a full-time position in one church! So, even though we had originally felt called to be a ministry team, we gave up that vision, and each individually pursued separate church and music careers. Ed served 7 different churches, one school, and taught private piano lessons and tuned pianos for years. Kay served a total of 3 churches, taught in two public schools, and taught private piano for years. For us, this worked, but I will always wonder what might have been possible if we could have used our complementary strengths in one full time situation.

Dear friends, there is an elephant in this room we call “Church.” We rarely speak or even acknowledge that The Elephant is even there, yet it is wreaking havoc on churches everywhere. It is literally destroying good folks who commit themselves to ministry, even going for advance seminary training, often leaving extended families to serve in distant communities. The elephant, in a nutshell, is the serious lack of skilled confrontation and the misunderstanding of anger among both pastors and their parishioners. It would do us well to remember the biblical admonition, “Be angry and sin not!” Sadly, this is one area that is never addressed during professional ministerial training!

I am still haunted by a statement made by one of our seminary professors: “If someone in any of your churches decides they don’t like you, they can and will find a way to get rid of you.” Some folks, it seems, have huge invisible “toes” that unwitting ministers step on without even realizing they are there! Some church folks want to “help” the ministers by offering supposed positive criticism…and gradually undermining not only the morale but also the ministry of those called into the Ministry. Some folks are power people, used to calling the shots in many of their regular groups. When a new minister doesn’t bend to such power mongering, because he/she senses God’s leading in a different direction, lines are often drawn and the battle begins!

Saddest of all, to me, is the fact that much of this dissension happens behind closed doors, and the vast majority of church members have absolutely no clue that there is something amiss. The identities of the perpetrators is protected, in the name of Christian Professionalism, and they are often allowed to take on the role of bullies who run amok because no one confronts them. When the inevitable explosion occurs, there are a myriad of hurt feelings with folks left angry, disillusioned, disgusted, frustrated, incredulous that such a thing could be happening at their church!

I’m curious ( and seeking affirmation I suppose…): How many of my FB friends have been through this trauma, either as clergy or as lay church members?  How did you responds?  Is it still affecting you today?

My hope is that as we begin to talk about this very serious issue, we will begin to find solutions. This epidemic has become as devastating to local churches and their ministers as the current pandemic is to our world. God help us! We have to find a way to stop it!!

About vivace1017

I grew up in the hills of East Tennessee, in a well-educated, articulate, highly creative community. Venturing forth from my hometown at age 17, I attended a small college near Knoxville, and began my career as a music teacher in Taichung, Taiwan. I wound my way from there through grad school in Louisville, KY to a brief sojourn in Georgia, and landed finally, with a husband and two sons in south central Virginia. My career journey has meandered from private music studio to public school classroom, from church organ bench to grant writing and photography. Now, roles are changing again, settling into places that have always been a part of me, yet are only now realizing my best attention. This site is my internal voice as I work through who I have been, who I want to be, and the legacy I want to leave in my wake.
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4 Responses to ELEPHANT

  1. Linda Moore says:

    Thank you for sharing. God is god and HE will see us through. My heart just hurts for all of those that have chosen to spread God’s word through service as ministers, music leaders, deacons, activities and so on. God please help us all. Sending hugs and love to you all. Linda

  2. Jim Rodgers says:

    This is prime example of the pervasive, deceitful, and desperately wicked flesh! When we as redeemed christians try to live the christian life in our own flesh we will be working against the spirit of God everytime. Romans 8:7-8 tells us that it is impossible to fulfill the law of God and please Him when we walk on the flesh. If we are not walking in submission to the Holy Spirit, then we are walking in the flesh. Even those things we do that appear good outwardly when done in the flesh are offensive to the Lord. The flesh is at enmity with the Spirit; it is the playground of satan.
    In general today, the church has forgotten the we are reconciled to God by the death of His Son, and saved by His life. Romans 5:10
    The power of the Christian life is the resurrection life of Jesus given to us when we “receive Christ”. We were dead in trespasses and sins; alienated from the life of God; spiritually dead from birth. When we hear the truth and are convicted of our sin of living our own way, accept his death on the cross to reconcile us to God, and by faith ask Him to come in to us by His resurrected Holy Spirit, we become alive spiritually because we actually “receive Christ” the Way, the Truth, and the Life” into our life.
    We must learn to walk by That Spirit [of life in Christ] and not by the flesh, our old nature.
    Sadly, most christians these days are not told about walking in the Life of Christ which they have recieved. They are told that they need to try harder to live right instead of resting in Jesus. He said come unto Me and I will give you rest. How? He said “I will do it!”
    So what goes on in most churches today is done by immature christians walking after the flesh in committee with other immature christians who are doing what seems right in their own eyes because they are not walking according to the Spirit of Life in Christ.
    It is like the Lord gave us a brand new cadillac when we were reconciled to Him, and filled it up with gas [Holy Spirit], and instead of driving around in his power, we put the car in neutral run around to the back and start pushing the car in our own strength.
    If we could just get all of our brethren to rest in Him, follow His Spirit, and let Jesus live through us as He intended demonstrating the fruits of His Spirit, things would go much smoother!
    Sorry to get preachy, but Tammy and I went through the same type of thing ministering with the youth in our church years ago. Had a business meeting one Wednesday night and we just got voted out…

    • Jim,I love the analogy of the Cadillac! Your reply is a bit heavy on the “God Speak” side, but I know what you mean…and I heartily agree. We work so hard at being “good enough” that we often miss out on the Kingdom of God, which is, quite simply, God in us. Pray for our church…our pastors left three months ago without a place to go. They will be okay, but it was a serious indictment on the church, which is now floundering.

  3. V J HARDY says:

    Kay,

    You post the best and most well written “articles” on your website. This one was especially timely for me, although from a slightly different perspective as that from which you wrote. Last Saturday my church’s associate pastor surprised almost everyone by sending an email of resignation. Unfortunately, it created a lot more questions than it answered.

    Daniel has been our only ministerial staff person since our senior minister retired the end of 2020, and he has done an outstanding job in all respects. He submitted his name for consideration to the pastor search committee, and many, many people wanted him to officially become our pastor. Of course, this is a much more complicated situation that I have time or space to write, and suffice it to say, there is much grief being experienced. For me, all this takes on additional stress as I am scheduled to be worship leader both this coming Sunday and Daniel’s last Sunday next month. Part of my responsibilities include giving the pastoral prayer. I take worship leadership seriously and have spent this week pondering and praying about the words to use on Sunday…without knowing what is truly going on behind the scenes.

    I was getting ready to do some limited travel until the delta variant reared its ugly head. Whether you all come here or I come to you, I really would like for us to be able to spend some time together. Whenever that happens, I will try not to be sick as I was my last visit!

    Hope the adjustments to the device in your brain continue to yield positive results.

    Until next time- Valerie

    Sent from my iPad

    >

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