Saturday, May 4, 2013

Nine Secrets Your Pastor’s Wife Wishes You Knew

This is a very helpful read from

Nine Secrets Your Pastor's Wife Wishes You Knew
Article written by Christina Stolaas posted on June 4, 2014

"She’s always there. Sometimes in the background, sometimes with a welcoming smile up front, sometimes noticed and appreciated, sometimes being silently judged. Your pastor’s wife; the powerful force behind most church leaders often perceived as a mystery by the rest of the church. It doesn’t have to be that way.
What if we just asked our pastor’s wife to candidly, honestly, even anonymously share some of their secrets? What if we invited them to share their hearts and tell us what they wished the church knew?

I posed a simple, open ended question to a panel of pastors’ wives in different states, from different denominations, with various years of service, “If you could tell the church a few things about your role as a pastor’s wife, what would you say?”

Friday, May 3, 2013

"But you excel them all: The Hidden Gem in it All."

Behind every faithful pastor their is an even better woman.  That is why I want to dedicate this post to my helpmate in the spirit of Proverbs 31. "You my dear excel them all."

Proverbs 31:27-31, She looks well to the ways of her household, And does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and bless her; Her husband also, and he praises her, saying: "Many daughters have done nobly, But you excel them all." Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, But a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised. Give her the product of her hands, And let her works praise her in the gates.

My wife and I have been married for ten precious years now.  Of those ten we have been in pastoral ministry for eight and half years.  I cannot imagine trying to persevere in revitalization ministry without a godly spouse, confidant, counselor, prayer warrior, mother, helper, and true friend like my bride Andrea.  My life and ministry is what it is because of this gift!

Having said that, one of the hardest things about the ministry is that a pastor cannot shield his wife from all the pain, hurt, personal attacks, and disappointment of church life from the front row pew.  As many authors have pointed out the challenges of pastoral ministry are in some ways unique (as are the blessings).  I recently read an article by Ed Welch that said being a pastor's wife is the "toughest job on the planet."  Outside of being a godly mother I agree with Dr. Welch's assessment 100%.

Welch's article (below) explains one of reasons why being a "PW" requires so much grace and humility.  Faithful church members should not only remember to pray daily for their pastor but for their PW's.  In this vein, I believe the best chapter in Iain Murray's recent biography on John MacArthur is chapter ten (Patricia MacArthur).  She is the hidden gem behind MacArthur's faithful (public) ministry.

A Pastor’s Wife: The Toughest Job on the Planet 
By: Ed Welch

"Your husband received a near unanimous vote from the congregation when he was called but someone must have rigged the count. After his very first sermon, his approval rating started its relentless downward course, and it feels like the nay-sayers are killing your soul. And all the while, you are expected to keep on smiling and maintain civility.

Pastoral Ministry: A Sure Way to Be Dishonored. (By Ed Welch)

The following article by Dr. Ed Welch summarizes the trials and tribulations of revitalization work and of pastoral ministry in general.  It is a very good article and is well worth your time.   This article captures the pathos of 2 Corinthians and the wounded heart of a loving pastor. This follow up article highlights some of the unique challenges a pastor's wife faces in ministry.

2013 was a very difficult year for the leadership team at First Baptist Church. In some ways it was more painful than any previous year of ministry in it's own unique way.   Welch's article summarizes the deep pain many shepherds have to work through as the strive to build up the body of Christ.  Brother Welch reminds us to "look to Jesus all you undershepherds of Christ!"

ARTICLE: "Here is one reason you must be called to pastoral ministry: the people you love will not love you back—at least some of them will not love you back. They will say utterly horrible things about you, so you better be sure you want to do this. It is one thing to be dissed by the world around you; it is something else again to be demeaned by your own church family while you are pouring your heart out for them.

Personal Attacks
This is the worst feature of pastoral ministry. Every pastor, unless he is surrounded by others who shield him from criticism, has dozens of heart-breaking stories. Take the example of the pastor who receives anonymous weekly letters from a congregant who claims to be speaking for many others when she writes, “I pray every day that you would leave the church.” The letters are all cut out from magazines so they have that creepy look of a murder threat.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus...

Photo Credit:
All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution (2 Timothy 3:12).  Which means, local churches that try and follow the Word of Christ faithfully should expect some measure of push back and opposition too.  Now granted not every hill is worth dying on.  Self-inflicted gun shot wounds are not uncommon in the Christian life or in the pastorate; but now I digress. 

While commenting on John 6:16-21 Pastor Kent Hughes draws out this same principle.
The disciples were in trouble because they had steered their boat into contrary winds. What is the meaning of this? Our Lord is saying, "Those of you who have decided to follow me as your Savior are going to be sailing your vessel into the winds of life. You are going to have trouble. But obey anyway." There are two ways to get into storms. One is to flee God’s will, like Jonah did. A great storm blew up, and he ended up in a fish’s belly. That is different from the disciples’ situation. They were in the midst of a storm because they were obedient to God. Those who decide to follow Christ and give him their allegiance will face contrary winds, no doubt about it. Moses would never have felt rejected by a complaining people if at the burning bush he had decided not to obey Jehovah. Daniel would never have had to face a lion’s den if he had not decided to be faithful to God. Just think of how much persecution Paul would have avoided if he had just stayed in Tarsus. But then these great men would have never known the refreshing winds of the Holy Spirit flowing through their lives. Yes, following Christ will take us into some fierce storms, but the rewards are even greater.

One of the local church pastors that has been a friend and great help to First Baptist Church over the years is Chris Brauns.  Pastor Brauns takes this theme and applies it a bit further here.  I've included some of his original post below.

Local Churches and Christians Should Expect Conflict

"Somehow American Christians believe that if they do everything right at church, there won’t be conflict.  I guess this is true, if everyone did everything right.  But, in a fallen world, the reality is the opposite.  When a local church really begins to follow Christ, then they can expect conflict.  It is certain.  In fact, a lack of conflict, may be a warning sign!
Still, when there is conflict some say, “Something is wrong – – we must not be headed in the right direction. . .” Of course, sometimes conflict is an indicator that leadership is making more decisions. But conflict does not necessarily mean that poor decisions are being made.
The Bible gives countless examples of how people who followed Christ faced conflict.  Reflect on the following verses:
After I go through Macedonia, I will come to you-for I will be going through Macedonia. Perhaps I will stay with you awhile, or even spend the winter, so that you can help me on my journey, wherever I go. I do not want to see you now and make only a passing visit; I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits. But I will stay on at Ephesus until Pentecost, because a great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me (1 Corinthians 16:5-9).” 
Note also Acts 20:28-30, Jude 3-5, & Nehemiah 4:1-4)
And, consider these quotes:
“Over time and through hundreds of conversations we came to recognize that change does not happen without conflict.  As we reviewed the biblical patterns, every time – – without exception – – the people of God began to make adjustments to join God in his activity, conflict emerged.” [1]  Leading Congregational Change: A Practical Guide for the Transformational Journey
“As one pastor said, ‘All my life, I’ve judged my success by how happy everyone in the church was.  You are telling me that if I’m really on mission with God, one sign of my success will be the presence of conflict.’” [2]Leading Congregational Change: A Practical Guide for the Transformational Journey
By this point in the book, you may be greatly inspired by the numerous stories of leaders who persevered in the midst of significant trials. On the other hand, you may be scared to death by the high cost these leaders paid to move their churches to new levels of excellence. You have already read of leaders who were dismissed, stressed-out leaders who found themselves in the hospital, and leaders who faced the wrath of those who were once supporters. Unfortunately, difficulties are commonplace in churches that move to greatness. Sometimes moments of crisis are sensed internally by those who lead the change in the church. Inevitably the crisis also takes place with many of the members. And more often than not, the members who experience the crisis blame the pastor for the difficulties they encounter. [3] Thom Rainer.
Second, virtually every leader in Scripture endured some type of conflict in his or her life. The cost of following Christ is great. We cannot become complacent with the status quo just to avoid conflict. We must lead. Yes, we must love the people, and we must console them when change becomes increasingly painful to them. But we must lead. We cannot be content with a life and a ministry that could be described in the epitaph: ”This leader avoided conflict well.” [4] Thom Rainer.
But the greatest surprise was to hear of the cost of breaking out. My bias did not want this factor to be included in the study. I feared that describing the high price churches and leaders paid when they moved to greatness would deter and discourage others from taking this path.[5]  Thom Rainer
Perhaps the most significant lesson of all, though, was the realization that when you strip it all away, leaders do just two things: They create conflict and they resolve conflict. . . It’s not hyperbole.  Leaders create conflict simply by pushing people to focus on God’s vision.  That creates conflict for most people, because his vision is designed to cause change in our lives – – and most people resist change.[6]  Barna.
It is concluded that every congregation that successfully adapted and flourished in a changing community had a substantial church fight.  Those that chose to avoid conflict at all costs failed to flourish.  No exceptions.[7]  Gene Wood.
Don’t be surprised by painful trials (1 Peter 4:12ff); fix your eyes on the Lord (Heb 12:1-3).  It is worth it!"

The trials and tribulations of reformation ministry

For those called to do the work of church revitalization let us remember Martin Luther's "Theology of the cross." A modern day Reformer, Dr. Albert Mohler, opens up about the trials and tribulations of reformation ministry in a very honest way here

I've included some select quotes from this very moving article below:

Mohler recalls an Easter party when some of those who opposed him were mean to his children who were only 6 and 3 years old at the time.  "I sat down on the floor in the guest room in the president's home with Mary, and we just closed the door and lost it. And we, honestly, as tearfully as we could, prayed, 'Lord, it's in Your hands; we've got nothing more to give.'"

... "The full weight of the relational loss occurred in 1995, the evening when Mohler found himself alone with his wife, crying in the guest room of his home.  He was completely spent."

..."Two weeks earlier, the faculty of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, where Mohler had been president for less than two years, overwhelmingly supported a motion that rebuked him and repudiated his policies, with only two members voting for him and two voting in absentia. The days that followed weren't any easier."

..."I felt very imperiled about being able to be the president who would be able to build the institution on the other side," Dr. Mohler said. The trustees "needed me at least to get the hard work done and do the deconstructive work, even if I didn't have the opportunity to have the constructive work on the other side."

..."We were, day by day, living in the tortuous context of walking into nothing but unending conflict, from beginning to end," Mohler said. The conflict "wasn't just on the campus, but extended over into the SBC, extended over into the world of theological education, extended over into the city of Louisville, such that Mary and I were almost unable to go eat in a restaurant without having invectives hurled at us."

..."If it's about the convictions, then you can handle the opposition, the criticism, the controversy because it's not most importantly about you," Mohler said. "My ambition and goal and purpose has been to articulate convictions that I believe are not only true, but are important for the sake of the church, for the sake of the world, for everything from eternal life to human flourishing. If you understand the issue of the truth, if you have confidence in the truth -- and your convictions ... are not only true, but urgently important -- then you have to be willing to undergo a great deal of controversy."

..."Like any movement, the return to orthodoxy and confessional fidelity at Southern Seminary included not only a leader, but many people. Among them, Mohler expressed his thankfulness for the support of the trustees and pastors within the conservative movement who provided essential support and encouragement."

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Gossips, Busybodies and Wisdom from the Pastoral Epistles

The holy Scriptures are the inerrant and infallible Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16).  His Word is trustworthy and true because the Divine author of Scripture is a God who cannot lie (Titus 1:2).  As such we must interpret our experiences through the grid of Scripture rather than interpret the Word of God through our personal life experiences.   The longer I am in Christ and the more time I spend in full time ministry the more I see how Divinely powerful, perfectly accurate, and relevant the Bible truly is (Hebrew 4:12; 2 Timothy 3:17, Psalm 119).  God's Word is totally sufficient for all things pertaining to life and godliness.

In 1 Timothy the Spirit of God, through the apostle Paul, provides a young pastor (Timothy) with an inspired church manual.   1 Timothy 3:15, but in case I am delayed, I write so that you may know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth.  In chapter five Paul provides specific instructions related to body life including how the church ought to minister to widows and how widows ought to conduct themselves in the household of God.  One of the passages of Scripture that always seemed just a little bit harsh to me was 1 Timothy 5:13, And at the same time they (young widows) also learn to be idle, as they go around from house to house; and not merely idle, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not.

We do not want you to be uninformed...about the troubles we experienced (WHY?)

In 2 Corinthians 1:8-10 Paul wrote the following inspired words, For we do not you to be ignorant, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia.  For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself.  Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death.  But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.  He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us.  On Him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.

Some  will surely accuse me of being too weak, too vulnerable, too transparent, and/or too candid in this "Decision Points" series of articles and personal reflections.  Though I am unequal to compare myself to the Apostle Paul in any significant manner I do hope to imitate his heart as I compose this ministry blog.

Paul said that he did not want his church family to be unaware of the many hardships his ministry team experienced as they attempted to faithfully serve King Jesus.  One of the reasons why so many Christians gravitate to this letter is because Paul is so open and transparent in it.   Apparently this mature pastor with skin as thick as an elephant hide also possessed a heart as tender as the psalmist.  The theologian with razor sharp logic was also a shepherd with real affection and passion for people. 

By emphasizing ministry opposition, push back, fears, disappointments, & various set backs Paul sets the stage to further magnify the grace and power of God.  The God who calls us into gospel service is the God who raises the dead!  The God who takes His people through many dangers, toils, and snares is the same God who will deliver us time and time again! The pilgrim's pain is intended to help us not be so self-reliant (which is a constant problem) that we might depend entirely on Him.