Lisa rose to her feet, exhaustion evident as she leaned over and began to brush her fingers across the beautiful tablecloth to smooth out the wrinkles. What was she thinking, waiting so late to prepare for another event that had so much meaning for the young couple who were expecting their first child?
Sighing, she assessed the aches and pains of the day. In reality, it had been a good day. No one had snapped at her at work, which was a win in her books. No one had brought her an unanswerable question, and her boss had been in the other office. It had been a quiet day. Two co-workers were out sick, though, and she was hoping that whatever had them at home hadn’t transmitted into her system. She didn’t have time to be sick.
The pressures of working full-time, being a mother to two daughters, being married to a pastor, and being a writer were challenging enough. Today she was feeling the full brunt of the reality of her life. A well-meaning church member had left a note for her husband that had discouraged him. Because of this, Lisa hadn’t slept all night. Now she was struggling to make it through the rest of the day with a smile on her face.
Cami was putting the vases on the table and talking about the final preparations for the shower on Saturday. That day was jam-packed too, with a car show and a parade as well as the baby shower. It was going to be another exhausting day. Lisa wanted to close her eyes for a few minutes and rest. Her thoughts wandered back to the note. She’d cried out to God all night, trying not to ask why but rather how she could help her husband. Why would someone think that anything other than devastating hurt would result from such words? She thought again of the passages in Psalms that she’d read that morning and finally of the comfort they’d brought. Trust me. If only she could!
Cami was a dear friend. Lisa glanced over at her setting out the vases. Cami was taking on so much with this new mother and other expectant couples—getting to know them, ministering to them, taking them to the Pregnancy Care Center, helping them with rides to the doctor, encouraging them in every way she could.
God, bless Cami, help her to be wise in how much she takes on, and thank you for her friendship and that of others in this church. You are so good! I know that you will work all this out to your good. There are so many people here that love you and want our church to be pleasing to you. Help me to dwell on that mercy rather than the one who has distracted me from focusing on your goodness.
“I think that’s all we can do for now,” Cami said with a sigh, walking over to Lisa, taking her hands, and pulling her to her feet. “On Saturday, I’ll get a few more decorations and pick up some bottles of soda. Then, with you bringing the cake, extra tablecloths, and your epic chex mix, we should be all set. The family will be here at four. I can’t wait until she sees this room decorated and the gift the church got for her.” She looked over to the bassinet with its big yellow bow.
Lisa smiled. Ministry. You had to be made out of rubber to work in ministry. It made bouncing back a little easier. Ministry was about pleasing God and loving people to Him, in spite of the well-meaning members who thought they knew better.
“Would you like to go get some coffee before we head home?” Lisa asked Cami as she locked the door to the fellowship hall.
Cami lit up. “Yes, I’d love to do that. I’d like to ask your opinion on some ideas I have for the youth ministry.”
Lisa smiled. Ministry was hard but worth it
Is this story so far from the truth?
Lisa’s case is not unique. Churches across the country have well-meaning members who think they have the answers to why things in the church aren’t working. This is not a new phenomenon. In fact, it has been going on for generations. Everyone has the answer, but none of them really want to do the work for their amazing solution.
“I prayed about this and—”
“God gave me this revelation about how to handle—”
“I know what your problem is—”
“Pastor, we’ve had a meeting and—”
Their words are enough to make a pastor’s stomach churn or his heart drop. Finding an envelope on a Bible or desk or pulpit rarely ever encourages a pastor. In fact, I suggest to you that 9 times out of 10, it’s a complaint with the suggestion that the church would be better off with someone else ministering to it. It’s just like the phone ringing on Sunday morning as we’re getting ready for church—NEVER good news.
The kicker is that the pastor’s door is always open, but no one ever wants to discuss what upsets her. Why is that? I have a theory. I think people know their own hearts and know that part (if not all) of the problem stems from their own issues. No one likes to have a light shone on his own weaknesses and sin. Nope. That’s not fun at all.
If we took time to truly analyze why we’re unhappy about something, more than likely we’d find that the Holy Spirit is prodding us in a direction that we’re reluctant to go. Instead of looking for someone to blame for the problem, we should consider that maybe God wants us to be part of the solution to the problem. What a concept!
Stop pointing fingers! Instead, pray and ask God how you can help with the situation you’ve noticed. There are many ways to minister, and if we open our hearts and ask for direction, God will give it liberally. Ask for wisdom and guidance.
“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” James 1:5
God knows what’s going on. He knows your heart, and you can’t hide it from Him. There’s good news, though. He loves you anyway. Trust Him.
God, lead me in my service for you. Show me where I can be the most effective and pleasing to You! Help me not to criticize but to bring my concerns straight to You, because if I don’t, I will surely say or do something foolish. Show me how I can best encourage my husband and daughters. Teach me to close my mouth and count to ten with a quick prayer for your grace when a well-meaning person says something critical about a brother or sister. Please give me the wisdom to minister to the ladies you’ve placed in my care. And most of all, Father, help me to trust you when we are in the desert of ministry. Help me to be patient for the rain that you’ll bring.
In the meantime, may you be encouraged, and may God bless and keep you all!