Ministry Journey Blog

Thoughts on Ministry

12 Sep


Posted in Uncategorized on 12.09.17 by Merlyn

Congregation members are often referred to as sheep, a connection to the Gospel and some of the teachings of Jesus. I have found this analogy to be inaccurate and unhelpful. That said, there are some aspects of it that can be helpful. I was once told that sheep bite. I do not know if that is true or not, but I can imagine it. While the sheep analogy is not helpful and while I do not know if sheep in fact bite, I do know that Christians and church members do bite quite frequently. I of course am not referring to physical biting, but the bitting with words that Christians around the world have become known for. Pastors and other ministry leaders are often the target of this biting. I know as a Pastor, that I have had other Christians and church members say some of the most awful things to me and about me. It always hurts a little, sometimes more. There is the idea that a Pastor is not in fact a person, rather community property. So when someone in a church attacks or is biting, it is not seen the same way by many, as somehow it is ok to treat Pastors, staff and ministry leaders that way. This has happened to me far more times than I can count. Each time it has hurt. Each time I have forgiven. I often seek to understand why someone would do that, never make it about my character and work to let it go as quickly as possible. I cannot remember most of the times this has happened to me, because I do move on. We often take out our issues on the church because we cannot get away with it at home or at work. There in lies the double-edged sword so to speak. On the one hand, it seems so wrong to be nasty at church, to the church and its leaders. On the other hand, the church should be a safe place to let go of all your angst. The church is to be a place of love and pastors and ministry leaders must love their people even when they bite. That has not been difficult for me personally, but I know it can be for many. Rarely do I remember the bites of the past, unless it has become a funny story or God brings it to mind as an illustration for a teaching or a sermon.

Recently, I received an email that was quite biting. In fact, I can say I have never received anything quite like it and those I shared it with agreed that they too had never seen anything like it and that it was mean, inappropriate and crossed a line. After reading it, my first response was anger. My second was hurt. My third was love. I often remind people that love seeks to understand and always forgives. I also remind people that love has boundaries. So I instituted some of my boundaries, but that did not feel like enough. I then decided I needed to respond graciously and clearly, not to stick up for myself, but to explain the background behind the concern in the email, but to name the inappropriateness of the communication and to clearly communicate that it is not something that will be accepted or tolerated. It was not easy and knowing Christians I am not sure what the repercussions were, but of all the emails I have ever sent that had any emotion in them that could be received negatively, this is one that I could not have felt better about. Its hard when people attack and hurt you, especially when you have nothing but love for them and have and desire only to help them. The reality is, Christians can be biting sometimes and our response is always to forgive and love, and sometimes to point out that biting is not ok.

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