Monday, August 11, 2008

Drawing the Line

I posted recently on “Crossing the Line” which has now led me to post about “Drawing the Line.” As a minister, as a co-Pastor, Pastor’s wife, mom to PKs… whatever hat I am wearing at the time, I have come to the realization that people watch me and my family very closely. As a former PK myself I am no stranger to such scrutiny or people sticking their noses where they don’t belong. However, it happens!

What I have learned is that some things are not worth the battle. I mean do I really want to die on the hill of “You don’t hug my neck enough?” Uh, no, I won’t be dying on that hill, I’ll just humor your self esteem issue and hug you twice on Sunday. And I most assuredly won’t be falling on the sword of a myriad of other ridiculous notions some people come up with. It just won’t happen. I simply choose to consider the source, find a way to humor the whiner and everybody is happy for the most part.

BUT, (you knew that was coming, right?) there is a line I have drawn and every person in pastoral ministry needs one. That line is any personal attack on me, my husband or my kids. You can try to say it “in love” or “to bring correction” but when it comes down to it, personal attacks stem from the personal preference of the whiner.

A few years back when we were in the early stages of World Harvest in Oxford, AL, we had small groups at our home. During one small group night, a couple came and asked to ‘discuss’ something that was bothering them. (Red flag!!) This couple began to criticize everything from the way we disciplined our children, to our leadership style, to the song choices made, to the order of the services. Virtually EVERYTHING!

I sat there trying to be very pastoral, trying to say the right pastoral things, but no matter what Craig said, no matter what I said, they had more to say. Finally, after almost an hour of this ‘discussion,’ I slammed my hands down on the dining room table and said “Enough!” Everyone looked at me, and they were quiet for a minute, then they started up again. I slammed my hands down again and said, “No! Not in MY house! You will not sit here and attack us in our house!” They settled down a bit and listened as Craig and I shared our hearts. Then, once again, the wife started, “Well, you all are too…” and I hit the table again! “Not in MY house! Not in MY house!” The ‘discussion’ was over a few minutes later and the couple had gotten the message. The line had been drawn and crossed and I was standing on the other side of it.

Craig and I quickly learned that the “familiarity” this couple had with us bred a nasty case of contempt! Although the line was there all along, their familiarity with us caused them to disregard it! Just because you are in ministry does not mean you have to become a punching bag to every disgruntled church member who will more than likely never be content anywhere they go!

Craig and I made a decision that we would not allow such dysfunction to rear its ugly head in our home, especially attacks against our family. This has from time to time proved to be difficult because we all know that people will try to show up on your doorstep at all hours, and I do mean ALL hours. And I am talking about church members AND those who have left your church and went to the mega church down the road only to find that there was a gate between them and the front door of the mega church pastor’s door. So, where do they end up… yep, you guessed it!
We had a young couple leave our church in Alabama after they decided they liked the bigger, more improved mega church up the road. It occurred right in the middle of a big growth surge for us which was great but still, we were at a place where we still knew who was missing! They left without explanation and finally after multiple calls, letters, emails and a couple visits, we ran into them at a restaurant. They simply said, “Oh you know, we like the full band and the lighting and the building is so nice there. It is nothing against ya’ll, we love ya’ll (yeah, that is why you didn’t return any of our calls????). We just feel God is leading us to go to this church now. (sure, the ol’ “blame God” line!)” Although it hurt, we released them. The Word says, “They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.” (1 John 2:19 NIV) Is it that easy? I wish! However, it is the Word, so we obey.

A few months later this couple was at our door wanting to talk. They decided that although they attended the church down the road, they still wanted us to be their pastors because the mega church pastor could not see them at a moment’s notice. They made it clear that they would still attend the church down the road, tithe to the church down the road, serve at the church down the road, etc…. but we would be their pastors. Huh, that went over like a lead balloon! Craig was not home at the time so I handled it…. I hugged their necks, said a prayer with them, and I encouraged them to contact their church office for a counseling reference. Then I closed the door (I did not even let them in!) and said (after the door was closed), “Not in MY house!”

We must protect our homes from contention and those who attempt to attack a church leaders’ family. I remember as a PK, there were teachers in my middle school who would race to “tattle” on me to other pastors, deacons, gossipy ladies… oh and yeah, eventually they would get to my parents. Generally I was a model student, I was never one to get into trouble and although my grades could have been better I did okay. I was an honor student in several classes. Still, teachers who did NOT instruct me in school would rifle through report cards to find mine and then broadcast my grades before I could even get home.

Once, my best friend at the time got into trouble for forgetting a paper her mother signed. The teacher paddled her (yep, it is still done in the south folks!) and then boasted to several teachers that she had paddled the Associate Pastor of such and such church’s daughter. When I got home, my parents were waiting for me. And they were not happy. As soon as I entered the living room they gave me the news that they got a call that I had been paddled at school that day. I immediately told them that I had not gotten into ANY type of trouble. They repeated what the they had been told. Then it occurred to me that they had confused my best friend with me! I told my parents, “It wasn’t ME who was paddled! It was ________! She got in trouble because her mom did not sign her paper last night.” The teacher who had paddled her had never even been one of my teachers! Thankfully my parents saw the light and put an end to that rumor mill. We still had trouble from time to time but for the most part they left me and my siblings alone! My parents drew a line.

I know of a lot of people who believe living ministry means living in a fishbowl. This may be true but I have found something…. Those fishbowls have blinds and if yours doesn’t, it is time to put some up! Pull them closed too! If I wanted everyone in the world to view how my family lives in our own private dwelling I would have a reality show! And I would be making BIG money too. There are so many characters in the church, hmm, maybe I’m on to something… a reality show featuring a bold, prophetic bald pastor, his sassy, no nonsense wife (who also happens to be co-pastor!), five daughters, and a cat who is also female…. Do I smell success here???? Perhaps we’ll call it “Not in MY House!”


Deanna Shrodes said...

I love it.

Boy do I relate to this.

Melissa said...

I love this! I have to say I shall claim, "NOT in MY house!" as my own quote if you don't mind! I to relate to this!

Melissa said...

I love this! I have to say I shall claim, "NOT in MY house!" as my own quote if you don't mind! I to relate to this!

Pastor Shelisa Hull said...

Now that's a show I would watch!! HA HA HA :o)

This was great and Oh so familiar to me too!!

Cassandra said...

I am sad to say that I let someone sit in my living room a few months ago rip us up one side and down the other with their list of complaints with us. It was their "concerns" about being a part of our church plant. we sat and took it, and for a few days let us bother us. But, finally realized we werent inthe wrong. I finally got a chance to tell this person WHY it hurt so bad. The things that she saw and were bothered by were simply humanness that resulted of from us letting them close. And she used it to stab me with. It hurt to the core. As if I dont already deal with trust issues! i wish i would have had your courage. gread insight and advice. I definately need to heed it for the future.