Monday, January 01, 2007

The new "ears" in town...

We're the new "ears" in town... We have been at our present church about a year now. We are getting to know different members and staff personnel. We've been welcomed and loved and encouraged. It's been a good change. I've been allowed to jump in as deep as I care to using my gifts... music, writing and just being "Deb".

And, as I'm in seminary, I know I'm being watched. There are people who go out of their way to be encouraging. (God bless them! They have NO idea how much their prayers and hugs mean...) There are others who wonder why "at my age" I would go back to school. (Yeah. well. Talk to God, I'm just following!)

We have changed churches before, so the predictable is happening. We are learning "who's who" in the church...

  • First - You meet the squeaky wheels, the malcontents, the people who pretend they are friendly only to pump you for information on what you know about the church, or to portray themselves as someone that you "need" to get acquainted and involved. They often introduce you to the leaders and organizers of the church (giving you a carefully biased and constructed opinion of the church's "history".)
  • Second - The folks who are 1000% focused on Jesus, the ones who will give you anything in service of the King, and the ones who are gifted beyond words at what they do.
  • Third - there's miles of folks in-between who are faithful, quiet and servants to the extent that their jobs, families and finances allow.
Unfortunately, the ones who work the hardest to get our ear are the first ones. Their agenda is self-driven. Their suggestive commentary and critiques are poisonous to attitude and serving. They turn people off to the church and her mission... yet they don't leave and go to another church! (Isn't that odd?? If there is so much that is "wrong" then WHY are they still here??)

Kenneth Haugk describes people like this as those who go out of their way to attack people or their performance. The attacks are often behind-the-scenes and with the goal of bringing other people in on their "side" of a situation. They are not as interested in taking power away from others as just making those who are leading to feel unable to lead (or that they are essential to the leader's "success".) [Antagonists in the Church]

When I first sat and talked with experienced pastors about my dreams of going to seminary, they each warned me about "people". One pastor said, "you need to love all of God's sheep, especially the sick ones." Then he went on to tell me about the people in his church who had hurt him terribly, yet who he continued to love and pray for daily. His wife said, "it is a kind of insanity... you keep loving the unloveable yet within limits." Another pastor said, "be prepared to follow Jesus, not the opinions of your ruling elders. And it will be hard."

Geesh. Nothing like scaring me -- and yet it helped me check my resolve and goals with God's heart and will...
So as I am listening more and talking less, I have decided to enter into praying for "the antagonists" I have met...

Easy? Oh no... But even the sick sheep need a pastor...

Thoughtfully, from our home to yours...
Deb

4 comments:

Sally said...

Thought provoking post Deb- it is challenging to consider the voices we hear- critical voices always seem loudest and it is easy to think they are the only ones at times.
Peace and blessings for 2007.

LutheranChik said...

There's a good, if visually dated, film out there that I think Lutheran Brotherhood or AAL (two Lutheran fraternal organizations that later merged to become Thrivent Financial) produced called "The Anxious Church." It addresses the issue of malcontents/instigators/obstructionists in congregations, and one of the points that I found helpful was that persons who exhibit these characteristics in congregations are often people who feel very disempowered/out-of-control in their out-of-church lives. Church sometimes provides them with a platform from which to exercise power, even if in a kind of passive-aggressive way...and change in a church can threaten their feeling of being empowered. It's an interesting film, especially for persons interested in interim or "crisis congregation" ministries.

Iris said...

Deb,

You are way ahead of the game with this kind of understanding. You'll have your challenges, but you're better prepared than most, I must say!

hipastorzwife2B said...

Can't type...still thinking, good job.