So what do you do when somebody doesn’t wait for the phone call, they don’t make an appointment, they just come up to you and verbally spew their negativity on you unannounced?
To all you pastors and pastor's wives who are reading this who may wonder what I do in this case -- when people are about three words into their grievances, I try to end the conversation somehow and go stand by one of my armor bearers. (For those of you who are not leaders or may not be familiar with this term, it is from the scripture – you can read about it in I Samuel 14 with the relationship between Jonathan and his armor bearer. An armor bearer is one who has been specifically appointed to support those in leadership. Terry Nance has excellent books on this subject. Also to read a quick article on this from another ministry about armor bearing, click here.)
Anyway, I give my armor bearers “the signal” that we have just between us to hurry over to me. Usually I would never have to do that as they are really with me all the time. I now have them with me at every class I teach or every service I preach at, or really anywhere I'm ministering. (They travel with me too, whenever possible.)
We don't have a difficult church. We're so blessed. In fact we have a very loving church body. But every now and again we deal with this just like every pastor out there does. And you have to be prepared. You don't wait until the attack to form a strategy to deal with it. God has given us special people in the body who are called to assist us. I believe there are gifted people in each church with this calling - many just haven't realized it yet. If we do not release them to this ministry we are actually holding them back from their calling.
I have known for years about the blessing of an armor bearer and the need for it, but not done anything really “official” until more recently. If somebody stepped up to help me, great, but if not I just muddled through in the past. I realize, in order to move forward, the days of that are over. My friend, Pastor Sandy Phinazee showed me the need for this. Years ago, her husband instructed two ladies in the church, "Pastor Sandy is NEVER to be left alone. Stay by her side at all times." These ladies help, serve and protect Sandy. This enables her to minister with greater anointing and power. I've learned a lot from her example. In our office, Larry and I have the best administrative assistant that has ever walked the face of the planet. Nobody will get beyond the office foyer that is there to try to beat up one of our staff with their words. Most people could not get to us on the phone for that purpose either as our assistant does a great job of screening calls.
I think most pastors would find that there are people in their church who are ready to stand with them as armor bearers and protect them if they just call on them. There are people in your church who are HONORED to stand with you. They have this CALLING so if you don’t use them, their gift is being squandered.
Our board stands with us strongly. We can ask them for help with anything and they readily step up to the plate. Larry and I have our pastoral staff who stand by us as such, and they are wonderful armor bearers. But many times they are busy with their focus on many other things within their departments or church ministries that would preclude them from staying right by my side. So, I also have two ladies in the church, Lisa and Cathy, who now serve in personally assisting me, just as my friend Pastor Sandy has for her. Lisa and Cathy now take turns every other week. They show up early to church, walking with me everywhere I go during church services and events, to and from the class I teach, to the sanctuary, to the prayer room, and they go with me when I preach somewhere. They are there to not only minister to my practical needs, but to keep me safe from anything that would come against me and affect the anointing of God on my life. Sometimes when it is needed, the both help me at the same time when it’s a particularly busy service or I’m overwhelmed. Our head usher, Tom, is also always keeping a protective eye on Larry and I, not just during the services, but before and after.
There are times there are way too many people around me for me to handle on my own who are seeking prayer or ministry. This happens more and more in growing church where even though you minister to as many as people possible afterwards, you probably won’t get to everybody.
I thank God for these ladies, and I believe others will be raised up too, to be armor bearers. I believe many pastors would find there are some people in their church just waiting to be asked to do this. If you are wanting to develop a team of people to help you in this way in ministry I really encourage you to find a pastor friend who has this working for them and ask them to give you practical helps to get it started. And, read some articles on line about it and get ahold of Nance’s books.
Sometimes in years past I would be so weary from dealing with stuff like this. One day I found myself emotionally weary from it and I felt the Lord say to me, "Deanna, I don't provide strength for unordained tasks." I got the message. God never expected me to endure that verbal beating - instead he wanted me to get away from it, not ask him for strength to bear up under it. If a woman in your church was being beaten up by a man you would not say, "just ask the Lord for strength to endure." You would tell her to flee to safety. By the same token, why do we as leaders take verbal thrashings, then ask for strength to tolerate them? Just stop the insanity and decide never to expose yourself to that again. If a woman was being beaten we probably wouldn't even say, "honey just love him out the door..." we'd probably say run for your life! So in my humble opinion, "loving them out the door" with a thinking of you card or such is more than enough grace to extend in this situation.
Years ago at our previous church there was a member who used to speak to my husband in this very disrespectful way and would verbally lash out at him. She would make appointments just to tell him everything she wasn’t happy with in the church. Now I know there are times when issues need to be discussed in leadership and problems worked out, just as Matthew 18 tells us to, but I don't believe anyone should EVER lash out or speak to their pastors in a disrespectful way. My husband put up with it for a long time because he felt it was just part of the territory. He felt it was expected of him as the pastor to listen to her unload on him all she was unhappy about. She was a long standing church member and influential. Then one day he realized, no matter who she was, he never had to meet with her if he didn't want to. It was a choice on his part. He chose not to. And with that decision it was like the weight of the world was lifted off of his shoulders. At the root of his meeting with her, we realized it was fear of man/woman rather than fear of the Lord.
WHY won't I sign up for a beating? Because God never asked me to. Plain and simple.