Realizations I've come to:
1) Ministry is about the local church. Not to say that "my church" or "your church" is the only thing going, but as far as our endeavors and efforts, the churches we all serve individually are what matters.
2) I used to wonder why "the big churches" many times do not participate in district events and send their people. It's not such a mystery to me now. Many people criticize people who are "doing their own thing" instead of participating. There's a reason WHY they are doing their own thing. It's working.
3) If you are a pastor, making your investment of time in the local church is the wisest thing you can do. I don't know how many committee meetings, task force meetings, "executive committee" meetings, leadership team meetings, I had to sit through for 20 years before I realized that nothing really important spiritually was ever going to be wrought out this stuff. While accomplishing a great number of administrative tasks, I have never, ever in 20 years of doing any of this seen God move through those meetings, nor heard of it happening anywhere else that anyone could give me evidence of. The sad thing is, I used to be so naive enough to believe that God was so in this stuff. I gave investment of my prayer time into it, I believed it, I expectantly waited for something significant to happen. Finally I have realized...I truly don't think God is interested in it.
4) If God is not interested in something, we have to ask ourselves, why. I have my ideas on why. They probably should not be written on my blog or anywhere else that leaves a public record of this opinion.
5) At this point in my life, perhaps I am completely disillusioned because of some things I have seen, (pray for me) but I truly don't see anything in this whole realm as "ministry". Am I bitter? No. Disappointed. Feeling like many years were a waste when friends and I tried so hard to do something big for God and make a difference and we were just...naive. We CAN do something big for God. We CAN make a difference. (Just not in that setting.) Aside from that, some things I have witnessed have just been completely unGodly, even corrupt in some cases. In fact, for 20 years my husband has said he doesn't ever want ANY elected position in our fellowship because he does not see it as real ministry or accomplishing anything significant. He believes if he were to ever do that, he would be working a "job" and not serving in ministry. He says he cares about people too much to do that. I think he has served on one committee, maybe two in our twenty years, and when he does, he exerts minimal energy into it, and gives it not two seconds of worry time. His whole heart is the local church. Because he's realized this all along. He also won't invest a large part of himself in it because he believes it would greatly affect his spiritual walk in a negative fashion. It's one reason he has always cautioned me about my involvement...he is afraid of my spiritual walk being tainted or me becoming disillusioned. (too late now...) He has always feared me getting hurt. I used to think he was the unspiritual one for feeling that way, and would continue to serve on multiple committees myself telling him, "really Lar, I think we're going to make a difference" while he shook his head and looked at me with the "when will you learn, baby?" look. I used to see his attitude as a lack of faith. "What do you mean God can't move through this process? Of course He can!"
I now see, like so many other things, my husband was right. I cannot see this whole political scene as "ministry" any longer. I see it as an administrative organization that keeps track of those who are really out there doing ministry. And in most cases those "keeping track of those doing ministry" are clueless as to what they need or what they are going through. Most who have these denominational roles have been out of the pastorate so long - in some cases 20 years, 30 years, that they are so out of reality on the local church it's like you are speaking a foreign language when talking to them. The exception to that is when you have an official that keeps pastoring their church while they serve, but in most cases those aren't the individuals making the major decisions and working with those in the local church. They are over something like missions or whatever, and still spend the majority of their time on their local church while somebody who is very far removed from "ministry" makes decisions on behalf of those who are out there doing it.
6) Some districts are a resource to those who were doing ministry, but from what I heard from my friends who are pastors across the country, those cases are very rare. Many of my friends have asked me, "Deanna, if the district or national office was wiped off the map, how would it really affect us?" I don't know. I am still trying to answer that.
7) I used to believe that friends who would say things like this to me may have been jealous because I was asked to serve on a leadership team, and they weren't. I would think, "surely that is not true, they are just grinding an axe." Now I realize they were not grinding an axe, they had simply asked themselves a lot of honest questions before agreeing to serve on committees and I had been so caught up in the "honor" of doing so, I never thought to do that or in most cases to pray about it. I now have to say to those friends, "I'm sorry. I misjudged you. You were the one truly in tune with God, and I was the one just so caught up in the joy of being asked to serve, I failed to slow down to think about any of these things."
More than ever I am grateful for my local church. And for my friendships. The one good thing that being "involved" HAS brought to my life are friendships with other people that I probably never would have had otherwise. And, to let you in on my secret...that's why I remain. That and the fact that if I can be kind, if I can care about people, if I can put an arm around someone and do something good in one of these type of settings, praise God for it. The relationships are really important to me. Now it's worth sitting through committee meetings just to be with friends I've made there. They mean the world to me. Although I don't believe "the stuff" we're doing to be important anymore, (the task that brought us together) our relationship with each other IS important. And that keeps me still involved to some degree, for now.
7) One last note...more than ever I find it miraculous that I know some of the "behind the scenes" stuff I know...and I'm still saved.
For those reading this who disagree with everything I'm saying, I just ask you to honestly pray for me. If I'm wrong about this, nothing would make me happier because if I'm wrong it would validate everything I have thought previously for 20 years! My original thoughts and beliefs that I have hung on to for so long would be right! Nothing would make me jump for joy more. It would make 20 years of investment of time worth it. If I'm wrong, may God miraculously sweep in and fall upon our committee meetings across the country. I'd be the first one to fall on my face and thank God.
But something tells me that is not going to happen.