Took the staff to a new place today for lunch as a special treat - "Up the Creek" -a seafood place. It was good. Always a good time together. Had fun and interesting conversation with Pastor T, speculating on who will be elected General Superintendent this year. Wow, this is a year of BIG change, with several positions that need to be filled. I am praying - hoping against hope - for someone like Alton Garrison or Dr. H. Robert Rhoden. We need a mover and shaker...somebody who has turned districts or churches upside down (or should I say right side up). I'm excited about the possibilities. Those are just two people I know of personally who I believe would absolutely have potential to bring revolutionary change. I also believe these men have a pulse on the local church and could speak to greater health not only for the church but for our pastors. And oh how we need it.
Because I've been through some things, I'm not political anymore in any sense and don't ever desire to be so minded again even if somebody does turn it right side up. It's too late for that, for me. (Even as much as I admire Bro. Garrison and Dr. Rhoden) My life is the local church and that's where my head and heart are. I'm abandoned to my personal relationship with God, the call to pastor, my writing, and speaking. When I said I'm through with the political stuff - I am soooo through. I mean it. I don't say it bitterly nor negatively, just realistically. It's a point I've come to and believe me it's a big change because I used to thrive on being so "involved" in this kind of stuff. So if I'm so over it, why do I bring it up now at all?
My thinking is... at least having some positive changes in the years to come in various leadership roles will make things more enjoyable for all of us ministers, not to mention healthier. People will have less to "get over" in that case. We'd have to overlook far less, and have much less that threatens to disillusion our young ministers and our children. We need less people leaving the ministry. That's the reason I continue to pray about this daily - because I have a heart for pastors and their spouses, and their kids. I hate it when people get hurt, and I just weep when I see people leave the ministry and especially because it is so preventable.
It's funny, a few months ago we were sitting with Dr. Lee and just casually talking about things and I said, "you know Doc, district or national work would never, ever be in mine and Larry's future. We would never, ever do that even if somebody offered us millions of dollars!" And Dr. Lee quickly said, "well of COURSE you wouldn't! You guys want to be IN THE MINISTRY!" Then he laughed, but we knew he was serious as a heart attack. I do want to be in the ministry. Larry craves ministry. Real ministry. The merry go round of what goes on in the whole scene of A/G politics is just not for me or Lar.
I believe what happens on a district or national level does not truly affect our churches anymore because the same churches winning souls and seeking after God will continue to do so no matter who is elected to whatever position. The same people who are on fire will still be on fire. The same people who are lethargic will more than likely still be lethargic. It's just nice, in my opinion, to have people of great integrity, high motivation for change and full of the Holy Ghost leading us on these various leadership levels. It should be crazy to even have to say a thing like that but...well, just look at the statistics and the many casualties in ministry we see, and it doesn't take much to tell something's awry. Why are 1500 pastors a month leaving the pastorate?
When we first started out in ministry I saw the district as something that was sort of like "the pastor's church" so to speak, with the District Superintendent as our "pastor" and the General Superintendent as our "bishop" and executives who would be the "pastors to the pastor" and an integral part of helping us. After 20 years in ministry, I no longer see things that way. I got tired of looking for it and longing for it. We did have that with Dr. Rhoden, but aside from that we have never experienced it. When we faced the biggest challenge of our lives in pastoring in Ohio many years ago, we reached out to our "district executives" to help us, and we got an administrator, not a pastor or spiritual father. It was crushing. Only by the grace of God are we still in ministry.
Later I found out that many other ministers in the same district at the time were not so resilient after what happened to them and were destroyed and left ministry for good. When pastors were bleeding and dying emotionally and being crucified by their churches they felt like they were alone. It was like they were a number, something to be tagged or filed, or something expendable. All that mattered to the execs (at least those in that particular location) was making sure as few people left the church as possible, (even when that wasn't best for the church), that the money kept coming into the church, and that the district kept as many assets as possible. The thinking (not with just our church but many churches) seemed to be, "it's much easier to replace a pastor than straighten an unbiblical church out". My husband and the superintendent were told by the board there that they needed (and I quote) "a pastor who could babysit the unique needs of the congregation." We weren't it. My husband told them, "I'm not a babysitter, that's not my calling, I'm a pastor." People were getting saved - lots of them. People were getting filled with the Holy Spirit. But instead of telling them that it wasn't biblical for them to have a babysitter, the Sup at the time just said it was easier to go out and get them what they were looking for rather than try to change them. Amazing.
I have a lot of respect for Dr. Rhoden. It was a breath of fresh air going to our new district and having a leader who wasn't afraid to stand up for what was right. He wasn't afraid of boards, or really anybody. He would have never for two seconds flat appeased anybody who wanted a babysitter. He was a friend to the pastor. I appreciated him so much. (One time I wrote him an e-mail and told him it was my dream for him to be General Sup! Maybe dreams do come true after all!) When this political stuff goes on as I described, most pastors are disillusioned. They are hardworking, loyal, "team players" who just need an advocate - a "pastor to the pastor" ... somebody to stand up for them and to take a stand for righteousness sake.
I remember when Larry would go to the mailbox and a package from Dr. Rhoden would be there. One time he opened one up and it was a book on breaking church growth barriers, with a sticky post it note on it that said, "Larry - thought of you today and wanted you to have this as I know you're breaking through to the next level right now..." and it was signed "Doc".
At that time when we went through our trial by fire and lost everything we had (our home, our church, our livelihood - everything but our family - praise God for that...) reality set in for me that if we were going to have a pastor (a real pastor) we were going to have to search for them. We had never faced that before.
When you are a staff pastor - you have a pastor. If you don't take advantage of the fact that you have a pastor it's your own dumb fault. It's your responsibility to qualify for mentorship, come under their wing, learn from them and benefit from their protection. The issue isn't really an issue at that point because you have a shepherd and someone "with skin on" to look to for guidance and accountability in ministry. You glean from them all you can (at least a person with their head on straight does) and you enjoy the protection that their covering affords you. I enjoyed that at our first church more than our second but in each situation I learned and grew from my pastors, because I chose to. But as soon as we started pastoring a church ourselves, we found out if we were going to be accountable, we'd have to find somebody who would be that for us. So we did. In fact, I didn't settle for just one, I developed a team of people like that in my life. I think most people want that - anybody smart longs to continue to grow and learn and have someone who speaks into their life. I don't want to just "do my own thing" or be a renegade. I have always longed to soak up all I can from those who have done this longer than me. I want to willingly place myself under someone's leadership who cares about me and will pour into me and tell me the encouraging things but mostly the hard things so I can grow. (It's only in hearing and receiving the hard things that we go any further...) When we started senior pastoring I looked to denominational executives to "fill that gap" that existed now that we no longer served under a senior pastor. And "splat" I fell -- flat on my face, spiritually. Because reality was - what I was looking for didn't exist.I see executives (and that is what they are - that is their official title according to the bylaws, "executives", not pastors) as what they are titled as --administrators, working in an office building - taking care of records and personnel on behalf of an organization. Serving as a credentialing agency, a place to keep all the paperwork, and a hub from which to plan programs and events. I'm fine with that. I am not bitter at all, I've just adjusted my thinking over 20 years time and realized that to be healthy, every pastor out there needs to decide who they are going to look to as their spiritual father/mother and person or persons pastoring them. When Vicki Yohe was with us this year we had a talk about this and she mentioned the serious need for this among ministers and shared with me how Bill Winston is her pastor and how important he and his wife are to her continued spiritual growth. It would be very easy for her not to have a pastor as she is on the road every week, but she made it a point to seek one out. In addition to having an "advocate" I want this up close help in my life to become sharp and stay sharp. So many people have no one to push them to grow, to be diligent, faithful and to keep a good work ethic. I never want to be lazy. Perhaps there's nothing I deplore more. (I get near lazy people and start to shake...ha ha! Well, I guess I'm only half kidding...) Everybody needs evaluation and someone to spur them on. How can one grow without analyzing and evaluating? So much of that is having somebody you are willingly accountable to ("your pastor") speak into your life. This is just one reason we are in CLR co-horts, among many. I look to Dr. Lee as one of a team of people I see as that in my life right now. I thank God for Sister Coker, for Randy & Dawn, for many others who fill a role in this way for me. So there, you've had my anti-political spiel for the day. At any rate it will be interesting to see who takes the helm of the A/G and whether our pastors, our churches and our fellowship will get healthier.
Today was a rather normal day. Went to the office and swung by the Hart's on the way to drop off Savanna so I could have an uninterrupted work day. Oh how I appreciate the Hart's...they are just the bomb! Larry took Dustin to the doctor's. He has tonsillitus and an infection in his ear and throat. He's on lots of meds and it will be so good to have him better.
Came home and read a book (yes a whole one - it came from Amazon today and I tore into it! I couldn't wait!!!) then got up and went to work on dinner. I made something new - a weight watcher recipe - Garlic Chicken Kiev (recipe printed below for anybody who may be interested...) and garlic mashed potatoes and broccoli. Larry and Jordan went golfing so it was just Dustin, Stephen and I. The three of us ate at the big table and talked about a bunch of stuff and I feel we solved quite a bit. :-) Dustin says, "why in the world are the three of us eating at this big table?" I said, "uh, because I have all the clean laundry piled on the other one. I just didn't feel like folding it tonight. Anyway, we sat there and talked. I enjoy hearing their perspective on things. Savanna and I are going to watch a movie tonight, not sure what yet. It's still so hot outside...I hate that I can't go out there at all. Quite truthfully you can hardly breathe out there.
I also called Ada tonight for a while and we bore our hearts over the phone. You know, I just saw her yesterday for three hours while she did my hair but sometimes that's just how it goes, and I'm fine that way because I cherish our friendship and any time we talk is always a walk in the heavenlies. We both don't want to wish summer away at all, however we are looking forward to the kids going back to school so we can go to lunch. Hers will be homeschooled this year but 2 days a week they will go to the "community school." I'm proud of her for following her heart and doing this. She is going to do great!
Looking forward to my day off tomorrow. Hopefully it will truly be a day off. (If I hide the cell phones it will be, but Larry would find out and then I'd be in big trouble... ha ha!) We have a funeral Saturday. Barbara Johnson passed away. She's a person I prayed for daily for a long time. It makes no sense to me, I don't understand it. It makes me mad as heck, but I have to keep telling myself in these situations that I don't go by experience but by the Word of God which is why I continue to anoint people, lay hands on them, pray the prayer of faith and BELIEVE. We're got to act on faith, not on experience or feelings. No matter what I see, I keep praying for people. Not just at the altar, but certain ones are on my list every blessed day. And there they will stay until I know there is no more hope. I'll never understand why just as many times as I see a miracle I also experience a tragedy. I guess as the hymn says, "we'll understand it better by and by..." When we get to heaven, Jesus better have a town hall meeting to clear all this up.
Garlic Chicken Kiev
3 tablespoons reduced-fat margarine - softened
1 tablespoon snipped fresh chives or parsley
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
6 small skinless boneless chicken breast halves (about 3 pounds)
2 cups corn flakes, crushed (about 1 cup)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 cup buttermilk or 1/4 cup skim milk
Heat oven to 425 degrees
Cut margarine crosswise into 6 pieces. Place 1 piece on center of each chicken breast. Fold long sides over margarine; fold up ends and secure with wooden pick. Mix corn flakes, parsley and paprika. Dip chicken into buttermilk; lightly and evenly coat with corn flake mixture. Place chicken breasts, seam sides down, in a 9-inch square pan sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Bake uncovered until chicken is done, about 35 minutes. Serves 6 - 4 WW points per serving.
So that's all for tonight folks...g'night.