Can They See Jesus in You? Lesson 4 of 5

Speaking of lessons… I have learned mine… writing 5 blog posts in a week just isn’t my THANG! We’ve already jumped into the summer schedule here and that means I am taxi-Mom! This gives me about 30 min of unscheduled time a day! But, oh what fun we are having!!! So, onto the 5 biggest lessons I’ve learned over the past 5 years of ministry.

Lesson 1: Grow where you’re planted. Don’t wait for a big change in your life to start making positive changes, start now! You can read more here.

Lesson 2: Invite people to YOUR church! This is not only the Pastor’s responsibility. Help us grow the church! You can read more about this here.

Lesson 3: Follow God’s instructions. When someone does something hurtful against you, God has a specific way to handle that… if you want to know what that is, read here. (So far this post has quite the most feedback! I’m assuming because it happens to us all, and it can hurt us to the core! But there is a solution!)

Lesson 4: Understand the importance of pointing people to Jesus!

About 3 years ago I started really studying how Paul did ministry in the early churches. If you really want to change your outlook on the people around you, and all the PRE-believers you come in contact with, study how Paul loved, how he stretched himself in order to present the gospel to as many as he could. Then start implementing some of these ways into your ways… It’ll change your heart like no other.

One thing Paul did, and did well, was to give Jesus. He would meet people where they were without ever bending on his beliefs. He believed so strongly in Jesus and his life backed that up. Paul had such boldness because he so boldly believed in who he preached. He believed that Jesus was the answer for every problem we could ever face.

So I began to pray that. I prayed (and still pray, and hope to always pray) that everything I say and do will point others to Jesus. HE is the answer to every situation!

When I’m disciplining my kids, I should be doing it in a way that would never make them question things I’ve told them about Jesus. If I say that Jesus forgives, I should forgive. If I teach them that as we grow in Christ, we begin to produce good fruit, then I should show them what Jesus has produced in me and if I lack those, I now know where I need to grow! (Parents, we NEED Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and SELF-CONTROL!!! but that’s another lesson altogether).

When I’m on facebook, I need my every status, my every comment, even my every page followed, to represent the Jesus in me. I can not invite people to church using “church jargon” and with the same mouth (typing hands) spew hate in a comment towards someone on facebook (or twitter, or instagram… or whatever other form you may use).

When my husband and are at the local restaurant, even when the conversation is just between the two of us, our conversation needs to be pointing others towards Jesus. How can my husband preach from the pulpit about grace and peace and wholesome teachings if when he is outside he pulpit he is cutting people down, stirring up strife, and carrying on unwholesome conversations at the restaurant table? He can’t! And neither can any of us!

Now I’m not talking about every single encounter I have talking strictly about Jesus. “Paper of plastic?” “Well… let me tell you about Jesus!!!” That would leave the grocery clerk annoyed… and probably all the people behind me waiting to get through annoyed, too.  No, I’m talking about our conduct, our words, our LOVE for one another. The way we interact with every single person we come in contact with (kids, husbands, parents, co-workers, grocery clerks, librarian, car mechanic… you see where I’m going) should not contradict the Jesus you say you serve.

Imagine this scenario: It’s Monday, the weekend was action packed, and instead of getting enough sleep, you accomplished a LONG to-do list. The alarm awakens you about 8 hours too soon. You grumpily get up, drag yourself to the shower and complain about how horrible work is going to be. You do this too long, making yourself run behind. By the time you race yourself into work (whether it be raising the kids for one more day, or a high pressure position in town), you are already ready for bed. You grumble and complain, even if just in your head, over every task you have to do that day! By the end of the work day, you’ve had it! You begin rushing to get home, already grumbling about dinner. Suddenly someone crosses your path, too close to comfort. You lash out. You yell. Maybe it’s your kid. You’ve told them one too many times to pick up his baseball glove. Maybe it’s your neighbor who borrowed your  hose without asking, maybe it’s a complete stranger who was in a hurry of their own. You lose it. You begin yelling, screaming, belittling, just throwing the perfect adult fit (which, by the way, looks just as ridiculous as the kids form of a fit… just sayin’!) In that instance, if God prompted you to, could you effectively witness to the person you just lashed out at? With a good conscience, could you tell them how great Jesus is, and what a difference He’s made in your life? And if you could… would they believe you?????

When I started thinking this way, I chose not to comment as often on facebook when I was upset. I chose not to respond to a negative situation until I had prayed. And sometimes I prayed for days… and then chose not to respond at all. When I started thinking, “What will THIS action say about the Jesus I’m trying to show?” I truly started to change the way I behave. Don’t get me wrong, we do not behave in such a way to please men… at all costs, we please God. But in that process, we need to be able to point others that direction as well.

Myth: As a Christian trying to point others towards Christ, we must come down to a level that no longer addresses sin. 

Paul never shied away from correcting sinful behavior. But he reminds Timothy (and ultimately us, as the Word of God is written for us as well) to be prepared in season and out of season to correct, rebuke and encourage–with great patience and careful instruction. (2 Tim 4:2) You can approach sinful behavior in love. You can conduct yourself in a way that expresses love and patience instead of judgment and condemnation. But you must be prepared in season and out of season. You have to live with such a conduct that you can point someone to Jesus no matter what season you are in.

Pray for that idea to penetrate your heart. Ask yourself the hard question, “Am I living in such a way that others see the Jesus I serve?” Before you hit enter read your comment, ask yourself, “Does this show Jesus in me?” (***Even if you are responding to a complete stranger***). Before you let out a loud annoyed sigh at your child for spilling ANOTHER cup of water at the dinner table, ask yourself, “How can I show her Jesus right now in the midst of this mistake?” I’m telling you… this will change your life… and change your ministry!

Myth #2: You have to be perfect in order to point people to a perfect God!

Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh! NO! We will make mistakes, we will have bad days… we WILL inevitably scream at our kids with all the windows open so the entire neighborhood can hear (of course I’VE never done that… but…. ), or honk extra long at the car who wasn’t moving fast enough at the green light, or give someone at work an earful because we failed to get enough sleep the night before. It will happen, because, despite what we may think at times, WE ARE NOT PERFECT! Seek forgiveness (from God AND the person you’ve wronged) and start anew. Then do that again the next day, and the next… it won’t ever stop, we’ll mess up a lot. But the harder we try, the better we get, and sometimes, we even point people to Jesus through our mistakes (if we seek that forgiveness). Don’t give up, POINT up!

 

We aren’t perfect at Crossroads Church, but we definately strive to point people to Jesus. Please join us! Follow us on Facebook for more details!

Follow the Instructions

Today is the exact day 5 years ago that our U-haul pulled up to our new home and new ministry. I know 5 years is just a drop in the bucket, but I’m already looking forward to my “top 10 lessons learned in the past 10 years” series where I can look back and see if these lessons need to be learned again. Things are still fresh here, but also feel like home. I’m celebrating one of the best 5 years of our lives in ministry, unsure of how the next 5 years will go. So, thank you for joining me on this journey. If you’ve missed, feel free to go back and catch up.

#1 Grow where you are planted (click here to read): Don’t wait for a big event in your life to happen to start implementing change.

#2 Who have YOU invited to church lately (click here to read): Don’t leave church growth solely up to your pastor. Invite your friends!

#3 When you do things God’s way, blessings follow.

Some time after moving here and as we got to know people, we got to see people’s “real side” more and more. I’m not sure if you’re aware, but some people put their best faces on when they are around you, but let their ugly side-show when you are out of earshot. It’s unfortunate, really. If they could just choose to become their fake selves, the nice one, the one that shows restraint (see lesson #1) I think they’d actually be happier people. But, the fact of the matter is people really want their pastor to only see this fake happy facade and it isn’t until something really goes wrong that we get to see their true colors. So in our case that took about a year.

Sometimes it’s just small subtle things, and you think you’re just rubbed the wrong way, so you dismiss it and move on. But sooner or later the real person will come out. And when they do, a mess ensues.

I’ve heard of Pastors and their families being run out-of-town by one person’s meanness and to be honest, I’ve feared it in almost every church we’ve been in. So when we received a call from a trusted friend telling us of what was going on behind our backs, our hearts broke. I won’t go into detail, but it was far beyond gossip, and had potential of not only ruining our reputation in town, but my husband’s career.

The lesson I want to present to you today is the reason  this situation turned out as amazing as it did.

#3 When you do things God’s way, blessings follow.

First thing we did was pray. My husband didn’t stew over his hurt feelings, he came home, told me what had happened and led me to the couch to sit and pray.

Sub-lesson 1: ALWAYS pray first before you react, or let anger take control.

Next, we called this person for a meeting. Before we went to our friends with a huge tale of how we were wronged and how we felt about this other person, we went to the person.

Sub-lesson 2: Go to the person first, get their side. In our situation, we knew that the friend who had called us was telling the truth (he’s who you’d call to “go above the pastor’s head”). We had to confront the sin against us directly. This doesn’t always go well, but the Bible is very clear, this is how you do it. “If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back.” (Matthew 18:15)

Once this step is done, we still spoke to no one. It doesn’t state that you can confront then turn around and speak bad about that person. Of course we talked among ourselves. We were shocked. We didn’t know what impact this lie would have on our town and the ministry we were trying to do here. But what we did know is that God knew the truth, and that the truth will prevail. Somehow, this kept the hurt at bay. I look back and see that this horrible situation, this attack against me, my family, my church, this ministry wasn’t hurting me. I contribute that to God and our following of sub-lesson 1 & 2.

About 3 or 4 months later people began coming to us about the awful things that were being said about us. They were concerned that we were unaware of the lies (praise God they didn’t believe them) that were being said, and felt we should know. Although the person still attended church most Sundays, their desire to hurt us had not diminished.

It was sad, but we had to take the issues further and bring this to our church board. “But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses.” (Matthew 18:16).

I just wanted it to be over. I hated that we had to bring more people into such a bad situation. I dreaded it all day. But it was needed. The church would have hurt had we not followed through with this next step.

Sub-lesson 3: Stick with the plan God laid out for us. So many things went through my mind. Was this the right way to go about this? Exposing her might hurt her. Was it unloving? But as my godly, wonderful pastor pointed out… “It’s right there in the Bible!” You can never go wrong sticking with God’s plan book!

Although we never kicked the person out of the church, the person chose not to repent, and make things right. So they did, of their own choice, leave our church. The pastor felt he needed to protect the church from such slander and he felt he needed to protect me as this issue was mostly pointed at me. He followed up with a letter setting boundaries (no contact to me unless it was an apology, loss of church member rights… things like this). Nothing felt better than knowing my husband, with the church board’s backing, would protect me and my kids. NOTHING!

Sub-lesson for men: Have your wife’s back! Support her, trust her, protect her. Nothing will strengthen your marriage more than her knowing you love and support her and will go to huge lengths to protect her! 

Sub-lesson for Pastors: Protect your church. Confront those trying to spread nasty rumors and lies. Pray and seek counsel and act quickly. Cancer can kill your church. Be faithful to the Word, trust that its techniques will work, and fight hard to show your church that you will protect its members. 

This came at a time that we had others who were coming to pastor to “tattle” on a church member. So when Pastor advised that he go to the person first, he could say it with confidence that he lived this method as well. The pastor of Crossroads Church will never be party to a gossip fest in his office. He will stand up for you, direct the person your way, and will only take action when Matthew 18 is followed.

I don’t even want to imagine how this situation would have played out had we panicked, fought dirty, or backed away. As I look back at it, I’m amazed at how unphased we were by it all. It was horrible, but God blessed our obedience to His plan. Within 6 months of this incident we welcomed 16 new church members. These were not people who came because the person left (they didn’t even know this person). I don’t know exactly what drew them in (I don’t question those things!!!) But we saw great growth where death could have occurred. Our church is healthier because we dealt with the issues God’s way.

Pastor and I are not perfect. We can’t possibly run our ministry perfectly. But when it came to this situation, our desire was to please God in how we handled it, and to protect ourselves and our church. Looking back, I can’t imagine it going any better (well, aside from it never happening in the first place).

Now, to my final Sub-lesson (#4)– We have never once stopped praying for the parties involved in this incident. I pray daily for the person who went against my family. I feel I have forgiven, and if repentance were to take place and this person wanted to reconcile, that would be glorious in God’s eyes! I’ve often dreamed of how I would respond if they chose to come back to our church. I have to admit at first those dreams were nightmares. But now, it’s a dream of hope. I would love to share a pew with them knowing their heart has changed and that they are of one accord and of one mind with the church. I’m sure there’d be a time for building trust, but believe God would walk us through that together.

Sub-lesson #4: Don’t stay angry, hurt, or disconnected. Trust that God will heal your hurts and pray for love to take its place. Pray for those who sin against you. Pray they will come to a closer relationship with Jesus. Isn’t that the goal no matter what, anyway? Pray for reconciliation (but only when repentance has taken place).

Myth: Easy for a Pastor to say!

People are hurtful everywhere, not just inside the church. It stings a bit worse when believers hurt other believers, and our faith can be lost inside that hurt, if we let it. But, in every relational conflict of every person’s life, this strategy will work, God said it would. And mix that with every other scripture that talks about forgiveness, and what could have turned out  horrible, can actually bring honor to God, and speak life into your heart instead.

If you are the one spreading hate… STOP, and that’s all I have to say about that…

If you’ve been hurt by someone else’s sin towards you, read Matthew 18:15 & 16. Follow it, pray for that person to draw close to God, and believe in the plan God has set up.

If you’re hurting, can I pray for you? email me at thepastorswifeslife@gmail.com.

Please join us at Crossroads Church this Sunday at 10am! I’ll save you a seat.

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Who Have YOU Invited to Church Lately? Lesson 2 of 5

We are getting closer to our 5th anniversary at our church ministry position. After 20 years of being in ministry (16 years married) this is our first 5 years in the role of lead pastor. It’s been an amazing 5 years and I’d like to share some lessons I’ve learned so far. This would be lesson 2 of 5… You can read lesson 1 here

#1. Grow where you’re planted. Don’t wait to change towns, jobs, or neighborhoods.

#2. Network! Network! Network!
Advertise! Advertise! Advertise!
Evangelize! Evangelize! Evangelize!

If you find yourself in a small town pastoring (or pastor wifing) a small church you will need to spend at the very LEAST 80% of your time meeting new people, introducing them to the church, and figuring out your new town. This comes in all kinds of forms. But after 5 years, and I’m so glad we learned this early… you basically need to fall in love with your town. 

We dove right in. It wasn’t hard, we were new so everyone knew we had to be “those people who moved into that one house” or “You’re not from around here, where do you live?” After a week of being here my kids were so used to hearing people approach us to meet the “newcomers” that my older son asked us if we were famous. HA!

We signed our kids up for sports right away, we introduced ourselves wherever we went, we friended as many as we could on facebook and we jumped right in serving our community. This was easier for me than it was my husband. But he’s doing much better. Now he has a part (very part) time job where he can meet even more in our community. Not just to grow our church, although we’d LOVE for everyone we meet to come to our church… but because we love our town. We are aware that there are other great churches in town, but we care more that people feel loved and can trust us and our church.

Coming into a small community where people remember every bad thing that has ever happened, means they remember previous pastors to churches… even if they are previous, previous, previous pastors. This can work against you, so it’s important to build your own relationships and try to build trust. Our desire isn’t just to get people to attend Crossroads Church, but our #1 goal is to reach out and introduce as many as possible to Jesus Christ. Once that became our #1 goal, relationships took on a new shape.

Networking the church is important… if you need anything, you need to know the church exists, where it is, and what to expect from us.

Advertising is beneficial. For those who still haven’t chosen a church (or for those who need a change), seeing what the church offers is a huge benefit.

But evangelizing… that’s the key. There are hurting people, and there are many people who need a church community to support them, and when you are loving, friendly, and genuine, you show them the Christ in you. No pastor is perfect. But when you decide to live a life of evangelism, you change the way you think. Everyone you come in contact with is a chance to share Jesus. As Jesus lives in us, He can overflow on to others as well. When you make it a goal to grow the Kingdom of God and not just your church, you stop pastoring the church, and start pastoring (or pastor wifing) the town. The more you love the town, the easier that becomes. And oh do we love the people of our town!

Myth: Only Pastors are called to evangelize

Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. Each and every believer is called to “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone.” No believer is exempt from this. Sometimes you evangelize through the love you have for your co-workers, neighbors, family members. Sometimes you have to be bold and come out and tell them about the love of Jesus for them. How can people have faith in the Lord and ask him to save them, if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear, unless someone tells them? (Romans 10:14) It is not the sole responsibility of the pastor to grow the church.

In our experience, many that come to the church are actually invited by a friend who enjoys the church. I invite 3-5 people a week. Not that I’m trying to meet a quota, I just believe with everything within me that our church is amazing, and the importance of Church is huge! In 5 years, 3 people have come because of my invitation… that’s about 3 out of 1000 invitations… That’s .3% (do you see the decimal  point?) But if all the current church members invited their friends, we could double our influence in a fraction of the time (don’t make me do all the math… we’re on summer vacation over here!) People are more likely to come if you invite them to come sit by you. Sometimes getting an invite from the pastor or pastor’s wife is more intimidating, and comes across less authentic (although, I promise all my invites are authentic). You can make such an impact just by inviting, it’s a very small step in the evangelistic process.

Let’s work together. Let’s love them and show them the Jesus we serve! You don’t have to stand in the pulpit to do it, (or be married to the one that does). We can all evangelize (share the salvation given through Jesus Christ).

you're invited
Crossroads Church 721 Weston Ave in St.James, MN

If you are reading this, I’d like to invite you to join us for Church THIS Sunday. I think it’s time you either come to meet us, or accept my invite! I’ll save you a seat!

Services at Crossroads are every Sunday at 10am.

If you are not in our area, I can find you a church where you are, just email me at thepastorswifeslife@gmail.com

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Grow Where Your Planted: Lesson 1 of 5

It was a Wednesday. We packed our moving van. Thursday we said goodbye to friends and family, cried for the first 50 miles… then again 100 miles into the trip, again 200 miles in, and probably again at the 400 mile mark as we pulled within a town over from our new home. It was a thrill, but stressful. It was what we felt God calling us to, but it was so full of anxiety as we moved our family of 6 to our new church.

That was 5 years ago. I’ve been in church ministry with my husband for 16 years (20 years total), but this past 5 years has been the first 5 years of being in the Lead pastor position, and boy oh boy is it different. 5 years go be VERY fast and we can either look back with regret of wasted time, or marvel in the lessons God has taught us. I’m a “glass half full” kinda gal… so you’re going to get the lessons I’ve learned. Plus, I can not look back with an ounce of regret… This has been such an amazing 5 years! It’s only been 5 years… but already we’ve learned so much (and I pray we just keep on learning and growing).

I can’t possibly put this vast amount of new-found knowledge into one post… no one would want to read that many words. So come back each day as we lead up to our 5th anniversary…

Let’s start here…

Starting over in a new town where no one knows you can set you on a path to a new you.

We were given 4 weeks to inform our employment, pack our home, and move to our new town and church. In that month I began to pray, “What kind of pastor’s wife do you want me to be?” I began to evaluate who I was, what I had to offer, and who I WANTED to be. I’m not saying we should be fake. I’m saying that sometimes we get stuck in our ways and changing isn’t easy. But when you move, and you are completely unknown, it’s easier to change. I may have started out struggling to be loving, to be patient, to be compassionate,  to be bold, but the more I prayed about the traits I wanted to have, the easier they became, and the more they became a part of me. I am not the same person I was 5 years ago. And I like the new me.

Myth: You have to move in order to become the person God’s calling you to be. 

Nothing could be more WRONG! I allowed my concern of what people thought of me hold me back from being who I wanted to be… and more importantly, who GOD wanted me to be. I fell into bad habits, found friends who didn’t mind those bad habits, and never sought ways to change those habits. I underestimated my friends and family and figured they’d see me as fake if I made big changes in my personality.

Can I encourage you to begin seeking where you are, and begin making the changes necessary to be who God is calling you to be. Do you want to be nicer?… start acting that out until it’s really WHO you are. Do you want to be more compassionate? Look for ways to show compassion to people with whom you come in contact. Do you want to be more evangelistic? Start stepping out. Don’t delay, and don’t wait for God to call you to another town… that may not work. You may never move from where you are (whether that be physically or spiritually) if you’re unwilling to make those changes.

For me, I wanted to step out of my shell and be bolder, nicer, friendlier, more purposeful. I look back now, and wish I would have done all those things where God had me. I let idea rejections keep me from coming up with new ideas. I let myself get lost in “bigger cities” where my niceness and friendliness wouldn’t go as noticed (although it may have made a bigger personal impact one on one). I missed opportunities because I was too set in my ways.

Moving certainly allowed me to step out and be bold, more enthusiastic, more evangelistic. What could I lose? I’ve learned my lesson though… living this way is powerful, it’s life changing. I will not hold back again. If God wants me to change, nothing will hold me back from making that change for Him. I praise God for giving me this opportunity to be who He’s called me to be. I thank God for this new adventure, and for still working in me through it. I pray I’ll keep making changes as He calls me drawing me closer to Him.

Please don’t hesitate. Don’t wait for any reason, jump right in, start your new adventure, and draw close to God. He will guide you, change you, and create a more perfect you!

Check back tomorrow for lesson #2

If attending church is one of the changes you’d like to make, please find a church in your area. If you need help with finding one, please email me at thepastorswifeslife@gmail.com and I will get to work on finding one in your area!

If you live in my area, Crossroads Church is right for you! Please join us this Sunday at 10am for amazing teaching straight from the Bible… I’ll save you a seat!

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