Are we doing enough?

Earlier this season I attended the local Town Hall gathering for The Meeting House. Included with the expected information was the introduction and subsequent conversation about Jesus Collective for which the initial launch and development path is pastor/leader focused.

One of the attendees voiced a concern that for them, an initial launch of pastor/leader focused resources and networking created an “us and them” environment s/he couldn’t support.

Being a “9” (see “The Sacred Enneagram and/or The Enneagram Institue“) it took some time for me to assess why this reaction bothered me ultimately determining the hackle raising aspect being how much the comment echoed today’s self-centred, consumerist mentality.  It unfortunately reflects the culture we currently live in. A “what’s in it for me”, “we should all have access to everything”, “I want that”, “I deserve to have what they’re getting” culture that expects everything from everyone without obligation to give back. 

In considering whether this cry for equal access is valid, these questions come to mind: Are we truly loving our pastors? Are we loving them well? Do we give them all the supports, encouragement and resources they need? 

Given the number of churches folding, of pastors burning out or leaving their ministry in either disarray or disgrace, is there any answer other than “No”?

From the outside, the life of a pastor looks tough, exhausting really – who would pick it voluntarily? The standards to which they are held is higher than the average person or Jesus follower, and if they’re a teaching pastor, scripturally so (see James 3:1). Plus there is an expectation of always present, always perfect, always giving, always loving, always listening, always agreeing and not ever showing weakness, doubt or fatigue. Simply listen to the grumblings after a service or of someone thinking to leave a church or community. Their words are likely to be unfair but represent the pressures, spoken or otherwise, 

Not every community should be painted with the same brush – there are many pastors with strong healthy connections and relationships within their communities and some with amazing supportive relationships with friends/fr-amily beyond their congregation that make their work energizing and fulfilling.

But what about those who don’t? What about those who stand alone, serve alone, struggle alone? In isolated regions or environments? Those for whom the current social pressures could divide their congregation beyond repair? Where reaching out locally isn’t an option because there isn’t a “locally” to reach out too? Or language is a barrier? Or ethnicity? Persecution? Where going against cultural norms is a life threatening choice? Where the parent denomination enforces practices that are counter to the teaching of Jesus? 

At its heart, this goes beyond a single online resource. It’s about overcoming the “I want that too” sense of entitlement that pervades and choosing to dig in, to lift up the people Jesus has commissioned to be on the front lines. To stand alongside them – financially, prayerfully, emotionally. It is about choosing to sacrifice our indulgent need to have everything and give of ourselves. Just like they do.

Don’t Box Me In

Me when it feels like someone is expecting an older version of me

For just over three years, I had the luxury of working in a local ministry environment. The final year of this journey had me step into a new church environment while my family remained with our home congregation. I would hear rumours of people asking where I was, why wasn’t I present at Church A and so on. Hubby would politely answer that I was doing well, thanks for asking with a gentle reminder that I was serving at Church-Ministry B,

Now that the ministry role has come to a close, I have been attending Church A with Hubby and fam. Some have smiled and said hello. Others share a hug and “it’s nice to see you.”

A few though ask the question.

“Are you coming back to Church A?”
“I see you here a lot now. Does that mean you’re coming back?”

It took some time for me to determine why these particular questions set my hackles up. After all, they were trying to communicate that I had been missed and that they appreciated having me present. What my spirit felt was my new self being pushed into an old box.

The old box of who they thought I was before I went into the mission field. The old box of Robyn fitting in. I can’t say for certain what that Robyn looked like, only that this version is different. This version sees the world differently, is not willing to compromise on who she is to ‘fit in’. This Robyn is more willing to speak up, to speak truth – in love and with gentleness but truth openly instead of hiding in case it make someone not like her. This Robyn has more ink, more attitude and more courage.

And she wants to stay that way.

Some will read all this and say it’s over-reacting. “Just take the welcome and the encouragement.”

How about we change the question. Instead of “are you coming back?” ask “Will you be joining us this summer?” or “Will we see you more? We’ve missed you.” Even better though, a statement then a question: “It is so nice to see you! How was your time in ministry? Did God do amazing things you can share?”

I’ll own it. Over-reaction and all. The word “back” sinks my gut and rips apart my heart. Ask me about my time in ministry. Get to know me as I am now.

Or don’t.

Just don’t box me in.