During my first year of ministry I also encountered a woman named Janice. Janice was very difficult to understand. She was a senior citizen and had traveled as an evangelist in the past. During my first Sunday she stood up to testify. This wasn’t uncommon in our denomination. Yet, I didn’t realize that not only would she attempt to testify every Sunday, she would also become my worst enemy in only one year. Janice thought she knew how churches ought to run, and she didn’t stop at telling me how to do my job. She was part of a ladies “Bible” study (assuming you understand what the quotes around Bible mean, but in case you don’t it means they really didn’t study the Bible, it was a complete gossip session). How do I know? Well, almost every Friday after their “Bible” study was over they would come to my office and tell me EVERYTHING that was wrong with me and the church.
During my first six months I made it a point to go down the church directory to visit every home. Her household was the first one the list. I dropped by for a Pastors visit, her husband welcomed me at the door (an extremely nice man, under the circumstances). “Come In... Come In” he said. I had one foot in the door and Janice peaked around the corner on the phone, looked at me sternly and said “Sit down, I want to talk to you!” The next hour was spent with Janice talking. She shared with me everything I was doing wrong. My sermon series was too long. The worship leader wasn’t the right one. We need more time for testimonies and "why would the District Superintendent put someone so young in my position" Etc. Etc. Etc.... As a young minister right out of college I sat there and took every word on the chin. I finally stopped her. (I mean enough is enough!) I said, “You don’t need to say anymore. I have heard your concerns, and I promise you I will pray about every one of them.” I left.
When I arrived back at the house, I was alone, my wife was running errands and this was before kids. I was at a loss of what to do. I laid down on the bed and just stared at the light. I stared for a long time. This was a lot to process in your first ministry assignment. By the way, the other situation in part one of this series was going on at the same time. As I laid there I really couldn’t come up with a coherent thought. My mind was racing from one complaint to the next, I was kind of stuck, paralyzed if you will. Years have passed and Janice is gone now. Often, I have wondered what bothered me so much that night. The only conclusion I could come to is that it hurts to be told that everything you are doing is wrong, even if it isn’t true. As a minister you try, you pray, you visit, you study and hope your messages are getting through. With all of that effort being done, it is crushing when someone tells you how bad you are.
The lesson I learned from this incident is that I’m not perfect nor will others see me that way. I guess subconsciously I had this idea that I was going to be great and everyone was going to sing my praises- not true. One prayer I have found that God will always answer is “Lord, keep me humble.” It’s almost dangerous to pray that way, because He will make sure to remind you that you aren’t Him. If you remember from the first post that during this time, I was studying the Gospel of Luke. In chapter 10 the disciples return all excited because of how great their ministry was going. “Even the demons are subject to us.” Jesus’ response? “I saw Satan fall like lightning from Heaven"(Luke 10:18). Imagine being compared to Satan or being called Satan as Peter was (Matt. 16:23). Why was Jesus so harsh? Because He knew that the arrogance the disciples possessed was evil and it would only get worse. He wanted to put a stop to it right then. I suppose, as hard as this is for me to admit, that Jesus was doing the same thing through Janice that day. He reminded me that I wasn’t as big as I thought I was. Was she wrong? Yes. Should she have had this attitude towards me? No. At the same time God was able to use her words for His Glory and not for mine. This took place around 22 years ago and since then I have had several "Janice" discussions. I can only be thankful because I know it is evidence of God being faithful. May I never think of myself more highly than I ought (Romans 12:3).
They Call Me Pastor, Sometimes I Like It- Series
Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4
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