TARA GIBBS | CONTRIBUTOR Sometimes church members seek to show their care for their pastor with “helpful” tips and advice like, “Let me tell you how to fix your sermon. You preached too long/too short/too much grace/too much law/ with boring illustrations, etc. etc.” Or, “Let me help you know why I am upset because you didn’t call me enough… fix my marriage… heal my broken family…” And that “helpful” feedback isn’t restricted to the pastor himself. It extends into pastoral families as well with comments like, “Your children are too fidgety in worship. Here’s how to fix that.” Or even insights we share with one another and not to our pastoral family’s faces like, “Did you see his wife’s sweater has a stain on it?” Or “Did you see the length of his daughter’s skirt?” Or “Is that too nice of a car for a pastor’s family?” As a longtime pastor’s wife, I have a bookshelf filled with titles ranging from Windows in a Glass House to Help! I’m Married to My Pastor! to She Can’t Even Play the Piano, and perhaps most eye-catching of them all: I Quit! All four of our children offered concerned queries when they saw me reading that last title! What does it mean to care for those who live in glass houses, don’t always preach perfect sermons, and perhaps have fidgety kids, but who are nonetheless called to shepherd the flock? We know our pastoral families are frail humans in need of grace and support just like we are. But in daily practice, it can be easy to start applying a different scale to ministry families. Perhaps Pastor Appreciation Month is a good time to prayerfully consider how to apply Paul’s words in Hebrews 13:17, “Obey your leaders and submit to them for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning...”...
JAMYE DOERFLER | GUEST On July 1, 2017, our family of five pulled up to our new home in a new city with a 27-foot U-Haul and two cars packed to the max. Within an hour, five adults were helping us unload the truck. Mind you, we’d met most of these people only once before. One man, we’d never even seen in person—we’d only had a single Skype conversation. Yet here they were, near-strangers sweating and struggling to carry our heavy furniture and boxes of books. The night before, when we’d loaded the truck four hours east, about 15 people had helped—some inside the truck packing it tightly, others carrying the boxes and furniture, and still others cleaning the house. The week prior, women had helped me pack up the kitchen and dining room. Once the kitchen was packed and cooking became difficult, various friends provided dinner for us every night as we visited and said goodbye to those with whom we’d spent the last eleven years. As I walked through that week, I was struck by God’s wisdom in putting Christians in community with one another. All of these people who served us in such a tangible way? They were our church family, our brothers and sisters in Christ. We’d spent a decade with some of them; others, we had only just met—but we were already bound by the fellowship of the Church. Created for Community I have met Christians for whom church attendance and participation is considered optional. “I can be a Christian but not go to church all the time,” they reason. Or, “I just like to go on Sundays and get in and out,” as though church is like a stop at the dry cleaners. This isn’t what God intended for Christians. Consider these Scriptures: Hebrews 10:24-25: "And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near." 1 Thessalonians 5:11: "Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing." Galatians 6:2: "Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." On June 30 and July 1 of 2107, our brothers and sisters were quite literally bearing our burdens...
LAURA DAVIS|GUEST She set out without telling anyone where she was going. Her eleven grown children were used to her disappearing, and they scarcely ever worried about her. She was a tough woman who had suffered much in her 67 years—she was the hardworking wife of a farmer who had physically abused her for their entire marriage. She’d proven she could take care of herself. On May 2, 1955, Grandma Gatewood set out from Oglethorpe, GA to become the first solo female to hike 2,160 miles of the Appalachian Trail. She carried a lightweight handmade drawstring bag with a few provisions and wore canvas sneakers on her feet. She brought no map and no plan except to put one foot in front of the other. A Treacherous Journey On September 5, near the end of her journey with almost 2000 miles behind her, she traversed some of the most difficult terrain she had encountered thus far. She had one good lens in her glasses after she accidentally stepped on them, and she limped from a knee injury after a fall. The climb before her was treacherous, the kind of treacherous that was a matter of life or death with just one small misstep. The weather had also become cold and miserable with fat, icy rain drops pelting her skin. Her canvas sneakers, which she has replaced multiple times before, were worn through so that water gushed through the holes and soaked her socks. She was half-blind, limping, wearing worn out shoes, and the path was slick and dangerous. She left the trail to find a town in which to buy shoes, but instead, she encountered a man mowing the grass. He explained there were no towns for miles but offered for his wife to meet her at the next trail intersection with a new pair of shoes. Later that afternoon, she met his wife and when she tried on those new shoes, they were too small. The woman invited her to stay the night and the next day, after giving her shoes that fit, her daughter and a friend joined Grandma Gatewood on the next 10- mile stretch of the trail. For most of the journey, she hiked solo, but for parts of it, this tough woman needed other hikers to encourage and provide for her and to pull her to safety at critical moments. Strangers gave her warm houses, warm meals, and warm beds. She enjoyed their company, and it lifted her spirits. Grandma Gatewood’s story is a picture of life in a hostile world where everything seems set against us finishing the race, but the companionship of others spurs us on. Did the treacherous climb or the miserable weather change? Did she get new glasses so she could see clearly? Did her knee miraculously heal? No, none of these circumstances changed. Rather, she was given a new pair of shoes and companionship. The shoes would eventually wear out again, but the impact of their companionship would last a lifetime...
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