Thursday, September 30, 2010

Known By Love.

I sat down to write today. And I said to myself, “Self, I think it’s about time (according to the Unofficial Smithellaneous Rotating Subject Schedule) to write a personal essay. A more serious post. Something with some meat on it. Something a bit more highbrow than “The Hairstyles of a Maltese.”

Although Snowy did ask me to pass along his most gracious appreciation, his most fervent felicitations and his eternal expressions of ongoing gratitude for all the gracious sentiments that were expressed about yesterday’s missive of masterpiece-esque proportions. (Well, actually all he said was, “Aw, shucks” but as his personal editor, I felt compelled to dress up his response a bit.)

So anyway, all that preliminary rambling brings me to the title of today’s (slightly more serious) post:

Known By Love

As most of you know, I am married to a minister. My dad was a minister. My sister is married to a minister. I have many friends who are ministers. I am a credentialed minister myself.

As a result, I have had an insider’s view of the church since the first day I entered my first church sanctuary as a wee little baby. And truthfully? An insider’s view of just about any organization--whether a church, a restaurant, or a business--can be a bit alarming. It can be a lot disillusioning. It can show you stuff that you really don’t want to know. And why is that? Well, it’s probably because people are involved in all of those enterprises. And as far as I can tell, people aren’t perfect. (Which is not an excuse. Just a reason.)

Of course the media doesn’t help matters any. Any negative thing that crops up concerning a religious leader immediately becomes fodder for instant headlines. It gives the talking heads on the news shows something to dissect. And dither over. And dismiss with an airy wave of the hand and the comment, “Well, why are we not surprised? Church people are no different from anyone else!”

And sadly, sometimes that’s true.

Sometimes church board meetings break out into fist fights. Sometimes gossiping saints stomp on the hearts of people already broken. Sometimes a preacher starts sniffing around the edges of another church, just looking for the opportunity to engage in a bit of “sheep stealing.” And sometimes a pastor even gets on Facebook and criticizes the actions (or sermon titles) of a fellow pastor in town.

Although the Bible says that Christians would be known by their love, there sometimes seems to be precious little love in our churches. And among our pastors. And between different denominations and various faith backgrounds.

Which is why I’d like to shine some light on something good. Something I’ve mentioned before. Something I’m going to keep on mentioning as time goes by.

Steve and I are part of an interdenominational pastor’s group. We meet once a month, sometimes for a meal, sometimes for prayer, sometimes for conversation.

At one of our recent meetings, a pastor’s wife said to the group, “I just want you all to know that my husband and I are committed to praying for you all and defending you. And if anyone comes to us and starts to criticize any of you for any reason, we have got your back.”

Another pastor said, “This group is a place where I can come and feel safe. No matter what has gone on in my church during the past month, I know I can come here and be loved and prayed for. Because I know that you understand.”

Another pastor, who had reached out to the rest of us for some financial help due to a crisis in his church, had tears in his eyes as he thanked us for standing with him during a challenging time.

And yet another pastor got up and told the story of some painful things that had happened to him in another church, things that just about killed him and turned him into an emotional, physical and spiritual wreck. Although he hadn’t told his story to many people, he shared it with us. We were honored to listen, we were moved to tears, and we were inspired to hear how God had restored him and brought him here to pastor on the Outer Banks.

There were three denominations represented in the room with us at our meeting last Friday. Since all of us pastor within about twenty minutes of each other, one might think that we would view each other as competitors; instead, we choose to see each other as team members. All of us are called to reaching people. And all of us know that we’ll accomplish that mission better if we work together—not apart.

So. Do some preachers fight and tear each other down? Sometimes. Unfortunately.

Do some preachers make a commitment to being “known by their love?” Sometimes. Fortunately.

Do me a favor. The next time you hear a story about a church fight, the next time you read a headline about bickering religious leaders, the next time you see something in Newsweek about a preacher who denigrates another denomination, please stop for just a minute. Please stop and remember that there are pastors and churches all over the world who will, thankfully, never be featured in those kinds of stories.

There are pastors everywhere—just like our small group in eastern North Carolina-- who are committed to caring well for their flocks, committed to caring well for each other, and committed to being known by their love.

______________________________________________

PS. I thought it might be fun to show you a few pictures of the church we met in last week. If you’ve ever visited the Outer Banks of North Carolina, you have no doubt seen this church on the main road. (Because any church built in the shape of an ark and called, “The Ark” is sort of hard to miss.)

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It even has port holes for windows. Is that cool, or what?

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The church also has a thriving Spanish congregation which meets Sunday afternoons.

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There’s an anchor in the front yard.

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For those who have vacationed here, seen the church and been curious as to what it looks like on the inside, here’s your chance to get a tour.

I love the doors that look like they belong on a ship.

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Another view of the porthole windows.

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The flags of the countries where the church supports missionaries.

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The platform.

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The Ark.

How great to see a church fit in so perfectly with it’s coastal surroundings. Gotta love it!

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10 Had Something To Say (Just click here!):

Love Being a Nonny said...

What a great reminder Becky. Thank you for this post!

Anonymous said...

Becky,

Sometimes you just come up with the perfect post and this is one of those.

With my great effort to get my retirement health insurance I worked for all these years and have worried over these past three months reminds me other things really could be more important.

I am so thankful having read this and also happy to report after three months I have an insurance number. Now I just need to wait for my card to arrive in the mail. I could be angry with such a delay, but truly I am just thankful to have this benefit.

Cindy from Sonoma

Jenna said...

Amen! Great post Becky!

MaryH said...

We never hear the good - there is a perception that the bad is more interesting and has more staying power - oh, how wrong "they" are. Thank you, Becky. I am so happy you are surrounded by such good and honest and trusting people.

Jan said...

That sound you hear is me being whoooshed back over the (many) years to the town where I grew up. The interfaith happenings were a fine testament to the ministers of the protestant churches. Vacation Bible School? Rotated between four churches each year. The Salvation Army had a bus, so they provided transporation for those of us who lived too far to walk there.

Summer Sunday services? Three weeks at the Baptist church, three at the First Presbyterian, three at the First Methodist. Good Friday? Three-hour service, with about 5 ministers from the different churches each doing a short sermon on the last words of Christ on the cross. Youth groups from each church got together regularly. I thought (but learned as an adult when I moved out of town) that that was the way it was supposed to be!

Thanks for reminding me of all that.

Jan Reuther

Guerrina said...

Thank you, Becky and that's all I'm gonna say!

Sam said...

Thanks for reminding me there are still people around that genuinely love others! And I have attended The Ark Church several years ago. My husband had just completed 6 months at Teen Challenge (Greensboro) and we took his brother back to Dare Challenge. They let us stay in the small apartment in the back for the weekend! It is a wonderful place!

Sandra Gleason

Melanie said...

From one pastor's wife to another, I know exactly what you mean!
I think it's wonderful that you have the pastor's group.
I have been to the Ark church before! :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Becky. I loved this recent post for a few reasons. I am Jewish and my husband was brought up Roman Catholic. When I say "was", it is because he has since decided that it is better to be a good person than a bad person who happens to go to a place of worship. I do not always agree with him because I feel a comfort when I do(which is rare) go to Temple. I was wondering if you ever considered other religions in your monthly meetings. At Passover, our community holds a huge Passover dinner and includes everybody. I once had a friend say that such and such a person was a good Christian and it so bothered me. I said that it is possible that the person being "good" had nothing to do with religion. I think your meetings are wonderful. Everybody has a place and we should all support snd embrace each other. Just wondered if you ever considered expanding even further into other religions. I think it would be so interesting. Thanks
Love you Smith Family

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