Thursday, February 18, 2010

Confessions of a Church Planter (Part 2)

Lady on the Phone

For the first 4-5 years the church offices of PCC were in my home. We did not have enough money to rent office space in town, so my home became the logical spot. Because of this, it was very difficult to separate business hours from home hours – not to mention that the sanctity of our home was always violated and intruded upon by church business. I spent my days getting up, getting dressed, and sitting at a desk in my master bedroom acting like I had office hours, which proved to be unproductive. The kids were little and running around, there was noise in the house, and the phone always rang.

It was only natural that people would call our home phone when they needed to speak to the pastor. Being a normal male who hates to talk on the phone, I soon got sick of answering it. I also quickly learned that if I answered the phone, the same people would call more frequently, and I did not really want to talk to them because they were emotionally draining.

This was drilled home to me by one lady in particular. Let’s call her “Jane.” She stands out among all the rest because she literally called me every single day, often multiple times a day, and would tie me up on the phone for hours at time. She was the most self-defeated person I have ever met. At first I thought I could help her, and naively thought she would get better by my offering her godly pastoral advice. After a couple of months it finally dawned on me that she did not want to get better; she only wanted someone to listen to her misery. She talked about her last church, her miserable husband, her depression, and intimate details about her life; stuff I did not want or need to hear. It was grinding me down.

Finally, one day, I had enough. After several months listening to her unending crying, my patience had run thin. We were talking on the phone and I had now become the object of her criticism. She blamed me for taking her husband’s side in their ongoing feud, she condemned me for not fixing her emotional state of mind, and she even prophesied to me (over the phone) a curse upon Pace Community Church for allowing Satan to get in the church. With that I let loose on her in a way that she had never heard any previous pastor talk to her. She was startled at my response; in fact, I was startled at my response. After she hung up, I never heard from her again.

I’m glad.

I decided that although a pastor is supposed to answer the phone and help people, I would end up with a gun to my temple if I continued doing that. I also decided that I was going to keep doing what I thought God wanted me to do instead of what people in the church expected me to do. To address the on-going needs in the congregation I needed to find men and women who had the gift of caring and let them take care of the “Jane’s.” But for me, our church was not only about the ones who currently attended, but also the ones who we did not yet have, and I needed to be the one to go after them. I’m not sure most pastors are aware of this, but the church that God wants to build also consists of the people who do not currently attend. Those people will never come to churches on their own, so pastors need to go to those people. This follows the pattern in Jesus’ parable about the shepherd who left the 99 sheep (in the flock) to find the one who was lost.

Emotionally, ministry has proven to be more exhausting than I could have ever imagined. Because I deeply love people, especially hurting people who sincerely want to get better, the pains of other people’s lives began to take a deep toll on me. Many nights were spent in prayer, or at hospitals, instead of sleeping, and even on days that were supposed to be my days off, my mind was consumed with the painful hardships and sinful rebellions of our people.

Then it happened - all hell broke loose and it nearly killed me.

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