I am inspired to write this after a lengthy conversation with one of the sisters from my church/assembly. In that conversation I was lead to tell her about my time in the Methodist church under a very, very tough Pastor (now a Bishop). We had a great time laughing about my experience so I thought I’d share it with you. For the sake of this story we’ll just call him Pastor Tough.
My story starts in Detroit where my husband and I lived for about 5 years. You see back then we were on the fence. You know what I’m talking about? We were neither hot nor cold. We were “good” people going to church because we had been taught that the church was the “saving place”.
We began attending a Methodist church in Detroit. How did we find the church you ask? Oh, it was easy. We attended an affiliated college so it was obvious that we must remain loyal to the denomination. Also, the pastor was a fellow alum and he had a Ph.D. in theology. In our eyes they looked fruitful; they had a beautiful building and lots of good community programs going on and he drove a Lexus (can’t get much more successful than that). To sum it up all of our reasons were carnal/fleshly and there was no consulting God.
Upon joining the church we attended New Member’s class and with lots of prompting also began to attend bible study. It was different than any other church I had attended. Can you believe the co-pastor (Pastor Tough’s wife, she was also tough) insisted that we read the bible at home and study for ourselves? Later she began to tell us about hearing the voice of God. Now I was used to Pastor’s talking about their hearing but not a lot about it being important for me to hear from God. I now realize this was a pivotal moment in my husband and I’s salvation. [“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15 ]
One Sunday, my husband was approached by Pastor Tough and told that he was being appointed to a leadership (Trustee) position. Of course he was clear to let him know that this came with much responsibility. It seemed overwhelming and we were quite uncomfortable because to be quite frank these folks were a little “too deep” for us. We were of the mindset “it doesn’t take all that”. You know – fasting, lengthy prayers, and they even had all night shut-ins. It just seemed a little extreme to us at the time. Pastor Tough later began to approach us on the Sunday’s that we missed and even dared to tell us that he was concerned about our commitment when we kept running out of town to visit family. These folks were expecting too much of us. After all we were just a young couple. We needed our space and needed to have fun. I thought he was “out of line” and before I knew it I was offended.
Offense – an enemy to destiny and purpose. Satan loves to get us offended. Offense opens the door to so many other evils – gossip, anger, bitterness, strife, rebellion, and offense has pulled many people away from the body of Christ and away from their destiny and purpose. Well offense did it for us. This man we thought was putting his foot on our necks and we didn’t like it. Why was he singling us out? He had close to 2,000 members and seemed to know whether we were there or not. We didn’t realize that God was singling us out – not Pastor Tough.
Well, because we had no order in the house, I took it upon myself to suggest that we visit another church. After all we were driving quite a ways anyway. My husband quickly obliged since he wanted to be “more comfortable”. Comfort -another enemy to destiny and purpose. Jesus never promised us we would be comfortable. In fact Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9:27 “but I buffet my body, and bring it into bondage: lest by any means, after that I have preached to others, I myself should be rejected”. Webster’s defines buffet as – “a blow, a slap. To beat, to box, to contend against”. Sound comfortable to you? Not to me. So where did we get this idea that being a Christian is “comfortable”. Well comfortable is what we wanted, and comfortable is what we got.
Where did we go? Well we went to a church about 8 blocks away from our home. The pastor was “a career man” and he wasn’t caught up into deep bible study and stuff. He was comfortable and he allowed everybody else to be comfortable. We were back to being “good church members” and our flesh was satisfied. Little did we know, offense had delayed our destiny and purpose. God wanted to speak to us. He wanted to reveal His mysteries and truths to us, but because of offense, and the desire to be comfortable, we’d come to the fork in the road and gone the wrong way.
One Saturday we received a call from Pastor Tough. He was inquiring as to why he hadn’t seen us in church. I proceeded to tell him how we’d found another church closer to home and do you know what he did? He asked to speak to my husband. Well, I told him he was not home and proceeded to continue our conversation. He was abrupt and informed me that he needed to speak with my husband because he was the head of the household and that he was the decision maker on this matter and that he was not going to discuss it with me. Can you believe he hung up the phone? Now not only was I offended, but I was now angry. He was taking this “head of the household” thing too far so I thought. Later, after God began to knock at our hearts once again, we ran into Pastor Tough. It was quite a warm moment because we appreciated how God had used him to speak to us.
You see Pastor Tough and his wife were different from most clergy. Clearly they and there church were not perfect but they knew one very important fact – that is salvation is personal. They weren’t content to let us sit in their pews week in and week out assuming we were “saved” because we were on the church role. They emphasized the importance of hearing the voice of God. Revelation 3:20 says – “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.”
I also appreciate Pastor Tough because he was willing to speak a word of correction in love. Although my flesh still fights it, I want and need correction. I don’t want a mentor, teacher or leader that pours honey down my throat to appease me while watching me head toward a pit. A good teacher speaks truths, even when it hurts. [ 2 Timothy 2:3 “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires”].
My husband and I have been blessed once again with a husband and wife team that are mentoring and training us in ministry. It is real funny because the husband at times can be like Pastor Tough. A few weeks ago I called him and his wife in the midst of a pity party. It was one of those days that you have as an adult when you want to run back home to mommy and daddy and say I don’t want to be an adult anymore. Can I come back home? Well, I didn’t get milk and cookies and a back rub. What I got was what I needed – a swift kick in the behind. What did he say to me? He said, “Go to the altar, crucify your flesh and leave your flesh there”, because a good mentor or teacher knows what you need when you need it.
In closing, let us desire to endure as good soldiers. We have to understand that we are being trained for battle and warfare because we face a real enemy. I must endure hardship, persecution, being lied on, talked about, slandered and even cheated. So what’s a little offense or discomfort? Hang in there.