Jump Start # 3010
2 Timothy 4:5 “But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”
Last week, Wilson Adams wrote a wonderful piece about the need to shepherd the preacher and especially the preacher’s wife. And, I thought I would add some thoughts here in our Jump Starts. The preacher’s wife, often standing by her man can be the loneliest person in the congregation. She hears her husband venting his frustration about the lack of leadership, the failure of others and the disappointments that come with preaching. More than anyone else, it is the preacher’s wife that reminds him of the good that he does. She is also the one that can truly analyze his sermons like no one else. When her preacher man comes home, feeling like trash and his ego trampled by thoughtless comments, it is the wife who encourages him to stay with it and keep on.
Often, people will pressure the preacher’s wife to share insights that only she and a few others know. Some expect the preacher’s wife to be a walking Bible concordance and to be able to answer every conceivable situation that some dream up in their minds. As the preacher’s wife walks into the church building, she knows all eyes are looking at what she is wearing. If it’s deemed too expensive, the whispers begin about how much are we paying the preacher. The kids of the preacher are often expected to be little angles while everyone else’s kids are little demons. It’s hard for the preacher’s wife to talk to anyone within the congregation, lest what she says gets around or else it be considered complaining.
As of late, it is the pleas of the preacher’s wives that lead their husbands to move or often just stop preaching. The pressure. The image. The talk. The loneliness. The not being invited or included. The double-standard. Some just want to be a “regular member,” whatever that means. There has been a large number of preacher’s quitting in the past couple of years. And, the number of young men wanting to become preachers seems to be smaller and smaller. There is a famine of preachers coming. This is not going to be good.
We once lived in a house that was owned by the church. Early one morning, we were still in bed, someone was walking around inside. I got up. It was one of the members. When I asked what he was doing, his response was, “We all have keys.” It was thought and believed that the house belonged to the members and they had a right just to come in when they wanted to.
Now, some thoughts:
First, we preachers can certainly be part of the lonely hearts club band and our whining is enough to make a dog howl at the moon. No one wants a complaining preacher. Suffer hardships is what Paul told Timothy. Endure, is what is found in our verse today. Putting up with a few rude comments is nothing to what Timothy had to endure. Get a backbone and be tough. The same goes for the preacher’s wife and his family. Stop this, PK (Preacher’s Kids) stuff. Be a disciple of Jesus. Don’t be like all the lukewarm, dead in the water brethren who have nothing better to do than complain and be judgmental of others. Learn that Bible. Take food to the sick. Get to services. Worship God. Greet others. Extend hospitality. Participate. Sitting in a corner, crying that no one likes me, won’t win friends. Personally, the selfie generation has made too many of us selfish. Do you think Andrew sat around crying because he wasn’t included with Peter, James and John? Do you think he felt like quitting?
I do believe no one truly understands what a preacher goes through other than a fellow preacher. This is why I encourage preachers to bond with other preachers. Not all of them. Find that one or two that can really help you, understand you and be honest with you.
The same likely goes for a preacher’s wife. It’s hard for others to understand these things. There is no security in preaching. At any moment, the preacher could be fired. Many have. Many have for no other reason than some want a change or some blame the lack of growth upon the preacher. Most have zero retirement. Most have to supply their own insurance. I know. Been there for decades. You must take care of yourself. The time will come when the church wants a young preacher and the old guy is shown the door. That’s the history of how brethren have treated older preachers. However, you signed up for this knowing this. The doctor has his own stress and trials. The mechanic has his. School teachers these days are certainly going through so much. It may be good that some are quitting. If you cannot endure, you will give up.
Second, few places of business if any, post the salary of the employees on the bulletin board or had out to everyone the stated incomes. In many places of business, if one talks to another about their income, that’s grounds for dismissal. But, before the eyes of everyone, there is the preacher’s salary. So they look at that and the house he lives in, the car he drives, the clothes he wears. Maybe if we put ourselves in that spot, we’d have second thoughts. Maybe there is a better way than what has been done.
Third, maybe if more consideration to how the preacher’s wife was doing, more preachers would remain where they are and more would stay in preaching. Shepherd that preacher’s wife. Just because the preacher is doing fine, doesn’t mean she is. Conversations ought to be a part of the shepherding process with the preacher’s wife. Don’t’ intimidate her by having her come into the “board rule” full of men. She’ll be scared, guarded and the purpose will backfire. Build a relationship of trust between a shepherd and his wife and the preacher and his wife. Go out to dinner. Build an atmosphere where one can talk openly without fear of “being fired” for what was said. How is the preacher’s wife doing? Do you know?
Through the shepherd’s wife include the preacher’s wife. Make her feel welcome, loved and a part of the congregation.
I look forward to more of Wilson’s blog as he continues this series. May these thoughts get some wheels turning in our minds and begin the process for positive change. Lest anyone think that I have a real bone to pick with the place I’m at, that isn’t the case. I see my wife included, loved and appreciated. It has not always been that way for us in other places. And, it has been hard for her to make close friendships within the congregation. But my wife has been a real comfort and blessing to my work. She has supported what I do, been honest and truly the greatest encouragement I have ever had. I am blessed. Not all preacher’s have that. The nagging wife. The complaining wife. The never-happy wife. All of that wears upon the heart of one who tries to be a servant of the Lord.
There is an ole’ saying, “Behind every good man, stands a woman.” I think it best to say, “Beside every good man is a loving wife that wants him to do well. “