I noticed over the years, in the church I was involved in, it seemed there was always a lack of love. There was a lot of teaching on faith and money, but not a lot of teaching on loving God and loving people. Since I had been in this one church for over 20 years, I knew nothing else and had nothing to compare it to. I wondered where the love was, but I came to the resolve that it must be that way in all churches. I see now that I had bought a lie. I went for all those years missing out on love, freedom, friendships, and most importantly a real relationship with God. I had settled for a counterfeit religion. Now that I am out from under the control and manipulation, I see how far off things really were.
I always wondered why many of the ministers I use to be around didn't seem to like people. In meetings I attended, ministers would stay in the back until the music had already started and then they would leave before the service was dismissed. It was very evident that they didn't want to be around or converse with the "common" people in the congregation. Why did they want to spend their time teaching the Bible to people that they really didn't even seem to like? Could it be that it was just a job to them? If they don't like people, then why did they go into the ministry to begin with? Being in the ministry is all about people!!!
I heard the same stories over and over about ministers who would mistreat their young apprentices. I heard of one old timer that had a young minister who followed him all the way to another country, while all along the way he ignored and mistreated the young man. WHY? Why wouldn't he want to be an example of God's love and kindness? In my mind, all this does is give people a false view of who God really is. This young man was looking to his mentor to learn the ways of God. Couldn't the mentor see that he was actually teaching him how to mistreat God's precious children? God always helps, leads, and provides for us. He never mistreats and leaves us to ourselves to figure things out. We shouldn't listen to these stories and just accept them because they come from behind a pulpit. If it doesn't resemble God's love, then we should rethink the whole concept. Someone may be able to preach a good sermon, but if they don't have love for others, then doesn't the Bible say it's only a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal?
We were always told, "Don't look at the man, look at the gift." I have figured out that this is sometimes a convenient way to excuse moodiness or rude behavior. I have now taken that statement out of my vocabulary because I don't buy it anymore. The Bible says that we will know people are Christians by their love. It also says to test the spirits and look at the fruit. Where's the love in a pastor talking rudely to someone? Where's the love in calling someone a name from the pulpit? Where's the love in not accepting a person for who they are and refusing to see the good in them? I know a young minister who was spoken to in a very inappropriate way by a church leader. When the leader was confronted, he excused his behavior by admitting, "he was strongly lacking in people skills." What about using manners, or better than that, what about doing what's right? Enough excuses! When a leader is lacking in people skills, he should do whatever it takes to learn some. There are plenty of good books and classes out there to help people.
I heard one friend describe it as being "relationally dysfunctional." It made so much sense to me when he said that. I always thought that maybe I was the one that had the problem, because I got so nervous around certain ministers and couldn't even speak. But now I see that the multitude of people in the church are probably not the ones with the problem, but perhaps it is the leaders. I have come to the conclusion that some leaders were never taught people skills, good manners, or how to love.
A few years ago, I made the suggestion to the leadership of my former church that we offer the staff a class on people skills. I did a lot of research and presented it to the leaders. Of course, that didn't happen. After looking through the material, I found some of the basic principles this class would have taught.....
* Be a good listener and encourage people to talk
* Show respect for the other person's opinion
* Give honest and sincere appreciation
* If you are wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically
* Try honesty to see things from the other person's point of view
* Sympathize with people
There are so many kind, loving people in the ministry. You don't have to remain in a church governed by selfish leaders who don't care about people. If a leader has been conducting himself in the same way for 20 or 30 years, he's probably not going to change any time soon. You deserve more! You are God's precious child and He cares how you are treated. He laid out how he wanted you to be treated in the Bible. Is your church meeting the guidelines?
God's plan throughout time has consisted of people impacting other people. That's God's main goal for us - impact people for the kingdom of God. Ministry is not about "me" and what I can get from people, it's about being a servant. Jesus himself came to serve instead of to be served and He always chose others over Himself. Jesus is supposed to be the example for all Christians, including ministers. It's time that we realize that no one is better than another. The homeless guy down the street is just as important to God as the pastor of a church.
I was talking to a young couple who just came out of a controlling church and they admitted that they have never really known God's love. They have heard about the things of God all of their lives, but He seemed like a distant God who was only interested in making sure they followed the rules. I am on a mission to share God's love with them and help them see that what really matters in life is loving God and loving people - not all the legalism they have grown up in their whole lives. I believe there are many people out there in this same situation. When a person walks into our life, we should look at it as a God given opportunity to share His love with them. We truly have the ability to impact the lives of people on a daily basis. It only takes a kind word, a smile, and giving some of our time to show we care.
Where's the love? Let it be said of you and me, that God's love can be found here.