white church

So last night a bunch of us played a hashtag game called #MyChurchIsSoWhite.

There were a LOT of good ones thrown out there.


black kids



It’s actually normal to be drawn to people who are similar to ourselves and our own style and preferences. We get into trouble when we start thinking that our way of doing things needs to be the norm for everyone else. We get into trouble when we start seeing anyone else as “other than.”

In Christ, we’re all part of the same family.


From an Anonymous Pastor’s Wife

Today’s post is a guest writer. She’s a pastor’s wife (not my wife) but wishes to remain anonymous. So have at it, my friend!

All I learned about people, I’ve learned at my first church as a pastor’s wife. And I’m still at my first church! It’s a mid-sized church with a wide spectrum of different types of people. Families with small kids, families with older kids, single parents, elderly widows and widowers are just a few of them. I love that about our church. Actually, the thing I love most about our current church is its people.

But it’s also the thing I dislike the most. With the good church members, comes a small number of not-so-good ones. And when I say, “not-so-good,” I’m not talking about their salvation. That’s between them and God. Below is a list of the types of church members I’ve come across at my first church as a pastor’s wife.

The Bum Kisser – This person thinks that the more they schmooze the pastor, the more rewards they get in heaven. It’s not true, so please stop giving my husband Elvis figurines.

The Power Player – This is the person who knows everything, but not only that, wants to be in charge. They spend a lot of time behind the scenes planning and “leading” things before the pastor is even made aware. And when The Power Player’s influence is in jeopardy, they will immediately be the cause of conflict. Warning: This will be the first person to befriend you when you start at your church and will be the first to want you to leave.

The Hero – This is a very manipulative person. This person loves subtly (or not so subtly) influencing others to believe what they believe about everything going on, attacks the staff behind the scenes, delights in the destruction and then swoops in to fix everything. This is the most dangerous person in the church. My only (unfunny) advice about this person is to keep them close. You can’t change them, but you should be aware of what they are doing at all times.

Old Sweetie – This person is usually a woman, but I’ve come across a few men like this too. They are always sweet and always encouraging. They’ve been in the church for a long time. Just make sure you give her a hug EVERY Sunday, or you’ll hear about it for the next 6 months.

The Checker Upper – This person has no life. Their happiness depends on calling to make sure the secretary is answering the phones and that the pastor is in his office at precisely 8 am. I would suggest calling him at 5 am on a Saturday just to make sure he’s in his bed sleeping.

Money Bags – This person (or couple) gives a lot of money to the church. There are actually sub-types of these. One of them gives willingly (there’s no problem with these types) and the other uses it to get what they want out of the church. For example, the second type won’t allow the pastor to change out the medieval lighting fixtures because they’ve always been there. Maybe we should eat giant turkey legs at the next potluck?

Repeat Ricky – This guy tells you the same jokes every Sunday. Just laugh at them. It makes him happy.

Helpless Harry – This guy (or gal) sees a problem that needs to be fixed. Doorknob isn’t working properly? No problem for Helpless Harry. He’s happy to call the pastor 3x a day until the pastor fixes it.

Miserable Mary – She is miserable. She thrives on it. Don’t try to cheer her up. She’ll get more miserable. And she’ll like it.

Not all of these people are “bad” of course, and we have many members, including the above, who we love dearly. My husband jokes with me that in all of his 20 years of pastoring, he’s never come across so many difficult personalities at one church. I just tell myself that it’s God’s way of preparing us for our future in ministry together.

If there is anything I could ask our current church it would be, “If you knew your Pastor’s Wife was learning how to be a church member from watching you, would you still do things the same way?” Truth is, I hadn’t been to church for 14 years prior to marrying my husband. So not only was I new to the PW thing, I was new to the church thing, too. My advice if you’re a church member is to love your pastor and his family. Even when you don’t agree with him on some of his decisions. That’s what God has called us to do as followers of Jesus Christ. (Mark 12:30-31)

I Can’t Come to Church

© Michael Jastremski for openphoto.net

The other day some of us were involved in a hashtag game called #ICantComeToChurch.

It was highlighting some of the excuses we have heard (or used) to avoid going to church. Here are just a few of my faves:

#ICantComeToChurch because of all those hypocrites

— Doctor.Donna (@DonnaGeee) February 27, 2014

#ICantComeToChurch because the youth pastor is filling in while the senior pastor is on vacation (not a joke, heard this one)

— Anon Parishioner (@AParishioner) February 27, 2014

Pastor, #ICantComeToChurch because my husband’s ex-wife always shoots me dirty looks (yup, you guessed it – real)

— Xian Satirist (@TheXianSatirist) February 27, 2014

#ICantComeToChurch because last time I skipped, no one noticed, so now I’m too offended to come back.

— Back Row Baptist (@BackRowBaptist) February 27, 2014

#ICantComeToChurch because <insert lame excuse here>

— Tamster Too (@chattytamster) February 27, 2014

There were a lot more, some were plain silly and fictitious, but it highlights the fact that we’ve all heard and used examples on why we can’t be in church.

I’ve frequently heard people argue that you don’t have to be in church to be a Xian – that being in church doesn’t make you a Xian any more than being in a garage makes you a car. And that’s true. But church isn’t about you and what you get out of it.

In his book, “The Good and Beautiful Community” James Bryan Smith points out that  how you feel about church and the feeling you get from church isn’t the point. It’s not about your inspiration, but “rather the ‘transformation of the person within, by, and for the community.”

Being part of the community of faith transforms us. It teaches us. It holds us accountable. It allows us to participate in God’s story, other Xian’s stories, and to share our story with others. When all is said and done, while salvation is by faith in Jesus and not dependent on your church attendance record, we are missing out on the chance to grow and mature into the kind of person we could be if we would participate in the life of God’s Community.

So when Sunday rolls around next week try something different. Don’t look for excuses why you CAN’T go. Look for reasons why you SHOULD go. Engage. Plug in. Start participating in the story. Let others influence you. Influence others.

We all get better because of it.

And together we start to look like the Community God designed us to be.

Escaping the Fishbowl

Today I’ve got a guest blogger for you. Direct from Twitter is Preachers Kids Probs. He’s quite a spiritual hybrid: a generation removed from the Amish church, a closeted catholic, an overchurched cynic, and baptist preacher’s kid. So, without further ado, take it away kid!


courtesy of Amaar at www.pptbackgrounds.net

courtesy of Amaar at http://www.pptbackgrounds.net

How many times have you been in church and thought to yourself “this again?” or “can I just sit down already?” Of course you don’t say anything. To say anything about your perpetual boredom during the service would be rude, most likely, and probably call into question your salvation. Not that you walk into church with the intent of repeating the same thing, singing the same tired praise chorus for the millionth time (seriously, how many times can you sing “Come, Now Is The Time to Worship” or “Heart of Worship” without having an aneurism?), being bored to death during the sermon, or even wondering how much longer the service is going to be; but it still happens.

I’m going to clue you in on something. The sound guys behind you- you know who I’m talking about- the fat guys with beards chugging coffee? He’s chugging coffee because his day probably started around four or five that morning. Trust me, he’s just as bored as you are. Even in my dad’s church, I would often be asked to run sound because I had done AV work professionally for other churches and I was still bored even then. I remember even playing angry birds in the sound booth once the sermon started. Not really professional on my part, but it was either that or take a nap.

Bored to death during the sermon? I’ll drop another truth bomb on you. Chances are your pastor spent quite a bit of his week praying over what to preach over and the sermon he has prepared is what someone in the congregation needed to hear. I know often times, even for myself as a youth intern when leading bible study or “preaching” during youth meetings or events, I would often be in the middle of my notes, looking out into the group of kids that we had there and think to myself “I feel sorry for these kids.” It’s the truth. Sometimes your pastor has had just as much of a stressful week as you did – if not more stressful – and to be at church preaching the word that God laid on his heart is nothing short of miraculous.

As a preacher’s kid, I can attest to this in more ways than you can imagine. I don’t just live in a fishbowl; I am the fishbowl… maybe that’s a tad existential. But try being on display for the church and the community and have them judge every move you make, what you go to see at the movies, and what you listen to. You have no idea how many times I’ve wanted to scream, “Are you freaking kidding me?” When my dad accepted his previous pastorate I was asked to do some work with the youth that summer as well because of my experience beforehand in youth ministry. During a business meeting the subject of the youth’s spiritual state came up and included the fact that we shouldn’t have couches in the youth room because it “promoted inappropriate closeness.” I responded to the first with “Well, are you going to volunteer for youth events? Are you going to invest in them? No? Okay, sit down. I think we’re done on that count.” To the second point about the couches I pointed at the pews and asked, “Are these safe? There isn’t anything dividing me from another member of the opposite sex. In fact, are you prepared to give extra money to replace the seating that we’re losing by removing the couches? No? Okay, I guess we’ve solved that.” Needless to say, from that point on, I fled church business meetings (aka Voice Your Complaints Sunday) like the Israelites fled Egypt. I also didn’t do any more work with the youth after that summer (shout out to my little sister for stepping up to the plate beautifully).

Ready for another truth bomb? We all have twitter accounts… and we use them. We use them to say what we can’t readily say in church, we use them to vent, we use them to ask for intercession, and we use them to poke fun at you- and ourselves. I’ve had the honor of “meeting” various individuals along the way.

These are people who have been in the ministry and left because they got burned out by always having to quell uprisings in the congregation. These are current youth ministers trying not to voice their exasperation at the lack of spiritual concern in their youth group publicly. These are worship pastors making fun at the sorry state of “worship music.” These are pastors who are still preaching in churches that need to crack a joke or two. These are church members who are just bored with their churches in general.

Don’t get me wrong; I would hope to God that none of us use our anonymous accounts for tearing others down or gossiping. But often times we need a place to let our hair down and make a joke or two about how churches always need money to spend on new pens with the church name on them for the office or how there is a definite lack of money in the church often resulting in our giving extra time and money to help make ends meet for the sake of the gospel.

I first encountered this effect with one of my best friends and his family. He had spent a good portion of his teenage years outside of the United States and when he and his family came back to the states, they opened their house to other missionaries coming back on sabbatical. I had long suspected that other families in the ministry were fairly normal, but never actually witnessed other people in the ministry letting their hair down and having fun. In hanging out with these people who gave their lives to the impoverished, the sick, and the downtrodden; I found that, in fact, these people were very much the same as I. It knocked my socks off to hear the confession from a missionary: “really, sometimes all I want is a cigar and a cold beer.”

I don’t mean to say that all the people you know in ministry positions are like this in fact, I assume there are quite a few that are ultimately quite boring (Yes, I’m talking about <insert name of your favorite pastor here>), but what I’m getting at is they’re all normal people and they have many of the same wants, needs, desires, and passions that you do. We all get discouraged; we all have experienced the feeling that the service would seemingly go on forever. Want to complain about how the music was or how the sound was this morning? Trust us. We know.

In fact, we most likely noticed far more minute screw-ups during the worship service and sermon than you can even imagine. Thought that the sound was off during the sermon? Congratulations, we know. In fact we’ve been using the same microphone since 2003 because the church budget won’t allow us to get new equipment and the options are either a quieter sermon or listening to feedback for the better part of 30 minutes. Thought the music was droll and boring? Trust us, we know. We even noticed that the bass player’s bass was a little flat during the worship set; we even noticed that the worship pastor had a sore throat.

You want to complain that we haven’t done true love waits with the youth group again? We’re aware that we haven’t done it because we can’t change a heart issue. Want to complain about how so and so in the congregation are dragging people down because they still smoke or drink? We’re well aware that they do, we also watched you cut people off while cursing merging off the highway to get into the church parking lot. In all fairness, I probably cut you off earlier this week too- but I would much rather talk about you and not me.

What I’m getting at in this obscenely long diatribe is that- at least speaking for myself- we have anonymous accounts for a reason. You get to vent all you want at church or to your friends. We get to vent- usually- to no one. Having been in leadership positions and watching my friends and mentors get torn down by people with vendettas, I wish that I would have had a place to vent or scream “hypocrite” during those times because far too often, churches aren’t necessarily the most open or accepting of places. Instead of forming bonds that strengthen the body of Christ- the church- we form cliques. Instead of walking in humility, we point to the church bake sale and say, “look what I organized!” Instead of walking in mercy, we condemn a youth pastor for making a south park reference because it was relevant to the situation. Instead of walking in grace, we forget that the homosexual next door to us is just as in need of Christ’s redeeming love as our gluttonous and envious hearts are.

You want to see your pastor’s life change? You want to see your church staff be more productive? Start walking in humility, offer to visit the sick in the hospital and take no extra credit for it, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:3-5) Start walking in mercy, overlook the bad and focus on how Christ loves them and how they can be used for the kingdom, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” (Matthew 5:6-7) Start walking in grace, show love to everyone you meet and make peace where there peace is so desperately needed, remember that Christ forgave you while you were still hopelessly mired in sin “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” (Matthew 5:8-9)

When in doubt, love God first; then love people. There’s a good chance that sitting right next to you during the service is someone with an anonymous twitter account bemoaning the current state of the church and Christianity in general.