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  • Abraham Lincoln on Criticism

    "If I were to try to read, much less answer, all the attacks made on me, this shop might as well be closed for any other business. I do the very best I know how - the very best I can; and I mean to keep doing so until the end. If the end brings me out all right, what's said against me won't amount to anything. If the end brings me out wrong, ten angels swearing I was right would make no difference."
  • Consider the Cost

    "Never, never, never believe any war will be smooth and easy, or that anyone who embarks on the strange voyage can measure the tides and hurricanes he will encounter. The statesman who yields to war fever must realize that once the signal is given, he is no longer the master of policy but the slave of unforeseeable and uncontrollable events." ~Winston Churchill
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  • Charles Spurgeon

    "Our blessed Lord reveals himself to his people more in the valleys, in the shades, in the deeps, than he does anywhere else. He has a way and an art of showing himself to his children at midnight, making the darkness light by his presence."
  • Progress through Perseverance

    It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or whether the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; Whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes up short again and again; Who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; Who, at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; And who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly. It is far better to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight of life, knowing neither victory nor defeat. ~ Theodore Roosevelt
  • Psalm 7:10-17

    God will uncase the hypocrites ere long, and make them know, to their sorrow, what is was to trifle with Him." - Richard Baxter
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  • The Reformed Pastor – Richard Baxter

    “We must carry on our work with patience. We must bear with many abuses and injuries from those to whom we seek to do good. When we have studied for them, and prayed for them, and exhorted them, and beseeched them with all earnestness and condescension, and given them what we are able, and tended them as if they had been our children, we must look that many of them will requite us with scorn and hatred and contempt, and account us their enemies, because we ‘tell them the truth.’ Now, we must endure all this patiently, and we must unweariedly hold on in doing good, ‘in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves, if God, peradventure, will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth.’ We have to deal with distracted men who will fly in the face of their physician, but we must not, therefore, neglect their cure. He is unworthy to be a physician, who will be driven away from a frenetic patient by foul words. Yet, alas, when sinners reproach and slander us for our love, and are more ready to spit in our faces, than to thank us for our advice, what heart-risings will there be, and how will the remnants of old Adam (pride and passion) struggle against the meekness and patience of the new man! And how sadly do many ministers come off under such trials!”
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Ladies, YOU need to hear this… Listen up!

Hey ladies, my valuable, worthy ladies who love God and put yourself out there every day for others. Yes, I mean you.

Melody2 by Jesse Therrien from freeimages freesxc

I have something to tell you, something you NEED to hear. I’ve gotten so many letters, texts, Facebook messages, phone calls, and frustrated, “I need to talk to you,” face to face encounters that I have to address this. Urgh.

There is something you may not know and I’m going to tell you right now.

So listen up.

You are valuable.

You are loved.

You are who you are because God made you that way. That makes you special… special to God… special to me.

Yes, I mean you.

I see you day to day putting yourself aside and working for others, dropping by a vase of flowers for a sick older lady, changing diapers in the church nursery, going out to work to help support the family, caring your grandchildren, sacrificing for your children, washing dishes after a fellowship in your church, raising an adopted child by yourself, taking your kids to sports practice, blogging tutorials for strangers on how to save a dime, tutoring the student who just doesn’t get it, caring for a sick husband, encouraging others to keep going…

You do so much for others that I couldn’t possibly list it all. And yet, you are discouraged, feeling unloved and disrespected.

To quote a phrase in the Bible, because it is so simple yet profound, “These things ought not so to be.”

It makes me angry (yes, I can be angry and sin not) to see the women around me live discouraged, defeated lives because of how they are regarded by those around them.

It ends now.

Every woman who belongs to Christ (if you’re not sure, go here) must claim their position in Him, realize their value, and act like it!

No more questioning. No more letting people walk all over you. No more wondering if you can be used.

NO MORE!

You are not alone.

When you met Christ, you not only were forgiven, but you became brand new. You became His child, valuable and complete.

Did you hear that? You are complete in Him. He VALUED you enough to hang on that cross – FOR YOU.

So how is it that we wonder if we are enough? How is it that we question our value?

Um, no.

Right now you are going to realize you are valuable, complete in Him and to be regarded as such. No more are you going to accept the notion that you are not as good or capable or usable as that woman you think is better than you (or that woman that thinks she is better than you and lets you know it).

If someone tries to make you feel small, you just stand tall and tell yourself, “I am a daughter of the Most High God, I am valued, I am complete in Him.” Notice I said, “tries.” No one can put you in your place but God, and if you belong to Him, you are already placed in His hand and He is in your heart.

Repeat after me, “I got this.”

Photo by Stephen Davies freeimages

I don’t mean, “I got this,” as in “I’m perfect,” I mean, “I got this, I’m complete, I’m valued by God, I don’t need your approval, I don’t need you to put me in my place. I’m good where I’m at, in my God’s hand, loved and valued.”

Stop comparing yourself to other women. Stop trying to compete. Just be whom God made you. Accept who you are. Realize your value. Stand up and say, “I got this.”

Being submissive doesn’t mean we are a little mouse that walks around afraid to speak. If you’re not sure this is true, go read in the Scriptures about how all the women that served God were strong, confident women with purpose.

Being a good woman doesn’t mean you stand by while others smack you around with their words or actions. Others will not respect you if you don’t respect yourself. Stand up and say, “I got this.”

One friend recently said, “I’ve decided I will just stay in my room when they are home.”

Um. No.

You are not going to hide. You are not going to step aside and let them devalue you, take advantage of your insecurities or let them make you feel unloved. You are the daughter of a king. You step up and say,

“I got this.”

You are going to claim your position in Christ, say to yourself, “I belong to the King,” and take your place as a valued child. You are going to set your boundaries and claim your spot. It is your home. They are visitors. They will respect and cherish you or they will go.

I have a family of 5 living in our home and my 87 year old mother. None of them treat me like I am worthless. None of them push me around. None of them disrespect me. In fact, it is just the opposite. I have loved every moment my daughter’s family has been in our home for the past 5 months. I have gained much by having my mother in our home. We help each other, we laugh, we enjoy, we respect each other. When they move out in the next few days I will feel a loss. When my mother goes home to glory, I will feel a void.

If this is not the case with those around you, then you need to reevaluate your relationships, disconnect from those who do not value you and find some who do. Pray for a girlfriend who will uplift you and support you. Find someone who can encourage you and walk with you. Set your boundaries with everyone in your life and make it clear you know whom you, to whom you belong are and who you are not. And then tell yourself, “I got this.”

You are a daughter of the King.

You are valuable.

You are loved.

You are who you are because God made you that way.

That makes you special… special to God… special to me.

And yes, I mean you.

Blessings to you,

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Missions-Minded Pastor Or Tyrant? (Independent Baptist Truth Revolution #7)

Click the link below for an interesting article about what missionaries go through to get support from some churches. Missionaries on deputation need as much prayer as those on the field.

Missions-Minded Pastor Or Tyrant? (Independent Baptist Truth Revolution #7).

Unstoppable

Christian Liberty – Permission to be Free

I made reference a few days ago on my Facebook status that our Pastor, Weng Liew, had “hit one out of the park.” He sent me his notes tonight and I have his points listed below. Make sure you slooowwwlyy read through them. At first glance they appear to be the typical sermon on Christian liberty, ie: do right, do your best, don’t use your liberty to sin, etc. But take the time to read what he has to say. Read each word carefully. If you do, you’ll see why our whole family celebrated last Sunday night by recapping what he said and how he said it. It was surreal. We’ve known pastors who see Christian liberty the same way we do – it’s between us and God, no right to judge, keep your walk with the Spirit and your life will please God, etc. but we’ve never heard a sermon, a pastor, actually give us permission right from the pulpit to live according to our own personal convictions. Wow. WOW.

The sermon was executed with a heart of love from a humble servant who desired to see his people live in freedom – freedom to choose their own path, directed by their own personal relationship with God. There was no condemning judgement, pressure to conform, or self-righteous spirit. Though I agreed 100% and already held the exact same thought process regarding Christian liberty, I experienced a deep peace after that night. It’s a peace I wish for all my friends and family who name the name of Christ and try to serve and please Him with their lives.

Here are the specifics on Pastor Weng’s sermon.  As you read it, pretend it’s being told to you by one who loves you as Christ loves His own. Better yet, pretend as you read that Christ Himself is telling you about the freedom you can enjoy in Him. Jump up into His lap and let Him set you free.  Pay particular attention to the last 5 words – they are key. “God recognizes each as such.

(Romans 14:1-23)

1. We need to remember what we are saved from – the bondage and chains of sin. We are free INDEED (completely, absolutely, forever) through Christ.

2. All things are lawful to the child of God, although not all things are expedient (1 Corinthians 10:23). Thus, while a Christian cannot “break” the law as he is no longer under the law, does not give the right to sin. While we are at liberty to act as the Spirit gives liberty, not all actions are expedient, i.e. prudent. Out of all the things one can do in a given situation, one course of action is best. This is what edifies another brother or sister in Christ, not that which becomes a stumbling block to them.

3. The pinnacle of Christian liberty is to willingly do more (not less) than required by the law to love one another.

4. We must remember we are all servants of Christ. Just as in the secular world we do not judge another man’s servant, we are not to judge each other. We are all accountable ultimately to Christ alone. One who abstains from certain meats does it to glorify God. One who eats all meats in thanksgiving to God does so to glorify God. So both believers glorify God by being true to their own conscience (must be done in faith to please God) and God recognizes each as such.

5. My Christian liberty is not to be flaunted so it becomes an hindrance to another believer. Whenever at a disagreement with another, we need to yield (even if we’re “right”).

6. Charity covers the multitude of sins. When we truly have charity one to another, we don’t even see their faults.

7. Believers need to remember we are on the same team. We have the same indwelling Holy Spirit. A brother or sister in Christ is NEVER the enemy. Satan is ALWAYS the enemy.

When Senior Pastors Abuse Church Staff

I ran across this article when checking out the Barnabas Group a few years ago, a nonprofit organization that has researched church conflict and works with church staff to promote  healthy church environments. The author, John Setser, lives here in Appleton, WI.  He’s one of the few who “get it” and don’t buy into the belief that church staff are underlings or that they’re there to be used to promote personal agendas. Of course, I don’t believe all pastors fit into that category, for I’ve met some amazing men who walk in the Spirit and love others as Christ does, regardless of who they are.

If I were overly cynical, I would have no desire to continue my commitment to work in ministry.  I do still desire to serve in a church, to glorify God, to see the world evangelized and Christians taught and edified. John Setser’s ministry to church staff helped me keep my perspective. When I said I’m not “overly cynical,” I am admitting there is a bit of cynicism, but just enough to keep my eyes open –  enough to hopefully prevent future mistakes in judgement when it comes to choosing what ministry I’ll tie myself to. I included the entire article because it’s worth the read. Hopefully it will comfort some, answering questions that have lurked at the back of their minds over the years, and give a better perspective to others who might be  personally caught up in the abuse.

When Senior Pastors Abuse Church Staff

By John Setser

Trust Injuries and Mistreatment by Senior Pastors

My friend served a large church for many years as a lay leader. He decided to embrace ministry as a vocation. With the pastor’s encouragement, he took Bible courses, quit his job, and joined the church staff as a full-time assistant pastor.

Soon after he joined the staff, the senior pastor asked him to deliver the closing remarks following a guest speaker’s sermon. My friend had never done this. He assumed the senior pastor would assist if needed. The pastor, however, did not assist and the closing was a disaster. The senior pastor rebuked him publically.

My friend slunk away to an empty room and sat alone in stunned silence. Soon another staff member found him. Apparently, the senior pastor had a history of setting up associates to fail so he could render forceful on-the-spot correction.

A leader my friend loved and respected traumatized him. This incident caused him to be watchful; he sustained what I call a trust injury.

A trust injury occurs when a person of authority or relational significance harms a person under his care. The trust injury experienced by my friend was his mistreatment by his senior pastor. A trust injury is an encroachment, offense, or violation that causes an associate to experience a psycho-emotional wound. A wounded associate feels damaged by the one he trusted to represent and extend God’s love.

A growing number of staff associates endure mistreatment at the hands of senior pastors. Senior pastor mistreatment does not occur when he corrects mistakes, enforces policy, or fires a staff employee due to cutbacks or incompetence. Senior pastor mistreatment occurs when senior pastors knowingly or unknowingly abuse power, break boundaries, and shatter trust.

Abused associates leave their places of ministry confused, despondent, and discouraged. They wonder how such abuse can happen in a place that is expected to be a model Christ’s love and healing power. They need answers, and they need healing. Providing answers will help them recover.

Wounding Agents

A senior pastor may not plan to be a wounding agent. A called, competent, and qualified senior pastor, however, can become a wounding agent — sometimes without realizing it. Senior pastors who wound others are not born; they are made.

Toxic Churches

A toxic church often mistreats staff associates. A toxic church exists when doing becomes more important than being. People in a toxic church believe their service to God is keeping church systems functioning. They believe God’s blessing results in bigger budgets for bigger buildings to accommodate more people. Looking successful replaces love as the key ingredient.

A healing church speaks of Christ residing in people, not in buildings or programs. This kind of church encourages participants to be genuine, not appearance-oriented or performance-driven. When churches emphasize loving, caring, and being, staff associates can enjoy being part of a healing organization.

Bill was in a church leadership program that promised mentoring by the senior pastor, Bible studies, and a closer walk with Jesus. Once on the job, however, the senior pastor expected him to facilitate the church’s promotional agenda. He was working for a corporate-minded leader intent on developing a growth-oriented organization. He ended his internship and stopped attending church. He loved God, but no longer viewed church as a safe place.

Staff members looking to make things better can make problems worse. Senior pastors can brand associates who offer too many suggestions or seek to change the program as rebellious and disloyal. Senior pastors routinely discipline or terminate them. If they report their mistreatment, district officials often do not act on these reports because they tend to support incumbent pastors.

Survival Skills

So, what do you do if the dynamics of a toxic church are wounding you or your senior pastor is mistreating you? The answer: Exit as soon as possible. In reality, leaving is not easy because most staff associates serve out of loyalty to God and the ministry. They will not easily walk away from an appointment. Also, victimized individuals tend to deny, minimize, and rationalize their mistreatment. They cannot believe that something bad is happening to them, or they convince themselves that the situation will not get worse. But it will get worse.

One associate contacted me saying, “I do not know how this could have happened. My husband and I were involved for over 6 years. Between the pastor, the committee, and their actions, I do not see how we can ever return. There is a gaping hole in my heart, and I feel devastated.”

If you feel you must remain in an abusive environment, here are five survival skills that can help you cope.

  1. Do not give place to abusive treatment. Resist cruelty, coercion, threat, and inequity.
  2. Recognize wounding senior pastors for who they are. Senior pastors are often insecure and hurting and use acting-out strategies to get what they want.
  3. Be alert to being set up. Do not let senior pastors manipulate you into compliance.
  4. Seek out a lateral support system. If you are being mistreated, you are probably not alone. Share your experiences with others. Wounding senior pastors can sometimes be stopped if a unified group confronts them.
  5. Watch your heart. Do not give into self-pity, rage, or a judgmental attitude. Jesus calls us to pray and look to Him.

Trust Injuries and Their Effects

The words wounding and senior pastor were never meant to be used together. To deal with the situation, associates often absorb mistreatment and accept blame rather than believe their senior pastor is unjust. This response can generate spiritual and psychological confusion. It distorts an individual’s perception of God and lowers one’s self-esteem. Wounded associates are often unable to integrate or make sense of the pain-filled reality causing them to feel guilty and at fault. They often feel unable to move forward.

A wounded associate writes, “I am having a hard time finding a way to put everything into perspective. I just keep getting this flood of emotions, and I do not know what to do or whom to turn to for help. Maybe I somehow equate this experience to past abuse; maybe not. I just know that it really hurts when it is a pastor you trusted and thought loved you as Christ loved the Church.”

A woman confided, “We are both healing from an abusive ministry. Our senior pastor was very controlling and dictatorial. We are a year out of this ministry and still feeling the effects. My husband was the associate pastor, and the senior pastor treated him like a hireling. I am going through an identity crisis; it took me 6 months to identify that is what it was. The Lord also showed me that if I was struggling with issues, how much more would my husband be struggling with the same issues, but at deeper levels. I wept for him.”

Another person writes, “In September we ended a relationship with an abusive church. We are still experiencing pain and emotions. My wife and I were both on staff and have been with this ministry for years. We have seen the hurt and pain that come when a man of God seeks to build his own kingdom instead of building God’s.”

Healing the Hurts

If you are a wounded associate, consider the following principles you can draw on to promote your healing:

  1. Know you are not going crazy. With the emotional extremes you are feeling, it is important to know the pain is real and it is not your fault.
  2. Talk and pray. Find safe, trusted people with whom you can talk to and pray.
  3. Be honest. Do not be afraid to honestly vent your feelings.
  4. Use a support system. Never meet with a wounding agent alone. Always take someone with you.
  5. Look to Jesus as your Healer. Jesus will use what you have experienced for good. Trust Him to provide process and encounter experiences to expedite your recovery.

Process experiences

A process experience is a Holy Spirit-directed word, meeting, or circumstance that helps wounded associates gain perspective. You may think process experiences are chance happenings, but they are planned and directed by God who seeks to grant perspective to those in need. A Scripture, internal voice, or a casual conversation often provides perspective. Process experiences help associates sort out their pain and give them a clearer perspective of what happened.

Frank, a former associate, told how his senior pastor mistreated and wrongfully terminated him. His story is an example of a process experience. Weeks after his termination, Frank could not move beyond wondering why the pastor treated him so abusively. One evening Frank met a man who was a long-time friend of the senior pastor. The man told him that years earlier a trusted church member had hurt this pastor. As a result, from time to time, the pastor experienced periods of depression marked by fits of paranoia. This often motivated him to make regrettable decisions. Frank thanked God for being able to talk to this man because, in the process, he found perspective.

Encounter experiences

Encounter experiences are similar to process experiences, but their purpose is to bring healing. Bill and Phyllis experienced such an encounter. They served as a youth pastor team in a large church. The couple’s ministry was fruitful. They were expecting a child, and with the senior pastor’s support they bought their first house. Without warning, he fired them. He blamed them for doing things they did not do and accused them of saying things they did not say. People began to circulate rumors that the pastor wanted to fill the position with someone else, but believed he had to discredit the couple to make the change seem like their fault. They left town heartbroken and confused.

Bill and Phyllis’ encounter experience came when two church elders sought them out and offered an apology on behalf of the church. They told Bill and Phyllis that the senior pastor’s actions were wrongly motivated. They pledged to restore the couple’s good name and promised to give prospective employers a glowing recommendation. The four individuals wept, hugged, and prayed together. Afterward Bill and Phyllis expressed thanks to God for His healing touch.

The Issue of Forgiveness

When my senior leader wounded me, I was so hurt the last thing I wanted to do was forgive him. Well-meaning people told me I needed to forgive, but I was conflicted.

Theological issues aside, the problem for me was twofold. First, my anger made me feel guilty. Whether I had reason to feel this way was irrelevant. Second, I wanted to extend grace if for no other reason than to move beyond my pain. I asked God if there was anything good in my heart that I could in truth give away. At that moment, the only good I could extend was not slashing his tires or dumping trash on his lawn.

After I made this transaction before God, a surprising thing happened: I felt peace. The moment I extended the good I had in my heart, I began to breathe freely again.In not slashing his tires or throwing trash on his lawn, I was in fact extending a form of forgiveness.

A proper understanding of forgiveness has its root in Hebrews 12:14, a passage that encourages us to live in peace with all people. Living in peace in no way obligates wounded Christians to forget or have good feelings. But, it does involve truthfully extending whatever good is in one’s heart. A person can only give what is in his possession. Individuals who extend forgiveness are free to be at peace in a situation knowing they truly tried to follow God.

Perspective, a Needed Ingredient

Resolving and recovering from situations of abuse within the church is always difficult. Senior pastors are often at fault for the pain and suffering they perpetrate on staff ministers. God is on the side of wounded associates as they cry out for help. However, we cannot overstate the need for perspective.

We also need to understand that all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory. At some point we all have acted unjustly and must accept the responsibility to repent. When we gain perspective, we also acknowledge that senior pastors, often unknowingly, wound because they themselves have been wounded. Powerful congregants and church boards can wound senior pastors through manipulation and intimidation. The potential for such wounding increases exponentially if finances or attendance begin to decrease.

Senior pastors and the associates they wound both need to feel and experience God’s unconditional love. Love is the fertile ground from which faith and good works grow. It is in the arms of Jesus that wounding agents and wounded associates alike can find hope and healing.

Binding Up the Wounds

Jesus will soon return for the bride He loves. Until that time, embracing God’s directive to love Him with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength can heal the wounds of senior pastors and staff associates alike. Let us love and serve in such a way that He will be able to commend us for being good and faithful servants.

http://enrichmentjournal.ag.org/200902/200902_042_broken_spirits.cfm

John Setser, Ph.D., Appleton, Wisconsin, is a church consultant and founder of Barnabas Group, a nonprofit organization committed to resolving conflict and promoting a healthy church workplace. Setser can be contacted at johnsetser@hotmail.com. Visit his Web site, www.shatteredtrust.com, for a listing of Barnabas Group services and ministry offerings.

Published in the spring 2009 issue of Enrichment. Used with permission.