Suggested pre-reading, “Tender Beginnings, (Chapter 1).”
In my previous post, I explained my road into full-time vocational ministry. In this post, I am going to delve deeper into areas I have never completely divulged. I want to preface what I am preparing to share with a few disclaimers. First, if you have known me throughout the years, at least in any church capacity, do not make an assumption that you know what denomination, denominational leader, church, pastor, board member, church member or ministry I am discussing on any particular point. No matter how well educated your guess, you will probably not “guess” or “discern” correctly. Quite frankly, it is not anybody’s business “who” did what, when, and to whom.
Next, there are “good” leaders and “not-so-good” leaders. There are “good” churches and “not-so-good” churches. There are “good” people and “not-so-good” people. And, I strongly maintain that there are no absolutes in both the “good” and “not-so-good” categories of anything we are discussing. Everyone I am discussing, including myself, are flawed creatures serving a flawless God in the best way we know possible. I believe most people I have encountered have a true love for God. Through the grace of Christ, I hope maintain a healthy earthly relationship with most and top it all off with an eternity together in Heaven.
Also, I am mature enough to realize that the circumstances I share with you did not occur in a vacuum. There were many dynamics at play. Some things I have experienced I must take complete responsibility for. Others were completely outside of my control. Most experiences more than likely fall somewhere on a sliding scale between the two extremes.
Finally, my purpose in sharing is not to bring discouragement to you in your quest for God, quest for truth and your quest for godly relationships. Keep moving forward. Serve God. Support your church. Support your leaders. Just always proceed as wisely as a serpent and harmless as a dove. Above all else, always guard your heart. With all of that said, let’s get down to business.
Probably the first rude awakening in my walk into ministry was the realization that church leaders are not perfect. Yes, common sense says they are not perfect. I know I am not perfect. But, I never dreamed how imperfect people whom we place on pedestals could be. I am not speaking in absolutes; there are exceptions to every rule. However, contemporary churches are businesses. As such, church administration involves financial management, marketing, people management, etc. Do not deceive yourself into thinking that pastors are always looking out for your best interest. Nor, expect every decision to be made upon principle. With the structure of the modern assembly, pastors have to look out for the good of the whole. Just realize that might mean that you will probably get hosed somewhere in the process.
I learned this lesson when I was a lad developing my talents. When I started playing the organ in church, the church literally put a keyed lock on the outlet powering the instrument and did not give me access to the key. When my father consulted with the pastor about utilizing me more in service he was told something to the effect of, “I’m sorry Brother Gibson, I cannot do that. The church organist is in a prominent family of five tithers. You are only one tither. I cannot afford to offend them in this matter.” I learned a valuable lesson on principle, or lack thereof, very early on.
Later in my staff experiences I noticed this same trend. Most pastors proudly state that they do not know how much people contribute to the ministry. Do not be deceived. Most pastors keep a pulse on this. To be good leaders, they really have to. There are very subtle cues they receive to know who are heavy givers and those who are not. For instance, I learned through one experience that when I was told, “The Smith family is faithful,” that meant do not honk them off, they are big givers. And, if I honked them off, regardless if I were right, or wrong, I would have to do basically whatever it took to make them happy and keep them in the congregation, even if it were to the detriment of my personal convictions.
Wow, another blog complete and I haven’t left the early wounds which occurred when I was just a child. Please stay tuned for the next blog in the series, “Denominational Demons-Part One.”