Thursday, August 27, 2009

Relationships are Essential

"I think it was John Maxwell that said the average pastor leaves a church because of 8 people." We left a church because of TWO... Haha! Then again, we're not pastors... and we're not average.

"Of course, 8 can feel like 100. That's why healthy relationships are so important. In fact, they are essential to revival. Why? Because revival involves change, and change is a funny thing... Healthy change can only occur in the context of healthy relationships."

Pastors need true and healthy relationships from us. Michael Catt just pours out his heart in this matter. Pastors can't please everyone, and they are human. They need prayer support. They need fellowship. Their wives and children need godly, true fellowship as well. They need a safety nest where they can be human and not pastors and still be loved and lifted up in prayer. They need people that won't talk behind heir backs, won't criticize them, won't sit in service with a plumb line of their own. I'm thankful Paul and I have that relationship with Pastor Steve, although Paul hasn't been in Anchorage long enough to really cultivate it. I'm thankful that I can truly say we are friends with our Pastor and we support him. I haven't always been able to say that.

Truthfully, for a large majority of our church life, I felt I couldn't trust our pastor. And it was probably for the same reason that many pastors don't have trust in their flock; I was convinced (and unfortunately have been proved right) that being open with our pastor would come back to bite us in the end. As a teenager I remember walking out of a pastor's office saying, "I can't confide in anyone - there's not a single believing adult in sight that can actually help me!" Later in life, I walked out of the same office - different pastor - saying, "Our pastor is not going to defend us, and he's not going to take care of us... we're left at the hands of wolves in sheep clothing... we are expendable." Fortunately between one and the other, I've had healthy relationships with pastors (and so has Paul) that have helped us to heal. I'll never forget the kind of fellowship Paul and I received from the Bostic family at Sooner Rd Church of God in OK. They saw us at our best and our worst and loved us all the same. The same is true of Pastor Bill Baggitt in Redland, FL. If we had been completely unsuccessful in building true, healthy relationships with a Pastor at any point in our Christian walk, we may have stopped attending church altogether. And yet by the grace of God and His healing work, we give our best to every pastor, every time!

I'm saying this to put the other end of the coin out there. Some of us are hurt and we don't have healthy relationships with our Pastors - no matter how involved we are or how much we attend church. We can build a wall that says, "you can come here and no further" to the man of God that He has appointed to lead our flock - and in essence what we are saying by this is that "you can't lead ME. You may be the pastor, but I won't allow you to be MY pastor." This isn't God's will for us, our hearts, or our church. To love like Jesus did, we must be willing to take risks - risk that we may get hurt, because no one on earth that we are to love will ever be perfect - and yet we still need to be fully open, fully loving, fully forgiving ... even more so if we are blessed with a Pastor who is giving his best to us the congregation as well!

"If I could ask God to give every pastor one thing, it wouldn't be a larger salary or more perks; it would be three praying men who would stand in the trenches with them."

The relationships need more work as it involves leadership/staff. The pastor needs to know that the rest of the church leadership and staff are his wingman; they'll share in his God-given vision for the church and help carry it out. That they'll tackle anything asked by the Pastor without objection and with excellence - no matter how difficult it may seem. That we won't leave him stranded. It takes putting away our own agenda completely at times, and not being so focused on "OUR ministry" but rather seeing it as an extension of what God wants to accomplish through our pastor.

"If you want to see God rain down revival, surround yourself with great men - men you can love, trust, bare your heart to and be real with." This is Pastor Catt's advice to other pastors as an ingredient to revival. Let us be that ingredient ourselves and not wait for someone else to come along and support out pastor.

The rest of the chapter is about building multi-cultural relationships as well... and being willing to build relationships with other churches without a competitive agenda... maybe even befriending churches of other denominations for the sake of reaching the lost in the community. It's a message from Michael Catt to other pastors. I've never been a part of a white, Southern Baptist church who resisted and fought against having black guest speakers. I really can't relate. I'm very fortunate to be part of a generation and a national background (Venezuelan) that is completely color-blind. Praise the Lord, Paul and I never attended a church where racism would raise it's ugly head. But I have seen "denominationalism" tear apart an opportunity for evangelism... Paul and I have been told that certain meetings were not acceptable for us to attend as leaders because they weren't held or coordinated by "our church family". It hurts the kingdom of God to have an "our church" mentality because in it, lost souls aren't being saved. That's how churches quickly become social clubs. We need to be in prayer about that.

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