I have been in the USA for a few months now, and yet haven’t written a blog so time for me to do a bit of catch up. I still have a few blogs to write on places I visited in Europe, yep I promise to write them. But for now, let me share my walk here.
I am staying in a small town (pop below 500 people…hahaha I DID tell you it was small) in Washington State (NorthWest America). Life in the NorthWest is different to the rest of the USA, or so I am told. It is the most Atheist part of the USA, and so I shouldn’t have ben surprised that most churches I have visited were not that full. Yet, it still surprises me that signs about God and Jesus are on the road side (you don’t see that in my home countries of UK and Australia) but even here it is only permitted if the sign is on private land. I had always been under the allusion that America was so Christian (as a lot of my friends thought also), so you can understand my shock and sadness to see that in fact it looks like America has lost it’s first love…God is on the sidelines here, no longer central to American’s life. It seems that fast food and sport has become their central interest (and thus their god). God has been reassigned to the basement, with last years Christmas gifts and other unwanted and forgotten things. What happened to this country? This place that use to love God so much? Yes, the politicians still talk about God and use his name in their speeches…like a password to get elected, but yet the churches aren’t full, people aren’t seeking God and even their Supreme court has approved same sex marriage.
I have gone through the period, in a new country, of seeing through rose coloured glasses, then the culture shock (more on that later) then reality…and so I ask myself ‘what happened here?’ And is this just a symptom of the loss of faith we are seeing in many western cultures?
Is it godly to let people walk on you when you are in ministry?
My reflections here are not to point fingers and whinge, but to open discussion and get people to start thinking about ministry families. My hope is that by opening discussion it will bring out into the light the struggles of ministry life…and by bringing it out into the open it will help people to start talking and help families to stay in ministry for the long haul.
Her description of life in ministry was so true of my experiences in it (though don’t get me wrong…i also had many wonderful and God honouring experiences in ministry as well). For example: many times i had people from church walk into my home (without asking) and walk around like it was their home, why? because it belonged to the church. I once found a woman in my son’s bedroom tidying it up…i was horrified (and so was he when he found out) that she was putting his underwear away. I had another criticising where i had placed furniture in the house. At another church i had a member of the parish council ask to come in to check a new oven they had put in, and then he promptly went around the rooms and in my sons room found the heater still on. He had ‘words’ with me about wasting energy…at the next parish council my husband was reprimanded for heaters being left on in a room someone wasn’t in (this was in a house which was bitterly cold in winter) and yet did i tell him or the others to get out and keep their opinions to themselves? No, because there is an expectation within churches that the ministry house is theirs and they have access whenever they want.
Another expectation is that the minister’s wives will be polite/gentle/non complaining etc and can be told how to do things in her own home aka church house, how to run their families, asked to pick up the slack when others can’t do things, expected to run ministries. Those minister’s wives who get angry over the expectations of others are looked down on by some in the church, as if they aren’t as godly as they should be. And yet there are so many expectations on the minister’s wife ie don’t want to do criche/Sunday school on Sunday? Ring the minister’s wife the night before and ask her to do it… you know she will never say no (even if it means she is up all night planning the next day’s lesson) she is expected to just do it and with a smile.
These are just a few examples, not all churches/members are like this and these aren’t always the experiences of all those in ministry but, churches need to really think about how they treat the family of the minister (as well as him) and ministry families need to think about why they allow people to treat them like this. We all need to ask ourselves…how does God want me to behave/respond? We can deal with any situation in a godly manner without ending up being a doormat or being aggressive. God doesn’t want us to be a doormat, nor does he want us to be rude and aggressive. He wants us to deal with each other in a way that is honouring to Him.