I was in the middle of a spectacular church fight. It was my first pastorate. I was barely 21. And I had reached my “Popeye” moment. “That’s all I can stand, and I can’t stands no more!”
There were several out-of-town speaking engagements before me. I determined I would resign when I returned him home. I wanted to do something else. I wanted to get married. I wanted out of this foolish conflict with church people.
I did not know what I would do next. When asked, I would say that I planned to become a talk show host. But I didn’t really know. Or care. I just wanted out of this.
During one of the preaching trips, I spilled my guts to an older pastor over dinner. I shared a horror story. He responded my sharing one of his own with me. I told another horror story. He gave me another one of his.
Politely, I told him that my situation was much worse than his. It was. Really. But he argued that I was in the better situation. I wanted to know how in the world that could be the case. He told me the difference was that my people loved me.
I was stopped dead in my tracks.
He was right. I had a small group of people fighting my work. It seemed more severe because they were in strategic positions of leadership in the church. But my congregation was fully behind me. Every negative thing my opposition did was followed by a show of support by the congregation. I was most definitely not “a prophet without honor.” My people loved me.
My recognition of the neglected gift of a loving congregation was a key means by which I found strength to endure the conflict. It also helped me face other challenges in the years to come.
When I left Los Angeles, I left behind a loving congregation. And I was convinced that I would not enjoy that blessing again for a long time, if ever.
Boy, was I wrong!
The moment my boots hit the ground in Jacksonville, my new congregation received me with open arms. My ministry has been well received by a supportive congregation. Of course, my work here has not been without its challenges. But in the words of Paul Jones, “All my good days have outweighed my bad days.”
I am the grateful beneficiary of a loving congregation. No, not every person in my congregation supports my leadership. But the detracting voices are muted by the support of so many. This is a great blessing of the Lord that should not be taken for granted. I have much to thank God for, as I am privileged to serve a people who love me.
Do you serve a loving congregation?
Think about that question. I did not ask if you pastor a large or wealthy or “successful” congregation. I asked whether your congregation loves, follows, and supports your spiritual leadership.
If this is your testimony, you are blessed. Don’t take it for granted.
The Most Important Commandment
And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this:‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And after that no one dared to ask him any more questions. – Mark 12:28-34 Armies win…