"Are you crazy?" and "Do you think you will even get into the house?" The previous two questions came from the lips of the nephew (Don) of the chairman of deacons. The questions came from my desire to meet a need for that deacon.
Just a month earlier this deacon stood before my congregation and said I was the reason the young people had left the church. Brother Mickey's (the disgruntled deacon) daughter-in-law joined the conflict by sharing things that were false. Brother Mickey had a big heart. I knew he was responding to the hurt he perceived me to have caused.
The previous Sunday there had been a divisive meeting at the church. A group of people (10-15) including the deacon's son and daughter-in-law wanted to vote me out as pastor. Most of the complaints were over important things like the use of the church van and borrowing toilet paper without permission. This was the beginning of the list.
A word from Pastor Tim - Have you ever felt like you were near the end of your rope? Be encouraged by the testimony of this faithful pastor.
President Franklin Roosevelt was credited with saying, "When you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on." About three months ago I felt like I was near the end of my rope, as a pastor, and I wasn't tying any knots! But, God changed all that.
As stated, this experience began about three months ago. I was facing several challenges. Soon I will be seventy years old. I was beginning to doubt myself because of my age. I felt there was no enthusiasm in my preaching. Also, I have been the pastor of my current church for twelve years. I was questioning whether I had lost my effectiveness.
Several challenges arose in my church that complicated things. I had hoped that a “Lay Renewal Weekend,” which we conducted last spring, might bring new life to our church. One consequence of the lay renewal was that our music director and youth minister resigned. I was wondering what would come of these resignations. This caused a good bit of discussion among our deacons. I assured the deacons that I was not planning to leave, as the other staff had done.
In light of my age and the issues we faced I spent much of the summer pondering what I should do. On top of this I had proposed an idea to our lay leaders, which was quickly rejected. This rejection left me discouraged and feeling down. This also caused me to doubt my leadership.
In response to my feelings of rejection, God spoke to me while I was resting in my recliner the next afternoon. The Lord asked me if I would reject my children if they did not agree with me. The obvious answer is no. Even so, God reminded me that He did not reject us and I should not reject His children, just because they disagree with me.
In the midst of these things, God began to work. First, He reminded me of what a fellow teacher told me when I first started teaching school in 1968. The teacher said, "When you close your classroom door, you're teaching in a one-room school house." Of course, that isn't true anymore in school systems, but the implication is that the teacher is totally responsible for the success of his students. When God reminded me of that teacher's statement, I realized that my future depended on my response to God's Holy Spirit!
God’s work, in my life, was like a handoff from the quarterback in a football game. I ran with it! Then, the most amazing things started happening. A number of people from our community began visiting our services and taking an active part in our church. These people showed up without being invited. Imagine that!
The need for a worship leader was filled as one of our deacons began leading the music. The deacon had a sensitive and responsive heart to the needs of the church. Our people responded to this attitude.
The youth leadership was filled as two couples volunteered to work with the youth. Youth attendance improved. During this time the youth building was completely remodeled.
During this experience my preaching was more like it was twenty years ago. I was excited about preaching again! It was fun again!
I recently attended a Shepherd’s Connection retreat, for pastors and wives, in Shreveport. Many of those who attended were where I had been. My wife enjoyed the fellowship with pastors' wives who needed understanding hearts. I was happy to share my story with others. My life has been renewed. I know God is using me and will continue to do so!
A note from Tim: We are heading into a busy month for pastors. June weddings and graduations add to our normal workload, as do summer mission trips and vacation Bible school, etc. Take a moment to consider one pastor's thoughts about how refreshing yourself can improve your marriage and your ministry.
I recently had the privilege of drawing from a well of refreshing water. My wife, Nicole, and I just returned from a week that was devoid of pastoral responsibilities. We benefited from SHOR Ministry (Shepherd’s Haven of Rest) with Charlie and Suzanne Grigsby. SHOR Ministry provides a refuge for pastors and wives who are overloaded, burned out or hurting. They do this at no cost to the pastors.
During the retreat we connected with other ministry couples who shared our struggles and discouragements. It was great to know that we are not alone. It is even more encouraging to discover that you are NORMAL! This connection was refreshing in and of itself.
Also, Nicole and I were given the liberty to reconnect as a couple. The only request of SHOR Ministry was that we fellowship with the entire group during the evening meal. Other than this minor request, we were free to venture out and be alone with each other. It is amazing how precious that time proved to be. Nicole and I laughed more than we have in years. We experienced small adventures together. We created special memories which are only shared between us. Even if it meant Nicole falling into a creek!
During this time we began to heal. You see, we were called to a small Louisiana church seven years ago that was hurting and dying. In those years we have experienced a lot of hurt. The pain caused Nicole and I to disconnect as a couple. Within those seven years we never took time to invest in our marriage. Sounds excessive, but many of you are in the same boat. Burned out, overloaded, and running in two different directions. Thanks to SHOR Ministry, and the Grigsbys, we were forced to take time for ourselves. It was great!
In this time of rest and revival, I was given a thought. This is a thought I consider to be a "duh" moment. That thought consisted of four simple words, "Healthy Shepherd = Healthy Sheep."
Many of you may have already learned this lesson, but for this type A guy, it was not always on the radar. God revealed to me, through some down time and a cleared schedule that I need to prioritize my health. Our health is holistic. My mind, body and spirit are a unit. By protecting my health, I can possibly ensure one of the greatest concerns of my life, the health of the church. Could it be that as pastors we are one of the keys to a healthy church? Could it be that we have missed this? Could it be that buried under our heavy schedules and increased work load we are one key to a healthy church? Could it be as simple as "Healthy Shepherd = Healthy Sheep?"
SHOR Ministry helped me have a "duh" moment that could potentially change the health of our church. SHOR Ministry helped a pastor and his wife see their personal and relational health as very important. I would encourage you, as you read this testimony, and serve in ministry that you seek people like the Grigsbys and ministries like SHOR. The health of your church and of your ministry may hang in the balance.
Editor’s Note: The Shepherd’s Connection also offers couples retreats. Check our Support tab for Scheduled Retreats. SHOR Ministry can be contacted at www.shorministry.com
Do you ever feel discouraged, dejected, and insignificant? A few weeks ago my wife,Judy, gave me a copy of a page from a book she was reading (“Faithful Women and Their Extraordinary God” by Noel Piper). At one point in the book Noel discusses Sarah Edwards, beloved wife of Jonathan Edwards. In discussing Sarah Edwards’s faithfulness, Noel Piper mentions a trying episode when Jonathan was dismissed from a church In Northampton. This was a prestigious church in which Jonathan devoted twenty years of faithful service, as pastor. From there Jonathan went to a remote church in the wilderness, in a community named Stockbridge. From there he went to be president of Princeton.
As I read this story several thoughts came to mind. First, here is a man who was one of the greatest theologians in American history, and was involved in one of the great revivals of American history, yet, he was terminated from a church. He faced trials.
Also, this great theologian walked through a period of insignificance. He labored for a period of time in the wilderness, as they called it.
The encouraging part, history remembers the great theologian, the great preacher, and the President of Princeton.
Pastor, don’t judge your future by your past. Don’t judge your significance by where you are today. Be faithful where you are!
Have you ever felt unwanted? I experienced this trauma firsthand! I finished college, Seminary, graduated with a Master's Degree, and have served Southern Baptist Churches in four states. God graciously allowed me to serve large churches with large Music Ministries.
After years of training, service, and faithfully doing what God called me to do, a pastoral transition led to my trial. One pastor left, another pastor came and my trial began.
During the transition between these pastors my wife and I decided we would stand in the Pastoral gap - as the long-term Minister of Music - and go beyond the call of duty. I went to everything the church had that year and represented the pastoral staff. The Pastor search committee was formed and the chairman would get up in the pulpit and give a "report" on a regular basis. In his report he praised the current staff and said “we have the best staff the church has ever had. We are looking for a pastor that will come and work alongside this staff. Those words were comforting.
The search committee told prospective pastors the opposite. When the new Pastor arrived he never commented on the music. After he arrived, I asked his opinion of the music. He had no comment. To make a long story short, it was on his radar to get rid of me ASAP. He moved me to a lesser position that was out of music. He also cut my salary in HALF. I could come and go as I pleased, He could care less and the message was loud and clear. I went to him and told him I knew "the drill." I asked him to please let me go and give me a severance package. I told him I would slip out. He said “NO you go to the new position.”
Thankfully another church came calling right away. In two months I submitted my resignation to leave the beloved church and congregation I had faithfully served for so long. We started with 15 in the choir and had built to 75-85 each Sunday with a full orchestra. None of this mattered. The members of the Pastor Search Committee began acting "sheepish" around me. They knew what was coming....but none had the courage to step up and say a word.
We were OUT and went to another church 1.5 hours away. This church was half the size and half the salary. However, I felt “needed” again. I was reminded that some new preacher may not want me but that did not diminish my CALLING. I was still God Called. The new church responded with growth, acceptance, and love. The church noticed and gave me a promotion. Wow!
It was humiliating losing family income plus being released after faithfully serving 25 years. God knew! We trusted, prayed, and called on Him. He provided! My wife's sister called and said she was getting a new car and wanted to give my wife her old car. We sold our car and lived off that income for several months. People from our former church would shake hands and leave large amounts of cash in my hand. These blessings saw us through. I've told others, “money would drop out of the sky as God was meeting our every need.” Our house had been on the market for over a year. We eventually lost our home in a foreclosure. A great new friend and real-estate person in the new church showed us a new house. This house had just become available for rent, and it was perfect. God was working, walking alongside us all the way.
In addition to the painful church experience I lost two family members in one day. My sister and brother in law came home because my father was dying of pancreatic cancer. My brother in law (unexpectedly) died in his sleep about four hours before my dad. I mourned the loss of a church and two loved ones, all at the same time.
Our best friends, from the church we left, never stepped up on our behalf. They seemed to "look the other way" and stopped communicating. BETRAYAL was the hardest thing to overcome. The pastor search committee’s betrayal was almost more than we could take. I never got to the point where I gave up on God but I did question HIM greatly.
The grief caused by the pain, disappointment, and feelings of betrayal would wash over us like a wave at the most unusual times. It has been a year now. Two Sundays ago a couple came up to us. He was a- music minister from another state. They introduced themselves and shared how much they enjoyed the worship service. They told us they had been fired by a young new pastor two weeks prior without any warning and told to get out. I said "welcome to our church and our story.” I invited them to lunch. I told them “you don't know why you chose this church today but I can guarantee you, GOD KNEW." Tears flowed from their eyes as we shared our story while listening to theirs over lunch.
God is AMAZING. HE can be trusted! I am still Praising My Savior, all the day long!
Introduction: The following testimony is written by Dan WIlliams, a friend of The Shepherd’s Connection. This pastor has remained faithful in spite of desertion by many faithful members, a bad economy, attacks by people he thought to be friends, a major debt problem, church conflict and criticism by fellow pastors. He is an example of faithfulness and he has remained true to his calling. – Tim Patrick
I guess I am hardheaded. It would have been easy, many years ago, to leave the ministry or change churches. There are two things that stuck in my mind and kept me from either of those options. First, we ministers get frustrated when members change churches (when things get tough) so why would I do that which I hate.
Second, I heard the noted Southern Baptist Pastor Johnny Hunt say, "Another church may look better than yours, but might have three times the problems." I knew I did not want that.
I do not see, in the New Testament, anything about changing churches. The problem is that in America we have created an environment where we accept it and think it is part of being Christian. What would you think if, in Acts 29, (which doesn’t exist) there was a story about Peter changing churches, being fired or sending his resume to the church at Corinth? As you follow the imaginary story how would you feel to discover that Peter floated his resume because times were tough, money was tight, leadership was nearsighted or for one of the many other excuses we use? You would think Peter took his eyes off of the prize.
When a church is not where it should be there is plenty of blame to go around. For instance, some may blame the pastor and/or staff for being lazy or selfish. However, the problem rarely resides with one person or group. We are the body of Christ and God has a reputation for using messed up people. I believe that ministry is hard because we are in a war against Satan. He attacks the church through our imperfections.
Another problem is that we are personality driven. We think we need a new personality leading the church in order to reach people. What we really need is the person of Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit. If pastors, staff and members would stick it out, with their current body of believers, work through the difficulties and ask God to build a spirit of unity---- God would get much done through a bunch of imperfect people.
I think one of the main reasons I survived is because I am the founding pastor. How are things at the present? I have a great church that has experienced its share of struggles through the last 19 years. However, the good times have been wonderful. I would have missed so many good times if I let the hard times run me off. I have experienced the highest of highs and the lowest of lows in ministry, but I try to keep on going. Some days are easier than others and sometimes the hurts come too often, but it is not about this life. It is about the next. I choose to stay, serve and lead this congregation in God’s direction. He has navigated some pretty sharp, steep, curvy hills in the past and I believe He will do it in the future. So, I keep my hands to the plow.
Dealing with deacons can be interesting, dealing with controling deacons and leaders can be a challenge, but dealing with mentally unstable leaders can be nearly impossible.
Early in my ministry I was "blessed" to work with such an individual. Bro Clyde, I'll call him, grew up in this church, and was a deacon as well as worship leader. Clyde was very insecure. Several months into my ministry, I learned that Bro. Clyde had a stroke and nervous breakdown in the previous year. Any leadership role I exercised (but especially regarding worship) was perceived as a threat to Clyde. When Bro. Clyde felt threatened everyone heard about it, particularly the deacons.
Needless to say, he made it difficult to build a close working relationship with the other deacons. He had known these guys all his life. For months I went along, walking softly lest I upset anyone. It was curious to me, during this period of time God disturbed my sleep routine. I would wake up in the wee hours of the morning thinking how the ministry seemed to be at a stalemate. I thought of all those who were causing it, but mostly Bro. Clyde and the deacons. After several weeks of waking early God impressed upon me to pray for these guys, even Clyde, who was trying to sabotage my ministry. As I began to pray, during those early morning hours, I began to sense God showing me how to love those guys, even those attempting to stab me in the back.
One day, much to my surprise, the chairman of deacons came to me in behalf of the deacons. He said "since you've been here we haven't done anything against you nor have we done very much for you. From now on we are going to support you."
Shortly after that Bro. Clyde began to have serious mental issues and stepped down from his leadership roles in the church. He still attended the church and we had an amicable relationship the remainder of my service in that church.
It's amazing how God responds to prayer!
I was in a meeting the other day and a fellow pastor (I know but not very well) shared a tough decision he had to make. He had to release his church secretary. The secretary could not perform the duties of the job. He said this was tough, but releasing her was the right decision. She had also done other things that justified termination, but the pastor would not share those details. He would not reveal the secretary’s name or her failures. He is a man of great character and did not want to damage another person’s character in order to justify himself.
The end result of this situation was that church members attacked him. They criticized him without knowing the full story and all of the facts. As the pastor shared this story I thought of all the times I had to do similar deeds. I and my family faced attacks because I could not or would not tell the whole story. In trying to protect another person you are criticized for doing right. People jump to their own conclusions.
I felt convicted, as I listened to the pastor’s story. I knew him but never prayed for him. I never thought about him facing struggles similar to my own. I left that meeting with the resolve that I was going to change. (I have retired from full time ministry.) There are a number of fellow pastors facing battles that I have experienced. I have been there, know where they are and need to pray and encourage them. I need to assure them that "this too shall pass".
Brothers, pray for each other. Others face trials similar to those you face. We need each other. Please know this retiree will be praying for those tough days you will face.
“So, what are your plans for the fall? What trips do you have planned?” Judy asked.
“I don’t know”. This response seemed to be the best answer I could muster. I didn’t have plans! I didn’t have any idea what the student ministry (for which I was responsible) would be doing a year from that day (or even in six months). And to be honest…..I am not sure I cared. Oh, I knew I should care. But I didn’t! I just wanted out! I wanted no more responsibility. No more having to put on a face. No more having to put on another program. I was stuck. I had to put on a face and put on a program every Sunday and Wednesday and days in between as I visited the schools and teens.
“I don’t know”, I told her through tears, “I just want to go to Seminary”. I think I’ll work on my Seminary degree full-time and just help someone else who will come in and do the ministry full-time. I thought I wanted to go to seminary. In reality seminary was a smokescreen (and I didn’t even know it). I just wanted out!
Sharing such a gloomy view of ministry, with the pastor’s wife, doesn’t sound wise, but we were great friends and I think it felt nice admitting I didn’t have the answers anymore. I am a very driven person who always has an opinion. I didn’t have an opinion anymore. It didn’t matter. I didn’t care. My attitude filtered down to even tiny decisions like, where do I eat or what do I do on Friday night. “I don’t know” and “It doesn’t matter” seemed to be common phrases in my vocabulary.
The pastor’s wife asked me to see a counselor before I made any decisions regarding my future. I followed her advice. As the counselor began to ask questions, I realized I was burned out. The more he uncovered, the more I realized that my burn out began with some interpersonal issues I had not resolved. I thought I could sweep these issues under the rug. These issues had hurt me deeply. They teamed up with other circumstances to send me into a downward spiral. Having never experienced burnout I didn’t have any idea what was going on. I realized I loved God but hated the church. I had even become paranoid (when at church). I wondered what people were saying about me. This was definitely not me.
My pastor urged me to do whatever was necessary in order to find healing. I still don’t remember that year of ministry. I don’t remember who led the retreats we took. I remember, about a year and a half later, thinking, “I’m back”. “This is me. I’m back”. I was ready to run again, minister again, forgive again and live again.
I’m so glad I didn’t leave when I wanted out. My best years of youth ministry were right around the corner. I would have missed those special moments if I had followed my initial inclinations.
Nesha Smelley, lives in Northport, AL. She was a youth minister for 15-20 years and now works with an overseas mission ministry reaching out to youth in other countries.
Psalm 90:10: The length of our days is seventy years— or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away.
In one swift moment the unthinkable became reality. That is just how quickly it can happen.
The afternoon of Thursday, August 16, 2007, I was in another office at the church meeting with a friend from out of town. Tammy and Kayla were traveling after school to Hattiesburg, Mississippi for Kayla to audition with a cello professor. An hour, or so, after they left me at the office, I heard my cell phone ringing on my assistant’s desk. I let it ring thinking Judy would pick it up. Then my private phone began ringing, followed by my cell phone again. Suddenly, I remembered Judy had left the office early for an out of town trip. Immediately, I left the meeting to answer my cell phone.
My precious daughter’s voice was on the other end. "Daddy! Oh, Daddy!" "Kayla, what's wrong?" I asked, as my heart rose to meet my throat. "Mommy is asleep and a man just pulled me out of the car." I knew what that meant: tragedy had intruded into our everyday existence. Instantly, I knew I needed to be with my daughter. The man who pulled Kayla from the wreckage then got on the phone. "Is my wife okay?" I asked urgently. "Sir, you need to get here as soon as possible."
I don't know how, but in approximately thirty minutes Dr. Mike Cook, my longtime friend and colleague, drove me to the halfway point between Mobile and Hattiesburg—the scene of the accident. Traffic was backed up almost a mile. We drove on the shoulder of the road until a policeman directed us to take the opposite lane. An ambulance was parked at the top of a slight hill; Kayla was lying on a stretcher inside. An eighteen wheeler sat facing west in the right lane a few hundred yards from where our truck stopped. As Mike navigated to the ambulance, I saw a group of men standing around.
As a pastor, I’ve been present at the site of many gut-wrenching tragedies. I cannot tell you how many times I have been at the scene of horrible traffic accidents, suicides, and other such tragedies. In every case, the severity of the tragedy that has just occurred can be readily judged by the manner in which people stand around awkwardly shuffling their feet with their heads down, avoiding eye contact. As we came upon the scene and I observed those present, I said "Mike, Tammy is gone!" Though he sought to reassure me that may be a premature estimation, I knew otherwise.
After the birth of my last child, I experienced unimaginable depression and anxiety. Panic attacks occurred everyday. Nighttime became an opportunity to escape life by sleeping, yet, sleep did not come easy.
Even in the midst of my agonizing experience, I sensed God’s presence. A supportive husband gave me acceptance and love. A Christian counselor helped me recover.
God taught me that He works in all circumstances for my good (Romans. 8:28). 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 became a favorite passage—God comforts us so we can comfort others. I walked through the darkness almost thirty years ago. Since then, God has used me to comfort hurting women.
“. . . .Moses entered into the deep darkness where God was.” (Exodus 20:21 NLT) The people were afraid to experience God in the darkness. Moses, however, found opportunity to grow in his relationship with God. He had an intimate relationship with God while in the darkness. It became his resting place.
It’s easy to believe God’s presence in the sunshine of our lives. Finding God in the darkness is a challenge. I found God in the darkness. He is faithful to comfort, teach, and carry His children through the darkness. We can trust God to be in the “deep darkness” of our lives.
As a Pastor, I would think my story atypical. I prayed to receive Christ as Lord in my life one wonderful day some five years ago. I immediately began working in my new church as a leader in the recovery ministry, as a volunteer keeping up the church computers and network and anything else when the doors opened, I loved it. At that time, I had three years of recovery from alcoholism and I was in a tight spot. My spiritual walk was beginning to see some light that was pressing me to make decisions.
For most of my life I had been indifferent regarding God. I had been clean and sober for about three months when I had prayed one night for God to somehow give me the ability to sense his presence and know he could make a difference in my life. He did. But at that time my concept of God was something I had created out of perception and convenience. No Bible, no cross and no Christ. But most important; No Grace. So on that Spring day, three years later, I was aware that my sobriety and my relationship with God were at a serious crossroad. The Lord led me to my church.
As our Pastor walked me through the purpose of the church, I was intrigued. It was not what I imagined and his explanation of his perception of a loving, involved God was also very different from mine. I had always thought I understood the Church and the God of the Bible and religion but I found that I had mere stereotype. But most intriguing for me was the new ministry being created. Celebrate Recovery. This is the place where I was able to join my experience in recovery with my new walk with Christ. Grace gave me the ability to find personal forgiveness were it had fallen short in secular recovery.
As time went on, I took on more and more responsibilities at the church. I had owned and operated several business' prior to this point, so I very naturally moved into the church Administrator role. My heart was always in the Recovery Ministry and when the lay person who had been leading it moved I took it on as well. We prospered, our church, in every area. The attendance blossomed, the Recovery ministry grew in direct proportion and my responsibilities increased measurably. At one time, I was leading CR, administrator of the church, managing a building campaign, pastoral counseling and managing the church facilities. On several occasions I would get some help but the growth would either add something else in or take the help away. As I look back now, I was burned out and overloaded way before I began to sense the degree of the problem.
Then I realized one day that the church was not looking to get me help. It was looking to replace me. Though very, very hurt and angry, I was not yet ready to be detached from the church. I was able to see the difference between the leadership of the church and the many many people who I had come to love. I also had some very loving people in my accountability circle. People who were able to share with me some hard truths about my expectations of others and my self-centered feelings at the center of my pain. We worked my recovery steps on this termination and I was able to accept responsibility for my part in the situation and offer forgiveness to those I felt had wronged me. It has not been easy, it has not been quick and it has not been without error. But it is working through the same biblical principles that I have so many times shared with others before this dark season began.
Today I am enjoying running my company again, as a follower of Christ. I believe it is making a better businessman out of me. My wife and I are always broke and still very much in the building stages of our new venture but we are happier now than we have been in a long time. I still enjoy working with the Recovery ministry. It has been a year now since I left the church and I am praying that God will open a new door for me to pastor another group of folks in recovery. From the beginning of my walk, a single verse as captured my new born perception of God's role and capability in our lives. Ephesians 3:20.
God is able to do far more than we could ever ask for or imagine. He does everything by his power that is working in us.
I'm very aware of the tabloid mentality of our generation and the love for scandals, but sorry, none today, not here. However, what I will tell you is that I was in a valley of depression. Margaret and I were going through a terrible time in our marriage, and absolutely nothing I was doing was of any interest to me. Furthermore, I could not find any alternative that offered hope for anything better.
Classic depression, I'd call it - my first bout with it. I was 39 years old and truly miserable for the first time in my life.
And I was a pastor. Yep, I was still in the pulpit, still going to the church office every morning, still holding funerals and weddings and counseling people with problems. And was a basket case.
I looked into becoming a college professor, which had been my original career plan until the Lord called me into the ministry while a senior at Birmingham-Southern. Since we had a good college in the town where we were living, I asked a professor what a beginning instructor would earn, someone who had just received his Ph.D., which I had not done, of course. The figure he named was so low, about half of what I was making, that it was like cold water in my face. It pricked my little pretentious balloon in record time.
Margaret and I had gone into, suffered through, and emerged on the other side of a solid year of marriage counseling. We had learned much about ourselves and our different backgrounds and the completely opposite drives that had brought us into this marriage in the first place. She had had an unhappy home life and was latching onto the "Prince Charming" who would take her away from it. I was a young minister who wanted a wife of low maintenance who would keep the home fires burning while I saved the world. We had not been married a month when we began to see that the reality of our marriage was light years away from what we had anticipated.
And yet, all the while I knew that this marriage was God's will for me, and that Margaret was the person He had chosen for me. Even in my rebellion, I knew that, and it made me even angrier. Like a spoiled child, I did not want anyone telling me what was best, what was the will of God, and how I should repress my own agenda to find happiness in life.
A rebellious heart is a terrible thing. I was my own worst enemy.
Two years later, when Margaret and I took the Sunday night worship service at our church and gave our testimonies as to how the Lord had changed our hearts and saved our home, I told the congregation how I had continued preaching during this bleak time: "I never said a thing I didn't believe; I said a great deal I didn't feel."
My adult children will read this and probably have only vague memories of any of it, which is good. We both always adored our children, and in fact, that only added to my complete frustration. I wanted what I wanted - which was out of that marriage and into a teaching profession and to continue being the father of Neil and Marty and Carla - and was torn right down the middle. I was holding onto two dead-opposite goals in life.
A perfect recipe for misery.
So I began to pray.
That was one of the hardest things I had ever done, because I knew I was opening myself up to the One who loves family, owns the Church, and heals hearts. I knew precisely what I was doing, but I was kicking and resisting all the way.
In case you wonder, I who often make so much of the prayer "Thy will be done" on these pages, was not willing to pray that prayer. I honestly did not want the will of God because I knew what it was. He wanted me at home, loving my wife, serving Him in my church, and being at peace on the inside.
And so I prayed something else.
My name is Mike Bedford and I pastor College Park Baptist Church in Mobile, Alabama. In May of 2010, I as they say “hit the wall” spiritually. I was tired, worn out and spiritually dead. I had not taken a real vacation break in years. The church was doing great. We are in a Capital Campaign to raise money to purchase property for a new church and are planning on relocating our facilities.
From the outside looking in it was all good. The problem was me. I was going through the motions of being a pastor, staying busy with hospitals, meetings, preaching and visiting. My days were filled with appointments, my time was not my own. I let the ministry control me.
So, in May it came crashing down around me. I asked the church for time off to regroup and gain strength. They graciously granted my request and I took three weeks away from the church. I did various things to get my attention away from ministry. Let me tell you it took a while before I felt relaxed as a matter of fact it took me seventeen days before I could say “I am ready to return”. That is not a magic a number, it may take someone less time or maybe more time. That is what it took me.
I spent time resting, reading my bible and praying, as David says in Ps 119:25 “my soul clings to the dust, revive me according to your word”. When I am down, I read the word.
Praise the Lord for a praying, loving wife who stood along side me and encouraged me through this process. She is a true helpmate. I am grateful for a church family that was encouraging and understanding as well.
Since June, I now enjoy ministry and enjoy being a pastor. Now I take time to rest and relax. I take more time with the Lord.
I would encourage anyone who is feeling burnout to take the time away. Once you are feeling better take your day off! Rest is very important.