Before You Go: Leave Your Ideal Church Behind

A friend sent me this note in response to my last post. I share it with his permission.

If I’d have practiced this principle two wife’s ago I wouldn’t have had two previous wives. But, if I hadn’t screwed up in my relationships then I wouldn’t have developed to be ready for “———” who I was looking for all the time. Sometimes the Spirit allows us to be hit knowing where it will lead us. So, anyway your analysis is correct. But for us controlling types it is so hard to; “be still and know…” and to, “wait patiently…”.

It’s fairly common for a preacher to go to a church with an “ideal” church in his head and then use his position and influence to try to change the church into his ideal whether it wants to become that kind of church or not.

One of the biggest mistakes I made as a young preacher was that I was driven by a desire to turn the churches I was serving into churches I could be proud of working with, because at the time they didn’t didn’t measure up to my ideals. I’m ashamed to say that at times I had the attitude that the churches I was working with weren’t worthy of having me as their preacher unless they changed into the kind of churches I thought they should be. The result was that I was miserable most of the time and so were they. Our shared misery was more the result of my arrogance than their hard-hearted resistance to change. Looking back, I don’t blame them for not responding to my leadership. They didn’t trust me because they didn’t believe I really loved them. I said that I loved them and I did, but the truth is I didn’t love them as they were, I loved them for who I thought they could be if they would do things my way. No wonder my effectiveness was limited.

Preachers, if we are going to lead change in our churches, it must be change that is Spirit-led, not just driven by our preferences to be the preacher at an “ideal” church. It’s not that I don’t think churches need to make a lot of changes. They do and in time they will.  But they need to be lead by preachers who love them as they are and not for who they could be someday after making a bunch of necessary changes.

Let us love our churches just as God loves us. It’s God’s love and acceptance of us, just as we are, that empowers us to change in healthy and beautiful ways. When the gospel is distorted and the order is reversed and we’re told that God’s love and acceptance are withheld until we change, it not only turns change into something ugly and unnatural, it also increases the misery of everyone involved.

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  1. Christine says:

    If the above person is on his third wife, why would anyone trust him to lead a church? Anyway, like I said in the last post, the elders oversee the church.

    • Jon Mullican says:

      And as they oversee the church, they too could consider the exercise of Wade’s previous post: List the things you don’t like about the minister(s) you are considering doing ministry with and consider that those things won’t change about him/her. Will you still want to do ministry with him/her? If not, don’t make the hire. The “marriage” of church and minister, while not necessarily for a lifetime, most definitely has parallels to what we know as marriage between husband and wife.
      And to your first point, perhaps for the same reason murderers were allowed to lead Israel from Egypt, lead the Israelites once settled in the promised land, and lead the early church.

    • My friend isn’t a “church leader” but he is someone who is growing in wisdom and applied the principle to his past marriages.

    • Viggo Ulrich says:

      Not everyone who is divorced, even twice is lousy at everything. On top of that, we do learn as we grow older and he may now be the best leader that you could find, because he understand a lot more of what life is like and how to make things work than he did at the time of his divorces. Just as one who has overcome eating disorders, or any other disorder learns as he travels those roads, so the divorced learns as he travels those roads. Don’t be too harsh without walking a mile in his shoes. David, a man after God’s own heart went through a lot of marriages. Just sayin!!

  2. My dad is one of the most wise pastors/elders/shepherds/preachers I know. He told me about a year ago this simple truth, and I will do my best to quote him precisely.

    “The secret that few ministers, especially young ones, are willing to accept is that you have to go to churches that you love exactly as they are today. It’s like when I counsel engaged couples, I tell them that the things that the love about the other person will only be amplified in marriage – and the things that annoy them about the other person will only be amplified in marriage. When you consider working for a church, make sure you love the church exactly like it is today before you commit to spending your ministry there….

    ….and once you get there, pray that God moves radically to change everything, starting with you.”

    – Charlie Middlebrook

  3. Wade,

    It enthuses me to see you as still a learner. Leaders are always learners…my opinion. And…if you want to know another of my opinions….we never get past kindergarten because God is just so huge!

    Proud of you!

  4. Kim Self says:

    God bless you, Wade. . That’s quite a huge soul you’re developing, my friend.

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