Be the change

Here's a pretty cool prayer that a pastor prayed at a NASCAR event:

Under the video there was a comment made by Water4Jeremiah that two people liked on Facebook. It said:

"If all Christian pastors loved and appreciated life this much I'd still be a Christian."

I've heard this type of comment a lot and I can see why people say it. Many times we Christians take ourselves too seriously and burden people with a brand of Christianity that is not biblical. However, this person's comment also causes me to ask whether or not he or she is letting other people dictate his or her relationship with God and the church.

I speak from experience on this matter because I've been in the church since early childhood. I've heard and believed the Word, been loved by wonderful people, been active in almost every position imaginable except church treasurer and repair person. I've also been a pastor's wife. That position brought me within close proximity of some pretty awful stuff wrought by so-called saints of the church. These were the people that others seemed to look up to. The popular people. The movers and shakers.

On the surface these people appeared wonderful. However, underneath they were full of hatred, anger, malice and they spread gossip more smoothly than margarine spreads on bread. These were the saints that also hurt my family.

After my husband died and I was out of the ministry - thanking God everyday that I was out of the ministry, not that my husband had died - I realized that I had a lot of pent up anger inside. I'm going to be very honest here and admit that if it wasn't for my children I would have drifted away from the church. I had a good relationship with God and reasoned that I did not need a bunch of hypocrites in my life.

This was because I was hurt and as a pastor's wife, I had no way to express my feelings. Remember that I had a good experience in the church as a child and teenager. As an adult leader though I was blind-sided by people who claimed to be saved and sanctified; people who didn't understand that living a holy life meant that you still confessed sin and asked the Holy Spirit to renew you on a daily basis. These people did not understand that a life of love is intentional, not something that was magically brought about just because he or she had made two trips to the altar.

It has taken several years to come to terms with this reality, but I believe that I have done so, though it is still a work in progress to varying degrees. Through this experience I think I have learned to be more forgiving, compassionate, quietly prayerful and outspoken at the same time. I have learned that living at peace with people doesn't necessarily mean that I have to put myself in a vulnerable position with them. Sometimes this means that I don't talk to them beyond "Hi. How are you?" unless necessary.

I have also learned that I must work to be the change that I want to see happen in the church. Discovering the faults of others has caused me to look in the mirror and ask "Do I do that?" then ask for forgiveness and seek to change if the answer is "yes".

This blog is another way I become the change I want to see happen because it allows me to speak out against the hypocrisy I see on a wider scale. This hypocrisy is happening all over the place. If anything, the little comment I read this morning proves it. We used to say in the newspaper business that if one person was saying something, ten more people felt the same way and we were usually right about this. In this situation, however, I don't have to guess. There are blogs all over the place like mine and there are books regarding these matters.

If you are in a church that doesn't have these problems, wonderful. Thank God for that. But also, pray for those who are in churches where the hypocrites seem to run the show. Pray for the strength of the pastors and for those who are trying to live the Christian life for real. It is through the prayers of others that those who are suffering at the hands of other "Christians" will be able to rise up and lovingly say, "This isn't right," and then hang in there for the fight. As a result, the hypocrites will either repent, leave or be effectively neutralized.

If you are suffering in the church, hang in there. Pray and ask what God would have you do. Sometimes it means that you need to go somewhere else, but oftentimes it means that God may call you to be the change that you want to see happen. Seek out other Christians who feel the same way you do and pray together. Start keeping a journal about the subject and write about your angst either through art, the written word, or maybe a recording (that you should keep well hidden). In this way you can pour your feelings out to the Lord rather than dumping them all over people who may not be able to handle them.

The main thing is to follow the advice given in Hebrews 10:25: "Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching."