Mean girls

What am I doing borrowing a title of a movie I’ve never seen? I did a quick search on the summary before keeping the title because a girl trying to adjust to a new school — the cliques, the unspoken rules and the tricks paid by her peers — is really appropriate for a pastor’s wife trying to adjust to a new church.

There you are on candidate Sunday, smiling until you’re sure you’ll never get the crease out of your face. Everyone, you included, is on their best behavior. They all laugh and joke with each other, nary a cloud in any relationship surfaces, no hint of politics churning beneath the calm sea of Sunday morning. Whatta gift! You’ve visited the perfect church of perfect people and you can’t wait to move and minister.

THEN it’s six months later and you’re wondering where the people you met that Sunday are now. You have been subjected to intense pressure to join a side. The people not in power with the previous pastor see an opportunity to seize a bit with the new pastor for themselves. Invitations to dinner aren’t just an invitation to a meal, it’s a campaign. You’ll hear everything that was wrong with the previous administration and the way we would do it from your hosts.

Why on earth would I write a post about something this ridiculous? Because it happens and you need to be pre-warned before you mistake friendliness as only good will. Let’s take the dinner invitation for example. Who doesn’t want to be gracious and friendly to your host for the evening? However, you must guard your response or they will take it as capitulation, and two days later your husband will ask why you had agreed that having a daycare in the facility is a great idea.

Maybe it’s as Charles Issawi said, “The politics of the university are so intense because the stakes are so low.” [Issawi’s Laws of Social Motion]. And so are the politics of a church. Members will fight just as doggedly about their perceived ideals — Whether church begins at nine a.m. or ten…whether there will be a Sunday night service or not…whether the women’s group is passé and needs to be dropped from the roster. All of it will be hotly contested and each side will want your approval.

Much angst can be avoided if you will take time. Don’t make close friends or offer opinions on controversial issues until you’ve been in your new church at least six months. I’m not talking about the running of the church as that is your husband’s administration. You should always direct any questions addressed to you by saying, “I don’t have any information on that, you’ll need to ask my husband.”

I’m talking about friendships. Everyone will want to be your friend, just take your time before you reciprocate anything beyond friendliness. You do not want to spend your years regretting who you let get close and sway your opinions before you’ve given yourself time to sort them out.

Time to Grow

If you had to list the hardest thing you do as a Christian, what would it be? Loving the unlovely? Serving others? Praying? For many Christians a consistent devotional life is their greatest test. If there is anything I’ve learned about the Enemy, it is that he is a fighter. Because he dwells in the spirit realm, he knows all too well the power we have available to us in prayer. Therefore, strategist that he is, preventing us from praying is of paramount importance to him.

Napoleon once said “an army marches on its stomach.” In the same way, our effectiveness in our spiritual march is directly proportional to our spiritual nourishment of prayer and Bible study.

Much of the mail I receive from PW’s deal with their feelings of inadequacy — ill equipped for the ministry. Whatever our picture of who we should be looks like, we know we have not, and are not attaining it. However, praying does not depend on talent, money, or the classes we’ve taken. Any of us can accomplish great things on the behalf of our people by our prayers. To pray effectively, what does it take?

• Discipline: Prov. 8:17: “I love those who love me; and those who diligently seek me will find me.
• Humility: 1 Peter 5:6,7: “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, cast all your cares upon Him, because He cares for you.
• Perseverance: Matt. 7:7: “Ask and it shall be given to you; seek, and you shall find; knock and it shall be opened to you.”
• Faith: James 1:6: “Ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea driven and tossed by the wind.”

Devotions

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