To The Woman Who Isn’t A Mother On Mother’s Day

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In the church I get to serve in now as a lead pastor, decision-making is not done in an unbalanced, anarchist fashion. I am not the CEO of the church. I am not the President of the church. I am not the Leader of the church. Jesus is. I am a servant under Him, and I’m also willingly and humbly under the elders at the church.

In the church, decision-making amongst leadership should be collaborative and unified, and it shouldn’t be done just because we’ve always done it this way. 

When I was in my late 20’s I was in ministry as an associate pastor at a larger-sized congregation where the senior pastor had been in the church for nearly three decades. 

At the time I was an arrogant and naive team-member. Hard-working, yes. Caring, yes. But there were still many things about the decision-making in leadership that I didn’t understand. 

My continual questions in leadership meetings was: Why do we do things this way? Could we do it better? More effectively? More honoring to more people? 

Too often I enjoyed playing devils advocate and it would ruffle feathers of those making the decisions. 

I’ll give an example: At this church, Mother’s Day was a big day (as it is with most churches). A sermon was given to mothers specifically each Mother’s Day. Special music was sang to mother’s specifically. The children’s ministry would have the kids in the church make crafts for mothers specifically. 

And, a flower was specifically given to each mother walking into the church. 

Now, I am for honoring mothers. I feel strongly that the role of a mother is the closest thing to Jesus in the flesh I have seen in my life. It is a selfless daily task that is fueled by unconditional love. There is fatigue, heartache, service done when no one is looking –  above anyone else, it is the mother who instinctively is thinking about others over herself. 

Here was the issue I had: To each woman walking into the church on Mother’s Day, the greeters at the church were instructed to ask, Are you a mother? If she said, yes, she got a flower. If she said, no, she did not get a flower.  

Imagine a woman who wants to be a mother desperately, but isn’t for whatever circumstance. She knows Mother’s Day is going be a tough day for her. But, because she loves Jesus, she gets dressed for church. She drives to worship. She parks her car. She watches other family units smiling and walking together into the church building. And, as she walks into worship, she is asked, Are you a mother? She replies, No, I’m not. Then a flower is pulled back away from her. 

It’s the woman who has had a miscarriage.
It’s the woman who is infertile.
It’s the woman who has had an unsuccessful in-vitro fertilization.
It’s the woman who’s friends are having babies while she isn’t.
It’s the woman who’s had an abortion and is reminded of that pain every day.
It’s the woman who gave her baby up for adoption.
It’s the woman who had plans to be a mother but it didn’t work out that way.
It’s the child making a craft for a mother they don’t have in their life. 

Remember, it’s the mother who thinks of others over herself. So that’s what I vied to do one meeting at this church.  

In a staff meeting in the early Spring one year, as we were planning for Mother’s Day, I brought up the suggestion that all women on Mother’s Day should get a flower. 

I brought up the perspective of the women who aren’t mothers walking into the doors of the church who already feel the rejection of not having a child – and how being refused a flower would compound that rejection. 

I brought up Jesus’ constant compassion to be drawn to the marginalized, the left-out, how He was the ultimate Includer. And, if a church chooses to love those who are on the outside of things, then she is truly loving Him (Matthew 25:40).  

I was berated for suggesting these things.  

I was given the, We’ve always done it this way. Mothers get flowers on Mother’s Day. Why would we give flowers to women who aren’t Mothers? If they want a flower they should be a Mother. 

I am so thankful Jesus doesn’t give out His love to people in the same way. What if Jesus were to say, Only perfect people get My love. Why would I give My perfect love to imperfect people? If they wanted My love, they should’ve remained perfect.

……………………………………………

My wife and I were married fairly swiftly after initially meeting each other. Due to being married quickly, we decided to get to know each other for the first 5 years of marriage and then in year 5 we would attempt to start having a family. 

We made it to year 4, saw all of the fun and joy our friends were having with their newborn children and couldn’t wait to have a firstborn, so we started trying. 

And trying. 

And trying. 

Nothing happened.

If you know the journey of infertility, it’s full of attempts at trying, false symptoms, negative pregnancy tests and another month of trying again. This went on for a year. 

Finally, after some tests, the doctors told Whit and I that I would never be able to get my wife pregnant. I was infertile. Biologically, it was not going to happen for us to have a child. 

We wanted a family so badly. God was giving us an opportunity to place our faith in Him during this trial. 

Two weeks later we entered into the adoption process. 

Many of you know the endless paperwork and classes and interviews and tests and waiting required and money needed to have the opportunity to adopt a child. 

In January of 2011, we were on a waiting list where any day we could get a call that a baby had been born waiting for us to adopt and care for and love on and raise the best we could in God’s way. At the time, my wife and I were living in Northeast Ohio.  

The next month God brought a potential job change to us that would require us to move out of state. After a couple of interviews with this prospective employer we realized quickly that this was God’s hand leading us to move from Ohio to Tennessee. 

As the job opportunity became serious, we were told by our social worker in Ohio that if we moved out of state before a birth-mom chose us, we would have to start the adoption process all over.This meant we would need to repay all the money, resubmit all of the paper work and go through all the hoops for all those months. 

God was giving us an opportunity again to trust in Him.

In tears and confusion, we trusted God wanted us to move to Tennessee. I accepted the position out of state and my starting date was to be a month after accepting the position. I accepted the job on May 1st of that year and I was to start at the position on June 1st. 

God had 4 weeks to get us a baby or we would need to start over

Mother’s Day came, a very hard day for us (because, as mentioned earlier, my wife was one of those women walking into a church I served at who was made to feel more isolation by being asked if she was a mother and not receiving a flower). 

She sits in a worship service that is all about mothers and has her mind full of thoughts of anxiety and pressure and knowing that one week had passed and three weeks were left for God to do His thing.

That was May 8th. It was a difficult Mother’s Day for my wife. 

The very next day, on May 9th, I was at Wal-Mart picking out a Sugarland CD to try to see what the big deal about country music was (since we were moving to Tennessee), my wife called me in tears that a birth-mom from Missouri had chosen us to adopt the baby she was carrying. The baby was due in September, but we wouldn’t have to start the adoption process over. God had come through again for us. We had a new job in a new state and by stepping out on faith, we were going to be new parents. 

If you just trust God, and give control over everything, He will come through. 

The thrust of the Christian journey, when it comes down to this mystery of having a relationship with the Creator God – it’s not a faith issue. It’s not a theological issue. It’s a trust issue. 

Many of you are put off by the fact that God is for you, wants the best for you, wants to come through for you and wants to give you the desires of your heart in His will. The reason you struggle to believe these things is because you have trust issues.

To the woman who, after Mother’s Day, is feeling sadness, rejection and loneliness because she’s not a mother for whatever reason: God is giving you this opportunity to trust Him.

To all of us, please continue to think of the marginalized, the outsider and those who are left out. Be the includer. Spread the aroma of Christ to all around you (2 Corinthians 2:14). Which means, figuratively hand a flower to every one you meet so no one feels isolated. 

And, please, continue to trust God one day at a time with whatever you are going through so you do not feel isolated. 

Thanks for reading. You are loved. 

Z

 

5 Things Your Church Leader Needs Prayer For

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Do you pray for the leaders of your church? Because they need it. Badly.

Here are five things to pray for when wanting the leaders in your church to be who God has called them to be (Church leader classifies as: Elder, Deacon, Priest, Pastor, Preacher, Minister, Church Staff Member, Bible Teacher, Ministry leader, Bible College Professor):

1. That they would not be Arrogant.

Arrogance is like bad breath, you’re the only one that doesn’t know you have it.

If your church leader doesn’t have a close, loving relationship in leadership with someone who will hold them accountable, most likely they don’t realize how prideful they are.

Arrogant people think, We’re the good guys, they’re the bad guys. We have the answers, they need us. We are critical because they’re the one with the problem. We point out that this person messed up because it enhances the view of others that we never mess up.

They also say, The Bible is infallible – and so is my interpretation of it.

The Bible is perfect. My interpretation of what it says is not perfect. The Bible is infallible, but your favorite Christian pastor/author/professor isn’t. Inerrancy doesn’t extend to Bible teachers.

When a church leader begins to lead in ministry, the sheep will instinctively put the shepherd on a pedestal. I’ve failed as a church leader if I predominantly hear, Zach said this, Zach said that, I love it when Zach said….

I want it to be the Bible that is on the tongues of the people I get to serve. I’ve got nothing wise or good or helpful to say to them without the Bible being clearly laid out to others.

Church leaders are not supposed to convince people of their interpretation. They are supposed to invite as many as possible to give their sin and life to Jesus, and then invite them to examine the Scriptures together.

The ugliest, lowest moments of church history, were when the people trusted the church leaders to teach them the ways of God without having any desire or ability to check the Bible to make sure what was being taught wasn’t tradition or unbiblical. Churches split because leaders become enthralled with their bad interpretations of Scripture.

Is your church leader arrogant? Do they have close, truthful relationships? Do they take God seriously and themselves lightly or do they take themselves way too seriously and God lightly?

2. That they would not be Unkind.

Being a Christian leader is a balance between giving grace to the people and giving truth to the people. Grace comforts. Truth convicts. Both are needed. Jesus was the perfect balance of grace and truth. Your church leader is not Jesus.

Church leaders can have an obsession to be right. They’re like a harsh judge. It’s better to be preoccupied with being loving. Like a compassionate father.

When I digest the Gospel account I see people flocking to Jesus in a way they didn’t run to the Pharisees. They ate and traveled with Jesus in a way they didn’t want to spend their free time with the religious Scribes. It wasn’t primarily because of what Jesus knew, it was because He was loving. He actually cared about people.

Do you believe your church leader cares about you? Is your church leader unkind? Do they judge others or do they offer forgiveness? When someone stumbles do they give too much truth, or do they extend mercy?

3. That they would not be Hypocritical.

A good way for a church leader to not be duplicitous, is to read Matthew chapter 23 and put their first name in the place where Jesus is raking the Pharisees over the coals for their hypocrisy.

Not only did these religious leaders of the first century have rules outside of the Bible that they forced everyone to adhere to, but they weren’t following them either. It’s what religious people today do.

Do we need any more hypocrisy in the church? It doesn’t help the advancement of the Gospel when church leaders believe one thing and do another. God’s Spirit doesn’t work through hypocritical, unchanging leaders. God’s Spirit works effectively through humble, repentant, forgiven, changed leaders.

A pastor friend of mine and one of his elders were disciplining a church staff member who was caught investing his time unwisely into pornography. They set up counseling. They prayed with this minister. They set up accountability for him. They wanted restoration for him.

It came out later that the elder who was disciplining the church staff member, he himself was having an affair with a married woman in his church. That’s as religious as it gets when it comes to hypocrisy.

Your church leaders has sin. They struggle with temptation. They are blind to it. They hide it. They need prayer that God would humble them to repentance, because if not, He will humiliate them in their hypocrisy.

Is your church leader repenting and trying to grow in the likeness of Christ? Or do they act like they have it all together? Do they ever talk about their shortcomings?

4. That they would have Joy.

Is leading in the church fun to them or do they see it as a chore? Is it something they get to do or something they have to do?

I don’t know who put the word fun in fundamentalist, but that was foolish. They got the mental part right. How many religious, brow-beating leaders do you know where you think, Man, those are some happy people!

Zero.

Following Jesus is a blast. Serving in the church is a privilege. Leading others – there’s nothing like it.

If your church leader’s definition of a joyous life is a furrowed brow, complaining lips and a gun loaded with accusations, then they need a hug. These are not happy people. They always share what they’re against. They’re always upset at someone and it’s not the mirror. There’s no joy.

They must’ve been baptized in vinegar.

If I’m the kind of dad that’s like this with my kids, they’re going to want to leave the house as soon as possible and go sin like crazy because at least that looks fun at first. I want to be a joyful dad and a joyful leader in the church but it begins by me living joyfully under the feet of Jesus. Daily. I get it, life is hard. Bad things happen. But the most effective leaders in the church are those who have been broken and ended up being thankful for it because they knew God was doing something to change them for the better and bring them closer to Him. Joy.

How many elders meetings have I been in where the excitement in the room was about what each elder was accomplishing at their job and not about the work that Jesus was accomplishing in them or in the church?

Look at your church leader’s family. Is there joy in their marriage? Do their kids have joy?

Look at how they react when God comes through for them or for others? Is there visible wonder?

Watch how they worship Jesus. Are they visibly grateful for the cross and the empty tomb or do they look robotic and uninterested?

5. That they would not be Power-Hungry.

The church is at her healthiest when we are submitting to one another as Jesus submitted to the Father. Church leaders have no authority except for the authority Jesus has graciously allowed them to borrow responsibly.

To have an unhealthy craving to be in charge, noticed, acknowledged, on top, is to not know the liberating freedom the Gospel brings. And to be power-hungry means it will never be enough.

How many church leaders want to be in leadership to show everyone how great they are instead of showing people how great Jesus is?

They might be meeting a lot. They might appear to be serving (to be noticed). They might be making tough decisions. But what is their motivation? Do they lead in the church humbly? Do they show a desperation for the grace of God? If not, they crave influence more than Christ and it will lead them down an unloving legacy.

Jesus isn’t Arrogant.
He’s humble and He expects us to be full of humility, to cloth our lives with it.

Jesus isn’t Unkind.
He’s compassionate and He expects us to be merciful toward others, even enemies.

Jesus isn’t a Hypocrite.
He’s authentic and He expects us to be genuine.

Jesus isn’t without Joy.
He’s full of joy and not matter your hardship, thank Him for today and have joy.

Jesus isn’t Power Hungry,
He’s lost-hungry. He came to save the lost. He’s power itself and we cannot change our lives or the lives of others with His power from His Spirit.

If you’re being sinful, Jesus forgives. If you’re being religious, knock it off. That should cover everyone reading this blog. If you’re breathing you’re either being filthy or are judging the filthy. I’m not sure how many online articles you’ve read and then took some quiet time to repent afterwards, but it might be a good idea to do that today. And while you are doing that, please pray for your church leaders.

Thanks for reading. You are loved.

Z