We got the call—it was time for the next step of the candidacy process. The church shared their vision and passion, and we shared ours, too. It was almost like a romance as we wooed one another with our best qualities. It seemed so perfect, like we were made for each other. With a whopping 99 percent, they voted us in—we felt that this was truly meant to be!
As we moved into the quaint college town, the church showered love upon our family. These dear people had called my husband to be their pastor and lead them by God’s Word. And things were going great—until another call came.
My husband preached out of Mark 8:34-35, where Jesus says, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life you will lose it, but if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it.”
It was a radical call straight from the mouth of Jesus. A message like this will get you squirming in your seat, even if you are the pastor’s wife. For some, it was a good sort of squirming that causes you to shed a layer of worldliness. For others, the squirming was in anger and irritation. Instead of answering what was perhaps conviction, they ignored the call from Jesus and criticized the teacher.
Sermons like this—and many others—drew a line in the sand. The messenger was in danger.
Shooting the Messenger
Regardless of my husband’s humble admission of flaws and desire to teach, backbiting and gossip continued. I saw my husband get strategically taken down and torn apart:
“Pastor, you speak too long. Brain research states we can’t tolerate more than fifteen minutes of instruction.”
“Pastor, why don’t you do an altar call? We have always done it that way.”
“You won’t listen,” they said.
“You beat people over the head with the Bible,” they said.
“You are unapproachable,” they said.
“STEP DOWN,” they said.
The people who once showered us with great affection began to treat us as enemies. First the complaints, then the letter, a written indictment against my husband. Then the electioneering process began. Everyone was called and invited to voice their opinion of my husband, whether or not they had even stepped foot in the church in the time we had been there. My husband tried working with church leaders through the difficulties but to no avail. Their minds were made up. The whispers had become a roar: “WE WANT YOU TO LEAVE.”
Conveniently, while my husband was in Africa on a mission trip, a business meeting was conducted. The last hour of it was a blood bath. Reconciliation was not on the agenda. My husband felt he had no other choice but to announce his resignation. We were leaving.
Dazed and Confused
Not everyone wished for his removal; many still loved our family and my husband as their pastor. They were shocked by the news. But few knew my husband’s heartache as we saw a genuine pursuit of Christlikeness crumble. When trying to make sense of it all, God reminded me of these verses:
“Yes, and everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution…But you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught. You know they are true, for you know you can trust those who taught you.” (II Timothy 3:12,14)
It seemed as though we were being persecuted by those within the church. That was confusing, unfathomable even. It felt like a snowball made of thorns, quickly accumulating and piercing everyone in its path. I was dumbfounded that such a war was happening within the Church. We all claimed Christ’s forgiveness and grace, yet the words exchanged didn’t seem Christlike.
But amid an awful time of turmoil, Jesus revealed His steadfast love through His words of life. And for that we are grateful.
I wish I could tell you that we reconciled, that we grew together instead of apart, that we all went back to work united in the name of Christ. But I can’t.
The church isn’t always pretty. I always thought believers would work really hard to handle problems biblically. But we are all just broken people in a broken world trying to fix broken stuff. And it doesn’t always work. Let’s face it—we all need the same Jesus. We all stand as debtors in God’s presence; how can I condemn anyone who has hurt me when the love of Christ should compel us to forgive?
“We are Christ’s ambassadors, and God is using us to speak to you. We urge you, as though Christ himself were here pleading with you, ‘Be reconciled to God!'” (II Corinthians 5:20)
We are ready and willing to reconcile because we have been reconciled to God through Christ. His forgiving and atoning work on the cross is unfailing and so very complete! I realize I may not be able to right every wrong in my earthly relationships. And I don’t know if I’ll ever find restoration with those who mistreated us. But I do know that though it was a difficult chapter, I’ve come to know my Savior in a deeper, more tangible way. And it’s my right relationship with Him that makes all the difference.