I didn’t want to write this in some ways, and in others, I have been desperate for this to be heard for years. There is something so controversial in this blog post, and yet at the same time, it shouldn’t have to be controversial. I don’t think I fully understood how deeply I have been wounded until I started working through this, and now I know that long buried scars may need to resurface so that I can properly heal. I never self promote, but this is a message I won’t be satisfied with until every Christian on the planet has heard. (Feel free to pass it on to your brothers and sisters.) This is not any blogpost, this is a plea to the Body of Christ. Please read with grace and be willing to examine your own part in the Church.. Know that this was not easy for me to write, and it will not be easy to read.
As you may or may not know, I’ve been in ministry for longer than I actually could comprehend I was in it. I have not been employed by a church until recently, but as any ministry family could tell you, ministry is all consuming; thus I was submerged in ministry from the moment of my birth. Yes, that’s right, I’m a Pastor’s Kid.
I’m that child in the church who was expected to behave perfectly. The one who was told by older members to go greet the new family who had a kid who looked to be about my age. I never miss Sunday mornings. I’m the kid who knew her Bible, who could answer the questions, who knew just when to speak up to rescue your dying discussion in youth group. I am the one you sought out to criticize my father, so that I, at 14, could take on a burden of hatred, while you, at 40, could feel you had done your service to the church by complaining about his untucked shirt, or his tendentious sermon. I wear all hats, I slip into whatever ministry needs me, to fill all the places that you can’t be found. I will run slides, watch children, greet new faces, bake for the Christmas party: I will do all the things that you are inevitably going to complain about, but were conveniently too busy to help with.
This is all fine, really. It comes with the territory, which is something I’ve understood since day one, and truly my life is richer for it. I don’t regret that I’m a PK, I don’t wish my dad was a plumber or a lawyer or something more ordinary. I think my dad’s got the best job in the whole world. My problem is not with my childhood or my parents’ occupation. My problem is with all of you.
I’m still figuring out why I’m here in Nairobi, but I know one of the main reasons was that I knew what ministry looked like in North America, and I was curious to see what it’s like in Africa. How the Church operates here is similar to back home, but the most surprising, strikingly sad similarity I have found yet, is that the congregants, the Body, if you will, is still just as particular, cruel, and whiny as it is in North America. And I am here, writing to you now, pleading with you to shut up. On behalf of all pastors, staff, and every volunteer that has given until his last breath and then signed up again, please shut up. You’ve had your day. You’ve listed your complaints. You have told us that you have been hurt, and I am unabashedly telling you that I cannot believe that you, after all you have put your ministers through, have the audacity to tell us that you are hurt. I am, frankly, tired of you being hurt. We have exhausted ourselves trying to please you, and somehow you are the only hurt one. I am tired of your being unsatisfied, unhappy, and unloving. I am sick of you acting unChristlike toward the brothers and sisters that serve you selflessly day in and day out. I am tired of your emails. I am tired of you poisoning the church with your gossip and slander. I am sick of walking home after a Sunday wondering if we did well enough for you, if my dad’s going to hear from you on Monday, if you even heard what he was trying to say before you accuse him of something he didn’t say. No, I will not wear different jeans next week because you don’t like that these ones have a hole in the knee. No, I will not tell my father that his sermon was from the devil. No, I will not pass a hymn book onto the worship team.
Church, you are hurting us. You have become ungracious and impossible to satisfy, and if you aren’t careful, there will be no church for you to gripe about because all the pastors will have gone home to lick their wounds in whatever shreds of peace they can find.
I met with a staff member yesterday morning who confided in me that she had woken up around 4 AM that same morning and had decided to tell God that she was quitting her job. She woke up to realize the extent of her exhaustion. She woke up to realize that she is only human despite your enormous expectations of her. Somehow she gathered herself and still showed up at the office that morning, but it was only because God had awarded her the strength. Halfway through my conversation with her, another staff member came into the office, to borrow the computer for a moment. She explained to us that she had received a hurtful and hateful email from a congregant that morning, so with as much love and grace she could muster, here she was trying to respond. On her way out she turned to us and said “You know I really love what I do, and I love God, it’s just that sometimes the people make it really hard.”
My heart broke. This is not how it should be! Not two weeks ago, my sister, a worship leader, texted me in dire need of encouragement after a rough morning of critique. A week and a half ago my dad went to see his old professors from seminary because he is so tired and discouraged. My mom and I skyped only hours ago for me to learn that she is fighting the same battle, and here in Nairobi, these two women fight alongside her and Church, where are you?
What I’ve noticed is that the people who’s mouths never shut are the ones who are never around. They complain that we don’t reach out to the community, but I’ve never once seen them volunteer at an outreach event. They wish we would sing more hymns, but I don’t know that they want to truly worship at all. They want better childcare, but won’t give one Sunday a month to the nursery. They want more fruit during the coffee time, but won’t offer to bring it. Church, I am begging you, stop poisoning us. We are here to glorify God and make disciples, but you are exhausting us. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 says to encourage one another, and build each other up… We should be one. We are one Body, and yet you don’t act like it. You should be the ministry’s fiercest defenders and yet you are the ones tearing it apart, and you can’t seem to figure out why no one wants to come to church. Instead of building up your ministry workers, you resist their leadership and complain. When something doesn’t go your way you refuse to see the bigger picture, and pout instead.. probably aloud, to several other people in the church, so that they can pass it on in some twisted “prayer request.”
I am calling you out, Church, because there’s nothing left that we can do. You are the ones who need to make the choice to honour and respect those of us who have signed up to follow God.. and unwittingly become public punching bags. The Church is now dependent on my generation, but my generation doesn’t want to become pastors. We’ve watched you beat up our pastors and we’re either leaving the church altogether, or pursuing anything but ministry. You are slowly killing off the ministry, and at the end of the day, I will hold you responsible.
So next time you want to open your mouth, consider the following:
1) Was I directly involved in or volunteering at *insert whatever you care to complain about here*?
2) Is my opinion backed somewhere in the Bible?
3) Is my criticism constructive in such a way that it will build up the Kingdom?
Prayerfully and kindly bring forth your suggestions. I don’t tell my doctor how to operate on me, or order my retailers to make different clothes. Church is not a Burger King. You can’t always have it your way. Furthermore, if you do want things to change, get involved. It’s sort of like how you can’t complain about the government if you didn’t vote. We can always use a few more hands.
Lastly, to everybody out there who shows up to a church office every morning, keep at it. Remember why we are here, why we have chosen to suffer through this. Stuff yourselves so full of scripture that you can’t hear anyone else. My dad always says that “People are worth it and God is worthy.” I believe this to be true… I struggle sometimes with the first half, but I have yet to doubt the second half. You are not alone. There are thousands of other pastors here in the world receiving the same emails, getting the same complaints, trying to serve God to the best of their abilities. The harvest is plenty but the workers are few, but this is no cause for discouragement, rather take heart, for he has overcome the world. I find myself more and more often telling people that we’re gonna get there. I haven’t decided if Heaven is “there” or if “there” is just somewhere where we can catch our breaths for a second. Either way, someday we’ll arrive. Someday the pain will have a purpose. Someday.. that hopefully isn’t too far away.
Church, I love you dearly, which is why I will continue in ministry, and why I have confronted you in this way. I hope you learned as much as I did whilst reading this. Writing this, I know I can sound proud, arrogant, and self righteous… But that’s not my intention, because I’m not. Instead hear me echoing the voice of Jesus in John 17.
much love and many blessings,
love alone is worth this fight