The Honeymoon is Over!

I recently had the privilege of speaking at a ministry family retreat in the Atlantic District. It was light-hearted. Sometimes, laughter is the medicine the doctor orders. Here is one of the stories I found on the Web that speaks to some of the pressures of ministry.

How does a pastor know when the pastoral honeymoon is over? Here goes:

When the flood of dinner invitations is reduced to a trickle and the menus switch from sirloin to burgers, you know the honeymoon between you and your congregation is over.

In the beginning you reign from your pedestal, feeling invincible. The first tremors are so subtle that you ask, ‘Did I imagine that?’ Then the pedestal begins to rock as enthusiastic handshakes and vigorous pats on the back are replaced by cordial smiles and forced praise for the ‘fine’ sermon you preached.

You tiptoe, you dance, you flail your arms, but you eventually topple. And the worse part is, you never saw it coming – just like the last time. See if you have overlooked these warning signs from a disgruntled congregation.

  • You return from vacation to find the visiting preacher’s name on your mailbox.
  • Your church is about to split, and neither group wants you.
  • Shut-ins pull the window shades and pretend that they aren’t home when you come to visit.
  • Mom moves her membership letter to another church.
  • You’re told that God is calling you to the mission field – now!
  • You are cast as a donkey in the Christmas cantata.
  • Your wife moves her membership letter to another church.
  • The trustees have been marching around your house the last six days praying and carrying lanterns.
  • Your secretary starts sending out your resume’.
  • The congregation forces members of the pulpit committee to wear sackcloth and make a public apology.
  • Church members start referring to you in the past tense.
  • Your ‘love offering’ is a two-for-one coupon at Ponderosa.
  • You show up at church on Monday morning to discover that the locks have been changed.

Are You Having a Chippie Day?

I love this story. There are several versions on the Internet. Here’s one: Maybe you feel like “Chippie the Parakeet” in Max Lucado’s Eye of the Storm.

Chippie the parakeet never saw it coming. One second he was peacefully perched on his cage. The next he was sucked in, washed up, and blown over.

Problems began when Chippie’s owner decided to clean Chippie’s cage with a vacuum cleaner. She removed the attachment from the end of the hose and stuck it in the cage. The phone rang, and she turned to pick it up. She’d barely said “hello” when sssopp! Chippie got sucked in.

The bird-owner gasped, put down the phone, turned off the vacuum, and opened the bag. There was Chippie—still alive, but stunned. Since the bird was covered with dust and soot, she grabbed him and raced to the bathroom, turned on the faucet, and held Chippie under running water.

Then, realizing that Chippie was soaked and shivering, she did what any considerate bird-owner would do. She reached for the hair dryer and blasted the bird with hot air. Poor Chippie never knew what hit him.

A few days after the ordeal, the reporter who’d originally written about the event contacted Chippie’s owner to see how the bird was recovering.

“Well,” she replied, “Chippie doesn’t sing much anymore—he just sits and stares.”

It’s not hard to see why. Sucked in, washed up, and blown over. That’s enough to steal the song from any heart. Maybe that’s the way you feel.

photo credit: hyper7pro via photopin cc

For Always

A story entitled “For Always” by Will Fish, relates the activities of two teachers working in an orphanage in Russia. One day they were doing an art project with the children. Three small pieces of cardboard were given to each of the 100 children and they were to make a manger. Each child was given a small piece of cloth to make a little baby. As one of the teachers inspected the project he found a little boy finished with the task. As he looked into the little cradle he was startled to see two babies in the manger. When asked to explain why the two babies were in the manger the child began to repeat the story of Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus in the manger. He began to make up his own ending for the story. “And when Mary laid the baby in the manger, Jesus looked at me and asked if I had a place to stay. I told him I have no mama and I have no papa, so I don’t have a place to stay. Then Jesus told me I could stay with him. But I told him I couldn’t, because I didn’t have a gift to give him…I wanted to stay with Jesus so much, so I thought about what I had that maybe I could use for a gift. I thought maybe if I could keep him warm, that would be a good gift. So I asked Jesus, ‘If I keep you warm, will that be a good enough gift?’ And Jesus told me; ‘If you keep me warm, that will be the best gift anybody ever gave me.’ So I got into the manger, and then Jesus looked at me and he told me I could stay with him – for always. As Misha finished his story, his eyes brimmed full of tears that splashed down his little cheeks…The little orphan had found someone who would never abandon or abuse him, someone who would stay with him-FOR ALWAYS!”

When we sing, “I Surrender All!” we are giving our greatest gift, ourselves, and we can stay with Jesus- FOR ALWAYS!”

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What Will You Give Him for Christmas?

Missionaries in Africa are often amazed with all the varieties of gifts that people can bring to a thanksgiving or harvest service. They are so honored with all the gifts the precious saints bring when they visit their churches. In both cases, there could be eggs, live chickens, vegetables, yams, goats, fruits, etc.

One missionary tells of a thanksgiving service where many gifts had been delivered including a huge basket. When it looked like all of the gifts had been given, the pastor prepared to go on with the service. He paused as a skinny, frail old man made his way to the front of the church. Empty-handed he went to the large woven basket and climbed inside. With no offering to bring the man had decided to give the only thing he had – himself. Giving ourselves is the most important gift that we can bring to the Lord. It is the gift of gifts.

“What can I give Him, Poor as I am?

If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;

If I were a wise man, I would do my part;

Yet what can I give Him?

Give Him my heart.”

(C. Rossetti)

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photo credit: katie-landry via photopin cc