It can be a tragic triangle or a glorious Christian union.
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Sounds like a triangle doesn’t it? Sometimes it is, but God does not ordain that it be that way, nor is He pleased when these areas produce conflict and conflict of interest. Satan is the enemy of God, His saints, and His church and is constantly busy trying to cause conflict both within and among the people of God. I Peter 5:8 says, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” Again in II Corinthians 2:11 we read, “Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices.”
As I go across the country preaching revivals, as I talk with fellow pastors, and as I collate their statements of burden and heartache with my own pastoral experiences here at home for the last sixteen years, I am fully persuaded that there is no area in which Satan attacks more often and more effectively. He constantly strives and with considerable success to get the pastor to see his family and his church as separate and conflicting interests. He causes pastor’s wives and children to see the church as a force that partially or periodically robs them of the loyalty and sympathy of the head of their home. He causes church members to see the pastor’s family as an antagonistic interest that robs them of a portion of their pastor. Not only does he cause these things to appear this way, but through the weakness of our flesh, he often does effectively devise these conflicts.
Satan cannot destroy any church by a frontal attack, nor can any other force do it. No amount of obvious persecution, anti-God legislation or material hardship can destroy a church. It must be done from within. However, if Satan can kill the pastor’s spirit, he usually can kill the church and there are few pastors alive who can stand the spiritual strain of seeing their families beaten 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year. Here at home and almost everywhere I go, this very thing is happening. I can see it even though few pastors and their families ever lodge a verbal complaint.
THE CRITICAL POSITION OF THE PASTOR’S FAMILY
In every service the building is too hot for some and too cold for some while it is just right for others. The preacher is too loud for some, too quiet for some and acceptable to others. This illustration proves a compound point, that personal tastes effect our attitudes and that these tastes vary too much for everyone to be pleased by anything.
This is ridiculously true concerning the membership of a church and the pastor’s family. Within our own families we are fairly demanding concerning agreement in food preferences, dress, recreation, talents, personalities and friends. This is as it should be. Many people though, make the mistake of wanting to include the pastor’s family within these judgments and expectations. This is unreasonable if not insane. When members of a church make the mistake of assessing the pastor’s family at all, this is the inevitable result every time (since there are dozens or maybe hundreds of families doing the judging according to personal taste). To some, the pastor and/or his family will dress too flashily, to others, too modestly. To some, his wife will be too talkative, to others she will be an introvert. To some, his children will be too uninvolved in the church, while to others those same children try to have their fingers in every pie and run everything. To some, his children will be worldly, to others those same children will be a Pharisees. To some, the pastor’s family has too much of this world’s goods, to others, they should do better on his salary. Some will think the pastor’s children try to monopolize the friendship of all the children in church while others think those same children are snobbish. If the pastor’s children try to lead others, some will say they are trying to run the church. If they do not, others will say they are sinfully negligent as examples.
THE CHURCH’S WHIPPING BOYS
It is said that years ago, some teachers and parents had children that they whipped simply to air frustrations. This may be true or false in those areas, but it is definitely true with the pastor’s family, and I can get hundreds of pastors to testify to it, though we are all really ashamed to admit we allow it to happen.
How often when my preaching has been hard for a member to swallow, has that member taken it out on my wife, and much more often on my daughter. I’ve often heard testimonies from other pastors of similar, cowardly injustices to their families. These families of these men have nothing to do at all with what he preaches and certainly it is vile and rotten for any member to react against them for it. Another sad truth is that while many adults would not do this, they thoughtlessly let their children do it. Not only so, but they often let little, meaningless gripes and gossips be voiced by their children thinking little about it because, “after all, they are only children.” Friend, this is just not that simple.
A PERPETUAL PERSECUTION
I said in the outset of this article that this was a 24 hour a day, 7 day a week, 52 week a year problem. Now, you probably thought that was an exaggeration, but it isn’t. Let me explain. If someone stuck you with a pin, it would be but a minor discomfort and that for only one moment. If a dozen people did it in one day it would become irritating, but at least tomorrow you could rejoice that your day as the pin cushion was past. In the case of the pastor’s family, the season for being jabbed never closes unless the church wakes up and makes a serious effort to stop it. Today one wields the pin, tomorrow another and the next day another and the next day still another. Since this effort is not coordinated or even planned, the pin wielders don’t realize the effect. They think of that which they do know about as only that person’s share of trouble. And, after all, doesn’t everyone have to have some trouble? The problem is that with a little jab from everyone, the pastor’s family often lives for long periods of time under constant affliction, and sometimes wonders if they really have a true friend this side of heaven. Weariness, spiritual fatigue and even bitterness can be the result.
Time and space will not permit me to deal with all of the aspects of this problem and the many churches that have been maimed and killed, but the reader who cares can see the problem and the rest won’t look, no matter to what lengths I go.
Let it suffice for me to say that this problem can only be prevented if members will see the tough position that the pastor’s family is in. Let them see that if they hurt the pastor’s family, they hurt the pastor and thus the church and all the work of God. Let them therefore love and guard the pastor’s family with the same care and zeal that they would their church. Scripture says, “touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm.” (Psalms 105:15)
Christians who wound the pastor’s family are violating this Scripture in a most effective and subtle way. They not only bring great danger to themselves, but great trouble upon their church.