When I first became a senior Pastor I had a very clear idea of what my role as a pastor would look like. I had had this vision of being in full time ministry since I was 15 and although I had been working alongside Steve since before we were married, this role was new but this was what I had dreamt of for more than 17 years. What I had in my head and what was reality however was a bit confronting.
I hadn’t realized the challenges that would come in actually defining what my role was meant to look like and how it would be outworked, not to mention the fact that I had a 2 year old and a 4 month old in the mix. I hadn’t realized how quickly people and outside factors would attempt to define that for me. I needed to know what God had to say about my role because there were so many opinions and ideas of what others thought I should be doing and so many different things that needed attention plus a number other factor effecting the life of our church. Hills church had never had a full time pastor before and had not had a pastor at all for some months. We were new to this role but it’s not like we hadn’t thought about it. Both Steve and I had had a variety of senior Pastors through out our lives, all very different in their approach; and with gamut of church experiences, some amazing and not so amazing experiences, we had idealistically planned out what we felt was important. We knew when we first felt called to the ministry that a senior role would eventually be on the cards. We had dreamt and talked about it for years as youth pastors but to talk about our identity and roles and to actually step into the promise, was a different story.
It actually seemed an easy thing for Steve. He quickly slotted into the many and varied parts of the senior role almost like a hand in glove. He had his hands full with many things that needed his attention, especially on the business side of things. Although his role was challenging and required a lot of love, faith, wisdom, big decisions and spiritual discernment, he was able to step into this role as if he had being doing it all his life.
My greatest lesson in the entire 7 years in this role…and I have learnt this the hard way: LISTEN. Listen for God’s voice and shut out any other voice regardless of how convincing it sounds. Then OBEY His voice!!! The rest is up to him. Delayed obedience is not obedience. Partial obedience is not obedience and obeying the voice of others is not obedience either.
The best part for me in that first year was the we both HEARD God speak. It is a relief when his voice isn’t just hearable but clear. We heard him say ‘JUST LOVE THE PEOPLE’. The other thing we did in that year is OBEY God’s voice. It makes things a whole lot easier and simpler. Listen! Obey! Sounds simple because it is. i am glad it was that simple and for the first year that is what we did. We invited every single family into our home and got to know them and spent time just loving them. In the mean time, I was a young mum with two young children. This meant that I was limited with how much I could do outside the home.
I had already learnt as a youth pastor, that the need is not God’s voice and other people are not God’s voice but when needs were flowing in and the demanding voices of the ‘crowd’ seeking to know me and get something from me got pretty loud and we moved into the second year I began to feel the pressure from myself and others to be more and do more… I somehow forgot to stop and listen to God’s voice for me and simply do what he asked me to. Just one of many examples was I put my kids into day care one day a week but God hadn’t asked me to. That just seemed to be what would work with the many things I was doing but….it didn’t work. My kids hated it and I felt terrible, torn, frustrated, anxious. My impetuousness lead to chaos and a complete lack of peace. This is just one example.We can do difficult if God has asked us to, because there is peace and resource, but when there is no peace we keep going hoping that peace will come….it can cause strife and a series a stupid decisions. Without his peace, you can guarantee something is out of sink and not right..usually we are not listening and that means we aren’t obeying him. Bit hard to obey God if you aren’t hearing his instructions. the first mistake was not to listen. Instead of doing what God was asking me to do, I began to listen to other voices. As I look back I can see the pressures I put on myself and the pressure I felt others were putting on me and the pressures I assumed were there that weren’t. You can’t obey Od if you don’t know what he is instructing you to do.
I had never been a senior pastor before and believe me when you are not sure who you are or what you should be doing there are plenty of people willing to help define that role for you. I can’t count the number of different ideas that various people thought was required of a senior pastor’s wife but even more so internally. It has taken me some time to realize how important it is to know who I am in God and what HE wants of me and how HE sees me in my role because it doesn’t take long in an insecure moment to find yourself trying to please and submit to all the other voices in my head or succumbing to trying to meet ALL the expectations of those around you or stepping away from what you should be doing because of insecurity or selfishness.
If you don’t know what it is God is asking of you, you will confuse the voice of God with the needs of those around you, the demands of those around you or your past experience or even what others in a similar role are doing. I come from a Christian home where my mum used to write her own bible studies and run the women’s ministry arm of our church. Does that mean I was meant to write bible studies and co-ordinate the women’s small groups for the church? There are plenty of women who have tried to get me to do just that but God has never asked me to do that. Other women run weekly or monthly meetings for women at their church. There have been numerous times when people have tried to get me to gather the women together more regularly and teach them. I am learning that whether it is in my role as a wife, my role as mum, my role as a daughter or even as a friend.. It is easy to be manipulated, intimidated, confused, weakened, burdened and anxious simply by not knowing how to hear God’s voice, know his wisdom and when I her it to obey.
It’s taken me a while to learn (mostly the hard way) I need to listen to God, recognise my season and simply do what he is asking me to do in this season. It is not unlike what it was like when we were first married. The wedding day is not the big deal despite the big decisions that need to made (which flowers you use on the day may seem an important decision at the time especially if your florist cancels 2 day before the wedding) But the role of wife and creating a new family is so much more than an expensive event. Defining what my role was as a wife and starting a new family, we didn’t want what we had seen and experienced from elsewhere. It is easy to talk and dream about the perfect marriage but when reality hits and there are chores to do, bills to pay, roles to define, and patience and self control, kindness and forgiveness, humility and submission is required, knowing your role as a wife can be more than just a challenge…. You need to know who you are or something else will define you. Your past, your upbringing, your families, your parents’ marriage, others and your partner can NOT define your role for you. I have learnt the most about my roles as a wife and mum and even ministry, while crying out to God for my family or pacing the floor at night seeking God for wisdom with my kids.
My role, as a parent is just as challenging. As a parent, there are so many different ways of raising a child and every other person has an opinion but none of them will stand before God one day and be made accountable for my role as a parent. I have read my share of Christian books which all conflict on how my child should be raised. If I had done everything I had read or listened to as a young mum, I would be highly stressed, highly confused and so would my kids. As a senior pastor, only I will stand before God and be held accountable for what I did with what God asked me to do in this role …so learning to hear God’s voice and obeying his voice makes any role much simpler…God’s voice is hearable but are you listening and obeying.
The best way for me to flourish in my role is to know what the job requires of me and what God requires of me to do it. The FAVOUR (confidence, the enabling, the supply, the resource, the gifts, the grace, the blessing, the goodness, the love, the faith, the power, the anointing, the strength), all comes from him. My ‘not so simple’ part is to hear his voice and obey it.
Have you taken the time to listen. If you have a lack a peace STOP!!!! To silence every other voice so you can hear is pretty tough if you don’t just STOP! ( Beth Moore says a great thing about hearing God’s voice…’ If you haven’t heard what God’s voice sounds like try reading the Bible out loud so your ears can hear.’ then ask yourself…. ‘Have you done what He has asked you?’Hearing is not enough. hearing God’s voice is not obeying God’s voice. He doesn’t just give advice and make suggestions and share his opinions. His Favour comes in directives, leading, guiding, instructing, affirming, correcting, warning. Today: silence every voice and let his voice be the loudest and clearest…then obey! Whose voice has the greatest influence on that role?…..I hope it’s God’s.