March 23, 2011

Taking Your Temperature

Over the next few weeks, I plan to post a few more interviews with wives of pastors and church planters like those I've done with Lauren, Emily, Shauna, and Kendra. Considering there aren't many resources out there for ministry wives, I also plan to start Ministry Mondays here on the blog, in which we can discuss ministry life and learn from one another. Please do join me and invite ministry wives you know to join in as well. And since I for sure don't have all the answers, I'll continue to ask respected ministry wives to give us their insights on different topics. Deal? 

Today's not Monday, but why not get a head start?
My car is outfitted with a digital thermometer. The boys and I check the outside temperature from the warmth of our car every morning on the way to school. After pulling out from the garage, the numbers tick ever lower and my middle son gleefully screams them out with each lowered degree. On cold winter mornings, we guess how low it will go and are only amazed when it drops below 15.

I often take my own temperature too. Not my physical temperature, but the one that measures how I'm doing in ministry. 
Sometimes I take it with a God-thermometer: Am I serving Him joyfully and obediently? Is He pleased? What does He want me to do?

And then sometimes--to my detriment-- I take my temperature with a people-thermometer: Do they think I'm doing a good job as a pastor's wife? Do they like me? Do they see and appreciate what I'm doing? What do they expect from me?

I have a divided heart: I want to please God, but I also want to please people. And when pleasing God means the displeasure, misunderstanding, or criticism of people, I am undone.

What about you? Which thermometer are you using to measure your value and to guide your decisions?

One of the greatest ongoing struggles for the ministry wife is keeping an undivided heart, where she is both fueled and driven by the pleasure of God rather than the pleasure of people. The relational nature and demands of ministry create an atmosphere in which we’re susceptible to losing a God-focus and giving ourselves over to the whims of others. Or we believe that we can please both God and man, when, in fact, we cannot. Rather than chefs creating rich, delicious dishes from a specialized menu, we become short-order cooks, frantically rushing around the kitchen and serving so-so diner food to the masses.

If we are people-focused, looking for their approval and letting them determine what we do, we’ll try to meet ever-changing, man-made standards. We’ll be dependent on others for encouragement and affirmation (and what they give will never be enough). We’ll make decisions that put us in the best light possible and will be afraid to do the difficult work that church planting requires. Our ministry becomes diluted and impotent. We’ll never be satisfied or at rest, able to receive God’s approval. We’ll buckle under criticism. We’ll be unable to celebrate how God uses others. We’ll become self-absorbed behind the guise of ministry. Unable to follow God’s leadership for fear of upsetting someone, we may miss our true calling in our family or ministry. Most dire of all, we cannot be called a bondservant of Christ: Am I now seeking human approval, or God’s approval? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still pleasing people, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10).

Here's how to know if you're measuring your ministry according to a people-thermometer: a people-pleaser consistently and primarily looks to others for guidance and affirmation.  You may be a people-pleaser if:

·      When presented with a ministry opportunity, you automatically scroll through the names and faces of people who will be disappointed if you don’t do it.
·      You avoid difficult situations or conversations because you don’t want to people to see you fail or not know what to do.
·      You immediately say yes to everything.
·      You feel valuable to the church and to church members only when others affirm your role and/or your contribution.
·      You’re afraid to do specific things God has called you to do because of what others will say or think.
·      You do only the things that will make you look good in front of others.
·      You constantly feel the weight of other people’s expectations to be the perfect ministry wife.
·      You seek out affirmation or encouragement, but even a hint of criticism regarding you or your husband sends you into a tailspin.

A ministry wife using a God-thermometer knows that faithfulness to her calling is what matters and she looks to Him for direction regarding ministry opportunities.

Which are you using? How do you battle people-pleasing in your own life?