I was so naive when it came to church and ministry when my husband entered seminary. I had my ideas of how church life should look and work. It wouldn’t be that hard because churches are full of Christians and that would make the way smooth since Christians are such a naturally loving and giving bunch. Er…well anyway, we arrived in Fort Worth and needed to find a church asap.
I had my ideas about this too. I wanted a church with a pastor who was a dynamic speaker, a praise team that would lead an awesome worship service, a children’s program that would cater to my three preschoolers needs, small group studies, a ladies ministry, etc., etc.
My husband wanted a church that was not already full of other seminary students and that’s all. He had no other requirements.
We were invited to a “seeker sensitive” church by some folks my husband met. It was different but not exactly what we were looking for. The family who had initially invited us bent over backwards making us feel welcome. It was like they were instant friends. But then when they learned that we wanted to try out another church they dropped us like a hot potato and we never heard from them again. How insensitive; we moved on.
Somehow my husband located a church in Wheatland just outside of Fort Worth. We gave that one a try. It was small, very small. There was no dynamic speaker, the pastor was a seminary student. There was no awesome praise team. There was no nursery much less a children’s ministry since they hadn’t seen an actual child in that church in quite a while. There were no small group studies and no ladies ministry. But other than the pastor, my husband was the only seminary student. Perfect! He was ready to join! He said so at the invitational time at the end. I shook my head saying no. Grinning, he grabbed my hand and pulled me down the aisle to join the church anyway. I wasn’t happy, not at all. Soon a handful of people were shaking our hands and welcoming us. We were officially in.
I thought my husband really messed up that time. I can look back now and see that it was a good experience for us. Even though our seminary student pastor was not a dynamic speaker by any definition, he was biblically sound. He mentored my husband in the doctrines of grace which forever changed our perceptions of grace. He opened our eyes and ruined us at the same time. I say “ruined us” because we would never again be able to naively believe the sugar-coated doctrine we had been spoon fed from infancy. Instead we developed a strong taste for the “meat” of scripture. If there was nothing else to be gained at that church then we had our doctrine straightened out at least. But there were more lessons to be learned.
Our pastor moved on after a while and the church needed a new pastor. My husband was already there and so after some formalities, which really rankled me at the time, he was voted in as the new pastor. I was officially a pastor’s wife. Yay me! Er…well anyway, in my new role I set about trying to start a ladies group study which was attended by me and one other lady. That fizzled out pretty quick.
After that I taught youth Sunday school and Wednesday night youth group. The youth who came to the studies were from that area of Wheatland and not from any of the families in the church as most members were grandparents. One set of grandparents did bring their teen grandchild to church with them but the others didn’t. For the size of church (minuscule) it was we had a fairly decent sized youth group. We soon requested and were granted the use of an old room that was being used as storage in the old, run-down brick building which used to be the original church building. Sometime later, since it was slowly falling down, they built another church sanctuary nearby.
We cleaned out the storage room and painted the walls. I let one of the youth girls, who was helping me paint, put slogans on the walls. DC Talk was a popular Christian band at the time and their song “Jesus Freak” was popular, so of course she painted that on the wall. That did not go over well with the grandparent set. I am sure if it had been the middle ages I would have been burned at the stake as a heretic. I felt misunderstood, misrepresented, miserable. I felt if I could only explain it then all would be sunny and well again. I prepared my speech explaining the intent of the song and how DC Talk had partnered up with Voice of the Martyrs to bring awareness to the church in general about our brothers and sisters in Christ being persecuted for their faith around the world. I might as well have been talking to the crickets chirping outside. The slogan was covered up, the youth were discouraged, I was discouraged, and that was that. This episode and a few others left a bitter taste in my mouth.
But we had some good times there as well. Toward the end of our time at that church we began having home fellowships with some of the members. None of the long standing members of the church attended these fellowships though they were welcome to do so if they liked. They didn’t like so they didn’t come. So our core group was a single guy named Jimmy who had helped me with the youth group before it dwindled away in discouragement, Larry who became like a part of our family and still comes to visit us every summer, and a young married couple – Michael and Jennifer – who we still have contact with even though we live so very far away from each other. There was one other person, I almost forgot, Carol, a seminary student who became a missionary. We did lose contact with her after she came back from her first mission trip. We had sweet fellowship with those folks and I can’t say that I have ever experienced anything quite like it since.
After we left that church I thought we were leaving our troubles there behind. I look back on that experience as a type of boot camp. I had no idea that the trials we experienced there were only minor irritations at worst, a mere taste of what was to come at the next church, a bump in the road in comparison to a major collision. Yes, I was still quite naive when we left Fort Worth behind. At the Wheatland church if it had been the middle ages I would have only been burned at the stake, but in the next church, if it had been the middle ages, I would have been drawn and quartered after being tortured for several weeks and then be burned at the stake. I’m glad I don’t live in the middle ages.
Church Boot Camp. I highly recommend it to all new pastor’s wives!