“Be on your guard against men; they will hand you over to the local councils and flog you in their synagogues. On my account you will be brought before the governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it….All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. Matt 10:17, 18, 22
Today I was reading Beautiful Outlaw by John Eldredge. It was a chapter called Disruptive Honesty, about Jesus being a truth teller. He brought up the Matthew 10 passage.
The context is Jesus preparing his disciples for their first foray into the mission field. Eldredge sarcastically writes, “Well this is quite a motivational speech.” It’s not. If there were any hedging about going, they’d probably quit right then. Eldredge goes on to write, (and this is what got me) “But maybe this is just what they needed to hear. Consider the alternative – what if he told them, ‘Everything is going to be fine. Just love, and everyone will love you.’ Then when reality hit and they found themselves bitterly hated and persecuted, they would feel betrayed.” (p. 74)
I underlined that last bit in my book. Why didn’t someone point this passage out to me when I married a pastor? When he graduated from seminary? I’ve read this scripture many times but never once did I think of it in terms of a commissioning speech. It’s not something speakers talk about when they are addressing seminary grads. But they should. Instead they say, “God will bless you.” “God’s preparing you for something special.” “It’s so wonderful that you are entering full-time ministry.” It’s nice to hear. Sometimes it’s true. Unfortunately the other side of the coin, what Jesus was warning his disciples about, is rarely mentioned.
Anyhow, it would have been helpful to have this knowledge waaaaay before now. As a young wife who happened to marry someone going into full-time ministry, I would have appreciated the warning before my husband graduated. To be on your guard. That hardships are coming, It’s a when, not an if. It’s not a message I ever received being a young pastor’s wife. It should have been. Instead conflict in the church and ministry, is hushed or ignored completely.
Maybe people are afraid we’ll run the other way, I’m not sure. In fact it’s quite the opposite. Many pastors’ wives want to talk about it. Being told the truth is way better than being told lies. It takes courage to tell the truth. Walking into reality prepared is empowering. Stumbling along in a fantasy world, constantly asking yourself what went wrong, is not. Feeling betrayed is the worst feeling. Eldredge is right, the disciples would have come back feeling betrayed if Jesus had told them everything was going to be great. I know the feeling.
There are many in full time ministry who are feeling they’ve been sold out, right about now. As well as the many lay people who volunteer their time and talents to these ministries. Why? Because if the leadership of churches and ministries are blindsided by conflict and hate, then how can they prepare their own people for it? They can’t. So everyone suffers. Leaders burn out. Marriages fall apart. People leave churches. They turn away from God.
I’m not blaming anyone. People meant well. They wanted to encourage us. But in the translation, the wrong message was sent. So I feel it is important to add the warning to the encouragement. Jesus always had the right touch when He spoke truth, says Eldredge. We need to do the same with our young seminary grads and their spouses. Especially their spouses. Truth spoken with encouragement and a lot of love can better prepare the leadership for the future. Instead of sending them into some fantasy that gets shot to bits in the first few years of ministry.
If I could go back, this is what I’d tell myself:
“Be on your guard.” This goes not just for leadership but everyone who lives Jesus out in their lives. You will be targeted by the enemy and men and women. So get ready for it.
God is merciful. He doesn’t abandon us. He does redeem. Maybe not like we’d thought or like. God is concerned about your heart. He will do what He needs to do until we shine like gold. Until the rough is smooth. Open your heart to it all.
Ministry is hard most days. It can suck the life out of you if you look to the right or left. If you don’t guard your heart, soul, mind and family.
Ministry doesn’t define me. Or you. It’s not who we are. It does not make us special. It’s simply something God has called my husband and me to do.
The bad apples make the real thing that much sweeter. Those fellow labourers who love Jesus and obey Him, are like a balm to the soul. They are reflections of the One we serve and a reminder of why we do what we do.