10 September, 2014

Some Of the Best Advice I've Ever Received

I have often said of being a pastor that "it would be the perfect job... if we not for the people." Of course, I'm joking with that statement, but truth be told, only half joking. Honestly, I think every pastor would agree with me that by far and away, most of the people we pastor are just just awesome. But every pastor has run into "those" people. Let me be clear, this is not only about pastors, but being that I am a pastor, this is my only point of reference. I am confident that every person in life can relate to what I'm talking about within their realm of life. 

So, what am I talking about?

I'm talking about the "talkers." Those who love to spread gossip and rumors. Those who are down right vicious with the stories they tell and just seem to find their reason for living in the hope that they might destroy (or at least do serious harm) to another person. I've often wondered, do people like this really just sit around and think, "what lie can I tell today?" Apparently they must, because they never seem to stop. I just don't understand what makes people like this tick. 

Anyway... my purpose for writing this is not to discuss "those" people, it is to talk about us... those of us on the receiving end of their war against us. I remember back in college I had an instructor who warn us about these attacks and absolutely drove home the point that we had to safeguard our reputations. He said that once we allowed our reputation to be ruined, our ministry was finished. It did not take long after assuming my first pastorate to face my first attacks. They came fast and they came at me in an almost non-stop barrage... and they have never stopped in the twenty-three years I've been a pastor. I quickly learned that one of the Devil's top objectives is  to "take out the pastor."  If he takes out the pastor, he can destroy the church.  I've been amazed at the stories and lines of attack that have been launched against me over the year. They've ranged from the absolutely comical to the earth shaken, rage making attacks that hit so hard that I wanted to hurt someone. One of the ones that I laugh about now but as a young preacher starting out, caused me a lot of stress was that a woman in my church spread it all over town (I mean literally all over town; as we pastored in a town of 1100 people and everyone heard this one) that I had stood in the pulpit and called everyone in the church a "pain in the ass." (Pardon the language, but that's what she said.)  I was bewildered. I'd only been a pastor for about 3 or 4 months when this happened and I did not know what to do. I tried calling this woman several times but she never answered nor returned my calls. All over town for the next week I would run into people and they'd ask me if I had really done this. I tried to defend myself, but they'd say, "Well Helen says you did.. and she was there!" I would respond, "Hey... I was there too, and I never said that!"  It took me a couple of weeks to track Helen down, and when I did, she was adamant that I had said it. We went round and round and finally, after asking her a couple of dozen times just when I had said this, she said that a couple of weeks before I had gotten up to start the church service and I told everyone to put a smile on their face because they all looked like they were down in the mulligrubs. She said she did not know what that meant so she looked it up and she knew what I had called them.  I was stunned and asked her what in the world she was talking about. She got up and left the room and came back with her dictionary. She had the page marked and the definition highlighted.  It said, "a discomfort or griping of the intestines." She pointed at it and said, "see, you called us all a pain in the ass."   I told her that first, that this meant an upset stomach or digestive track, but if she read the definition that came before the one she had chosen to run with, it said, "a person who is ill-tempered or grumpy."  I said, "I rest my case!" 

This woman's daughter in-law quickly spread it around what Helen had done and most of the talk about town quickly died. But there is a funny thing about some people. Some people love a juicy story so much that it does not matter when they discover the truth, they will continue to spread the story that they know to be a lie because they get a sense of perverted joy in doing so. It was there in that town where a retired pastor lived who I'd known since I was a child. I went to Billy and talked to him about this he gave me the best advice I've ever received as a pastor. I believe it would be true for anyone. He grabbed his Bible and turned to 1 Timothy 3:2 and read the first few words, "A bishop must be blameless." He looked at me and said, "That's the key, Darrell."  I told him that I did not get it, because every time I turned around I was being talked about and blamed for something. His next words have never left me, as he said, "It says You must be blameless. It does not say they won't accuse you. You're job is to make sure that their accusations are not true."  Billy told me that people will never stop with their lies and accusations. He said, "Your reputation will be slaughtered many times over. You must be a man of character." Over the years I've come to know exactly what Billy was saying. There is always someone throwing out accusations, and even worse, there will always be those who gladly receive those false accusations, because there are people who love to get down and dirty and try to destroy others because they are not willing to do something to straighten out their own lives, so they would rather destroy someone else to make them feel good about themselves. 

So, with no apology to that college professor, I say, "there really is not much you can do about your reputation... but you CAN be a man or woman of character.

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