by Robert Earl Houston
My father was a fan of the old western movies. Like it or not, we had to watch old shows like “The Virginian,” “The Big Valley,” and other western-era television shows as well. Every now and then a character would be bitten by a snake. They would take a knife out and make an incision in the bite area, apply lips and suck out the venom. The key was to get the venom out as soon as possible or fall victim to the poison introduced to the body.
I want to tell Pastors and Preachers “get the venom out!”
Sometimes when we’ve had a bad pastoral or ministry experience at a church, it is common to carry that experience in your mind and spirit for years. The pain is still there. The memory is still functioning. You can still picture in your mind the faces of some who have tried to exterminate your ministry in years gone by just as clearly today as it happened 10 years ago.
You’ve got venom in your system. Get the venom out.
# 1 – CHALK IT UP TO A LEARNING EXPERIENCE
OK. You faced opposition. You may have had a hostile board or were misunderstood by leadership. Maybe you didn’t get a proposal passed. Maybe they fought you walking in the door and until the day when either you resigned or they put you out. But remember, God knew when you were in the honeymoon stage with that congregation that all of this would happen. Yet, He sent you to that church anyway. God sometimes sends pastors into a hornet’s nest at one church to prepare them for the next church. I would have never been the pastor that I am today had it not been for what I experienced in previous pastorates. I don’t have just a resume, I have experience.
# 2 – IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU
Unfortunately Pastors and Ministers are caught up in one really mean game of chess. Satan is on one side of the table. God is on the other. The problem is that Satan will never win. However, he still has some moves left. We’re the ones who feel the affects of his schemes, his wiles, his efforts, his plots and his plans. God has no intention of giving up the game. However, Satan will wreck havoc in the life of a church and again – it’s not about you. In a previous pastorate, we were getting ready to go to the next level. Looking back, we planned much but didn’t pray enough. We were getting building permits together and planning for the construction of a state of the art facility, and in the midst of that I was going through a divorce and the church membership was troubled by it. Honestly, there is enough fault to go around for everyone, however, the results were that the pastor was divorcing and the church was completely distracted from building. Now years later, the church has yet to build and probably won’t build, because they’re in a new era of their ministry. And this pastor has had to learn that the whirlwind was never about it – it was Satan trying to stop the progress of a local congregation. It’s not about you.
# 3 – MOVE FORWARD
Been in a bad situation? Made a mistake? Had a terrible pastorate? It’s time to move forward. Got put out? Was forced out? The Apostle Paul put it best, “Putting those things behind me . . .” (Philippians 3:13) it’s time to move forward. Remember this – when a situation is history, you’re the only one that can make it news. Lift up your head. Square back your shoulders and move forward. It may mean you may have to make tents for a season (get a secular job) – but move forward. It may mean you may have to be on pastoral staff – but move forward. After I left a congregation, I was bruised and wounded. Frankly, I didn’t feel like getting out of bed. But I realized that if I curl up in the fetal position and refuse to get out of my newly made comfort zone – I would have forfeited my right to access the Throne of God and encourage myself in the Lord. Even when some put my name in the news in the obituary column, I told them they had the wrong section – I’m in the Life section. I made tents! I worked for an attorney. Then I worked for a mega-ministry. Then God divinely stepped in and put me on staff at a church that ministered to me and restored me. And now, I am a better pastor, a seasoned pastor, a thankful pastor, and I checked my veins. There is no venom. I pray for my former congregations that I’ve pastored. I keep in contact and I’ve even hosted some of my former members in my home.
Get the venom out. If you don’t it will paralyze your ministry. You’ll serve your current church with malice toward your former church. You’ll flinch when your current church displays familiar actions.
Get the venom out.