by Tamie Bixler-Lung
We have all found ourselves in a place of disappointment. Perhaps someone close really hurt us or a planned event didn’t quite come together as we hoped. In ministry, it’s easy to get disappointed with fellow leaders, congregations, events, students, or even yourself. Most of the time, we can get past it and move on. One of the most difficult struggles is when disappointment finds you and refuses to leave.
As women in ministry, we may feel added pressure, as if under a microscope, by who’s watching us. As leaders, we’re surrounded by people looking to us to set an example in our everyday lives. So, when it comes to disappointment, we must carefully demonstrate a healthy response.
Over the years, I’ve learned that lingering in disappointment too long leads down a dangerous path into self-pity, bitterness, and unforgiveness. We women have a responsibility to be an example to our families and others to whom we minister. Our unique design gives us the capability of being sensitive, emotional at times, and hormonal. These characteristics aren’t negative if they’re not being used in negative ways.
It’s easy to get on a pity-pot if you stay focused on the hurt for too long. Years ago, a woman, who was part of the outreach program at the church we attended seemed to have a new story of heartache and disappointment every week. She complained how it made her feel and affected her life. I encouraged her to forgive, let it go, and focus on the good things happening around her. She found more gratification in the attention she received by victimizing herself to others. The strife in her life caused her to spiral into a dangerous mental state of suicidal attempts. She became disappointed with everyone around her, including God. Her self-pity led her to unforgiveness and self-destruction.
Sometimes in our journey through life and ministry, we find ourselves teetering on the edge of a “disappointment” disaster. We may think we’ve let it go and it’s under control, but the first time that same person disappoints us or a similar situation happens, we dig up the past and fall into a self-pity mindset. Perhaps we really haven’t forgiven them or we become disappointed with God thinking he didn’t come through for us.
It’s interesting how women in ministry can find themselves in these delicate places. We would never see ourselves living in self-pity or unforgiveness, but here we are, doing just that. The beautiful thing is: we are not alone. God sees our heart and desires to help us. If we can keep a healthy perspective on our situation, we can learn to handle disappointment with finesse and wisdom. There’s nothing wrong with being disappointed if we don’t take up residence there. It’s easy to become distant from God when deep inside you feel he hasn’t come through for you.
The enemy strategizes to convince you that God doesn’t care because your prayer wasn’t answered the way you wanted. If Satan can get you focused on yourself, your disappointment, your inconvenience, and your hurt feelings, then, he can begin to make you feel sorry for yourself and get you on that pity-pot. He knows that you can’t be pitiful and powerful at the same time.
Isaiah 55:8-9 NIV says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher that the earth, so are my ways.” In this passage, God reminds us that although we might not understand why certain things or people don’t work out to our expectations, he is still on the throne and in control. He sees things we don’t see. God operates out of time and space, and he sees the beginning as well as the end.
Sometimes we must forgive ourselves. As women in ministry, it’s common to feel outside pressure to be many things to many people. We don’t leave room for imperfection. We set up expectations for ourselves and become disappointed when those aren’t met. We confuse our disappointment with ourselves with God’s view of us, imagining he’s sitting with a club, ready to hit us on the head. As God does with us, we must give ourselves and others grace and mercy.
The best way to handle disappointment is to embrace a perspective that leaves room for God to work. Romans 8:28 NIV reminds us: “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” We find in 1 Peter 5:6-7 to “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” When we choose to handle our disappointments with confidence in God we will see and experience a peace that only God can give through his Holy Spirit. If you are disappointed by not meeting your own set expectations, remember that God’s timing is perfect. Keep him first and trust his leading. As the previous verse stated, “he will lift you up in due time.”
Women in ministry are a vital part in the kingdom of God. For some, you are your husband’s right hand with encouragement, friendship, support, and leading programs in your church or organization. For women who are single or widowed, you’re working with fellow leaders using a special focus that has a unique perspective of commitment.
Disappointment will find you at some point. Regardless of the reason, try not to linger too long in that place, so the enemy doesn’t take you down a path of self-pity. Remember, forgiveness isn’t an occasional act, it’s a constant attitude. Be generous with extending it—especially to yourself. The enemy fears God’s work inside of you and he’ll stop at nothing to lead you down the wrong path. If you’re struggling, pray in a way that leaves room for God to astound you. Let the Holy Spirit work to give you new perspective and vision for the ministry where he’s placed you.
Growing up most of her life in Springfield, Mo, Tamie experienced much of what the Ozarks had to offer, including a few years at Evangel College. During that time, she met her now husband in a college Sunday school class. They’ve been married for 36 years. Tamie and her husband, Tim, have been involved with various lay ministries throughout the years while living in his home state of Illinois with their five children, whom she homeschooled. They own a gourmet seasonings company called Crawdad’s Classics, which was purchased from Tamie’s father in 2009. Various entrepreneurial endeavors brought them back to Tamie’s roots of Southwest Missouri in 2016, where her husband became a licensed minister and they took their first pastorate with Mt. Sinai A/G, a small, rural church in Rogersville, Mo. Tamie is not only a business owner, but also an inspirational speaker and author. Her most recent book, This Life We Live, is a 31-day devotional with inspiring stories of challenges and triumphs that we all can face. Her six grandchildren are very close to her heart and she can be found many times during the week entertaining them and finding new adventures.
by Angelia Crane
In 2021 God asked me if I would be vulnerable. That was the word and question for me. I was raised in extreme legalism and that word was never used. How do I share my heart in vulnerability?
Here is just a small portion of my heart that was filled with disobedience for a season. God has healed what I thought was a mistake and as He did, He turned it into a blessing. I want to share with you today a small portion of my story.
It was an early morning on a fall day when I got up after a season in battle for my life in ICU for twelve days. Before that experience, we had gone through a harsh battle in ministry that was very challenging and hurtful.
After a few months out of the hospital and away from the battle of a major church split, on that fall morning, I stood with a list of things to do for the day still on my mind. I turned to my husband and said out of a heart of pain, “I know people can be imperfect because we are all human. I can see how people we pastor can be deceived and cause divisions due to their own blindness. But I am mad!!! I want to know where God is in all of this.”
Have you ever been through a thing that has rocked you to your core and exposed things in your heart that caused you to question God?
After all, Jeremiah 29:11 NIV says He knows the plans He has for us:
“’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”
It was during that day after a season of struggle in my own heart that I had to go pick up a rental car in Springfield for a pastors’ conference in Texas. I pulled out of the driveway with the new car and flipped the radio on. What happened next rocked my world.
I had distanced myself away from God because, frankly, I was really hurt by God's ultimate power to control the outcome of my life, after He had allowed church people to hurt us. I felt like He was the bully. I was mad at God!!
Yes, everyone gasped together…. “She was mad at God. What?”
I told my husband during this season of grieving that I have always been the good girl and if I am His child and He really is my Abba Father, He will love me when I am mad at Him. I didn't pray as much! I read the Bible less! I listened to more jazz music, watched more Hallmark, and just had a negative outlook toward ministry. But the weird thing was, I had a positive outlook towards my own life. I had such a conflicting heart issue through this. I really struggled to navigate the real grace of God through that season. Believe it or not: I found out God does love us unconditionally. He was teaching me a great lesson that I needed to go through. He was teaching me how to get unstuck in grief. He was also teaching me the rest of the scripture in Jeremiah 29:12,13 NIV:
“For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”—His part--"Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart”--my part.
How am I supposed to seek God when I am mad at Him? But, yet how do I navigate a church wound without Him? There is nothing more that I hate than wasting time on ungrateful people. My time is valuable and so is yours. But how do we change our perspective from us to the Father?
Hebrews 6:10 NIV “God is not unfair. He will not forget how hard you have worked for him and how you have shown your love for him by helping his people, as you continue to do.”
Time, grieving, and reaching out for help.
I made up my mind I was not going to be bitter in ministry. It was not easy. I turned that same anger toward my husband, and it just kept creeping into all areas of my life. I could literally see the bitterness growing like weeds choking out the blessing of God. Not because of Him but because of my perspective. I had to have his help. So here is what happened the day after grieving for a year.
Remember when I told you I got a rental car?
Here is the rest of the story. I asked my husband that morning, “Where is God in all of this?” I left that parking lot and turned on the radio. The radio was tuned to a Christian Station. And this is what it said, “So you want to know where God is in all of this? God never said it would be easy.” Then the man on the radio continued to talk about Paul and how he faced all the trials in his ministry. Then he said something that humbled me and healed me at the same time. “God never said ministry would be easy but, He did say….IT WILL BE WORTH IT!” That broke me. All my anger melted. Not to say I didn't struggle a little through the grieving as a pastor who was rejected, betrayed, abandoned, and used. I was healed and I did forgive God in my heart. I now have a better understanding outside of grief and PTSD! I am now in love with God more than ever. I think He saw this all along. I am so grateful.
Guest blogger Angelia Crane and her husband Anthony began full-time ministry in 1991 and have been in missions or pastoral ministry for over 25 years.
In 2006 they established a ministry to rural pastors and their wives called Tour of Life. They provide retreats, helps, refreshing, and connection to ministry leaders. Tour of Life recently built the first phase of a Pastoral Media center/retreat in Ozark, MO.
Tour of Life is partnered with Pastoral Care Inc. For more information, see their Website or Facebook page.
by Jill St. John
It’s lying open on the hounds-tooth ottoman in our bedroom. I walk by It many times each day, knowing what It says, letting It breathe into my spirit and being. And still I struggle.
There is so much death, dying, sickness, and heartache in our world. Not just in the world out there, it is in our churches, schools, neighborhoods, families, and our homes. Loss has come near in probably each and every one of our lives in some way over the last two years. We are--I am--becoming grief-fatigued.
It is God’s Word, and It lies open on my ottoman to Psalm 91. It speaks, offering light in the darkness and hope in the heartache. Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. This I declare about the LORD: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; He is my God, and I trust Him. Psalm 91:1-2 NLT
I know it is true. I trust Him, and I often breathe a prayer: Help me trust You, God. Help me rest in You. The last verses of Psalm 91 stir up my need for a different dictionary. I will rescue…protect…answer…be with…honor… I will reward them with a long life… (from Psalm 91:14-16 NLT).
Long means--sorry to state the obvious--not short. Like Twizzlers Rope Licorice vs. Nibs. Like the Niesen Railway in Switzerland--the longest stairway in the world at 11,674 steps--vs. the five steps up to the main level of our home from our living room. My definition of a long life, not that we are ever ready to say goodbye to a loved one, means eighty-something years and beyond. In light of recent losses in our church family and in our personal family, according to my dictionary, there have been some people taken way before they lived a long life.
What do we do when our definitions do not match God’s? When God uses His dictionary, perhaps He is inviting us to learn more about His higher ways and thoughts (Isaiah 55:9). While bringing tremendous comfort, Psalm 91 has also been that kind of invitation to me. It has caused deep digging, resulting in redefining and gaining better understanding of the abstract concept of eternal perspective. To us humans, death means the end. It is the end of so much. When someone we love dies, it is the end of the precious presence of that person. No more hugs or hearing their voice in conversation; no more of their bright ideas or their jokes that caused a chuckle with an eye-roll; no more of their wisdom or their help; no more of the sound of their cadence or their laugh. It seems very much like the end of their life. And yet, it is not. This is somewhat of a wrestling match between earthly reality and the reality of eternal life. Though we have no more of that person here with us, believers in Jesus who are absent from their body are very much present, whole, and living out long life, in the presence of our loving Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8).
Recently, I journaled to the Lord about Psalm 91: Help me trust Your “long” even when it is not mine. I know that You don’t see our death on earth as the ending of life–our passing from here means being with You face to face, Jesus. That is not the end; it is the beginning.
Divine definitions give divine perspective, which can refresh and bring tremendous comfort to our grief-fatigued souls. The hallmark verse that has been a lamp and light for me through four diagnoses and battles with cancer, losing my father and younger brother, and now *walking with my mom through late-stage metastatic breast cancer invites us to His higher way: May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13 NIV. I would define power as strength to take the next step and do the next thing. What I sense God revealing from His dictionary is more like power being the divine I AM flowing through us human Christ-followers as we yield to His Holy Spirit in us. No human power or strength is sufficient. Only He can fill us with joy and peace as we struggle and mourn. Only He can lift our gaze over the muck and mire to the glory of what will be but is not yet.
May He indeed be the One Who defines not just words, but our lives as we surrender to Him. My Bible will continue to lie open on the ottoman to Psalm 91, acting as a reminder of the eternal perspective that God is teaching me. He promises long life according to His dictionary, and what other kind would I want?
(*Mom has now gone to Heaven. My Bible is still open to Psalm 91, and God continues to give strength and peace.)
Jill St. John, once a high school English teacher, is an ordained minister in the Assemblies of God. She serves as Co-Pastor alongside her husband, Jason. For the last 23 years, they have served at Evangel Church in Kansas City--6 years as youth pastors, and 17 years as lead pastors. Jill has a passion for Jesus and a zeal for teaching God’s Word, helping others walk in God’s love and purpose. As a 4-time cancer survivor, she knows the goodness of God through the highs and lows of life and ministry. Jill is an authentic, enthusiastic messenger of God’s joy and hope. Teaching, cooking, laughing, and hanging out with her husband and two children are the delights of her life!
by Pam Morton
Over New Year's 2021, John and I watched a marathon of the show, "Alone." The producer distributes ten people throughout Vancouver Island with the goal of surviving in the vast Canadian wilderness for as long as they can...alone. Get it? The last person remaining wins a large sum of money and innumerable parasites.
It's fascinating to see different personalities, alone and under stress, try to work out the best way to survive. Some immediately go to work and create a home of sorts, while others get by with the bare minimum. As the days pass and hunger increases, reasons to quit or tap out become more frequent. "This is not what I signed up for," said the guy chased by a bear. "BLEEP! BLEEP! BLEEP!" said the electrician who can't hack his way through the brush. "I can't survive on one field mouse a day!" exclaimed a Baptist pastor. "I love being with Mother Earth, but my kids need me," said the part-hippie, part-herbalist. "Uh...I need help. I've had an axe accident," said the firefighter. "I never realized how hard it would be to be alone," said ALL of them.
The reasons mounted, until one by one, nine contestants tapped out. They were done.
Wilderness, 9; Humans, 0.
I sit smugly with my iced Diet Coke while yelling at the TV: "It was only ONE bear!” … “C'mon! You've got enough slugs there to last you for at least a week!” … “Can't you Superglue that cut?!”
In the same breath, I review my 2022 calendar and begin to list all the reasons that I may tap out before I even get started. I don't even know what goals to put on paper.
"Um...2021...Need I say more?" It wasn't a bear, but some things have had me running! "I think I've used all my reserves already!" (Metaphorically...) "More isolation? When will I ever get to sit with a friend again? Gah!" Now I know what I'd say to me if I were reading this. The survivalists in the wilderness all knew the pros and cons of all their arguments, too. What made the difference in many of them was their “Why.” If they had a solid reason for Why they were there, they were able to endure and press on longer than those who felt their initial reasoning flimsy.
What's your “Why” this year?
Psalm 33:20-22 says, “We put our hope in the Lord. He is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. Let your unfailing love surround us, Lord, for our hope is in you ALONE.” (NLT)
I can try to live life alone or I can trust in the Lord alone. I’ve seen what I get when I try to do life alone...a rather sketchy looking psychological lean-to accompanied by a gnawing hunger of wanting more than I can trap. This year, I’m tapping out to self and tapping in to Jesus. Bears, rain, winds, wolves, and even murder hornets may come, but my “Why” keeps me steady and sure, for His “unfailing love surrounds us.” We’re going to make it another day.
Pam and her husband, John, and two teenaged daughters packed up their fulfilling, understood Midwestern lives and moved to Cairo, Egypt in 2009. Her dream of serving overseas became a shocking reality of daily cultural encounters that often left her wondering if she’d actually landed on Mars instead! From Cairo to Khartoum to Upper Egypt to deserts unknown, Pam continues to learn, live and thrive in a sandy, sweaty, hospitable land. An author, global worker, teacher trainer and self-proclaimed “professional luncher,” Pam wants to share laughter, life and hope with her dear Middle Eastern neighbors while providing insight into their customs and everyday life with her friends in the West.
by Kim Boley
It was the start to a meme posted in a Facebook group I’m in. This began conversations among the women in the group about how they find it so difficult to find and keep friends these days. If I’m being honest, I’ve been there too. Some days I still feel that way. But I did something about it.
I believe most people know that they need people. The number of people they may need might vary but there is something in each of us that craves community at every age.
Working in college ministry, I have the privilege of watching students learn how to be themselves and find a community and other friends that become their future roommates, best friends, maids of honor/best men, etc. I’ve been there. Friendships happen hard and fast in college. But that’s also because they are around each other almost every single day.
After college, life has a different rhythm. After babies, life has yet another rhythm. As kids enter school, life hits another rhythm. Etc.
I’ve recently been on a journey with friendship myself. I am by nature, an extrovert. Hard. This means I get my energy from being around people. Being a Chi Alpha missionary means I’m around people a lot. However, ministering to college students isn’t quite the same as hanging out with friends.
I love my college kids. I do. But I knew my friendship tank was lacking. I also go to a great church that has a beautiful variety of people that I see almost every Sunday. Yet I didn’t know even a fraction of their life beyond the simple pleasantries that get passed in the hallways at church.
I was tired of being lonely, and I thought that maybe some of the people I saw on Sundays were too. So, I did something about it.
Yes, my schedule is crazy. Yes, I am tired. But yes, I wanted friends more than I wanted loneliness.
There was one other young mom at my home church that she and I would linger after church and chat here and there. She had mentioned how she felt the closest to me out of anyone because we actually talked and even text each other beyond church stuff. She mentioned that she hated how she felt; and although having been at the church for over a year, she didn't know anyone really well. When I asked her if she’d want to help me try and get some other young moms together for Bubble Tea, she lit up! So, we did it.
We came up with a list of other young moms in our church. We invited them to Bubble Tea on a Thursday night to just hang out. No Bible study. No devotional. No planning some event. Just to hang out. Almost all of them said yes!
It’s been almost a year and a half--yes, we started this during covid craziness. While some women are more committed than others, I can’t tell you how many of them have thanked me for putting this together; how much they look forward to it; and how much they have needed it.
In that time, we have grown closer to one another. We have prayed for each other, cried when one announced she was moving, brought others to join us and then our church, share food ideas, swapped birthing stories, and just really shared life.
Now, here’s the thing…. Yes, we try to get together once a week. Sometimes it just doesn’t happen.
I know I’m not as close to these women as I was with my college friends by this point. But we aren’t around each other every day. To better enjoy these friendships as they develop, I have given them and myself grace. I think we forget that real deep and lasting friendship take time. And conflict. And commitment. On both sides. I’m just working on developing friends.
I’m honestly still working on this idea of who my “best” friend is right now. It was much faster in college. And I’m recognizing that’s okay. I’ve really had to make it work to develop the local friendships I have and I’m giving myself (and them) grace to take time to find/develop. I’ve been surprised who I’ve naturally connected with and disappointed by those that don’t seem to reciprocate.
We have a theme verse in our Chi Alpha group, the college ministry my husband and I lead: , “…Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well” 1 Thessalonians 2:8. Once a week Bubble Tea may not seem like a lot. But it’s a great starting point where we’ve taken time to share life together.
What can you do to share life with someone? If you’re feeling pretty set on your friendships and content there, awesome! But invite someone in.
If you’re feeling lonely or alone because your friends don’t live in the same town or you feel forgotten, or whatever… take initiative. It doesn’t have to be fancy or well thought out. I just simply asked women in the same stage of life as me if they wanted to sit at a new restaurant and try this drink called Bubble Tea. Through that, I’m finding some incredible women to share life.
Kim serves alongside her husband, James, as Chi Alpha missionaries at Southeast Missouri State University. They have two daughters, Abbi & Lizzie, and one fur baby (a black Labrador) named Natasha.
Kim attended Missouri State University in Springfield, MO where she was introduced to Chi Alpha Campus Ministries her freshman year.
After she graduated in 2006, she spent the next seven years at the University of Missouri in Columbia, serving as a missionary associate with Chi Alpha. In 2013, she and James felt led to pioneer a Chi Alpha where there wasn’t one. Through a series of God-moments, He brought them to Cape Girardeau, MO and the campus of SEMO. Since then, they have both become ordained ministers, learned even more about life and ministry, and fallen more in love with God and each other. Kim is a huge fan of coffee, dogs (especially labs), books, and her college kids. She loves doing Chi Alpha with her whole family by sharing life together.
By Terry Magness
Years ago, when my husband and I were an adventurous, young couple, we stepped onto an aged mine elevator that carried us down, down, down, deep into an Ely, Minnesota iron ore mine shaft. Streams of warm sunlight flooding through the generous opening welcomed us when we finally reached the mine floor. A man with calloused hands and rugged face, wearing a miner’s helmet with a carbide light on the front, made his way across the cavernous room into a hand-hewn tunnel. Our small group stepping from the elevator, fell in stride behind him.
The pungent smell of damp earth and metal filled our nostrils as we followed him into the tunnel, leaving behind remnants of fading sunlight. Venturing further and further into the belly of the old iron mine, our way illuminated by intermittent lights and our guide’s helmet lantern, we entered another large room. Stopping, he shared historical and current information about the mine including the fact that the ore in this mine is so pure there is no need for processing after extraction. We were still thinking about this when our guide warned he was about to turn off the lights.
match. Instantly its brilliance lit up the entire room. We could see when moments before we were blind in the dark. Oh, how we embraced the light.
When God created the world and everything in it, it was pure, holy, set apart for His purposes. But darkness entered the world through sin, and great was that darkness.
God in his amazing mercy sent His Son, a Light in the darkness, Jesus Savior of the world.
Yes, the Light came, but not as expected. He entered the darkness as a human baby, helpless, innocent, needy. We find in John 1:10-11, that Jesus came to his own, a people of his own creation, yet they did not embrace the Light but chose rather to stumble around in darkness.
Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12 ESV.
John tells us, “In him was life, and the life was the light of men.” John 1:4 KJV.
In John 3:19 ESV, we read this sad commentary, "...that light has come into the world, and the people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil."
The fact is the Prince of Darkness rose up to extinguish the Great Light who was a threat to the darkness of this world. For three days it appeared the Light of the World was indeed snuffed out, but on the third day, that Great Light burst into a mighty flame of Life, conquering death, hell, and the grave.
Today, The Light of the World illuminates heaven, a kingdom where no darkness exists, and has set ablaze multitudes upon the earth throughout the centuries with a fire fueled by His Spirit living within them. Darkness enveloping this world, has tried to douse the flames of those lesser lights as well, with some seeming success. But the faithful lights continue to multiply and shine brightly, dispelling darkness across the world.
Darkness still rules over the earth, but The Light of the World has promised that a day is coming when he will gather up his lesser lights, darkness will be apprehended, and the Light of the World will rule the earth once again.
This is the Season of Lights, Christmas, a time we remember God’s grace and love, and His son Jesus, the Light of the World, sent to dispel our darkness. Let us determine to shine ever brighter in an ever-darkening world!
“Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” Matthew 5:16 KJV.
Terry Magness is author, speaker, and founder of Grace Harbour Ministries, a Biblically based teaching and discipleship ministry to the nations. Terry is passionate in helping people to know God and the hope, healing, and power He offers for overcoming the challenges to victorious Spirit-filled living through Jesus Christ. As an ordained Assembly of God minister, Terry is called to undergird, encourage,
and empower the church and its leaders. Her years in Biblical study, pastoral counseling, and more recently, coaching, have equipped her for this unique role.
Terry enjoys writing, photography, art, and fishing with her husband, Don. They share with joy two adult children, Greg and Valarie, and three beautiful granddaughters.
By Cynthia J. Thomas, article reprinted from news.AG.org, August 13, 2021
Sherry L. Welch likes to have a full plate. In addition to being director of women’s ministries since 2001 for the Assemblies of God Southern Missouri District — plus a mom, grandmother, and minister’s wife — she is an ordained AG minister serving as lead pastor of Seymour Life Church since 2014.
After eight years as sectional representative, Welch hit the ground running at the district office, supervising the first women’s retreat under her leadership right after the tragic events of 9/11. The pace hasn’t let up. The district offers women a yearly spring conference, “Empowered to Serve,” and a fall retreat at the district campground, where this year’s theme is “Abiding in Him,” along with other events to encourage women in leadership. Welch has spoken at women’s conferences in several African countries, the Middle East, Central America, and Mexico.
“Our primary goal is to encourage women,” says Welch, who travels regularly throughout the district assisting churches in establishing or expanding women’s ministry. “We try to help them find their giftings so they can use them to encourage others and further the kingdom of God.” The district also offers specific support for ministry to single moms, younger women, and widows.
Another big priority is missions. Under the motto, “Compelled by Compassion,” women’s ministries in the district support Southern Missouri missionaries through multiple projects, often focusing on worldwide needs of women and children. There is also a shopping room for missionary needs, kept stocked by annual “Compassionate Heart” rallies across the district. Welch says needs have been high in 2020 and 2021, as multiple missionaries unexpectedly had to leave the field due to COVID-19, even as no in-person rallies could be held to gather supplies. God nevertheless has provided abundantly.
Welch lives 45 miles east of Springfield in Mansfield, where for 25 years she served alongside her husband, Stan, as he pastored Mansfield Assembly of God. Stan L. Welch accepted the district position of secretary/treasurer in 2006. Commuting into Springfield, the Welches regularly passed the church in Seymour. As district staff, they knew the church faced impending closure with dwindling attendance. Stan felt Sherry could pastor there.
Although she has held ministerial credentials since 2010, Sherry hadn’t considered pastoral ministry in addition to her district work.
“I do like to stay busy, but being a pastor was not on my spiritual radar,” she says. My life was full and blessed.” Son Steven and daughter Summer both live in the area with their families. With Stan’s encouragement, though, Sherry gave the idea some thought.
Further confirmation came through Ted L. Cederblom, pastor of Springfield’s Life360 Church. As district executive presbyter, he had been tasked with oversight of the struggling church, including appointing a pastor if the district felt closure could be avoided.
“Sherry is anointed of God, a talented leader and project director,” he says. “It seemed clear God was calling her.” She accepted the position.
One immediate challenge involved the reality that some in the rural church didn’t embrace the notion of a woman pastor. The congregation had dwindled to about a dozen regular attendees, and more left with the announcement of Welch’s appointment. The situation didn’t surprise Cederblom, who is familiar with rural communities comprising the Life360 network. He believes a woman’s tendency toward a nurturing heart is frequently exactly what rural communities need.
Perseverance has paid off, as the congregation now averages 105 on Sundays. The church has a part-time associate pastor, youth and children’s ministry, girls ministries, and Royal Rangers. Seymour Life Church reaches out to area single moms and also partners with local schools in a food program to help children who would not otherwise have a decent meal after coming home for the day.
The turnaround has not been without personal sacrifice of family time, finances, and the ability to travel with her husband. Others have come alongside, including Stan, who leads Wednesday evening Bible study. The church holds an annual kids crusade, and a friend day outreach.
by Tamie Bixler Lung
“I thought being a pastor’s wife looked different than this!” That was the embarrassing thought I had rolling around in my head before Covid hit and changed the way many churches ministered, including ours. We only had a small congregation, and the people were friendly. Yet this church of over eighty years had somehow gotten lost among the community. Its congregation had decreased over the years. We were in hopes of implementing programs and reaching out to the community in various ways. Due to the aging congregation and the declining health of the previous pastor, there had not been much happening in that way.
The people seemed to enjoy our new way of doing things. However, there wasn’t a lot of outward support or appreciation shown for events. Was I wrong to feel discouraged or disillusioned? Was my perception of being in ministry flawed? Did other pastors’ wives in smaller churches struggle with these same thoughts?
When we became officially recognized as the new pastors, only two of our members came to the special service. Luckily, our family members came to support us that day. Honestly, I was hurt and embarrassed. In a small church, it’s more noticeable when several are missing. Was I being easily offended? I just wanted to be the best pastor’s wife and be an asset to my husband’s call as the pastor. Was I expecting too much?
Like the ebbs and flows of any ministry, ours was beginning to become like an unnavigated river of uncharted waters. Did they not see all our efforts to minister to them effectively? Did they not realize how many hours Tim studied to prepare the sermons? Did they not see the time I put into preparing the children’s church lessons or the time I took to study and prepare the Adult Sunday School lesson? I guess they didn’t think about the time I spend helping prepare the worship or notice the special meals I prepared and organized for our holiday lunches, Tuesday night ministry, and the donuts and coffee provided every Sunday morning.
It’s not that our people were mean, but I was expecting more of an outward appreciation for our efforts and the new vision God had given us as pastors. This was my gauge in how well I thought we were doing as leaders. I would hear of all the niceties from other friends and family in ministry on how different parishioners in their congregation would bless them in special ways, not to mention showing up for special services or acknowledge them on their birthdays or anniversaries. I began allowing the enemy to reside at my table of thinking and started feeling inferior. He would say things like: “You’re not good enough!” “Why did you think you could make a difference?” or “What made you think you could be a good pastor’s wife?”
One day while venting to the Lord, I was reminded of Matthew 25:40 NIV “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” God was reminding me that he saw what we were doing and regardless of outward appreciation from others, he was pleased at our obedience and servant’s heart to love on these people.
I truly wanted to please the Lord and have the right attitude. I loved these families and wanted to make a difference. We wanted to be light in the darkness.
Like many small rural congregations, we navigated through Covid. We began broadcasting on FB Live and God has grown our congregation in a different way. Tim and I team preach on Sunday’s and Wednesdays. Rarely do the people come in person but watch on-line. Being a pastor’s wife looks different for me, and yet I’m finding it exciting to still be cultivating relationships with our people and seeing how God is helping us navigate this aged ministry into a new chapter of revitalization. In the spring, we had a business meeting where we all agreed to sell the building. The plan was to relocate the ministry to be more effective, and presently, we are working with the SOMO District to do that. I look forward to one day growing the church physically again, and with the help from the Lord, he’s allowed me to see his acknowledgement of our efforts and his approval are what really matter.
Tamie and her husband own a gourmet seasonings company called Crawdad’s Classics which was purchased from Tamie’s father in 2009. Having owned multiple businesses, their entrepreneurial endeavors brought them back to Tamie’s roots of Southwest Missouri in 2016 where her husband became a licensed minister and they took their first pastorate with Mt. Sinai A/G, a small, rural church in Rogersville, Mo. Tamie is not only a business owner, but an inspirational speaker and author. Her most recent book, This Life We Live, is a 31-day devotional with inspiring stories of challenges and triumphs that we all can face. Her six grandchildren are very close to her heart and she can be found many times during the week entertaining them and finding new adventures.
A thirst resides deep within the heart of man, a longing for beauty—the fresh colors of spring, blue lazy rivers, white cascading waterfalls, crystal raindrops dancing on clear windowpanes, and spectacular rainbows of promise.
We are captured by soft-skinned babies, wide-eyed youth, and weathered smiles of the aged—masterful paintings and serenading songbirds.
John Eldredge suggests in his book “The Sacred Romance,” that beauty extends to us a heavenly calling of things to come. It beckons us heavenward and allows us a taste of heaven’s glory.
After holding a series of meetings in Scotland, our host took my co-worker, Judy, and me on a day sabbatical—an hour and a half drive into the Scottish countryside to Fyvie Castle.
This old castle, unlike the cold, dank atmosphere of other castles I had visited, was warm and inviting, lavishly furnished, and filled with light. One room—the Gallery—caught my attention. I imagined the sounds in years past of rustling petticoats under floor-length gowns, the clickity-click of men’s buckle boots on lovely inlaid floors, and music hosted by the lord of the castle and his wife, who warmly welcomed all who came to the frequent concerts.
Alone and feeling quite small standing in the middle of that great room, I gazed upward in amazement at the geometric acoustical ceiling, the huge wall tapestries that were indeed works of art, the majestic self-playing pipe organ towering and filling one end of the room, and, as the centerpiece, the museum quality five-hundred-year-old grand piano.
Suddenly, the silence was shattered. . .“Can she play that piano?”
I whirled around to see Judy pointing directly at me. Before I could protest and silence my companion, the room attendant answered, “Yes, of course.”
“I can’t play piano, Judy,” I blurted out!
I could play certain songs—that is with words and written chords—but not well. I mostly sat at the piano during my quiet times with the Lord, but never in public. Besides, who was I to strike the keys of such a fine instrument? I was embarrassed at being put on the spot and not a little put out with Judy. Knowing that my fingers fall over themselves when I am nervous, I worried that other tourists might come into the room.
Sensing my frustration with her, yet persisting, Judy said, “Just sit down, Terry, and play.”
Surprising even to me, I sat down on the piano stool like a disgruntled child and began obediently to play.
My fingers touched the keys, hesitantly at first, then gradually gained confidence, and as if with wings, flew effortlessly across the keyboard. I was a reluctant participant in a song of breath-taking beauty and soaring worship. I was lost in a melody I had only heard but had never played. As the music rose from the strings of this treasured instrument of antiquity, the sound of it swelled and swirled around me, wrapping me as if in divine arms. I felt lifted from earthly restraints to heavenly freedom in ascending worship of the Unseen, yet very Present God.
He was with me—and in me—working through me—filling me. His nearness was overwhelming. I ran from the room, passing the previously unnoticed small crowd that had gathered to listen. My heart was full. Tears of inexplicable joy streamed down my cheeks as I sought a solitary refuge with Him.
God’s love in that moment was transcendent; and for a few brief moments it seemed heaven and earth united with my Father and I being one. There is no explaining my experience any more than we can explain Jesus’ resurrected presence with Mary in the Garden after his burial. We have a multitude of examples, written and unwritten, of God loving man and making Himself known to him. Is this so surprising when we recall his promise to be with his people always? Is it not also written that when we come close to God, He will come close to us? In fact, haven’t there been moments in worship and in prayer when He draws so near that we can fairly feel His breath upon our cheeks?
God has ordained intimate fellowship with His beloved. All creation declares His glory. With beauty He surrounds us. He offers us glimpses of His beauty, draws us nearer to his heart, whispers His love, and reminds us of His promise to come.
God sets beauty in our hearts. We, my friends, are invited to bask in His sweet, abiding Presence—now and for all eternity. The Apostle Paul assures us that even though we view God now as if we were looking through a dirty pane of glass, there will come a day, dear daughters of the Most High, when we will see Him clearly—face to face in all of His glory.
“In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” John 14:20-21 (ESV)
“...but then, face to face...” 1 Corinthians 13:12 (ESV)
Terry Magness is author, speaker, and founder of Grace Harbour Ministries, a Biblically based teaching and discipleship ministry to the nations. Terry is passionate in helping people to know God and the hope, healing, and power He offers for overcoming the challenges to victorious Spirit-filled living through Jesus Christ. As an ordained Assembly of God minister, Terry is called to undergird, encourage, and empower the church and its leaders. Her years in Biblical study, pastoral counseling, and more recently, coaching, have equipped her for this unique role.
Terry enjoys writing, photography, art, and fishing with her husband, Don. They share with joy two adult children, Greg and Valarie, and three beautiful granddaughters.
by Kelly Godzwa
“That’s a loaded question!” I replied, reaching for a desk lamp to bring a little more light to our Monday morning Zoom meeting. Glancing at my husband seated next to me, I was puzzled by his questioning look as he also replied, but with much better poise, “Fine, doing well.”
Why did I react so strongly to the question of greeting this morning? Initially, it may have been that I wasn’t fine. My eyes were extremely itchy. Something in the environment was causing an allergic reaction. Or could it be that my calendar for the day had events and reminders scattered closely together from 6 AM to 8:30 PM? First day of college for our youngest? Our daughter’s car in the shop?
When someone asks how I am, I realize it isn’t always the time or place to be completely honest or revealing. Sometimes, it’s just a greeting, a cordial question we use to say “hello.” That day, however, I was thankful for the opportunity to answer honestly, even if I did not unpack in that moment what it really meant. That would come out a little more, later, in another Zoom meeting where there was more time and freedom to express some underlying thoughts and feelings.
So, while we’re here, let’s talk about the last several weeks. I turned forty-seven, celebrating the day with my son’s request to also celebrate his high school graduation at an amusement park along with my husband, his dad. He’s our youngest of three. Then we helped set up for and attended a week-long event with our colleagues—interfacing with old friends, talking about where we’ve been, who we’ve become, and what we’re currently experiencing. Some conversation was encouraging, other information was heartbreaking. The schedule was constant, but there were also reprieves where less energy was needed. Afterwards, instead of state lines being crossed, we flew over the Gulf seas and spent time with our ministry team in-person the following week. Highs and lows occurred there with great moments of connection and teaching and prayer, but also some disappointments regarding Covid and expectations plummeting around a planned surprise. Ten days later, here we are back at the starting point, having returned to routines only to have the college school year begin for our three adult children. That’s a lot that happened in a relatively short span of time! No wonder my mind and response were a bit reactionary, especially after eighteen months of little to no travel or large gatherings.
As women in ministry, to be sure, we need safe spaces to express ourselves honestly and openly. If you don’t have that, I urge you to seek out a Connect group or other Jesus-centered support. But sometimes all the things stack up, and we’re tempted to express ourselves where it’s inappropriate or unwelcome. We can make others feel uncomfortable or even not want to be around us. The last thing I would want is to break connection with someone or turn them off by my indiscretion. So, imagine the smile on my face when I heard about a new approach, especially regarding casual conversation with others.
Since experiencing those recent events, I happened upon a bit of reframing advice in a comedic video clip by The Holderness Family that was profound to me. It impacted me deeply, as comedy often does in all the seriousness of life. This is the new challenge to myself for the foreseeable future. Instead of asking “How are you?”, I will try asking, “What’s good right now?” And maybe, when I hear that question asked of me, I can respond by saying, “Here’s what’s good…”
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:8-9 NIV
If you’re interested in the comedy video I watched, you can view it here.
Kelly and her husband, Dave, have been Southern Missouri District missionaries since 2006, currently serving in the role of Mexico Area Directors. She also has been active online in the Refresh Connect groups and leadership team, recently receiving her ordination with the district. They have 3 adult children and a mini schnauzer.
This is a safe place for ministry wives and women ministers to be renewed, resourced, and build relationships with others just like you.