Old Drunk Sarah – Loving the Poor & Unlovely

Nicknames. Do you ever nickname people with a name that you call them when they’re not around? Well, we had a nickname describing a lady in our church when I was in my later elementary years. We called her “Old Drunk Sarah.” It’s kind of sad for me to think about now, but it was an accurate description of the woman we spoke to every week at church.

She stood taller than my mother and I. She wore plain dresses and church heels that were out of style. She had messy shoulder length dark hair pulled up partially in a clip and wore no make-up and dark glasses. Her eyes were a muted yellow color and she even had a womanly mustache I silently cringed over. Her seat was in the balcony of our church on Sunday morning near the exit. We sat a few rows ahead of her but every Sunday morning my mother greeted her and insisted we greet her with a smile and genuine courtesy also.

Old Drunk Sarah’s breath spoke before we heard her words and the smell of alcohol infiltrated our nostrils. She drank before she came to church every week but it never seemed to bother her consciousness. Her countenance displayed her pleasure that we would make the purposeful effort to speak to her. Mom would talk to her longer than my interest would hold but it wasn’t Sarah who stamped an imprint in my memory as much as it was my mother.

That’s just how my Mom was and is, she loves on people hardly any other church members care for. She was loving the alcoholic woman, being like Christ in loving the sinner. She made her feel welcome and spoke to her husband and son who were often stiff, and may have been embarrassed she came to church that way. Michael and Mike sang in the church choir and were involved even though Sarah just came and sat in the pew most of the time.

Reminiscing today I wonder what ever happened to her family.

So, how do you love the poor and unlovely when they’re so different?

Humble yourself.

Poor people will remember how you treat them. Prideful people may not remember you, but poor people will know your character by what you do.

The most basic thing we must understand when loving all people, especially those of “low degree” as the Bible calls them, is to see ourselves as equal. Humility brings us to the foot of the cross because every man must come before the cross the same way: with our sin needing to be forgiven.

I don’t know anything about Sarah except she was faithful to attend church Sunday mornings and her love of alcohol (sin) was apparent. I can simply guess that she loved the Lord even though she had a personal problem of runaway indulgences and bondage to the bottle. The difference in her sin was that it was obvious because the smell of it drifted off her breath.

When I go to church my sins are probably not as easy to point out because they’re hidden on the inside. Where someone’s sin may be glaring from their words, thoughts, and actions when it all comes down to it, we are no different. How foolish and prideful we are when we shun people who are displaying baser sorts of sinful practices and give them little of our time and conversation because of their lack monetary income and/or unrighteous life choices.

As a teen at times we were pretty “poor.” I wore cheap Wal-mart shirts to school or the wrong type of shoes to play basketball in. Do you know who I look back on in those years with fondness? The people at church who loved me and treated me like a “normal” person, not a poor person. The people at church who came out to talk to my mom in our junker of a station wagon. The youth pastor who helped move our stuff after my mom was getting a divorce. The church people who drove all the way out to the boonies to pick me up for a church activity. People who valued my soul and person, not my mother’s financial or marriage situation, and even later who didn’t shun me for my bad choices.

Think about the soul, not what you see.

In a sermon a missionary who told a story about a time when he did not want to tell a beggar about Christ at first. The Holy Spirit convicted him about it. Then, when the man came back around the parking lot he witnessed to him and the man was saved! His heart was smitten because he did not want to give a tract to him because of what he looked like. and in his sermon he said to the congregation,

“Jesus doesn’t look at the person, He looks at the soul.”

Jesus knows everything about every person but He still cares about that soul sincerely without reservation. We applaud the “bravery” of missionaries going to foreign fields to share the gospel with unreached people groups and awe at the photos of missionaries in third-world countries building churches from cannibals and others in bondage to witchcraft, etc. Yet, we do not hesitate to blankly walk past any stranger or grab the hand sanitizer when a dirty-looking person shakes our hand during the church service.

We need to have a sensitive heart like the Good Samaritan who reached out to the injured man and did not ignore his wounds and spiritual state. It takes spiritual maturity to look past the strange outward exterior or crude behavior, no matter what it may be, and look into eyes and see a soul who needs Jesus.

Remember where you could be… 

Have you spent time lately asking  yourself the “what if” questions?

You can go down a waterfall of endless questions asking: “Where would I be if…?” “If God had not worked in my life what would have happened?” “If that person who told me about Christ had passed me by how would my life had been different?” “What if my marriage ended, I ended up in bankruptcy, or my flesh was weak and I chose to live in sin?”

An investment of asking honest questions and seeing how good God has been in your life should make you turn in compassion toward other people and love the poor and unlovely.

Follow the lead of the Holy Spirit

I remember a story of my grandmother in her 60’s who passed a hitchhiker on the road. As she drove by the Holy Spirit nudged her to go back and give him a ride. She turned around and took him where he needed to go and then handed him a church tract and went on her way. She kept it a secret knowing how many people would look down on her risk of picking up a stranger until her pastor unexpectedly dropped it into a sermon. He said he knew someone in the church had been being a blessing to other people in the community and dropped her name out in front of the congregation. She gasped aloud saying, “That was supposed to be a secret!” Apparently the man had contacted the church asking for help and telling the pastor how she had helped him.

My purpose of telling that story is this: You do for the poor and unlovely what God prompts you to do. It won’t be feasible for you to always give out money, physical items, or  even sustain a family you know is struggling. My encouragement is to remember when people have helped you in the past. Then, when God has provided the means and the Holy Spirit speaks, do what He wants you to do for that poor and unlovely person.

Conclusion

Our world is full of Old Drunk Sarah’s who come to church and those who don’t. Your heart should be softened by humility to look at their soul and person like Jesus does. Don’t pass by, don’t cringe, be a friend and a real neighbor to them rather than just passing by in your perceived social stigmas. Love them in their poor and unlovely state for you never know how the Savior will transform them into a rich receiver of His blessings and change their soul to be beautiful.

Is Sunday School Boring? Change the Environment

This is the quote I saw today,

“When a flower doesn’t bloom you fix the environment in which it grows, not the flower.” Alexander D. Meijer

Many times as ministry women and families we can easily pinpoint problems or “sins” within the lives of other people. Discernment and experience allow us to figure out why they aren’t growing spiritually — we can see maybe that it’s their home life, or it is that they are not dedicated enough to the things of God, etc. But I will propose today that maybe it is not always the plant…

I want to highlight a specific part of ministry, one where you might have a larger influence, the Sunday School class. Not all women will have that influence because I know you serve where you’re needed or where you’re gifted, maybe you’re not a Sunday School teacher. I think that the idea and many of the basic principles can apply with this theme. Apply to any situation where you’re the teacher. If your church has grown stale and the people and flowers are not blooming it can be the environment of the church as much as it could be the environment they are cultivating in their own lives.

Boring Sunday School classes create bored students. If things are not going well in your class, it may not always be the students, it may be the environment.

Minutes before I saw the quote about flowers, as I was scrolling through Facebook, an advertisement asking parents and adults “Why do 75% of children quit going to church by the age of 18?” The premise of the advertisement said that the reason was because children learn the same Sunday School lessons year after year even into junior high and high school. Their curriculum was a topical lesson series that was meant to answer common questions children have about God and spiritual matters.

The advertisement almost made me laugh because our children actually have had this happen between 3 churches we have attended in the past 3.5 years. When we were serving in ministry on staff they learned about Samuel and went through the book of Judges. When we joined the church plant the teacher curriculum was also in the book of Judges. Then, this year when we followed our pastor to a new church (it’s a special story I hope to tell down the road) guess where the Sunday School teachers were in their curriculum series!? You guessed it! Judges. And we’re talking about three different curriculums, classes, and teachers.

Our kids had mentioned they were bored and I explained there must be some important lessons for their life right in that part of the Bible. Can you see how church could have been really boring if they were not engaged in their classes with good teachers giving different life applications over the past 3.5 years? Or they only went to church on Sundays? Or what if we did not talk about spiritual things at home? You can see how that there might be a possibility of becoming bored with church if this was the case.

Changing the Environment

While I realize it’s not our jobs to “entertain” per se’ in the church, but we should be making our ministry work appropriately engaging. Sunday School is no exception, it is a significant opportunity for children to hear Bible teaching on their own age level.

Classroom Environment

  • Cleanliness of the room should be maintained.
  • Seats that allow the child to sit with their feet close to the floor. Tables that allow them to comfortably do their work or play.
  • The walls should have neat decorations that are not a distraction. Decorations should change too and compliment the purpose of your lessons and class or at the very least, the seasons.
  • You also want to have a window or the door to public walkways to allow accountability and prevent accusation, especially if you do not have a classroom helper.
  • Do the best with what you have — maybe you’re using one-size metal chairs and they’re you’re desks for filling out Sunday School papers too, or you’re in a classroom that was not really designed to be a class, then you can only fix and work with what you have.

Sunday School Teacher Environment

The receptiveness of the spiritual message of the lesson is dependent upon the teacher’s effectiveness to communicate God’s intended purpose for the lesson. The heart of the teacher is the key to competent teaching. The character of your actions before and during class also will dictate “success” in teaching.

Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Are you preparing enough in advance to study the lesson and allow God to work in your heart?
  • Have you prayed for the Sunday lesson time and the children of your class?
  • Do you have flexibility when things do not go as planned, to be able to come up with new ideas that will create interest or deal with problems?
  • What is your personality in the classroom? How do your students perceive you? Which fruits of the Spirit are you exhibiting or should you incorporate?
  • Are you engaging the children through eye contact and appreciation of their responses?
  • Do you have sins exhibited in the classroom? For example, do they see impatience or anger when you deal with difficult people and situations?

Lesson Environment

Through time often as teachers we can begin to rely on specific methods that we are familiar with and get into a routine of using the same types of methods of teaching. I’m going to encourage you to spice it up and try something new.

  • Preparation of materials and supplies should be done ahead of class time.
  • Utilize visual aids – Eyes and brains are connected, if you’re engaging their eyes they will more than likely be listening. A friend suggested engaging children by using the five senses, use a number of visual aids that will help them see AND experience the lesson.
  • Use your voice – No monotone! Whisper, speak with excitement, use voices to portray characters. Read the Bible in an interesting way.
  • Plan more activities than you will think you need. Always have time fillers whether they are little simple games, conversation starters, or simple coloring sheets, etc.
  • Rotating through lessons systematically by grade levels (each age level is doing something different). Joyful Life’s curriculum has a great way of rotating the age groups through different parts of the Bible and not repeating year-to-year.

When I was teaching regularly I would write out a classroom schedule including the songs we would sing, rules and expectations I had for the students, the lesson, review games, any other activities if we ended up going through the lesson faster than expected. Preparation and planning both the inside of you and the working parts of the classroom time can be a make-or-break element to a good learning environment.

 

 

While in no way are any of these lists exhaustive, we are always in a need to liven up our skills and sharpen ourselves to effectively educate the younger generation about the truths of the Bible.  I pray and hope that there will be an idea that you can use to be able to bring life to the environment of your Sunday School class.

The Blessings of Having Your Pastor/Ministry Husband Work Full Time

Blessings can be found in having your ministry husband work a full-time job! Two articles I wrote previously focused on problem-solving some of the dynamics that go along with a ministry husband who works full-time. Those were the “Help!” articles, in contrast, let’s look together at the beneficial side of being a bi-vocational pastor or part-time ministry staff.

You both can understand the average church member’s life experiences and time restraints.

For example, you can understand…

  • The mindset of church members when your work schedule fills a large portion of your daily timetable.
  • Why some people are hesitant to volunteer their time when their schedule is already full and they’re trying to maintain family life.
  • Why marriages and parenting can suffer.
  • The investment and sacrifices many families make when they volunteer in your ministries.
  • Why some families struggle with some aspects of their ministry responsibilities.
  • The reason people are late or show up to church in work clothes.
  • Taxation on the mind and body from being exposed to sin in the world.
  • The allure to skip church by resting or being spiritually lazy when off work.

“My husband is now full-time but has not always been. We were church planters for 5 years. For me what has been a blessing is my hubby has compassion on our people. He knows the struggle of working full-time and being faithful to all the services. With that being said, he knows it’s possible. I’m thankful for his compassion towards our people it’s not that he gives them a pass to miss church it’s that he can say ‘I’ve been where you are at.’ Some months {it is} tough to work full-time and be faithful but the benefits far outweigh the negatives. Family life was busy but we cherished the times we had together.” -Pastor’s Wife 

A bi-vocational ministry worker said this, “I have always been bi-vocational. It has helped me to better apply the word to my own life first, before getting before a congregation. Also, for the past 12 years my positions have been in management which has helped to develop me as a leader and an individual. It also been a source for illustrations and practical experience.”

You are conscious of the mission field when your husband works in it.

Your husband is a walking missionary who goes out into your community every day and has opportunities to interact with others for Christ.

A ministry friend said this, “Honestly one of the biggest things we have noticed is when a pastor works at the church, sometimes they get caught up with ‘church stuff’ and never get out and meet people. The great commission is to GO and yet so many times the pastor stays. When you are working an outside job you develop relationships with people who you might have never met, and you can witness to them and be a testimony to others. Also, it allows you to be a good example for the Christian name. Christians have a terrible reputation and by working in the secular work force you are able to change a few people’s minds on what/who Christians really are.”

We have personally seen this in our ministry experience also. If nothing else, a job can keep the spiritual need of souls real in the heart. Last year my husband led a co-worker to Christ through an in-home Bible Study we did with her. This was a particularly special blessing to us since we had not seen anyone besides our daughter saved since we moved to our current city. It was a confirmation to us that living a bi-vocational ministry life is purposeful if God has us doing it.

You can value your church and home more highly as a haven.

The value of an earthly “Haven of Rest” both at home and in church is priceless. When you are dealing with people in the workplace and community it can wear down on the soul and spirit. Coming home to a peaceful place where God’s love abides is a refreshing taste of heaven on Earth. When a saved person can also walk into the doors of their church and fellowship with other believers it is also a  comfort to a weary soul.

Remember though Ministry Mamas, you have to be the keeper of your home and make it a haven for this to be true for your life! If you’re not regularly maintaining a clean home and teaching your children to help with responsibilities. Clutter and messes can cause stress, for me personally a visually pleasing atmosphere is neat and tidy. You also need to be maintaining a respectful and servant spirit toward your husband and teaching your children to have peace with one another. Fighting and arguing are opposites of peace. Creating a haven takes an investment of time, teaching, and training to be able to create the atmosphere of rest.

You see God fulfill your needs in many ways when you have to trust Him.

“My husband has been a bi-vocational pastor for 4+ years. It’s not easy,he felt called to help small, rural churches who needed a good pastor, but couldn’t financially afford one. We started at the church with 25 solid members and after four years, we run around 90. Our church is in a small town of about 2,000 souls. Its been awesome to see God work. We went from a six figure income to less than half of that, but we’ve never missed a bill or been behind. God has richly blessed our sacrifice. What we miss out on buying, God has seen fit to provide in different ways. From people giving us food from their gardens and farms, to love offerings, to free labor (one of our members is an auto mechanic who fixes our vehicles for free, one is an air-conditioning mechanic who has fixed our air conditioner, one is a carpenter who has help in several projects around our home. God has used His people to bless us. We own our own business, so our hours are flexible. Through this business, we have been able to reach out to our community and have seen people come to the Lord that way as well. I won’t lie and say it’s easy. There are long hours and we have worried at times….but God is so good. His blessings overflow continually.” -Pastor’s Wife in Kansas

You can witness how ministry experience can affect people in your husband’s workplace and in the community as he ministers while at work.

“My husband has been bi-vocational most of his ministry. It provides a lot of opportunities for him to get to know people in the community in a different context. He is currently working as a chaplain for a faith-based hospital system, and gets to make in-home visits to patients. He has won many of them to the Lord, and has been able to encourage and witness to their families as well. That job has been a huge answer to prayer for him, because it has helped supplement our income, but still allows him to do spiritual work at the same time. He has also had a lot of opportunities to witness and encourage people in the Lord on his other jobs as well, just not nearly as many open doors as this current job has provided.” – Pastor’s Wife in Pennsylvania

We know many men whose involvement in their workplace, not just with co-workers, but with seeing the needs of the local people gave them a greater burden for their community. As a result, a more focused concentration was made in reaching those people during their time after work.

Conclusion

If you are a bi-vocational family it’s easy to the see the negatives of a full-schedule, balancing family time, and regular church work but I encourage you to see the blessings in your life because of what God is allowing. Everything may not be what you wish that it was but there are still plans, purposes, nuggets of rich blessings straight from to be able to glean from this experience. My hope is that you have been encouraged by the viewpoints of many other families who are in similar life situations.