We always have a choice whether to bless others … or not.
Pastor Teresa has chosen to bless others. Her life has not been easy. She experienced domestic violence in her youth, depression, and sexual abuse as a college student. But she's a survivor. She's found healing, and she's shared her story in a book called, Through the Darkest Valley. She also helps others through her New Pathways ministry. She is making a difference in the lives of individuals and churches. I asked her how her experience has changed her life. Her response follows.
How has your experience changed your life?
I'm able to go to places where there is great pain because I've been there in personal life. After 18 years as a pastor and then leading New Pathways and workshops full time, I told my district superintendant that if there was a place where he needed me to be, I was ready to go. My passion allows me to be sent to churches that are in terrible shape, but open to healing and to being recreated.
I'm now the go-to person when there's a church that's broken apart and imploded. I like it. When everything has been blown up, most of the resistance is blown up, too. As a pastor, I still meet resistance because I'm a woman. Since I'm married to a man who happens to be African American, there's a fair amount of racism that confronts me. But those biases take a back seat when there's enormous crisis. I'm able to resonate with those folks and help them begin the process of healing.
It seems that every church has a life cycle. When everything is going perfectly, the temptation is to freeze-frame – to say that we're going to hold it right here. That's the beginning of the death of the church. When we hit freeze-frame, we lock out the Holy Spirit. It's no longer God directing because people are stuck on the past: we've always done it this way; we've never done it that way.
Right now, I'm serving a church called New Hope. It lost half its members and had only 27 cents in the checking account. Before that, they had a full-time pastor. I was sent in at quarter time, which improved moral. Because I was not full-time, the jobs that the congregation could or would assign to a minister became part of their ministry.
At one point, I was away for five weeks. In place of the regular Sunday sermon for the majority of the Sundays I was away, I had members of the congregation share their testimonies of a time when God had been especially present. I have found that when the congregation shares on a personal level, the church is strengthened more quickly and in a deeper way than a guest preacher could or would. Our goal is to have a firm vision statement for the church by February. Through this healing process, their church ministry has become more about the body of Christ.
Setting the Holy Spirit free in a new way brings new life.