"As many as four in ten pastors will be forced to leave a church -- either by firing or pressured resignation"

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Bert Perry's picture

There are two big sides to this, but it strikes me that control issues can be a disqualifying factor for a pastor if indeed "control issues" means that the pastor is "self-willed" and nothing happens in the church without his express approval.  We often think of sexual sin or outright violence as a disqualifying factor, but it strikes me that there is a tremendous amount of damage done by "self-willed" pastors who say "my way or the highway."

Now of course, "control issues" can also mean that there are people who are (officially or otherwise) in authority at the church (influential deacons or families) also attempting to maintain their own fiefdoms in the church, and the pastor can be wrongly expelled for that.

I've got no idea which is more prevalent--my guess is that most often, a self-willed pastor has a run-in with self-willed church leaders.  In other words, "both and".  And we might also suggest that when a pastor does not train the congregation and church leadership to recognize self-will in themselves so that the congregational side of "self-will" does not show itself often, he has also shown himself as not "apt to teach" or is "lacking discernment."

The long and short of it being this; "control issues" or "personal style issues" probably are a polite label for some serious failures and sins on the part of either the pastor or others in church leadership.  It shouldn't be glossed over.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

T Howard's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

There are two big sides to this, but it strikes me that control issues can be a disqualifying factor for a pastor if indeed "control issues" means that the pastor is "self-willed" and nothing happens in the church without his express approval.... Now of course, "control issues" can also mean that there are people who are (officially or otherwise) in authority at the church (influential deacons or families) also attempting to maintain their own fiefdoms in the church, and the pastor can be wrongly expelled for that.

A pastor at our former church believed in the plurality of elders, just as long as he had the final say in all matters... Wink

mrecker's picture

"Among the most self-defeating statements a pastor can make are possessive references like "my church" and "my pulpit," York said. He also cautioned against appearing arrogant and advised pastors to express their love for the church frequently."

I agree with this.  Whenever a new church member or even an attender calls the church I pastor as "MY" church, I say, "WHOSE CHURCH?"  It is OURS, and it is the LORD's!  And yes, the pastor must encourage and communicate love for the flock.

It is easy for tension and misunderstanding to develop between the pulpit and the pew.  1 Thess. 5:12,13 places responsibility on the people to know and respect their pastor, and of course the pastor should be reaching out and communicating with the people.  It is a two way responsibility to love one another.  

 

C. Matthew Recker

Bert Perry's picture

T Howard wrote:

 

Bert Perry wrote:

 

There are two big sides to this, but it strikes me that control issues can be a disqualifying factor for a pastor if indeed "control issues" means that the pastor is "self-willed" and nothing happens in the church without his express approval.... Now of course, "control issues" can also mean that there are people who are (officially or otherwise) in authority at the church (influential deacons or families) also attempting to maintain their own fiefdoms in the church, and the pastor can be wrongly expelled for that.

 

 

A pastor at our former church believed in the plurality of elders, just as long as he had the final say in all matters... Wink

I was actually hoping that you'd come up with clear evidence that I was too pessimistic about the matter.  Sigh.

:^)

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Jim's picture

On "my church" .. "our church" ... "the Lord's church":

  • For any given member of an assembly, all of the above are true
  • I'm not offended if a pastor calls the church "his" or "my" church

I am less than impressed with the statement "Pastor _______ founded the church"

Some church member are just a little too sensitive

 

Jim's picture

It's absolutely shameful for a board member (or board members) to undertake to dismiss a pastor. Follow the by-laws no matter what. Don't like the guy ... fine  ... have the guts to bring it before the congregation for a vote. 

Meanwhile ... where did this idea come from the the pastor's job is to grow the church?? 

Bert Perry's picture

Jim wrote:

It's absolutely shameful for a board member (or board members) to undertake to dismiss a pastor. Follow the by-laws no matter what. Don't like the guy ... fine  ... have the guts to bring it before the congregation for a vote. 

Meanwhile ... where did this idea come from the the pastor's job is to grow the church?? 

Agreed that it's shameful, but if they're going to ignore Biblical principles about what qualifies or disqualifies a pastor, why would we expect them to follow God's Word in the way a pastor is removed from office?  If indeed this kind of removal is prevalent in "fundagelical" churches, I would have to infer that these churches are "fundagelical" or "Bible-believing" in name only.

I would guess that the idea of the pastor being required to grow the church numerically (which is really what you mean, no?) is a twisting of the very Biblical doctrine that believers ought to be about the business of making disciples--and that if a pastor is leading this and demonstrating this effectively, ordinarily numbers ought to follow.  The twisting is that we all too often forget the intermediate steps of intensive discipleship, and how that is actually what is required.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Joel Tetreau's picture

At IBL we help leaders who have gone through this - or we help ministries who have had a pastor removed (one way or another). Many of these situations would not exist with two simple yet profound changes:

1. Leaders and Congregations keep people who have a pattern of sowing discord in congregations out of the fellowship! Maybe especially potential staff members and/or deacons, elders, etc.... In other words when people come to you with the gift of criticism - you need to recognize the only thing they will do is tear down - I don't care how sharp they think they are (which usually they think they are pretty sharp and are good at convincing leaders of congregations they could be very helpful). After 23 years of pastoral ministry, believe me when I say, "They will help you build nothing but ulcers in the congregation!" Send them on down the road (after a warning or two).

2. Leaders (especially pastors) need to learn to share decision-making with other leaders. You need to learn that if you make every battle - every hill one to die on - eventually you will die on one of those hills! They will have a nice little funeral for you - some will say a few nice words about you - more will not and they will do what they wanted to do anyway.

As I say, these two elements will not kill all pastoral-terminations but it will go along way - and I mean a long way from changing the current state of 40% experiencing this kind of crises. A quick thought from IBL West.

Straight Ahead!

jt

Dr. Joel Tetreau serves as Senior Pastor, Southeast Valley Bible Church (sevbc.org); Regional Coordinator for IBL West (iblministry.com), Board Member & friend for several different ministries;

mrecker's picture

Jim wrote:

On "my church" .. "our church" ... "the Lord's church":

  • For any given member of an assembly, all of the above are true
  • I'm not offended if a pastor calls the church "his" or "my" church

I just want people to know they have as much ownership of the church as I do.  The people who visit the church have no problem with the concept that i do feel ownership and they know that since I am a part of it, it is mine.  But as pastor, my work is to help them feel a part of it so that they know it is theirs as much as mine.  When a pastor says MY church, he may mean it's mine, and not yours to the people.  The pastor must emphasize that it is first the LORD's as His body, then it is OURS, and because I am a member of Christ it is mine.  

C. Matthew Recker

Bert Perry's picture

Joel

Regarding your point #1, I see two sides; the one is people with the "gift of whining" ("self-willed" and such), the other is members who legitimately notice something that had escaped the notice of others, including church leadership.   So how do you discern mere criticism from discernment?

Or if anyone else wants to chime in, that's great.  One other thought that I've got is that sometimes, what initially appears to be just someone whining turns out in reality to be a great opportunity to teach that person how to approach a problem Biblically.  Look forward to your thoughts.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Joel Tetreau's picture

Bert - great point. There is a difference between criticism from discernment. So back to my hypothesis - I'm suggesting two changes here:

1. Don't allow truly critical people who have a record of sowing discord to do damage in the body. and

2. Don't die on every hill. Learn how to make decisions in consensus with other leaders especially.

To your point - if you have Godly people who are not critical but discerning, as they share observations with Godly leadership - if indeed you have Biblically qualified men in the office of elder and deacon, who are not simply "yes" men in a ministry (a ministry that is healthy and open and transparent by the way), those legitimate concerns will be received and seriously reviewed by that kind of leadership. Those issues will then be allowed into the flow of discussion and decisions by said leadership. So if on the other hand the combined Godly leadership come back with a no - then those that brought the appeal will need to have a humble spirit to recieve the information as to why the appeal was denied.

Straight Ahead!

jt

Dr. Joel Tetreau serves as Senior Pastor, Southeast Valley Bible Church (sevbc.org); Regional Coordinator for IBL West (iblministry.com), Board Member & friend for several different ministries;

Bert Perry's picture

Joel, I'd summarize your comments as this:

1.  It often takes a deal of discernment to figure out simply if the church leadership is qualified or not.

2.  Qualified men will discern whether it's mere criticism or discernment Biblically, and respond Biblically.  They will figure out whether the objection to the new song is because it's built off the 12 bar blues, or whether it's because the lyrics have nothing to do with God's Word and everything to do with Air Supply ("Jesus is my boyfriend" song), to draw an example.

3.  The ordinary church member may figure out whether his church leadership is qualified by the nature of the response to his complaint.  If it's just "we voted against your proposal unanimously", that means something quite different from "We reviewed this song, and it comes from Psalm 113.  Moreover, we believe that the musical setting works with the subject matter of Psalm 113."

Am I close?

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Joel Tetreau's picture

Bert,

Great Summary - One more point. Hopefully God's children will be able to distinguish between "one time when they disagreed" vs. "a pattern of non-communication or hurtful communication" from leadership.

Joel

Dr. Joel Tetreau serves as Senior Pastor, Southeast Valley Bible Church (sevbc.org); Regional Coordinator for IBL West (iblministry.com), Board Member & friend for several different ministries;