I’m in a celebrating mood today because this blog just reached a milestone!
After nearly 20 months and 216 postings, we finally hit 20,000 views last night … an average of just under 100 views per article.
My top 5 articles according to readership are:
*If You Must Terminate a Pastor
*When to Correct a Pastor
*Pastors Who Cause Trouble
*Facing Your Accusers
*When You’re Upset with Your Pastor
The articles I’ve written about my family members (especially my son’s wedding) and about music also have lots of views, but this blog is primarily about pastor-church conflict.
And as you can tell from the above titles, I write primarily for lay people – board members included. I’m trying to help them deal with their feelings about their pastor when they’re frustrated with the way he’s leading, preaching, or acting.
After talking with pastors and researching this topic for years, I have four observations to make about pastoral termination:
First, few believers know how to terminate a pastor sensitively and wisely.
If a pastor works for the governing board of a church, and the board decides to fire him, the board will probably:
*Ignore biblical principles for correcting a spiritual leader.
*Brush aside the governing documents of their church.
*Skip any kind of due process for the pastor.
*Fail to anticipate how the congregation will react to the pastor’s ouster.
Instead, they’ll just put their head down and remove the pastor using any means at their disposal … even unchristian ones.
I recently talked with a pastor who told me what happened with his church board.
The pastor heard about a conflict training program at a Christian university. He invited the board to go along.
One board member attended with the pastor. The other two declined to go.
One week later, those two board members met with the pastor and fired him.
Why didn’t they want to attend the training program? Because they didn’t want to learn new skills that might prevent them from forcing their pastor to leave.
It’s important that we train boards how to handle conflicts with their pastor before they choose to fire him … because most people … even Christian leaders … cannot control how messy things become when they forcibly terminate their pastor.
Second, boards usually blindside their pastor when they fire him.
I recently spoke with a pastor who had been at his church for nearly two decades. The church had a large impact in their community and the pastor thought he was doing a great job.
One day, the board called a meeting with the pastor and fired him.
The pastor wasn’t guilty of heresy, or immorality, or any major offense.
And to this day, he has no idea what he did to deserve being terminated.
Here’s the typical scenario:
*Nobody on the board ever sits down with the pastor and talks to him about any concerns they have.
*Nobody confronts or corrects him.
*Nobody allows the pastor to face his accusers and their charges.
*Nobody loves him enough to carry out Matthew 18:15-20 or 1 Timothy 5:19-21.
*Nobody asks God what they should do … but ask God to bless them after they’ve made their decision.
Instead, the board meets in secret, negatively evaluates the pastor’s performance, and fires him without ever giving him the chance to (a) know the complaints against him, and (b) make any necessary adjustments.
Is this legal? It is if the governing documents of a church say the board can act that way.
Is this moral? No.
Is it spiritual? Hardly.
It’s an indication that the board views the church as a business … instead of a spiritual organism … and that they view the pastor as an employee … instead of someone called by God to lead that church.
It’s also an indication that they either lack the time or expertise to correct him … or that they feel the pastor is unredeemable … which seems like a contradiction for people who claim to believe that the gospel of Jesus Christ can transform anyone.
Third, the congregation never hears the truth about why the pastor left.
Under the guise of “confidentiality,” the board makes a pact to refuse to tell anyone the reasons why the pastor has departed.
This may be because the pastor did something immoral and the board is protecting the pastor’s career.
This may be because the pastor did something illegal and the board is protecting the church.
This may be because the board handled things unwisely and they’re covering up their mistakes.
If the pastor was allowed to state publicly why he was forced to leave, he might persuade people that he was treated poorly, which might provoke sympathy for him, turn people against the governing board, and cause people to leave the church.
If the board was allowed to state publicly why they forced the pastor to leave, they would undoubtedly blame everything on him, take no responsibility for their own failures, and have to explain themselves to the congregation.
Because boards just want the pastor gone, they often grant “severance for silence.” They give the pastor a small compensation package if he’ll leave quickly and quietly … and not tell anyone how badly they handled things.
In fact, because this is such a common problem, I toyed for a while with calling my new book Bungled.
Finally, the perpetrators almost never admit they’ve done anything wrong.
When an individual sins, he or she may or may not admit it.
When a pastor sins, he may or may not admit it.
When a board sins, they almost never admit it.
It is the nature of groups to make a decision and, even if they’re wrong, protect and defend each other afterwards.
How often have you heard the White House … a news organization … a corporate board … a sports team … a school board … a homeowners association … or a state government agency … admit together that they did something wrong?
It rarely if ever happens.
In fact, if even one member of an organization admits that their group has done something wrong, the other members will invariably disown that person or try to remove them altogether.
This is why once a board decides to terminate a pastor, they act like they’re 100% faultless and he’s 100% blameworthy.
And this is why that board and the pastor never reconcile.
I recently spoke with a top Christian leader who told me about a church that called a new pastor.
The pastor wanted to see God renew the church, and he did everything he could to make sure that happened.
But there was just one thing remaining … he wanted the church to reconcile with some of its former pastors who had been mistreated.
The new pastor wasn’t around during the years these pastors served, and the church had many newcomers who had no idea what had happened in the past.
But this pastor called all these men back, and one Sunday, he stood up and confessed that the church had wronged these men of God and asked for their forgiveness on behalf of the church.
I wish this sort of thing would happen more often. There are too many wounded pastors and churches in our country.
But this kind of thing is rare because of pride. We convince ourselves that if we did or said something, it was right … but if the pastor did or said something … it was wrong.
Is life really that black and white?
If you’ve been reading for a long time, thank you. Some subscribers have told me they’ve read every article I’ve written.
If this is your first time here, check out some of the categories on the right side of my blog. You might find an article or two that will help you deal with the way you feel about your pastor.
And even if you’re an occasional reader, thanks for visiting this site. We’re honored when you come around.
I love it when people ask questions and leave comments, even if you disagree with something I’ve said. Since this is the way we all learn, feel free to give me feedback.
I’m still learning a lot about pastoral termination, church conflict, and conflict in general.
And I invite you to keep reading as we learn together.
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