Archive for November, 2013

Where in this world would you like to visit?

Great cities like London and Paris?

Great countries like Italy and Switzerland?

Great cultures like China and Kenya?

Any great churches you’d like to visit?

For decades, I’ve had one prominent church on my Bucket List: Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California … where John MacArthur has been senior pastor for 44 years.


Yesterday, I finally visited the church with my wife.

MacArthur has positively impacted my life and ministry.  When I was 14, I attended Hume Lake Christian Camp, and MacArthur was the featured speaker.  His personal testimony and practical teaching motivated me to dedicate my life to Christ and read Scripture on a daily basis.  For that reason, I will always be grateful to Pastor John for the way God has used him in my life.

When I became a pastor, I read his books on spiritual gifts, God’s will, giving, the Beatitudes, worship, and the armor of God, among others.  And I’ve heard him speak many times.

But for many believers, MacArthur has gained a reputation as being hypercritical about the charismatic movement, the seeker movement, and the emerging church movement, among others.

In fact, sometimes I’ve received the impression that MacArthur is against more than he’s for.

So I wanted to see for myself: how does Grace Community do church?  HDJDM?  (How does John do ministry?)

Here are my impressions:

*Community.  The church is located in what looks like an older lower-middle class area.


*Parking.  The main lot at Grace is good-sized but cannot contain all the cars.  People parked beyond the canal adjacent to the property, across the street, and on neighborhood streets (which is where we parked).

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*Demographics.  The congregation was a cross-section of young and old as well as African-American, Hispanic, Asian, and Caucasian individuals and families.  The line into the women’s restroom was out the door.

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*Dress.  Many men wore suits – including Pastor MacArthur – but the majority dressed semi-casually.

*Music.  During the first service, only hymns like “My Faith Has Found a Resting Place” and “My Faith Looks up to Thee” were sung.  They were played by a small orchestra.  A 100-voice choir with robes sang a hymn, as did a soloist during the offering.  The congregation didn’t sing any contemporary worship songs.  Everyone used hymnals.

*Sermon.  Pastor John spoke on John 6:1-15, the story of Jesus feeding the five thousand.  He looked at his notes far more than at the congregation, which surprised me.  He used the phrase “the truth” repeatedly.  His message contained few – if any – stories, and was heavy on exegesis.  The outline was simple, not special.  The message lasted about 55 minutes.  Some around me were nodding off.

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*Worship center.  I was surprised that:

  1. Most of the walls in the worship center – which are made out of brick – were bare.  No banners.  No verses.  No mission statements.
  2. The back of the church was bustling during Pastor John’s message.  Because the worship center lacks a lobby, people walk from outside directly into the worship center or vice versa.  Whenever someone opens a door, light streams in, creating a distraction – especially if you’re sitting in the back, where we were.
  3. There were no video screens, so we couldn’t see the pastor’s face or gestures from our vantage point.
  4. Everyone sat in pews.  No chairs or theater seating.

*Worship times.  There were two services: one at 8:30 am, another at 10:30 am.  The first service lasted 1 hour, 36 minutes.


Ministry booths: There’s a section called Grace Walk that is lined with attractive ministry booths.

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Seminary: The Master’s Seminary is located toward the parking lot as you enter/leave the campus.


If you closed your eyes, you’d think you were in 1969 … the same year that Pastor John came to Grace … and yet the place felt 99% full.  Some were even standing against the back walls.  And yet when people in my area were asked to raise their hands if this was their first time at Grace, the ushers handed out zero promotional packets.  The church does have a Visitor and Information Center, though.


Fundamentalists are known for being both theologically and methodologically conservative.  I’m with MacArthur on theological essentials (we graduated from the same seminary), but differ from him on ministry methods.

Jerry Falwell used to say, “If it’s old, it’s good.  If it’s new, it’s bad.”  That’s what I sensed about Grace’s worship service.  My guess is that little has changed since MacArthur came more than 4 decades ago, which is truly amazing.  No worship wars at Grace.

My overall impressions:

Grace Community Church knows who they are, what they stand for, and who they’re trying to reach.

People come far more to hear Pastor John speak than for the music or overall worship experience.

The church seems oblivious to trends in both the church and secular worlds.

Why change anything?  The church practices excellence and functions like a well-oiled machine, attracting thousands every Sunday.

When Pastor John retires or joins Jesus, succeeding Pastor John may be an issue … but right now, he’s still going strong.

And I appreciate Pastor John because – even if you don’t agree with him – the church of Jesus Christ needs more prophetic voices.  Most pastors today are afraid to speak boldly on controversial issues because they don’t want to offend anybody.  If more pastors spoke prophetically – teaching God’s Word without regard for consequences – Pastor John wouldn’t stand out so much.

I was excited to visit Grace, but probably wouldn’t make this my church home.  Because I grew up in fundamentalist churches, I’ve been trying to escape their rigid outlook and judgmental tone for much of my life.  While I resonate with Grace’s emphasis on truth, I need a church that presents that truth in more contemporary and relevant packaging.

I wish Pastor John and Grace Community Church well as they reach people for Christ in a way that makes sense for them.

And I pray that they extend that same Grace to those pastors who do church differently than they do.

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Have you ever spoken in public and felt you bombed afterwards?

That happened to me on the day my daughter was born.

The men in our district were holding a rally at a local church, and someone asked me – one of the new area pastors – to be the guest speaker.

I sensed that God wanted me to talk about the power of the Holy Spirit, and so I prepared diligently … even working on my talk in my wife’s hospital room, both before and after birth.

Dinner that night went fine.  I received a polite introduction.  Then I started to speak … looked at the 85 men gathered in that room … and could barely talk.

For some reason, I couldn’t control my heartbeat … or my breathing … and my throat locked up on me.

I would talk … fight for air … gulp … but not be able to punch out the last few words of a sentence.

Was I embarrassed!  I wanted to die … especially when I noticed the unpleasant demeanor of a pastor whom I suspected didn’t like me anyway.

I had experienced one episode like this before: while preaching during Homiletics class in seminary.  While preaching on Christ’s temptation, the heartbeat/breathing/throat thing happened for the first time ever.  It got so bad that my professor came to the pulpit, stood next to me, and prayed for me in front of the class.

Billy Graham had nothing to worry about.

The following week, I gave the same message in class, and got through it just fine, so I figured that strange occurrence was an anomaly.

And for the next three years, I didn’t have any repeat episodes … until that scary August night.

Had I spoken well, I might have received invitations to be a guest speaker at other churches in the future.  But because I messed up, those invitations weren’t forthcoming.

I honestly didn’t know what had happened to me.  We didn’t have the internet then, so I couldn’t look up my symptoms online.  So years later, I went to the library and discovered a term that best described what happened:

Globus hystericus.

The English version?  Stage fright.

I learned that even singers like Carly Simon and Van Morrison have battled stage fright over the years.

While speaking in public bothers many people, I had always enjoyed it.  I told jokes when my extended family got together … volunteered to read in front of other students in school … talked in front of my youth group constantly … and preached to my home church dozens of times before – all without any problems.

But the seminary class and the men’s rally had one common factor: I wasn’t speaking to people I knew, but to strangers … and in some cases, unfriendly faces.  Somewhere in the back of my mind, it felt like I was on trial.

For the next few years, I spoke exclusively to my home church, and had few problems.  But when our church made plans to start over in a new location, I feared that I might experience stage fright again – and if I bombed, I wondered if my ministry career might be over.

Out of desperation, I made an appointment with a Christian counselor friend.  After I reluctantly shared my problem, he listed my options … including taking a beta blocker, which is designed to combat anxiety.

I opted for the beta blocker – which had to be prescribed by my doctor – and could not believe the difference.

When I spoke, I didn’t gasp for breath.  My heart didn’t race.  My throat didn’t lock up.  I could speak freely.

I stayed on the beta blocker for 7 or 8 years, but it was blunting my emotions, so I stopped taking it … and haven’t had a problem with speaking since.

By struggling with speaking, I learned three lessons:

First, everybody struggles with speaking at one time or another.

I once watched George H. W. Bush give his State of the Nation speech before Congress.  He gulped seven times.

Nearly 15 years ago, I was in the audience as my favorite preacher spoke before a group of pastors.  For the first five minutes, he struggled to regulate his breathing.

If a President and one of America’s greatest pastors sometimes struggle with public speaking, then I shouldn’t beat myself up when I struggle, either.

I just need to stay calm, take a deep breath, and keep going.

Second, there is help available if you’ll seek it out.

The night I bombed out before those men, I went home to an empty house because my wife was still in the hospital.

I called a long-time friend who was also a pastor.  He listened to my pain and encouraged me.  I don’t recall anything he said … just that he cared.

And I don’t think I confided in anyone until I consulted with that Christian counselor, who helped me immediately.

If I had only humbled myself and seen him sooner …

Third, sometimes our unresolved problems aren’t spiritual in nature.

I imagined that if I mentioned my problem to a Christian leader, that person would tell me that my problem was spiritual. 

They would say, “You’re not praying enough.  You’re obviously not prepared.  You must not be called to preach.”

That’s why I went to a Christian counselor.  But he didn’t diagnose my problem as being spiritual or even psychological.  In his mind, my problem was physical.

And when I corrected the physical problem, it was amazing how much more effective I became spiritually.

If you’re struggling with some issue right now, realize that others struggle with your issue … there is help available … and your problem may not be spiritual at all.

Now I don’t struggle with public speaking … but with putting what I write on the internet.

How has God helped you overcome your struggles?

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Once upon a time, when I was a pastor, I enjoyed board meetings.

Sometimes we ate a meal together before the meeting officially began.

Sometimes we read from Scripture and spent time praying for each other.

Sometimes we talked into the night … even past midnight on occasion.

For the most part, those were good times.

I needed those leaders.  I needed their encouragement … perspective … counsel … and prayers.

In my last article, I discussed what pastors need from church boards … but what do boards need from their pastors?

Governing boards need their pastor to be a godly man … a competent leader they can follow … and an example of righteous living.

But more than anything, a church board needs a pastor who is authentic:

*about his walk with God.

*about staff problems.

*about future plans and challenges.

*about his personal and family life.

*about issues relevant to the ministry overall.

Many years ago, when I was a youth pastor, I rode with a group of men to a mountain retreat.  One man asked me, “How is the youth group going?”  He seemed genuinely interested.

When I shared some concerns I had – especially about needing more adult leaders – he said, “Jim, that’s the first I’ve heard about some of your needs.  We can’t help you if you don’t tell us.”

I never forgot that conversation.

I knew what was going on … the students knew … their parents sort of knew … but the rest of the church – including board members – didn’t know because I hadn’t told them.

My silence wasn’t intentional … I just didn’t want to bother anybody.

So when I became a pastor, I started bringing a written report of my activities and plans to every board meeting.  If I wanted the board’s support and protection, they had to know what was happening in my life and ministry.  If my report was only verbal, some might forget by the time they got home.  But since my report was in writing, they had a document they could refer to whenever they needed it.

The board also needed to know how I was doing personally – including my physical and emotional well-being – because my personal life affected me vocationally.

But this was always tricky for me.

Early in my pastoral career, I told the board one night about all the stress I was feeling personally and professionally.

Nobody said anything.  They just stared at me.  I could read their minds: “We’re stressed, too.  So?”

So I began to pull back and reveal less of myself during board meetings.  I learned – rightly or wrongly – that for some board members, you’re their pastor, not necessarily their friend.

But if a pastor can’t share his personal concerns with the board, he needs to share them with some group in the church … or funny things might happen.

I once heard about a pastor who told his board that he was having marital troubles … after which the pastor went silent for months.

A while later, the pastor showed up with a new wife.

He was summarily removed from his position.

I don’t subscribe to the philosophy that says, “The pastor should tell the board as little as possible.”  If they’re going to work well together, the pastor should tell the board as much as they want to know.

There’s another word for that: accountability.

What do you think church board members want most from their pastor?

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The relationship between a pastor and a church’s governing board can make or break a ministry.

Let me share a time when I witnessed this truth firsthand.

During my last youth pastorate, several churchgoers were openly criticizing the pastor.  Someone approached me one Sunday in the church parking lot and claimed that 10% of the congregation would leave if the pastor didn’t do what his group demanded.

Since nobody told the grumblers how to handle their concerns, it became open season on the pastor.

So I invited myself to the next board meeting.  I told the members that their pastor was under attack and that they needed to protect him.

The pastor wasn’t convinced this was a good idea.  He had undergone a major conflict in his previous ministry and wasn’t eager for another one.

The board finally voted 5-2 to do something about the attacks – with the pastor casting one of the dissenting votes – but then proceeded to do nothing.

Unfortunately, my experience inside that board meeting is all too typical nowadays.

Being a pastor is all-consuming.  You’re never off-duty mentally, morally, or emotionally.  You don’t even have an “off” switch.

You’re always thinking about your next sermon … staff meeting … hospital visit … counseling appointment … and your critics.

Especially your critics.

Let’s say a pastor starts his week with an energy score of 100.

Subtract 20 points for sermons … 10 points for staff meetings … 5 points for every hospital visit and counseling appointment … and anywhere from 10-40 points for critics.

After a while, the critics … just … wear … you … down.

I believe that if a critic is upset with a pastor personally, he or she needs to speak with the pastor directly … or let things go.

And the church board needs to enforce this principle which comes from Matthew 18:15-17.

If a critic is upset with the pastor’s policies, he or she can speak to any policymaker – including board members.

Having only two ears, the pastor may not hear what his critics are saying for weeks … if not months.

But board members – having 8 or 12 or 18 ears – do know what critics are saying … and need to protect their pastor from circulating flak so he can do his job.

Because every week the pastor has to deal with critics, he loses 10-40% of his effectiveness … and unchecked criticism is the source of much pastoral burnout.

Most of the board chairmen I worked with over the years understood the importance of protecting their pastor from critics … especially Russ and Ray.

Russ and Ray were not “yes men.”  If they disagreed with something I said or did, they’d tell me to my face … with honesty … in love.

They didn’t gauge the views of the rest of the board first.  They didn’t talk about me behind my back.  They manned up and spoke to me directly.

And I loved and respected them for doing that.

But because they were honest with me to my face, they always defended me behind my back.

One time, a regular churchgoer made a beeline for Ray after an informational meeting.  Ray listened … explained the board’s position … and calmed the man down.

When the time was right, Ray told me who the man was … what he said … and how Ray handled things.

When all the board members act like Russ and Ray, the pastor feels free to do his ministry without suffering a 10-40% drop in effectiveness every week.

But when the chairman and other board members don’t share their concerns with the pastor personally … don’t protect their pastor from critics … and pool their grievances outside of meetings … they are sowing seeds for (a) their pastor’s departure; (b) staff resignations; (c) major conflict; (d) heartache among churchgoers; and even (e) their own resignations and departures.

When pastors and board members form an unshakeable alliance, the congregation moves forward.

When board members form alliances among themselves, or with congregational factions … against their pastor … the congregation stalls and then regresses.

The night Jesus was arrested, Peter – who had pledged to protect his Master – failed to protect Him from critics.

This caused Jesus to look directly at Peter with sadness … and caused Peter to weep bitterly.

When Jesus-appointed leaders in our churches fail to protect their shepherds, Jesus looks upon them with sadness, too.

How do you respond to what I’ve written?

Next time, I’ll talk about what church boards need from their pastor.

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Okay, I turned 60 years of age today.  So what?

I don’t know if 60 is the new 30 or the new 50, but I feel pretty good overall.

In fact, one of the moms at my wife’s preschool said last week that she thought I was 45.

Bless her.

Let me share five reflections I have about turning 60:

First, my core personality hasn’t changed.

I’m still a bit more on the introverted side … see humor where others don’t … try to under-promise and over-deliver … struggle with perfectionism … and strive to tell the truth.

A Christian counselor once told me, “Your greatest strength is your tenderness.  And your greatest weakness is your tenderness.”  With that single comment, he nailed me!

On the Myers-Briggs test, the word that best describes my type is “Super-Dependable.”  I guess that means that people can count on me.

But I’m also more flexible now … more understanding … and much more spontaneous.  In that sense, I’ve grown … a lot.

Second, my interests have only changed slightly.

I grew up a voracious reader, and still love books.  But I now have more books in the garage than in my study.  I’m slowly developing a library on the Kindle because it’s easier to hold an e-reader at night in bed than a large hardback volume.  Favorite genre: non-fiction.  I haven’t read fiction – with the exception of the Sherlock Holmes stories – since devouring The Hardy Boys in Jr. High.

I still love sports – baseball, football, and basketball – and I’m blessed that all my teams (the Dodgers, Angels, Giants, 49ers, and Lakers) have won championships throughout the years.  But somewhere along the line, I became more fascinated with a player’s character than his talent.  I root for classy, modest, team-oriented players and teams.  I detest thoughtless, showy, and me-first guys.  And I still have a great interest in baseball from the 1900s-1950s, probably because I wrote to – and heard from – so many players from those eras … like Wahoo Sam Crawford, Max Carey, and George Sisler.

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Music is central to who I am.  I love both great melodies and meaningful lyrics presented creatively.  Favorite groups: The Beatles and U2.  Favorite genres: folk-rock (Bob Dylan, Simon & Garfunkel, The Byrds) and Celtic-flavored (The Corrs and Van Morrison).  Favorite era: the British Invasion and the late 1960s.  Favorite Christian artists: Phil Keaggy, Twila Paris, Delirious? and Iona.  I’ve seen most of the above artists in concert – some twice – and consider myself blessed to have seen and heard them.  But I’m still expanding my musical horizons.  (You should see my Music Wish List on Amazon.)

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Third, I have been blessed with wonderful friends. 

Growing up, most of my friends loved sports, and to my knowledge, none took drugs.  (I don’t remember being offered drugs of any kind.)  My friends were welcome in my home, and I was welcome in theirs.  We all knew each other’s parents.

My three best friends growing up were Ken, Steve, and Dave.

Ken brought me to his church – Village Bible – where I eventually met my wife Kim.

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I brought Steve to Village, where he met his wife Janie.


Dave attended Village as well, and we both attended Biola and Talbot together, graduating both times.  (Dave is in the middle.)


All my friends love the Lord and have solid families.  Their fingerprints are all over my life.  I am who I am largely because of them.

Fourth, I am devoted to my family.

My father wasn’t around much when I was a kid – he worked two jobs – but when he was home, he put his family first, and his example rubbed off on me.

Jim and His Dad

For example, on May 1, 1963 (yes, I remember the date), my dad took me and my brother John out of school to watch the Yankees play the Los Angeles Angels at Chavez Ravine (aka Dodger Stadium).  I hated the Yankees then (still do) and they won 7-0 (Whitey Ford pitched a shutout, and Joe Pepitone hit a grand slam).  But what I remember most is that my dad wanted to spend time with me.

25 years later, I took my kids Ryan and Sarah out of school and took them to spring training in Arizona for a week.  (Yes, their teachers knew.  Yes, they made up their homework.)  I learned that little trick 50 years ago from my dad.

After my father died, my mother had to raise three kids – ages 13, 10, and 5 – by herself.  She learned to drive, went back to school, and worked full-time to support us.  I don’t know how she did it, but I will never forget the sacrifices she made for her family and how she held us all together.

Thanks, Mom.

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Finally, I still love Jesus Christ.

My favorite verse is 2 Corinthians 5:21: God made him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

Jesus died for me.  In fact, the Son incarnate became Sin incarnate on the cross.  I do not deserve that kind of love and cannot fathom it.  But I believe that the Father gave me the righteousness of His Son when I received Christ, and for that I am eternally grateful.

I just finished reading Robert Hilburn’s book Johnny Cash: The Life.  Cash grew up on gospel songs and hymns, and wanted to record those songs throughout his life, even when his record company didn’t think those albums would sell.  Even when he turned his back on God, Cash remembered those songs.

Seven years ago, my daughter Sarah and I visited Blenheim Palace near Oxford, boyhood home of Winston Churchill.  As we walked across the lawn on the way to his gravesite, I started singing gospel songs that I hadn’t sang in nearly 50 years.  Sarah didn’t know most of the songs – they were before her time – but I’ve never forgotten them.

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The songs … my Bible … my Christian friends … my church homes … and my family … have all kept me walking with the Lord over the years.

As I look back on the first 60 years of my life, I consider myself wealthy beyond measure.

Thank you for being in my life as well.


I apologize for sending out a draft of this article earlier today.  I meant to hit “Save Draft” and hit “Publish” instead, then had to remove the article since it wasn’t ready for prime time.  Thanks for understanding!

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Imagine that someone approaches you at church and says, “I’m upset with the pastor.”  This individual then proceeds to tell you exactly why they’re angry.

What should you do about their complaint?




Walk away?

I recently shared a meal with a friend who once served as board chairman in a church where I served as pastor.

He reminded me that whenever churchgoers approached him to complain about me, he told them:

“Let’s go see the pastor.”

My friend was seeking to carry out Jesus’ instructions in Matthew 18:15 by bringing the complainer directly to me.

I asked him, “How did people respond?”

He replied, “They said, “No, no, we don’t want to see him.'”

I asked, “Did this happen during my entire tenure or just at the end?”

He said, “No, it happened at the end.”  (That church went through some stressful times that were beyond our control.)

Over the course of my 36-year pastoral career, I estimate that less than a dozen people ever sat down with me in a loving, biblical fashion and shared a grievance with me.

Some complained through letters and emails … others through response cards and phone calls … and a few accosted me before or after a worship service.

But very few ever made an appointment … met with me one-on-one … and then shared their heart with me.

So when someone did that, I commended them for their courage … and listened very carefully.

But the more common approach in churches is for someone to bypass the pastor and broadcast their feelings/complaints/grievances about him to their network.

I wonder how many did just that over the years?  50?  125?  250?  Only God knows.

Why don’t most people speak directly to their pastor about their concerns?

*They don’t know the pastor personally.

*They can’t predict the pastor’s reactions.

*They don’t want to be labeled as complainers.

*They don’t want to take up the pastor’s valuable time.

*They aren’t sure the pastor will take them seriously or make any changes.

One time, a new couple made an appointment to see me.  They didn’t like our small group format and wanted it overhauled to their liking.

I listened.  I understood what they were saying.  But I didn’t agree with them … so they left the church … but at least they came to me with their suggestion.

But a long-time member used to stop by my office every year and ask me, “Pastor, would it be all right if I made a couple of suggestions?”

Great approach, by the way.

When I assented, he’d make several observations … and I almost always agreed with them.  I valued his views.

If you’re upset about a church policy, speak to any of the policy makers …  usually members of the governing board.  You don’t have to share policy concerns exclusively with the pastor.

If you’re upset with someone personally, though, you need to speak directly with them in a loving fashion … even if that someone is your pastor … or let it go.

Above all, avoid spreading any discontent to others.  Those kinds of complaints are infectious and divisive … and have been known to destroy both pastoral careers and entire congregations.   Churches that permit verbal assaults on their pastor sow the seeds of their own destruction.

Remember the words of James 3:5 in relation to the tongue: “Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.”

But if someone walks up to you and says, “I want to complain about the pastor,” there’s an effective, biblical way to handle that.

Simply tell that individual:

“Let’s go see the pastor.”

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Someone recently told me about the time her pastor was fired.

After the church board met with the pastor to proclaim his termination, the chairman stood up at the next Sunday service, announced the pastor’s departure, and told the congregation not to contact him at all.

I can understand why a board might feel that way.  After dismissing their pastor, they’d probably be concerned that the pastor might:

*criticize the board’s decision to others.

*undermine the board’s authority.

*encourage members to leave the church.

*start a new church nearby composed of people from his former church.

But if I was a church member and I was publicly told, “Don’t contact the pastor at all,” I’d contact that pastor immediately.


Because I’d assume that the board was trying to cover up something … like how badly they bungled the pastor’s termination.

Let me tell you why this concerns me.

It is becoming increasingly prevalent for church leaders to try and destroy the reputation of their pastor after he leaves their church.


Because they’re afraid that the pastor may tell his side of the story to church attendees … and they don’t want that to happen.

Church leaders only want one version of events to become public: their version.

And if the pastor tells his version to even a few people, it may get around and contradict the “official” board version … and this could cause some people to turn against the church board and leave the church … taking their friends and money with them.

But once a church board terminates their pastor – rightly or wrongly:

*Most churchgoers are going to talk about it.

*Some churchgoers will seek to hear the board’s side.

*Some churchgoers will contact the pastor to hear his side.

*All churchgoers will make up their own minds as to what happened.

In my book Church Coup: A Cautionary Tale of Congregational Conflict, I made this statement:

“When leaders make people promise blanket confidentiality during a conflict, they are trying to control the flow of information … as well as their opponents.”

Sometimes after a termination, the church board is saying:

“We believe that we’ve terminated the pastor for just cause.  If you possessed the information that we have, you’d agree with our decision.”

But sometimes, they’re saying this instead:

“We felt that the pastor was acquiring too much power, which would minimize our authority.  So we trumped up some charges to take him out.  Nobody can contradict our version of events except the pastor, so we’re going to discredit him before anybody contacts him.  Whatever he says, he’s trying to hurt the church.”

In my mind, such an attitude indicates a spirit of control … which is why I’d contact the pastor right away to hear his version.

As Proverbs 18:17 says, “The first to present his case seems right, till another comes forward and questions him.”

People don’t like to be controlled.  And nobody likes a gag order.

But if the board did what was right in God’s eyes, why would they need to try and control anyone or anything?

Shouldn’t they relinquish control of the situation to God instead?

Once a board forces out the pastor, they can no longer control the consequences.

And once the pastor has left the church, how can the board continue to control him?  They’ve severed the relationship.

When I was a pastor, occasionally people would leave the church angrily.

A Sunday or two later, somebody would invariably approach me and say, “I heard Joe and Betty left the church.”

Was it my place to speculate as to why they left?

I didn’t want to misrepresent them.  So I’d say, “If you’re concerned about them, why don’t you call them and speak with them?”

Was that risky?  Of course.  But any other answer would indicate that I was trying to control people and circumstances.

And that’s not the job of a church leader.

That’s God’s job.

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