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Archive for May, 2014

Once upon a time, a prospective pastor could send his resume to the district minister of a particular denomination … or to the placement department of his seminary … and receive contacts from churches within a few months.

This is what happened in my case.  Ten months after graduating from seminary, I sent my resume to a district minister in Northern California and:

*The chairman of a church search team called me six weeks later.

*I preached at that church the following Sunday.

*I candidated at the church the Sunday after that.

*Two months after the initial contact, my family and I moved to Silicon Valley where I began my initial pastorate.

From the day I sent in my resume to my first Sunday in that church, it took only four months … but that was 33 years ago.

I know a lot of pastors who are looking for new ministries … especially pastors who were pushed out of their previous church.

It’s natural for them to assume, “The way I secured my last pastorate is the way I’ll secure my next one.”

But times have changed, as have the rules for finding a new ministry.

Sadly, there are far more pastors than there are opportunities … it’s never been harder to find a new position … and going the conventional resume route may take a year or two before anything happens.

If a small or medium-sized church advertises that they’re looking for a pastor, it’s common for that church to receive 300+ resumes.

Know what the search team does with those resumes?  It sets up criteria for tossing as many of them as possible … and if a pastor is over 55, chances are good that his resume will be discarded quickly.

But there are ways to find … or start … another ministry.  Assuming that you have compiled a sharp resume, let me share seven options for finding another position:

First, network with everybody you know … through LinkedIn … Facebook … email … and personal visits.

Compose profiles on LinkedIn and Facebook.  Invite as many people to connect with you as possible.

Send personal emails to people you know in ministry, telling them that you’re looking for a position.  Ask them if you can send them your resume.

Identify ministry colleagues who live within several hours of you.  Invite them out for a snack or a meal at your expense.  Ask them, “Do you know of any ministry opportunities for someone like me?”  They might not know of anything now, but they just might in a month or two.

Work your network.  My second ministry position came through a cousin.  My third one came from a ministry colleague, as did my last one.  Networking works.

Second, place a video of you preaching or teaching on YouTube and other video sites.

In the past, search teams wanted to listen to your sermon.  Now they want to see it.

If you already have a video that works, then upload it and let search teams know it’s there.

If you don’t have one at hand, find a place to preach or teach and ask someone competent to videotape you.

If a search team does view your sermon online, it probably means that you’re in their top ten or twenty prospects.

But if you don’t have one, few churches will even consider you.

Third, ask a pastor friend who lives nearby if you can assist him for six months to a year for free.

Tell your friend that you’re willing to preach … teach … lead seminars … visit the sick … counsel people … whatever he needs.

Assure him that you won’t be a threat.  You just want to keep your hand in church ministry … and you promise to support him wholeheartedly.

This might only involve five to ten hours a week, but if you do well, ask the pastor if he’ll provide a reference for you … and maybe he can refer you to some open churches.

In addition, maybe you and the pastor can create a position description and a pathway into new ministry.

And if he allows you to speak one Sunday, make sure that someone videotapes your message!

Fourth, consider planting a church.

Church planting requires enormous amounts of energy.  You’ll need a vision … a location … and a core group before you go public.

It’s a misnomer that you have to start in a school or a storefront.  A ministry colleague told me that he once started a Bible study in his home.  Before he knew it, 75 people were attending … enough to start a new church.

If you can assemble a group of fifteen or twenty people within a few weeks, you can start meeting … and remember: they know people, too.

If you do choose to plant a church … especially if you’ve never done it before … it’s essential that you receive some training at a conference or assessment center.

In fact, you’ll have to reinvent yourself to do it right … but that challenge can also give you focus and new energy.

I was involved in rebirthing a church more than twenty years ago … shutting one down, and starting a new one … and it was the most exciting thing I’ve ever done in ministry.  Many people are drawn to new churches.

And you’ll get to fashion the church you’ve always dreamed of serving.

If you go this route, though, you have to be in it for the long haul, because if you falter, the church may dissipate … but it’s far easier to birth a baby than to raise the dead.

You may also need to raise money for several years from family and friends to cover part of your salary.

Fifth, consider becoming an interim pastor.

Most interim pastors are former pastors who are no longer in church ministry.  My guess is that the great majority of interims were forced to resign prematurely.  Some are retired ministers.

Again, most interims are in their late fifties or older.  One interim organization won’t consider anybody under 62 years of age.

Because I was an interim pastor at a church in New Hampshire in the fall of 2012, I know something about the pluses and minuses of making it a career:

Pluses: you’re usually there only six months to two years; your ministry is greatly needed; you may help the search team select a pastoral candidate; the tax breaks can be astonishing.

Minuses: the pay varies; some people will resist your leadership; some interims get beat up; you’ll have to travel from place to place.

The need for interims is greatest in the Midwest and on the East Coast.  If you don’t live in those regions, you’ll probably have to move near the church.

How do you find a church that needs an interim pastor?

If you send me an email at jim@restoringkingdombuilders.org, I can recommend you an organization that places interims in churches.

You’ll have to undergo two days of training in-person.  It’s very enjoyable.  And you may be placed quickly.

Sixth, if you’re older, zero in on a church reaching people older than fifty … as a pastor or associate.

Last year, I noticed that a church located in a retirement community was looking for an associate pastor.  I immediately called the search team leader and discussed the position with her.

The church was composed of people fifty and up … with most people in their seventies.

My guess was that if I applied for this church, I had a good shot at being considered because I’d be one of the younger ones.

So I did apply … wrote out answers to interview questions … did a Skype interview … and made the top three.

The three of us were all invited to visit the church on consecutive weekends.

I called the search team leader and asked her two questions: where am I at on the totem pole, and what does the position pay?

She wouldn’t clearly answer either question.

So I withdrew my name … much to the relief of my family … none of whom wanted me to take the position.

But if you want to cut down the competition … and look good by comparison … apply for churches that specialize in reaching older people … often in retirement communities.

Finally, start your own non-profit ministry.

Here’s the downside to doing this:

*You won’t be able to be the family breadwinner in most cases.

*You’ll have to apply for 501(c)(3) status with the IRS.

*You’ll need to become proficient with social media.

*You’ll have to learn how to raise money.

*Many … if not most … pastors won’t give you the time of day.

But there’s a strong upside:

*You become your own boss.

*You can follow your ministry passion.

*You can become an authority in your field.

*You can redeem your ministry wounds by helping others.

*You just might become the recipient of a large gift.  (A ministry colleague started a non-profit, and someone died … leaving his ministry a six-figure gift in their will.)

The Lord led me to start a non-profit ministry 40 months ago, and it’s been very fulfilling.  It’s all I want to do.

If you decide to go this route … obtaining tax-exempt status is the single biggest obstacle.  (I know an organization that can accelerate the process for a fee.  Write me at jim@restoringkingdombuilders.org and I’ll share the details.)

Yes, you can send resumes to online sites like churchstaffing.com … and you can peruse the openings on your college or seminary’s placement area … and you can contact the district ministers of various denominations.

But all of those strategies place your career in the hands of people who are already extremely busy … and may only have a few seconds to look over your materials.

Even if a church calls you for a phone interview, you don’t know what they’re looking for … and they’re not going to be completely honest about telling you their struggles.

In my view, it’s far better to try something different … like the options I mentioned above.

What are your thoughts on what I’ve written?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Imagine that you own a business.  You have ten employees.

Because business hasn’t been going well recently, you have to lay off two workers.

Eight employees are loyal and work hard.  Two have conspired to attack you behind your back and don’t do much of anything.

Your decision is a no-brainer, right?

Now imagine that you’re a board member in a congregation of 200 adults

Ten individuals … meaning five percent of your congregation … have abused, slandered, and attacked your pastor to the point that he has resigned.

As a church leader, what are you going to do about it?

If you follow the New Testament, the decision is simple for you and your fellow board members:

Confront the troublemakers and give them a choice: either repent of your sin or leave the church.

Those who are truly spiritually-oriented will repent.  Those who aren’t will leave the church kicking and screaming … but if you mean business, they will leave.

But how often do board members confront those who pushed out their pastor?

Hardly ever.

Why not?

It could be because board members:

*don’t think the troublemakers did anything wrong.

*are afraid of the troublemakers.

*are friends with the troublemakers.

*are ignorant of the New Testament’s directives on divisive individuals.

*know the New Testament’s directives but choose to ignore them.

*leave the thankless task to an interim pastor.

*reason, “We need all the attendees, donors, and volunteers we can get … even if they are troublemakers.”

*are so exhausted after the pastor’s departure that they don’t even consider confronting anybody.

However … there is a price to be paid for failing to confront the troublemakers, and it’s a high price indeed:

Many of your church’s spiritual, healthy, and valuable people will leave.

Imagine these two scenarios:

Lisa had been away from church for years, but she came back to the Lord because of Pastor Bill.

She rarely missed his sermons … joined a small group … discovered her spiritual gifts and began serving in a ministry … and became a generous giver.

But every Sunday when she comes to church now, she sees five troublemakers sitting together, and she says to herself, “Those are the people who pushed out my pastor.”

If she confronts them, she’s liable to blow her top.  So she stays silent … and simmers … and assumes that nobody ever addressed the troublemakers.

Going to church eventually becomes such an unpleasant experience that she leaves the church for good.

Paul received emails from the troublemakers denouncing Pastor Bill on a regular basis.

At first, the notes made him feel important, but after a few weeks, they upset him and made him feel like a traitor, so he began deleting them without reading them.

But Paul knows the troublemakers were telling twisted lies about Pastor Bill, and he wonders why they seem to be immune from correction.

When it’s time for the church to vote on new board members, two troublemakers are nominated, and Paul feels sick inside.

How can he attend and support a church where the people who attacked and slandered his pastor have been placed into leadership?

So Paul slips out the back door … and never attends that church again.

Dr. Leith Anderson is one of America’s foremost pastors and thinkers.  I had the privilege of taking my last Doctor of Ministry course with him at Fuller Seminary.  In his book Leadership That Works, Anderson writes about the failure of church leaders to discipline church troublemakers:

“The result is that the church keeps the dissenters and loses the happy, healthy people to other churches.  Most healthy Christians have a time limit and a tolerance level for unchristian and unhealthy attitudes and behaviors.”

Do church leaders know that when they ignore divisive behavior they are alienating the very people they need to make their church productive?

If leaders don’t confront the troublemakers, the following things will happen:

*Church morale will plunge.

*Many of the pastor’s supporters will leave.

*Giving will take a dive.

*The church’s heart will be cut out.

*The troublemakers will stay around to cause trouble again.

*The church may never recover.

*God will withhold His blessing until the leaders do what is right.

It’s happening all over America:

When a group attacks their pastor, the troublemakers stay, and many solid Christian people leave.

Doesn’t sound like a good deal, does it?

Then why does it happen so often?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Pastor Rick couldn’t believe what he’d just heard.

Steve, the board chairman at Third Church, had called to tell Rick that a group had formed inside the congregation and were making accusations against him.

Pastor Rick was stunned by the news … so stunned that he felt dazed and sick inside.

Who was in this group?  What were they saying about him?

His hand trembling as he called Steve back, Rick asked Steve those same two questions.

Steve assured his pastor, “Don’t worry.  I’ll take care of it.”

But one week later, the group had grown, and there were even more accusations.

What had Steve done to stop the carnage?

Absolutely nothing.

Pastor Rick didn’t eat.  He couldn’t sleep.  In fact, he was barely functioning.

As he answered phone calls and emails … and prepared his message for Sunday … and tried to pray … he wondered, “Who is standing against me?  And what are they saying to others?”

Rick didn’t know … and nobody was telling him anything.

When he stood up to preach the following Sunday, he momentarily surveyed the 300-strong congregation that he’d led for 12 years.

He silently asked, “Lord, which of those people is building a case against me?”

When the service was over, Rick stayed at the front to pray with people, but nobody came.

He looked around to see if he could speak with members of the board, but when he went outside, they were all gone.

What were they doing to help their pastor?

Absolutely nothing.

The church had three staff members – a full-time associate and two part-timers – and Rick decided to risk discussing matters at their regular Tuesday meeting.

He asked them if they knew anything about a group in the church that had organized to oppose him.

The associate claimed that he hadn’t heard anything.

The part-timers said that they weren’t close enough to the inner circle.

The pastor told his staff that he hoped he could count on their loyalty in case a conflict broke out.

He reminded them that his future and their futures were intertwined.

Know what the staff that Rick handpicked and championed did to support him?

Absolutely nothing.

Two nights later, the board held their regular monthly meeting.  Chairman Steve began the meeting by reading a letter from the group that opposed the pastor.

They made the following claims about Pastor Rick:

*His messages were too long, sometimes exceeding half an hour.

*He wasn’t approachable on Sundays, an indication he didn’t care about people.

*He seemed to favor the men’s ministry but neglected ministries to women and children.

*He was non-supportive of the local denominational district.

*He failed to give the associate pastor more preaching opportunities.

*He didn’t emphasize church membership enough.

When Steve was done reading the letter, he asked the pastor, “What are you going to do about these accusations?”

Rick felt blindsided … betrayed … and deeply hurt.  Was Steve agreeing with the accusations?

Rick asked, “Who signed the letter?”

It was signed by “The Group.”

In effect, this was an anonymous letter … and pastors are taught to ignore letters that aren’t signed.  (How can they respond to any allegations if they don’t know who made them?)

Rick received a sudden inspiration and asked the board, “What are you going to do about these accusations?”

Thirty seconds into Steve’s four-minute response, Rick knew the answer.

Absolutely nothing.

Two weeks after the board meeting, The Group demanded that the board call a business meeting so they could air their grievances against the pastor.

Steve consulted with the rest of the board, and they scheduled a meeting for the Sunday after Father’s Day.

The Group assigned three people to make public charges against the pastor.

But they didn’t stop with the charges in their letter.  They added many others, including personal attacks upon the pastor’s wife and two teenage children, who were present.

At his breaking point, the pastor stood up to answer the charges, but within thirty seconds, he was shouted down by members of The Group, so he and his family walked out.

Although the pastor assumed he had many friends in the congregation, what did they do to support him that Sunday afternoon?

Absolutely nothing.

The kangaroo court accomplished its purpose.  The pastor knew he couldn’t stay and subject himself and his family to any more abuse.

So he told Chairman Steve that he planned on resigning, but he wanted to know if the board would grant him a severance package.

Steve consulted with the other board members.  Even though the church had more than six figures in a reserve fund, several board members refused to use it to help their pastor support his family.

So when Rick finally resigned, what kind of monetary outlay did he receive for his dozen years of faithful service to Christ?

Absolutely nothing.

Pastor Rick resigned, his heart broken.

His wife had an emotional breakdown.

His children refused to have anything to do with church ever again.

Rick had no job prospects and no hope for the future.

This man who had been called by God to ministry … who had graduated from seminary … and who was ordained to preach the gospel … found his career obliterated.

How much had he tucked away into savings?

Absolutely nothing.

The board at Third Church met to form a search team for a new pastor.

They put together a seven-member team … including three vocal members from The Group.

Two other members from The Group became board members the following year.

And what did the board or staff or congregation do to confront or correct those unruly members?

Absolutely nothing.

The New Testament has much to say about addressing conflict from antagonistic individuals.

Paul named names (like Hymenaeus and Alexander in 1 Timothy 1:19-20).  John fingered Diotrephes (3 John 9-10).

Paul warned the church in Rome (Romans 16:17) to “watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way …”

He warned the church in Corinth in 1 Corinthians 3:16-17: “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?  If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple.”

He warned Titus, “Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time.  After that, have nothing to do with him.  You may be sure that such a man is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned” (Titus 3:10-11).

There are many other New Testament directives … addressed to church leaders and congregations alike … commanding them to confront and warn divisive individuals and groups.

What did the board do to obey these Scriptures and to protect their pastor’s reputation?

Absolutely nothing.

This church … and thousands like it … forcefully claim they believe in truth and righteousness.

They rail against lies coming from the federal government … but permit lying inside their own church.

They condemn the moral relativism of popular culture … but practice that same relativism inside their own congregation.

They preach reconciliation between God and sinners … but refuse to do anything to bring about reconciliation toward pastors they have abused and slandered.

How much blessing from God can they expect in the future?

Absolutely nothing. 

If church leaders fail to take Scripture seriously … permit malcontents to spread rumors unabated … allow their pastor to be publicly abused … refuse to give him a severance package when he’s forced to resign … and put contentious people into leadership positions … then that church is going in only one direction:

Absolutely nowhere.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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When a pastor is forced to leave a church unjustly, how does he heal?

This is a question that I’m asked a lot … and one I wonder about myself.

Let me handle this in a question and answer format:

How do pastors feel after they’re forced to leave a church?

Abandoned.  Betrayed.  Crushed.  Devastated.  Exiled.  Forsaken.  Grief-stricken.  Hated.  Isolated.  Judged.  Kicked.  Lanced.

I’ll let you fill in the words beginning with M-Z.

Most pastors give everything they have when they serve a church, and when they’re dismissed … or forced to resign … the pain is indescribable.

It feels like your grandparents, parents, siblings, and children have all made a pact that they never want to see you again.

And in the process, you stop trusting people … and that’s understandable.  It takes time to rebuild that trust.

What kind of losses does a terminated pastor experience?

The pastor loses his job … his income … and maybe his home … which will harm his credit rating.

He loses his significance … his self-esteem and confidence … most of his church friends … and possibly his career.

And what hurts most of all is that some “Christians” are determined to ruin the pastor’s reputation through exaggeration and misinterpretation … and the pastor doesn’t know who these people are or what they’re saying.

But when he starts making contacts in the Christian community, he discovers that some Christian leaders have already heard one version of why the pastor left … the wrong version.

Six months after I’d left my previous church, I visited a denominational executive … from another denomination … and he already knew about my departure.

The Christian world is all too small.

How long does it take a pastor to heal?

It takes one to three years, depending upon several factors:

*How much abuse did the pastor receive before he finally left?

*How concerted was the effort to destroy his reputation after he left?

*How much of a severance package was the pastor given?

*How do the pastor and his family handle criticism?  (Can the pastor’s family hold him up, or does he need to hold them up?)

*What kind of a support system does the pastor have?

*What hope does the pastor have of future employment?

Why do pastors hibernate for a while after termination?

They can’t stop thinking about what happened to them.

They can’t believe the people who betrayed them.

They can’t fathom why they weren’t treated in a biblical manner.

They can’t understand how Christians could abuse and forsake their pastor.

After pastors initially experience termination, their thoughts … words … and expressions become toxic.

The pastor figures, “I’m such a wreck that nobody wants to be around me.”

Some people attempt to listen to and love the pastor, but when their efforts aren’t successful, they distance themselves from the pastor.

And the pastor feels rejected all over again.

Why don’t pastors heal more quickly?

Because the grief process works slowly.

This past weekend at Saddleback Church, Pastor Rick Warren gave a message called “How God Blesses Broken Hearts” from Matthew 5:4.  His message greatly ministered to me.  Here’s the link:

http://mediacenter.saddleback.com/mc/archives/

Pastor Rick says:

“Never minimize other’s pain.”

“Never rush people.  Pain and grief takes time.  I can’t tell you what’s the appropriate time to grieve for anything in your life.”

He said that since the suicide of his son Matthew over a year ago, he has cried every single day.

I believe that churchgoers want … and even need … their pastors to be superhuman.  When they discover that their pastor is as frail as they are in the face of loss, they feel let down … and often abandon the pastor altogether.

When I went through this experience 4 1/2 years ago, I believe that I lost friends because I didn’t become “the old Jim” fast enough.  It was painful for friends to see me in pain … but I’ve never been able to fake how I feel.

But I am eternally grateful to those few people who chose to be present … listened to my pain … and loved me anyway.

Those people will always be my real friends.

What steps can a pastor take to accelerate healing?

The following steps all have one thing in common: a pastor must humble himself before God and receive help from others … especially in the body of Christ.

Step 1: Get a physical examination.

See your doctor immediately.  Tell him what happened to you.  Anti-depressants can be a godsend.

Step 2: Contact a Christian counselor.

Only 20% of forced-out pastors seek counseling after they’ve been terminated.

Why only 20%?

Maybe the pastor doesn’t know the right counselor … but it only takes a few phone calls to find someone.

Maybe the pastor is afraid the counselor will blame him for his dismissal … but that’s highly unlikely.

Maybe the pastor is afraid of the cost … but how much is healing your soul worth?  (And most counselors will give a discount to a terminated pastor.)

After I left my last church, I saw two counselors … both women … and they were terrific.  They understood my situation because both women had been in ministry.  They provided valuable insights into congregational life and made positive suggestions for healing.

It’s the right move.

Step 3: Attend church when you feel like it.

Why not every weekend?

Because attending worship can be an incredibly painful experience for a pastor who has undergone termination.

I still have a hard time singing praise and worship songs 53 months later … and I don’t know what to do about it.

And when I listen to preaching, I need to hear someone who acknowledges and understands pain … which is why I’ve been listening to Rick Warren recently.

It’s why I sat under the teaching ministry of Don Wilson in Phoenix for 18 months.

And it’s why it’s difficult to find a church home near the community where I live.

Step 4: Spend lots of time in the Psalms and in 2 Corinthians.

David and the other psalmists openly express their feelings to God in unedited form.  I keep coming back to the Psalms constantly.

And when Paul wrote 2 Corinthians, he was defending his ministry to the church in Corinth, where he was being hypercriticized in an attempt to discredit him as an apostle.

Read these books in different versions.  I love reading them in The Message.

Find a good devotional book that deals with suffering in a realistic way as well.  I recommend Beside Still Waters by Charles Spurgeon.

Step 5: If you’re a pastor, commit your future to God.

He knows you.  He loves you.  He cares about you.

Others may have abandoned and forsaken you.  He never will.

Tell the Lord you’ll do anything He wants and you’ll go anywhere He sends.

Then follow the Spirit’s promptings.

The Spirit led me to a church in New Hampshire … for only three months … but it was just what my wife and I needed at the time.

Can God use a terminated pastor again?

The Lord used Peter in an even greater way after he denied Christ three times.

Paul was chased all over the ancient world but planted churches and wrote half the New Testament.

And Jesus was terminated on the cross … but He had a powerful post-resurrection ministry.

Yes, God can use terminated pastors again … and in an even greater way than before.

I believe the “stain” that a pastor receives after being unjustly terminated is the same stain that Jesus, Paul, Peter, and the other apostles received.

If only church search teams and denominational executives believed this.

What are your thoughts about how terminated pastors can heal?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Someone is out to get your pastor.

It’s not the FBI … nor the CIA … nor the NSA … nor the IRS.

Well, maybe the IRS.

But who among all beings would like to see your pastor discouraged … depressed … and ultimately destroyed?

Answer: The devil.

Dr. Ed Murphy – and I don’t know if he’s still alive – has been one of the world’s foremost authorities on spiritual warfare for decades.

I took two classes from Dr. Murphy – one in college, another in seminary – and have had the privilege of lunching with him and consulting with him.

In 1992, Dr. Murphy published his magnum opus titled The Handbook of Spiritual Warfare.  On pages 444-445 of the book, Dr. Murphy writes about a story whose accuracy he has personally verified.  He writes:

“One of my prayer partners in the San Jose area … was flying out of San Jose.  She sat in an aisle seat.  The seat next to her was empty but the window seat was occupied by a young man.  When it was time for the stewardess to serve the meal my prayer partner accepted hers.  The young man refused, saying he was fasting.

‘I overheard you tell the stewardess you are fasting,’ my friend said.  ‘Then you must be a Christian.’

‘No, I am a Satanist,’ was the reply.

Pat was taken back by his remark.  She did not know if she should look for another seat on the plane or what!  She decided to stay where she was and engage the young man in conversation if he would.  In fact, he was quite willing to talk of his faith and witness to the power of Satan.

In the course of the conversation, Pat asked him about the specific targets of his fasting and praying.  (Such fasting and praying is a curse attempt, not humble supplication.)  He said the targets were the leading churches and pastors in the San Jose area and two leading Christian missions.  When Pat asked which missions were the targets, without hesitation he said they were Partners International and OC International [Overseas Crusades, Dr. Murphy’s organization].”

Dr. Murphy continues:

“Within the next few years a half dozen key pastors in the San Jose area fell into immorality and were removed from their churches.  Coincidence?  This had never happened before.”

I know about these situations because I lived in the San Jose area during that time.

When I began an outreach-oriented church in that area in the early 1990s, the spiritual attacks upon our church were relentless.  Without knowing it, we had moved into Satan’s territory.

The intersection where our church was located was a place where drugs were dealt and money was exchanged for sex.

In addition, during our new church’s startup phase, my family was assaulted with harassing phone calls and threats.

I consulted with Dr. Murphy about these issues, and he told me, “It sounds like someone has put a curse on you and your church.”

We persevered, and had a great ministry for years … but the spiritual attacks – mostly from outside the church – never stopped.

Based upon my nearly four decades in church ministry, let me suggest three things you can do personally to counteract Satan’s assaults on your pastor:

First, pray for your pastor … by yourself … with your family … and with other believers.

Pray for his walk with God … his family members … his leadership and teaching ministries … and his shepherding.

And when you pray for your pastor, let him know that’s what you’re doing.  I was always encouraged when someone said to me, “I’m praying for you, pastor.”

In fact, I’m still encouraged whenever that happens.

In addition, pray with your pastor spontaneously.

Pastors are constantly listening to people’s problems and asking, “Can I pray for you?”

But who ever asks their pastor, “Would it be all right if I prayed for you right now?”

You don’t have to be ordained … or know Greek … or be a spiritual giant … just obey the Spirit’s promptings.

What a blessing it is for a pastor to be the recipient of prayer!

Second, encourage your pastor verbally … especially after a message.

You might think that people are constantly telling pastors, “Wow, that was really a great message today!”

Not necessarily.

When I was a pastor, there were Sundays … sometimes a few in a row … when I didn’t hear any positive comments about a message.

It’s not that I wanted to be praised … I just wanted to know that I was effective.

If I heard from just two people that they benefited from the message, I was content … and was motivated to study hard for the next week’s sermon.

But if I didn’t hear from anybody, I’d wonder, “Is there something wrong with me that I don’t know about?”  And study would come hard that week.

Because spiritual work is usually invisible and slow, pastors can easily become discouraged when they don’t see results.

But when the people they serve say, “We’re glad you’re our pastor … we appreciate your ministry … and you’re really helping us grow” … those comments will infuse courage into a pastor … and keep the devil away.

Finally, defend your pastor when he’s absent.

If you’re with a group of people, and someone starts criticizing your pastor, suggest that the critic speak with the pastor personally … or remain silent.

Re-read that last line again.  It can be the difference between a church that splits and a church that’s healthy.

When churches split, it’s usually because churchgoers consistently talk about their pastor with others until a faction/mob forms and assaults the pastor in some fashion.

When churches are healthy, churchgoers insist that those who are upset with their pastor personally speak with him directly.

Whose job is it to keep a church healthy?

It’s the job of every person who calls that church home.

And what’s the primary way to turn a healthy church into a dysfunctional mess?

Attack the pastor … or stand idly by while others attack him.

As your pastor goes, so goes your church.

And if your pastor leaves, others will leave with him.

That’s what Satan wants.

What do you want?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I did something last Friday that I shouldn’t have done … and hopefully will never do again.

What was it?

At their parents’ request, I picked up two elementary age children from their school … and it was a nightmare.

The father teaches at the school, and the mother had to be away, so they needed someone to watch their boys for the afternoon, and my wife has done it before.

I arrived at the school ten minutes early … but nothing prepared me for the chaos that ensued.

Along with other vehicles, I moved into the left hand lane to turn into the school’s turnaround area.

We didn’t budge for at least 15 minutes.

But some cars began zipping past me on the right.  Where were they going?

The cars drove down the road … made a left … then made a U-turn … and came back toward the school so they could turn right into the parking lot ahead of those of us turning left!

Another woman drove up next to the cars in my line on the right … and then made an illegal U-turn in front of everybody!

It was absolute chaos … and nobody was directing traffic.

I finally turned left into the parking lot … looked everywhere for the boys amid a sea of faces … and couldn’t find them.

So I stopped the car next to the curb … stood up outside to get a better view … and was promptly reprimanded by a school official, who ordered me to get back into my car.

(All I was thinking was, “God, please don’t make me leave the turnaround area and go through that mess again!”)

We finally located the boys … they jumped into my car … and we traveled at a snail’s pace until we came to a fork.

Go right … and you’re stuck in an immovable line of cars making their way back to the street.

Go left … and you drive through some cones blocking the entrance to the street … but it was the quickest way out.

The chaos in that parking lot reminded me of three truisms about church conflict:

First, when people become anxious, they make up their own rules.

Some parents who were trying to pick up their kids didn’t care about propriety … or traffic laws … or taking turns.

So they cut in front of other vehicles … took shortcuts … and put others at risk.

I told the school official about some of the lawbreaking drivers … but the school had no plans to police incoming parents.

When major conflict surfaces in a church, some churchgoers forget they’re Christians and act like pagans instead.

They ignore everything Scripture has to say about conflict.

They spread nasty rumors without verifying their truthfulness.

They join the mob trying to force their pastor to quit.

And in the process, they model chaos for their families … new believers … and unbelievers.

But what’s worse is that it appears as if nobody is in charge.

If conflict ever breaks out in your church, remind people of what Scripture says about conflict resolution … or anarchy may result.

Second, when people become anxious, their focus becomes narrow.

Some parents who were picking up their kids were so intent upon finding their wee ones that they didn’t seem to notice anybody else.

The evidence?  Their selfish driving and lack of consideration.

When we become anxious, we block out the world around us, and focus on what’s troubling us.

Have you ever lost your child inside a store?

You don’t notice the merchandise on the shelves … or the people in your way … because you only have eyes for your child.

And you only expand your horizons when your child has been located.

When a church has a major conflict, people tend to focus on one person: the pastor.

In their minds, he’s either caused the conflict, or hasn’t stopped it … so he’s gotta go.

Anxious Christians fail to ask questions … do any investigative work … or hear from the other side.

They can’t see the bigger picture … that the devil is trying to destroy their congregation … so they join the mob … and the enemy smiles.

If conflict ever breaks out in your church, work hard to get people to see the bigger picture … or your pastor is toast.  

Finally, when people become anxious, they’ll do anything to find relief.

To leave that school in a hurry, some parents will willing to break the law … outrage other drivers … and risk injuries to their children and vehicles.

And when a major conflict surfaces inside a congregation, people … even God’s people … will do almost anything to make the conflict go away.

They don’t want to learn the truth about what’s really happening.

They don’t want to take the right road for resolving issues.

They don’t want to speak to people on both sides.

So they quickly choose a side … usually that of their friends … and lobby for the conflict to end.

And if that means that the pastor’s head rolls … so be it.

If conflict ever breaks out in your church, tell church leaders that you insist they use a biblical process for resolving matters … or hell itself will assume leadership.

If I could pound one thought into the head of every Christian churchgoer about congregational conflict, I’d say this:

When conflict erupts inside your church, apply biblical principles to your situation, and God will honor and bless your congregation.

But if your people make up their own rules … have a narrow focus … and do anything to find relief … a lot of innocent people are going to get hurt.

And God can’t bless your church until your congregation repents and learns what you should have done.

In the meantime, I’m going to avoid school parking lots.

_______________

While I was writing this article, I just hit 70,000 views on my blog.

If you come here from time to time, thanks for reading!

If this is your first time here, I invite you to return.

And if you read my blog regularly, thank you so much for your attention!  I am humbled by the fact you come back again and again.

Remember: I love interaction, so feel free to leave comments.  I strive to respond to all of them within 24 hours.  When it comes to church conflict, we’re all learners.

And if you’d like to chat privately, you can reach me at jim@restoringkingdombuilders.org or check out my website at http://www.restoringkingdombuilders.org

How do I know that anxiety produces chaos in churches?

I’ve written a book about my experiences called Church Coup: A Cautionary Tale of Congregational Conflict.  You can purchase the paperback or e-book from Amazon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Something happened on Facebook recently that distressed me.

One of my friends – a good friend, I thought – became Facebook friends with one of my enemies.

This “enemy” wasn’t someone that I despised, but someone who, let’s just say, is not one of my biggest fans.

Why was I concerned?

Because I didn’t want my “enemy” to influence my friend to stop being friends with me.

You ask, “Jim, that doesn’t happen among Christians, does it?”

Oh, yes, it does … and it’s happened to me a lot over the past few years.

How does this happen?

It’s simple.  Pastors … no matter how hard they try … make some enemies.

Those enemies have friends in the church … and the pastor is often friends with those same people.

A pastor’s enemies are usually vocal.  They’re always trying to explain why they don’t like the pastor … or why they don’t attend their church anymore.

Let me give you an example.

Nearly 20 years ago, a woman demanded that I do something for her, and when I resisted, she went ballistic on me.

She told many people how unhappy she was with her pastor, including a newer believer who was gearing up to start a vital ministry.

The newer believer quit coming to church.  When I went to her house, she refused to come to the door … and her whole family left en masse soon after that.

A friend had now become an enemy.

This kind of thing happens all the time in churches.

Someone is unhappy with the pastor … spreads their discontent to others … and usually finds someone who takes their side.

What do you do when a friend and an enemy become friends?

Do you “unfriend” your friend on Facebook and never speak with them again?

Do you distance yourself from your friend and think, “If you want to be friends with that person, then we are no longer friends?”

Do you contact your friend and demand that he or she “unfriend” your enemy?

These sound like responses an 11-year-old girl would make … but not a mature believer.

Over time, I’ve learned three important lessons about friends befriending enemies:

First, it’s okay for your friends to be friends with your enemies.

I don’t want anyone telling me who I can and can’t have as a friend … and I need to extend that privilege to others.

There are people that I don’t like but my wife adores.

There are people that I like that my wife can’t stand.

And there are people that my friends like who don’t like me.

It is possible for someone to be friends with you and friends with your enemy without being unduly influenced by either party.

This happens to many of us when two friends separate and divorce.  We don’t take one side or the other … we remain friends with both individuals.

We must allow our friends the same courtesy.

Second, real friends stay loyal to you.

If Joe (an enemy) tells Judy (your friend) that you’re a no-good-so-and-so, and Judy ends up siding with Joe, Judy may drop you as a friend.

But what kind of friend was Judy if she’d abandon you like that?

But if Joe tries to persuade Judy that you’re no good, and Judy ends up defending you, Judy has proven to be a faithful friend.

Let’s say that a pastor leads a congregation of 500 people and that he assumes all 500 people are his friends.

But then a rumor flares up that the pastor has stolen money from the church … a rumor that’s totally false … but a rumor some people pounce on to say, “Let’s get rid of the pastor.”

The pastor may think to himself, “Okay, maybe I’ve lost a handful of friends, but 480 people are still loyal.”

But the accusation … whispered through the church … may result in the pastor losing several hundred friends … and even his position.

That’s when the pastor finds out who his real friends are.

Like all pastors, I’ve been accused of various wrongs over the years, and it’s hurtful to watch people I thought were friends walk away … often for good.

But I’ve also discovered that many people have vigorously defended me, even when it’s cost them friendships.

Those people are your real friends.

Finally, your friends may eventually have to choose between you and your enemy.

I have a good friend who was also friends with one of my enemies … although I didn’t know he was my enemy at the time.

Anyway, whenever my friend and my “enemy” got together, the “enemy” delighted in running me down.

Finally, my friend had had it.  He told the “enemy” to stop running me down … and when he wouldn’t stop … my friend stopped being his friend.

I don’t like having enemies.  I don’t want to hate anybody … a response I can control … but some people have chosen to hate me … a response I can’t control.

And when I hear that a friend and an enemy have gotten together, it makes me a little bit nervous.

But we all have to learn to trust people, and to believe that our real friends will defend us and support us no matter what our enemies might say.

I didn’t like most of the music from the late Seventies, but I did like this song by the late Andrew Gold – his only real hit – called Thank You For Being a Friend (otherwise known as the theme to The Golden Girls TV show).

And I dedicate this song to all of my real friends … and want you to know how much I appreciate and love each one of you!

(Choose the first song in the top left corner … and skip the ad.)

https://search.yahoo.com/search;_ylt=AiyyiGzjjtBgG6oYMxz1f8ybvZx4?fr=yfp-t-901-s&toggle=1&cop=mss&ei=UTF-8&p=andrew%20gold%20thank%20you%20for%20being%20a%20friend%20youtube

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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