Archive for December, 2015

Today’s guest blogger is my wife Kim, who discusses how the words “Christmas” and “Arabia” could once be used in the same sentence when she lived in the Middle East more than 40 years ago.  This post has become a Christmas tradition on this blog.  Ah, the magic and romance of the desert …

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Kim in Arabia, May 2010

It seems so long ago.  The years were 1965-1970.  It was Christmas in Saudi Arabia, where my parents were missionaries to the Bedouin people in the desert.


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Photo at Oasis Hospital with Kim’s father in back row, 3rd from left, 1967

We lived about 100 miles from the now beautiful, modern city of Dubai.

Dubai, May 2011

49 years ago, we traveled by open land rover on non-existing roads surrounded by sand dunes.  It took about 10 hours to travel 100 miles.

Several years ago, I went back to visit where I lived.  I took a taxi to the hospital where we used to work and it only took 1 hour and 15 minutes.  What a difference!

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Kim and Taxi Outside Dubai, May 2010

When the Arabs asked me why I was visiting, I told them, “I lived here 46 years ago.”  With amazement, they said, “There was nothing here.”  I said, “You are exactly right.”

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In Front of Oasis Hospital, Where Her Father Worked in the 1960s

We would get together with friends on the compound.  We hiked, cooked, played games, played tricks on each other, and saw our pets (cats, dogs, gazelles, goats, a donkey, a fox, and a hedgehog).

Sometimes we slept outside up on high beds to keep snakes and scorpions away.  We would wake up in the morning hearing camels eating our dried palm leaf fence.

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Saudi Arabian Desert

Life was simple.  We would run around without shoes, help in the hospital, read books, listen to good music, and sit around and just talk.  I loved the simplicity.

When it came to getting a Christmas tree, we were creative.  We chose a thorn bush and brought it home to decorate.  We had fun adorning the tree with popcorn.  We wanted more decorations so we took Kotex and tore it apart to make snow with cotton.  I wasn’t sure my mom was very happy with us.

We learned to make taffy, pulling and pulling until we had a sweet, sticky treat.

But my best memory was camping in the desert.  I remember always having a sinus infection but I was determined to go – so I bundled up and went camping.  Being in the desert at night under a clear sky, you could see every star.  You could see the campfire for miles.  You were surrounded by sand dunes and the sound of nothing.  It was peaceful and quiet.

It must have been how the shepherds, Joseph, and Mary felt when Jesus was born.

Our Christmas service was held outside at night.  The glowing of candles and far off lights made the desert romantic and magical.  I was asked to play the organ and everyone from the compound came and sang Christmas carols.  This was my gift to Jesus.

Oh, the simplicity of Christmas!

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“Tell me your story.”

Whenever a pastor under attack contacts me – whether he wants a listening ear, an analysis of his current situation, or some counsel – I encourage him to let me know what he’s going through.

Even though I’ve heard scores of such stories – and have my own to tell – I always learn something that allows me to help someone else down the road.

Years ago, Chris Creech – author of the recent book Toxic Church – heard similar stories from pastors, but he didn’t necessarily want to hear them.

Creech was a new missionary, trying to meet with pastors in hopes that the pastor would persuade church leaders to financially support his plan to teach at a seminary in Singapore.  He had also been a pastor and a church planter for nearly 30 years.

Creech opens his book and all the information below is taken from its first chapter – by recounting a time when he met with a pastor named Bill and his wife Pat to ask for financial support … but the pastor needed emotional support from Creech instead.  Why?

Two elders had just met with that pastor and accused him of saying something that he had never said.  Creech recounts:

“They then asked Bill to offer his resignation.  They promised that if he refused to resign, they would make certain that he was fired.  They refused to listen to Bill’s explanations.  They had determined that Pastor Bill had to go!”

Creech continues:

“Bill was absolutely shocked.  The church was growing.  They had just completed a major building project.  The treasury was doing quite well.  They were even considering a new missionary (me).  How could they ask for his resignation on the basis of charges from nameless individuals and an attack from a person whose words were completely fraudulent?”

Creech then shares the dilemma that the pastor and his wife had:

“Should they fight the charges?  Would anyone believe them?  Would anyone care?  What would happen to Bill’s career if he left suddenly without a plausible explanation?  What church would consider him if he left without a place to go?  What would happen if they stayed to fight the charges and then were forced to leave?  Was there anyone who could help them with the struggle that was before them?”

After leaving the pastor and driving away, Creech was disturbed but wasn’t sure why.  Then it came to him:

“I was troubled because Pastor Bill’s experiences mirrored my own when I was serving a troubled church.  I too had been wounded, and I still felt the pain of being attacked.  When I listened to the lament of my new friends, Bill and Pat, I was reliving the horror that had been a part of my life.”

As Creech continued to meet with pastors and seek financial support, his experience with Bill and Pat was repeated “over a dozen times.”

*One pastor said a member of his church had died because of the attacks against him.

*Another pastor’s child committed suicide after a church member waged “a relentless war against him and his family.”

*Pastors endured serious physical ailments related to their attacks.

*Pastors had been falsely accused of “adultery, doctrinal impurity, or some other ethical or moral misconduct.”

*Staff members often colluded with the pastor’s primary accuser.

One Sunday morning, Creech was preaching, and during the early part of the service “the sanctuary had emptied of many members of the congregation, including the pastor … after the worship, the pastor told me that he had been meeting with the church’s board during the worship service.  He had been fired …”

Can you believe that?  He was fired during the worship service!

And then Creech writes:

“We have now been on the mission field for many years.  All of the struggling pastors I met during our support raising days have been forced to leave their churches with the exception of two.  These two are surviving, but barely…. Three of our supporting churches have closed their doors since we began our ministry in Southeast Asia.  Struggles between pastors and churches were a significant part of the closing of two of these churches.”

Creech’s book – and I’m not done reading it yet, but I highly recommend it so far – dramatizes what is clearly becoming a serious problem in many of our churches.

Let me make four observations based on what I’ve shared from Creech’s book:

First, the problem of pastoral termination is too widespread to be completely the fault of pastors.

Yes, a few pastors are arrogant and narcissistic … a few others are controlling and manipulative … and a few more are just plain incompetent.

But there can’t be that many bad pastors in Christian churches.

Pastors are chosen by God … trained by seminaries … ordained by churches … and called to congregations.  They are highly specialized professionals.

The root cause lies elsewhere.

Second, various church leaders – especially members of the official board – are acting independently of boards in other congregations.

I’m not aware of any blogs, newsletters, or books that encourage church boards on how to push out their pastors.  In other words, this phenomenon is not organized … on earth, anyway.

I see two issues at work when pastors are terminated:

*The church board is unable to think biblically, rationally, and creatively when someone – often another board member, staff member, or key church leader – makes a serious accusation against the pastor.

Board members don’t ask themselves, “What process does the Bible prescribe in this situation?”  They don’t ask, “Why don’t we individually think and pray about this accusation before we take action?”  They don’t ask, “If this accusation turns out to be true, how can we deal with the pastor without pressing for his resignation first?”

Instead, someone blurts out, “I think the pastor needs to go” … another board member chimes in, “I agree!” … and the flame becomes a firestorm.

*The enemy slips into the inner circle of the church undetected.

And he uses the same entry point nearly every time: a church leader who is angry with the pastor over a personal and perceived injustice.

Paul says in Ephesians 4:26-27 that when we let the sun go down on our anger – when we let it fester and grow into bitterness – we give the devil a foothold into our lives and churches.

Just once, when a board member complains about his pastor, I’d love to hear another board member tell him, “It sounds like you have something personal against the pastor.  Why don’t you meet with him and work it out?”

Just once.

Third, church leaders move to power too quickly when love would be far more effective.

When Chris Creech told the story of Pastor Bill’s meeting with the two elders, the elders never tried to use love as a methodology.

Love would have said to Pastor Bill, “We’ve just heard someone make a serious accusation against you.  We’d like to set up a meeting between the two of you.  Our prayer is that this issue can be resolved quickly and peacefully and that you can continue to enjoy a productive ministry here.”

Instead, power said, “We don’t care if this accusation against you is true or not.  In fact, it’s such a serious charge that as far as we’re concerned, you’re through around here!  Pack your bags, pastor, or we’ll pack them for you!”

When the pastor finally resigns, the average churchgoer will hear, “The pastor said something so offensive to someone that he was forced to quit.”

But the reality is that those two elders – possibly without the knowledge of the others – were the real culprits in the pastor’s departure.

In my own case six years ago, the board never tried love.  They went straight to power.  Mass casualties resulted.

Finally, we need strong, determined, principled Christians to stand up to those who bully pastors – even if the bullies are on the church board.

The problem, of course, is that the bullies do most of their plotting behind closed doors.

But inevitably, the plot leaks into the congregation, and some people hear about it.

If I was one of those individuals, I would:

*find out who was on the church board

*ask around to find out which board member was most approachable

*ask to speak with him/her as soon as possible

*ask if the pastor is under fire

*and then ask, “What process are you using to insure that the pastor is treated biblically and justly?”

When there is no predetermined process, the pastor is being evaluated by church politics instead.

Predetermined processes heal pastors and congregations.

Church politics destroy everybody and everything.

I encourage you to obtain and read the book Toxic Church by Chris Creech.  The Kindle edition on Amazon is still selling for only $4.97.

Read Toxic Church … and both you and your congregation can become much healthier.








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I live about thirty miles from San Bernardino, California – the city where a husband and wife team committed horrendous atrocities last week.

Because our entire country is understandably anxious right now, the amount of conflict – reflected in public rhetoric – has also risen among us.

Whenever anxiety rises – whether it’s in a country, a workplace, a family, or a church – conflict inevitably escalates as a result.

There are times in every group when anxiety – and thus conflict – are predictable.

And when we know that anxiety is likely, we can create strategies to lessen the anxiety level – which will lessen any possible conflict as well.

Let me share with you four times that conflict is likely in a church – and I could have included many additional examples:

First, conflict is likely whenever guests are coming over.

My wife and I hosted a Thanksgiving meal at our house two weeks ago.  We had fifteen people show up, including our son and his family, our daughter, and my wife’s twin brother and his family.

Because my wife and I wanted everything to go perfectly, we engaged in meticulous preparation.  We created a menu, bought the food, determined seating, cleaned the house thoroughly, and let everyone know that we were having brunch (without turkey) at 10:30 that morning.

Not everything went optimally, though.  Because we have a preschool in our house – and because we don’t own a dining room table – our guests had to sit in small chairs at low tables.  And because many family members wanted to help cook the food, it was hard at times to move around the kitchen.

But everyone was in such a good mood that we easily overcame those temporary obstacles.

Churches have times during the year when they anticipate company as well, such as Easter Sunday, Mother’s Day, and Christmas Eve.

And because pastors and church leaders are aware that guests will be visiting on those days, they want to create the finest possible impression … but sometimes, people differ on what that looks like.

Many years ago, I pastored a church that was having a Christmas Eve service that started early in the evening.

Some key participants in that service weren’t able to leave work on time, so when they arrived for rehearsal, they were late … but they still wanted to go over their parts until they were satisfied.

When it was time to start the service, our guests were gathered outside the double doors to the auditorium because those involved in the service were still practicing inside.

Watching those guests fidget, I went to our programming director and said, “I don’t care if you’re ready or not, we’re opening these doors right now.”  Although he pushed back, I felt it was important to start at the time we had advertised.

Thank God, we worked things out later on, but I’ve learned that whenever a church is having a big service … or a large event … designed to make a positive impression on newcomers … conflict inevitably results.

Second, conflict is likely when there are changes in a pastor’s family.

I attended some seminars many years ago where the presenters made the following statement:

“For many people in a church, the pastor assumes the role of a father, and his wife assumes the role of a mother.”

And, we might add, some in the congregation see themselves as their children.

As long as the pastor and his wife seem healthy and happy, the congregation feels secure.

But if the pastor and his wife experience disconcerting change, it can affect the entire church family.

Many years ago, I had a friend who was the associate pastor at his church.  While he was there, the senior pastor had a heart attack and was hospitalized.

The church didn’t want to terminate their pastor in his hour of need, but the longer he was out of commission, the more anxious the congregation became.  As I recall, it was his third heart attack, and his recovery period stretched for months.

The church board wanted the associate pastor to provide leadership for the congregation, but he felt that if he did, he would be betraying his supervisor.

Over time, the congregation shrank to such an extent that they had to borrow money from the denomination just to pay their bills … and the entire incident created great anxiety and conflict.

A pastor is a part of three families: his family of origin … his current family … and his church family.

And any change in one family will provoke change in the other families.

So if the pastor gets sick … or his sister dies … or his son gets in trouble at school … or his wife has an operation … the changes in the pastor’s family will cause him weakness, or sorrow, or disappointment, or fear … and those changes in his life are bound to spill over into the congregation.

And when the pastor isn’t acting “normally,” that anxiety inevitably leads to conflict.

In fact, when changes hit the pastor and his family, it’s common for a staff member or a board member to sense that the pastor is now in a weakened position, and to save the church, they assign themselves the role of LEADER and start making decisions that the pastor would usually make … leading to even more conflict.

Third, conflict is likely when the pastor is away.

Whether the pastor goes on vacation … or takes a sabbatical … or is hospitalized … or engages in continuing education … when he’s not around for several weeks, it creates anxiety around the church, and conflict is usually the result.

I once worked for a pastor who took a trip around the world.  His trip took an entire month.  Less than a year later, he was unemployed.

While he was gone, the people who didn’t like him had the opportunity to meet, gripe, and organize without his knowledge.

Nine years ago, I took a much-needed sabbatical.  I was entitled to at least three months off, but because the church had never had a pastor take a sabbatical before, I limited my time away to six weeks.

I went to Europe with my daughter … my wife flew out and joined us … my daughter flew home … and my wife and I went to Moldova for a week of ministry there.

I remember going out to breakfast with the board chairman and another member, reviewing every single issue in writing that I could anticipate … but I couldn’t anticipate everything.

I had lined up all the speakers before I left, including an author and an expert on Islam, but he cancelled his talk while I was away, and church leaders had to create a Plan B.

Unfortunately, Plan B created conflict that ended up lasting for many months.

I didn’t have a cell phone that worked in Europe back then, and if I had one, church leaders could have contacted me and the whole conflict could have been averted.

But the longer a pastor is away, the greater the chance that disgruntled people will start opposing him behind his back.

My wife and I twice visited a church recently where the pastor was teaching Christian leaders in Europe.  At each service, a video clip was played of the pastor greeting the congregation and briefly describing his ministry overseas.

I thought to myself, “That’s really smart.  It seems like the pastor is looking at us … even though he can’t see us … and we can see him as well.  It’s a reminder that he’s the pastor and that he’ll soon return.”

If a pastor knows he can trust the church staff and church board, then he can go away for a few weeks without fear.  But if has any doubts at all … it’s better to take shorter trips.

Finally, conflict is likely when just one staff member rebels.

It’s my belief that when a pastor hires a staff member, that person needs to be 100% loyal to him, both in public and in private.

And if that staff member can no longer demonstrate loyalty, he or she should resign and leave the church.

A disgruntled staff member should not stay at the church … should not spread their discontent to other staff … should not meet with a board member and trash the pastor … and above all, should not lead a rebellion against the pastor.

But I’ve been hearing more and more stories of staff rebellion, and it troubles me greatly.

In some cases, a staff member will claim that the pastor hurt his/her feelings, so they are justified in resisting the pastor’s leadership.

In other cases, a staff member starts to believe that he/she is more competent than the pastor … a sure sign that staff member should find another position somewhere else.

But in still more cases, a staff member believes that he or she should become the pastor, so they use any and every means necessary to push out the pastor.

For the life of me, I can’t understand this thinking.

In such cases, I always go back to the story of Moses and Korah in Numbers 16.

Moses was a deeply flawed leader.  He was reluctant to serve … very old … prone to frustration … and wasn’t leading Israel anywhere productive.

Korah, Dathan, and Abiram – members of Moses’ staff – led a rebellion against him … and felt they had every right to do so.

But when the ground later opened up, Moses was the only leader still standing on solid ground.


And the same thing is true today.  Regardless of a pastor’s personality flaws or creeping age, if God has called that person to be the pastor, then staff members either need to follow him or resign.

But if a staff member resists the pastor’s leadership … or openly rebels against him … his/her actions will become known, and send the signal to others, “We don’t have to follow the pastor’s leadership anymore.  We can all rebel.”

And World War 3 will break out in that church.

Church leaders can write policy manuals that hope to cover every possible situation, but regardless of their detailed planning, some anxiety-provoking event will always surface in a congregation.

Long beforehand, the wise pastor will tell his people:

“Not everything will go perfectly in this church.  No matter how well we plan, we will occasionally experience bumps and glitches along the road.  But when those situations occur, let’s resolve together to stay calm, to talk things out, to confess our shortcomings, and to forgive each other.  If we do that, we’ll triumph regardless of the issue.”

While we can’t stop anxiety from invading a congregation, wise leaders acknowledge that anxiety … bringing the level of conflict down … which enables God’s people to create spiritual and rational decisions rather than emotional and drastic ones.

What is the anxiety level of your congregation these days?
















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I have a confession to make … and it’s very painful indeed.

My name is Shirley.  Earlier this year, I said something to a friend that eventually resulted in devastation for our pastor … his family … our church … and my family.

Several months ago, I came home from work early one day, and I passed by the home of my friend Sandi.

Sandi’s car was in the driveway, but her husband’s car was gone, and a Ford truck – belonging to our pastor – was parked in front of Sandi’s house.

My first thought was, “Could something be going on between Sandi and Pastor Joe?”

So I drove by several more times later that afternoon, just to be certain, and sure enough, the pastor’s truck was still there.

By 4:45, Pastor Joe’s truck was gone, and by 5:35, the car of Sandi’s husband was parked in their driveway.

I was suspicious.  Years before, I knew someone whose church was devastated when it was discovered that the pastor was having an affair, so I’ve always been on the lookout for such signs.

Of course, I didn’t have any proof that anything was happening between the pastor and Sandi, but if something was happening, I didn’t want to remain silent, either.

So I called Beth, a good friend and the wife of a board member, and told her what I saw.  Beth thanked me for my call.

Two weeks later, the conversation at church was dominated by a single topic: Pastor Joe and Sandi were having an affair!

For the next several Sundays, the congregation was full of tension.  People stood around in cliques and spoke in hushed tones before and after services.  I happened to walk by two groups, and overheard both of them discussing the same topic: the relationship between the pastor and Sandi.

But I didn’t dare tell anyone that I was the person who initially raised the issue.

Beth told me that the board had already held an emergency meeting without Pastor Joe.  Then the board called another meeting and met with Pastor Joe alone, who vigorously denied that he was having an affair with Sandi.

But right around that time, I started receiving emails and phone calls from people at church claiming that the pastor was guilty of even more wrongdoing.

He was accused of mishandling church funds … of firing the youth minister out of jealousy … of ignoring the seniors in our church … and of mismanaging his family.

Suddenly, it was open season on Pastor Joe.

There were so many rumors flying around about his character and conduct that the board didn’t know what to do.

Due to their anxiety, some important families threatened to leave the church unless Pastor Joe was fired, so the board asked for Pastor Joe’s resignation.

But the pastor didn’t want to resign.  He claimed that he had done nothing wrong, and that all the rumors were really overreactions.

But nobody seemed to hear Pastor Joe’s denials … they only focused on all the new charges.

And then two staff members … several members of the church board … and leaders from the women’s ministry made additional charges against Pastor Joe.

The staff members claimed that he never affirmed them and demanded too much from them.

Several board members stated that the pastor’s marriage must be in shambles because of his affair.

The women’s ministry leaders stated that Pastor Joe didn’t like women and that he always made them feel uncomfortable.

And on and on and on …

It’s been months since Pastor Joe finally left the church.  We have an interim pastor now, but we’ve lost one-third of our congregation … including some of my best friends … and the board has sent out three letters begging the congregation to give more money by year’s end or we won’t be able to pay our bills.

In the meantime, I eventually found out the real reason why Pastor Joe was at Sandi’s house that afternoon.

Sandi’s husband Neil was raised by an uncle.  The uncle lived across the country, and died suddenly of a heart attack.

The news devastated Neil.  He called Pastor Joe and asked him to come to his house right away.

When Pastor Joe went inside Sandi’s house, Neil was there the whole time … and Neil’s car was missing because it was in a repair shop.

If a couple need counseling, they usually go the pastor’s office at church … but if there’s a death in the family, the pastor usually goes to see them in their house.

I should have known that, but for some reason, I forgot.

Right now, I’m wracked with guilt … and I don’t want to tell anybody what I said or who I said it to.

I just pray that someday, Pastor Joe can forgive me.


This story is a composite of stories I’ve heard from pastors and board members, although I do know a situation where a pastor was forced to resign because his car was parked outside a woman’s house.

There are several themes to this sad but increasingly common narrative:

First, Shirley should have checked with either Pastor Joe or Sandi before she shared her suspicions with anyone else at church.

She might have emailed the pastor and said, “Hey, I noticed your truck at Neil and Sandi’s house last week.  Is everything okay?”

Or she might have walked up to Sandi at church the next Sunday and said, “I noticed that the pastor’s truck was outside your house last Thursday.  I hope things are all right with your family.”

Either way, she would have learned the true situation … since neither party had anything to hide … and that would have been the end of it.

Instead, Shirley failed to speak with either party and went straight to Beth, who talked to her husband, who passed Shirley’s suspicions on to the entire board … needlessly multiplying the number of people involved.

Second, Beth’s husband should have spoken immediately with the pastor and let him share his side of the story.

But he didn’t. Instead, he called the board chairman, who believed that since a board member was making the accusation against the pastor, it must be true.

But Beth’s husband didn’t make an accusation … he just raised a suspicion.  But that distinction was lost on the board chairman.

Unfortunately, with many people, a private suspicion is the same thing as a formal accusation because they hear things emotionally, not rationally.

The chairman could have told Beth’s husband, “Why don’t you call the pastor and find out why he was at Sandi’s house?”

Or the chairman could have suggested, “How would you feel if I called the pastor and got his side of the story?”

Instead, the chairman called a meeting of the entire board … escalating matters … and again, involving way too many people.

Third, the board didn’t keep a lid on their emergency meeting nor its purpose.

How many gossiping board members does it take to bring down a pastor?

Just one.

And how many gossiping board member’s wives does it take to bring down a pastor?

Just one.

There are a few people in every church who can be trusted to keep important matters confidential.

However, there are many more people who can’t be trusted with anything important.

But some church leaders want to make themselves look significant.  They long to tell people, “I know something you don’t know about our pastor.”

But when they do that … especially when they’re passing on false or incomplete information … the results can be deadly.

When certain people inside a church hear either a board member or a board member’s wife make a serious charge against their pastor, they focus on who is making the charge just as much as the charge itself.

In other words, they take the charge as the gospel truth without any independent verification.

Although those leaders could be completely wrong, their office and status in the church makes them automatically believable to many individuals.

Fourth, when a pastor denies accusations made against him, some people will ignore his protests and bury him with even more accusations.

I can’t get my head around this reality, but it happens all the time.

Because they’re public and influential figures, pastors are frequently accused of wrongdoing.

Sometimes the accusations are made in a restaurant after a Sunday service … or in a car driving home … or after a small group meeting … or via email or texting.

Let’s say a pastor is accused by various churchgoers of doing 100 things wrong in a church one year.

And let’s say that 93 of the accusations are made in private and never circulate inside the congregation, so they just disappear.

Then let’s say that four accusations are brought directly to the pastor’s attention, and he refutes them with ease.

And let’s say that two accusations are brought to the board, and they check with their pastor, who again debunks them.

But let’s say one accusation takes on a life of its own, and that key leaders believe it … and spread it … without ever checking with the pastor first.

That single unproven, unverified accusation has the potential to end the pastor’s tenure in that church.

Because when an accusation circulates long enough … and is passed around to enough people … it takes on a life of its own even if it’s untrue … because the pastor doesn’t know anything about it.

Paul’s caution to Timothy must be among the least-obeyed verses in the entire New Testament:

Do not entertain an accusation against an elder [includes pastors; see verses 17-18] unless it is brought by two or three witnesses.  1 Timothy 5:19

Did you catch that?  The elders/board and the congregation should not even entertain an accusation against a pastor unless two or three witnesses are willing to go on the record.

And going on the record means that when they make their accusations, the pastor is allowed to face his accusers and respond to them.

In our little story, Shirley saw the pastor’s truck.  Beth didn’t … her husband didn’t … and the board chairman didn’t … but none of them possessed the wisdom or the courage to speak with the pastor directly.

The result?

Devastation all around.

Fifth, when one serious allegation about a pastor circulates around the church, people often add their own grievances to the mix.

I hear this story all the time.

Let’s say that a board member is telling people that the pastor has mishandled his expense account … and that the news is getting around the church.

When some people sense that the pastor is in trouble, it’s common for them to throw their own complaints about him into the hopper.

Rather than praying for the pastor and their church … or assuming a confident stance that the pastor will be exonerated … or waiting for an investigation to determine the truth … these individuals “pile on” the pastor with their own bitter feelings about him.

And when those allegations reach critical mass, the pastor can’t answer them all, and because those charges hang over him unresolved, he usually has to resign.

Finally, God’s people are all too quick to believe the worst about their pastors.

Becoming a credentialed pastor requires a lot of work.

I was a pastor for 36 years.  To become a pastor:

*I attended a Christian liberal arts college for four years before graduating.

*I attended seminary for five years to earn a Master of Divinity degree.

*I was ordained in my home church, which required that I share my conversion testimony, call to ministry, and a written statement of faith before several dozen Christian leaders, mostly pastors.

*I borrowed funds to complete my education (some prospective pastors borrow tens of thousands of dollars).

*I spent seven more years earning a Doctor of Ministry degree.

I wanted to be the best pastor I could be … and thousands of my colleagues have walked a similar path to gain their credentials.

But in today’s climate, one false allegation … one unsubstantiated rumor … can end not only a pastor’s tenure in a particular church, but also his entire career.

If a pastor is guilty of heresy, sexual immorality, or criminal behavior, he should resign voluntarily, and if he doesn’t, a church board has every right to dismiss him from office while still treating him with dignity and compassion.

But so often, a pastor is forced to resign, not because he did anything wrong, but because church leaders … usually those on the official board … let church politics determine their pastor’s future rather than devising and implementing a biblical, fair, and just process to evaluate any accusations made against him.

The pastor ends up leaving the church because church leaders let the accusations against him get out of hand.

Earlier I mentioned that I know a pastor who was forced to resign because his car was parked outside the home of a woman in his congregation.

Years later, a new pastor came to that church, and asked the previous pastor to return so the congregation could ask the pastor to forgive them for the way they mistreated him.

Maybe Shirley will repent, too, for the way she started the rumor mill grinding about her pastor.

But she shouldn’t be the only one to repent.

There’s more than enough blame to go around.











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