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Archive for the ‘Conflict with the Pastor’ Category

Christian leader Thom Rainer recently wrote a blog post lamenting the “epidemic” of pastoral terminations.  I offered comments about some of his points in my last article:

https://blog.restoringkingdombuilders.org/2017/08/25/thoughts-on-firing-a-pastor/

One church board member wrote the following in the “Comments” section:

“I appreciate this advice.  I have had to be part of a firing and it was not easy.  I wish I had these guidelines then.”

Let me tell you a story as to why church boards need such guidelines desperately.

During my first decade as a pastor, I met another pastor whose church was a half hour away from mine.  Whenever we had pastor’s lunches in our district, we would hang around afterwards and talk.  This pastor – I’ll call him Gene – became my friend.

Several years later, after preaching at his church one Easter, Gene got in his car and began a trip designed to interview prospective staff members the following day … but he never made it.

Instead, on a stretch of highway called “Blood Alley,” Gene’s vehicle was hit head on by a truck.  Gene was helicoptered to the county hospital.  The next day, I went to visit him.

His face was completely bandaged.  He could hardly speak, but at one point, he motioned for me to come closer, and he whispered, “Pray that I will preach again.”

Gene’s recuperation took a long time.  The glass from his windshield had penetrated his skin, and his face had to be surgically rebuilt.

Not long afterwards … and I can’t remember precisely how long … drugs were found inside his daughter’s suitcase at camp.  She vehemently denied that the drugs were hers, and Gene stood with her, but the church board claimed she was guilty, and demanded that she confess her sin publicly.  Gene chose to resign instead.

When I heard that Gene had quit after nine years as pastor, I called him right away.

I asked Gene what kind of severance he received, and he said that he received two weeks pay and a plaque.  After one month, his medical insurance would be canceled.

A short while later, the truth came out: the drugs did not belong to Gene’s daughter.  They belonged to another girl, who was afraid she would be caught with them and sent home … so she hid them in somebody else’s suitcase.

A year later, Gene and I met for lunch.  When I asked him why the board had pushed him out, he still had no idea.  I gave him a new book on pastoral termination, and after reading it, Gene felt he finally understood why he had been removed.

The church called a new pastor … someone I later got to know … and that pastor invited Gene back to the church and arranged for the congregation to apologize to Gene for the way he and his family were treated … a rare occurrence in Christian circles.

The Lord went on to bless Gene abundantly as he did pioneer work in a field not usually associated with Christians.

Let me make five observations about conflict training for boards from this story:

First, every church board needs to operate by a predetermined set of written guidelines before they even discuss their pastor’s future.

But many churches don’t have them.

If you’re a pastor, and your church doesn’t have those guidelines in place, and you’re under attack, it’s like going to court in a third world country.  You know going in you’re not going to be treated fairly.

Such guidelines are best written when people are thinking clearly because when even a few board members … who are supposedly selected for their spiritual lives … become irrational, they can harm their church … and their pastor … for years.

A board can’t create those guidelines when someone starts becoming upset with their pastor.  Their anxiety will cause them to ignore them completely.

Those guidelines should be found in two primary places: church bylaws … which should have a section specifying how to dismiss a pastor … and a special document that might be found in a church/board policy handbook.

However, in the case of Gene’s board, they didn’t have any such guidelines … and the outcome ended tragically.

Second, even when those documents are in place, many boards determine the result they want, and then choose the quickest pathway to achieving it.

Gene told me about a board member I’ll call Don who had undue influence with the board.  Don had money and was a district trustee.  Gene suspected that Don was behind his ouster … and he was probably right.

From what I know, Don used the situation with Gene’s daughter as a pretext to force Gene out.  (But didn’t Don even consider how much harm he would cause Gene’s daughter?)  At the very least, Don had to sign off on removing Gene from office.

And this is why many boards don’t use or want any written guidelines: they have a powerful board member whose influence supersedes any guidelines.

Such a person might ask, “Why use guidelines when you have me?”

In my third pastorate, the elders used to joke that each of them had one vote, but that I as pastor had five votes.

But the Dons who run church boards … even when they’re not the chairman … have ten votes … not because they’ve earned such power, but because the other board members won’t stand up to them.

Christians rightly lament the way that Jesus was mistreated when He stood before the Sanhedrin, Pilate and Herod before He was crucified, and yet He was at least allowed to speak in His own defense.  Many pastors aren’t even accorded that privilege.

Third, the pastor is the only logical person to teach the board how to handle potential conflicts that concern him … but most won’t do it.

The pastor theoretically has more influence over individual board members than anyone else … and yet, when it comes to managing conflict, most pastors choose not to use that influence.

Years ago, when I served on a church staff, a couple of men in the church began to attack my pastor.  I went to a board meeting, told them what was happening, and asked for their help in stopping the verbal attacks.

The board voted 5-2 to do something … but the pastor was one of the “no” votes.  He was afraid that taking on the bullies would make things even worse.

Some pastors might have said, “Men, here’s what Scripture says about how to handle this situation … and here’s what our governing documents say … and I’d like you to read this book and discuss it at our next meeting.  Then we’ll create an action plan and deal with this biblically and courageously.”

But most pastors feel that it’s self-serving to make such suggestions … but I believe they’re wrong.

Whenever the pastor is under attack, the pastor needs to define the process that the board should use.  If he doesn’t, the board will make up their own process, and much of the time, they will blow their church sky high.

It’s right for a pastor to say, “This is how we do conflict around here.”  In fact, church boards are looking for that kind of leadership from their shepherd.  Yes, he can leave the outcome with them … but not the process.

And I believe if the board ignores that process, or short-circuits it altogether, the pastor has the responsibility to blow the whistle on them because the process will determine the product.

I believe all pastors must do the following three things to prepare their leaders for conflict:

First, the pastor must preach on biblical conflict management and resolution annually.

When Paul writes to the church in Rome … or Corinth … or Thessalonica … and he specifies how to address conflicts … he’s addressing those entire congregations.  It is the responsibility of every believer to become a church conflict practitioner.

Second, the pastor must train the official board and staff on biblical conflict management at least annually.

He can do this before or during a board meeting annually.  Or he can do this as part of a regular retreat.

The pastor could even invite a church conflict expert to do that training.

But if the pastor doesn’t take the initiative, it will never happen.

Finally, the pastor needs to make sure that every board member owns a copy of a great book on church conflict … and that they consult it on occasion.

These are the five books that I most recommend:

https://blog.restoringkingdombuilders.org/2015/05/06/five-essential-books-on-pastor-church-conflict/

When the board gets stuck on a conflict during the year … presumably one that doesn’t involve the pastor … the pastor could ask, “What does Leas … or Steinke … or Haugk say about this?”

The problem is that when church leaders become anxious, they look for shortcuts.  The pastor has to teach his leaders, “Let’s look for the best long-term solution, not the quickest short-term one.  These books will help us do just that.”

Fourth, board members need to seek outside counsel when it comes to offering a departing pastor a severance package.

My friend Gene was given two weeks salary and a plaque as his reward for nine years of committed service.

That’s not just heartless … that’s evil.

But where could the board turn for counsel?

I discovered that in Gene’s case, the district knew about the false accusation against his daughter, but chose to do nothing.  They could have insisted that the pastor receive a generous and just severance package, but it wasn’t their practice to interfere in pastor-church conflicts … or so they claimed.

So where can church boards turn for information about pastoral severance?

A few years ago, sensing there is almost nothing about this topic in print, I decided to write an article about severance packages for pastors.  It’s now become my second most viewed article concerning pastoral termination:

https://blog.restoringkingdombuilders.org/2014/02/24/why-give-a-terminated-pastor-a-severance-package/

I have heard stories how my article has expanded the thinking of church boards, and for that, I am grateful.

In fact, sometimes I’ll notice that the article has been viewed 20 or 30 times in a day, an indication that it may be circulating among board members.

I commend every church board member who reads the article because they’re trying to learn what to do … unlike Gene’s board, which treated their pastor with utter contempt.

As the board member quoted at the beginning of this article admitted in the fuller comment I quoted in my last post, church boards usually treat their pastor the way they treat others in the business world.

What they forget is that God called their pastor to their church.

Finally, church boards often want guidance, but don’t know where to find it.

Several months ago, I had the privilege of consulting with three different church boards about their pastors.

I was referred to each board by the same Christian leader.

One board really listened to me and took my counsel to heart.  They made a change and secured an intentional interim pastor who later wrote me and thanked me for my counsel.  Things were looking up for them.

Another board chairman contacted me but didn’t agree with my counsel.  The last I heard, trouble was looking for his church.

While I don’t claim to be infallible, people like me …. who serve as outside consultants … can save a church time, money, and heartache just by considering another perspective.

Last year, I helped a pastor on the East Coast face down the bullies in his church.  He told me, “Jim, you have the best stuff on pastor-church conflict on the internet.”

I don’t know how to evaluate his observation, but I do know this: most church boards who struggle with their pastor need someone to listen to them … to guide them … and to advise them … and if they have to turn online for help, I hope my writings prove beneficial.

The boards that go it alone are the ones who cause the most damage to their church and pastor.

The boards that seek conflict training and outside expertise are the ones who cause the least damage.

How well trained is your church’s board in conflict resolution?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A friend sent me a link to a blog article by Christian leadership expert Thom Rainer yesterday.  His article was addressed to church leaders and titled, “Before You Fire Your Pastor.”

Here’s the article:

http://thomrainer.com/2017/08/before-you-fire-your-pastor/

In his concise way, Rainer shares eight “admonitions” to church leaders who are thinking about terminating their pastor.

To me, these were the highlights … followed by my own thoughts:

“You are about to make a decision that will shape your church, the pastor, and the pastor’s family for years to come.”

I don’t think most boards think about the pastor and his family much when they push him out.  They’re thinking primarily of the comfort level of the group they’ve been working with to get rid of him.

Since the board’s decision will impact their church for “years to come,” why not do an all-church assessment by an outside consultant first?  If the pastor really isn’t a fit, that will be made clear in the assessment, and the pastor and board can discuss a peaceful departure and transition … possibly mediated by the consultant.

Of course, the assessment might show that the board is the problem.  And that might be the main reason why boards are afraid of assessments.  I suggested calling in an outside consultant on two occasions several months before I left my last ministry, but nothing ever happened.

“Understand fully the consequence to your congregation. A church is marked once it fires a pastor. Members leave. Potential guests stay away. Morale is decimated. The church has to go through a prolonged period of healing where it cannot have much of an outward focus.”

Church conflict expert Peter Steinke says that it takes a church two to five years to heal after a moderate to severe conflict, and by definition, forcing out a pastor almost always constitutes a severe conflict.

Many times, the very individuals who pushed out the pastor end up leaving during the healing period.  Maybe they thought the church would get better without the pastor … and with them in charge … but when it doesn’t work that way, they bail.

Outreach usually dies after a pastor leaves … especially if the departing pastor was outreach-oriented.

“Consider the church’s reputation in the community. You are about to receive the label: ‘The church that fired their pastor.’ That will be your identity for some time.”

Most leaders who push out a pastor have never been in a church before where a pastoral termination occurred.  They don’t have any idea what happens inside a congregation after a pastor leaves.  They’re assuming they can handle any and all crises.  But without their pastor to guide them, they’re liable to make a mess of things.

Some people in my previous church tried to ruin my reputation after I left, and it stung.  (Some friends still won’t tell us what really transpired after my departure.)  But the church has suffered as well.

Reminds me of a post a friend put on Facebook several days ago: “Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves” … one for the pastor, one for the church.

“Let your pastor know why… he was being fired…. I am amazed how many pastors have no idea why they are being let go. That is cowardly. That is not Christ-like.”

There’s a simple explanation for this omission: most of the time, there isn’t a good reason for sending the pastor packing.  The reasons are more subjective than objective, highlight board members’ personal preferences rather than the pastor’s stubborn sinfulness, and don’t sound convincing when uttered in public.

I still don’t really know why I was pushed out of my last ministry.  After thinking about it for nearly eight years, I’ve concluded that it boiled down to personal revenge on the part of three individuals who spread their feelings to others.  But if that’s truly the case, who is ever going to admit it?  Maybe that’s why I have never heard directly from anyone who pushed me out at the end of 2009.

“Be generous. If your church does make the decision to fire your pastor, please be generous with severance and benefits. Don’t treat your pastor like a secular organization might treat an employee. Show the world Christian compassion and generosity.”

Sad to say, there are boards that look for every reason not to give their pastor a generous severance.  I remember one board that referred the pastor’s severance to the congregation hoping they would turn it down.

With some leaders, once they know a pastor is going to leave, he’s no longer worth anything to them anymore.  He’s dead weight.  (This is exhibited by the fact that after the pastor leaves, those who forced him out will never contact him again.)  They offer their pastor a token severance … threaten to pull it back if he doesn’t agree to their terms immediately … and send him and his family into the night with an exit that seems designed by the enemy.

The longer a pastor’s tenure at a church, the more committed he’s been to his congregation, and the more worthy he is of a generous severance package.  But since it takes at least a year to find a new ministry these days … and usually longer … the board has to factor that reality into their creation of any severance package.

After I read Rainer’s article, I perused the comments, and ran across this admission:

“I appreciate this advice. I have had to be part of a firing and it was not easy. I wish I had these guidelines then. The one part we did decent was giving the pastor in question a long run away to find new employment and kept his benefits going in the transition. I really think we could have done more, but it was something. Often I think this idea of helping pastors launch into another ministry or even transition to a vocation outside full time Christian service is foreign to elders or boards because it is rare in business fields unless you are a high c-level executive with contractual basis. Thus they balk at the idea thinking it bad business or poor stewardship. Finding a role in another church takes time. Often churches are slow to hire, for good reason, so we should reflect Jesus’ generosity when we have to fire someone understanding they can’t just walk into another job next door.”

Here is the phrase that sticks out most to me: “I wish I had these guidelines then.”

What can you and I do to help pastors and boards handle their conflicts in a more biblical, just, and Christlike way?

That’s my topic for next time.

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“That sounds like a good idea, but looking at the budget, we just don’t have the money.”

How many times have church leaders uttered those words when someone … the pastor, a staff member, a team leader … proposed a new ministry?

According to church conflict expert Peter Steinke, money concerns cause more conflicts in churches than anything else.

Conflicts emerge most often because congregational giving falls short of meeting the annual budget.  And then the attitude becomes, “We can’t spend any money because we’re behind on the budget.  Maybe when we’re meeting or exceeding the budget, then we can talk about doing something else.”

But that attitude guarantees that the church won’t meet its budget.

When I was a teenager, I attended a church that had a two board system.

The elders were the spiritual leaders, and the deacons ran the facility and finances.

That system was guaranteed to make sure that nothing ever got done.

Why not?

The elders were chosen because of their walk with the Lord … while the deacons were chosen because of their business sense.

The elders would invariably propose, discuss, and agree on a proposal, like, “We want to have a special seminar this fall to emphasize healthy marriages.  We’ve contacted an expert in this area who has agreed to do a three-hour seminar for $500.”

Then they’d kick the decision to the deacons, who would veto it, claiming, “Since we’re behind on the budget, we don’t have the money.”

I heard that song and dance over and over again.

This is the most likely reason why so many churches in the 1970s and 1980s moved away from the two board system and instituted a one board system instead.

But even under the one board system, the same argument keeps coming up.

Why?

Because there are people on every board that believe that money is more important than ministry.

They won’t ever say that.  It sounds unspiritual.  But that’s how they behave.

And in the process, such people keep their church from expanding Christ’s kingdom in their community.

Let me share five principles defining the relationship between ministry and money:

First, money is a tool for ministry rather than the reason a church exists.

Churches don’t exist to raise and hoard money.

Churches exist to worship God, teach Scripture, and meet the spiritual needs of people in their community.

And money is one of many tools a church can use to fulfill those purposes.

But sometimes it only takes one person on the church board or staff to sabotage a church’s reason for being.

I once pastored a congregation where someone donated a six-figure gift to the ministry.

Even though we were behind on our budget, I wanted to use some of those funds for ministry.

The money wasn’t donated so we could hoard it or gain interest on the principal. The money was given for ministry … so I made a proposal to reach an entirely new demographic.

But someone on the board wanted to set aside those funds to put a new roof on one of the buildings … in five years.

Yes, a church needs to be a good steward of its facilities.

But church buildings aren’t going to stand before God someday, while every person in that community will.

Only people last forever.

Conflicts occur in churches where the pastor has a vision for ministry, while others have a vision for maintenance.

Second, a church budget is a servant, not a master.

I have lived by a budget for most of my married life.  I budget our tithe … our taxes … our house payment … our savings … and funds for our business.

I don’t consult that budget every week.  I consult it every day … usually several times.

But there are times when things arise that aren’t budgeted, but I do them anyway.

Several weeks ago, my wife wanted us to go away for our 42nd wedding anniversary.  I told her it sounded good, but I preferred to go away for just one night … and I had that budgeted.

But she wanted to go away two nights … and miss a day of work at our business … meaning we’d have to pay extra funds for employees.

I tried to reason with her, but she finally asked me, “When do I get a day off around here?”

She was right … and I relented.  Sometimes investing in your marriage is far more important than saving a few dollars.

But I have been in churches where once a budget category has been spent, that’s it … you can’t spend any more for the rest of the year.

In one church, the funds for refreshments between services dissipated during the summer.

That refreshment time was crucial to our ministry.  People stayed for goodies after the first service and arrived early for goodies before the second service.

And most of the time, our guests stayed as well … and that was our best time to connect with them all week.

If counting beans was most important, we’d pull the refreshments altogether … and lose our best opportunity to meet newcomers.

When I heard that the funds were gone, it didn’t phase me.  I told the person running the refreshments to keep doing them.  REACHING NEWCOMERS IS THE ONLY WAY ANY CHURCH CAN GROW.

But a board member … without authorization or discussion … went to the person running refreshments and told them that the goodies had to stop because we didn’t have the money.

Is the budget a master or a servant?

That board member believed it was a master.

I believed it was a servant.

I still do.

When the budget becomes a church’s master, then Jesus isn’t.

Third, a church has to prioritize outreach or it simply won’t grow.

And outreach costs money.

In fact, a church has to invest funds in outreach continually … and wisely … if it ever hopes to grow numerically.

Show me a church’s budget and I can tell you whether or not they plan on growing.

If they budget most of their money for facilities, salaries, missions, and education … maintenance items … then they don’t intend to grow.

But if they budget a generous amount of money for meaningful worship, creative marketing, special events, need-meeting seminars, tasty refreshments, and community projects, then they’re at least planning to grow.

If a church budgets for outreach, but giving doesn’t meet the budget, some will say, “Let’s get rid of outreach for the rest of the year.”

But when church leaders are serious about growth, they’ll say, “Either we need to raise more money or we need to cut other categories … anywhere but outreach.”

A homely story.

Let’s say Bill and Joanne get married, and they can barely make ends meet financially.

And then Joanne gets pregnant.

Are they going to say, “Okay, let’s have this baby, but we’re going to spend the same amount of money we spent before the baby arrived?”

No … they’re going to do whatever it takes to provide well for their child … and that includes trusting God to expand their budget.

God sends lost children to churches He knows will provide for them … and steers them clear of churches that put budgets before people.

Money flows toward churches that make plans to reach their community … and away from churches that focus only on themselves.

And you can take that last statement to the bank.

Fourth, God honors churches that take divinely-sanctioned risks.

Twenty-five years ago … around the time of our 17th wedding anniversary … my wife and I began talking about going to Europe for our twentieth anniversary.

We decided to save money for three years to make that dream a reality.

But along the way, it didn’t look like the trip was going to come off, so I told Kim, “I don’t think we’re going to be able to do this financially.”

She responded, “I’m going whether you go or not.”

We began doing research … watching Rick Steves’ videos … and talking to others who had been to Europe.

Then we visited a travel agent.  (Remember those?)

I can’t explain it, but everything came together financially, and on the morning of our twentieth anniversary, we found ourselves at the Schilthorn in Switzerland … high up in the Alps.

I’ve been to Europe many times since, and it all started with my wife believing that somehow … in some way … we were going to go!

In the Parable of the Talents, Jesus commended the servant who invested his talents for gain, but condemned the servant who buried his talent in the sand.

Sad to say, most churches bury their financial talents in the sand.

May I share one reason why that’s so?

It’s the misplaced pride of the pastor.

My wife and I attended a church north of Phoenix, Arizona, for eighteen months called Christ’s Church of the Valley.

Every summer, the pastor took his key leaders away for a weekend to visit a church … sometimes out-of-state … that was effectively reaching people for Christ.  (Such a trip costs money!)

Every time they returned, they had their thinking expanded … and came home with a boatload of ideas.

While we attended there, the church became the tenth largest church in the United States.

Rather than act like he had it all together, the pastor wanted to learn from other pastors and churches … and incorporate their best ideas into his ministry.

The church took many risks.  Many paid off … and some did not … but so what?  That’s the nature of risk-taking.

I heard about a church that gave out annual awards.  They gave an award every year to the person who took the biggest risk … and failed.

Why did they do that?

Because they wanted to highlight, “This is a church where we take risks.”

How risk-taking is your church?

Finally, a church needs to let God make their decisions, not money.

In his book Money, Sex and Power, Richard Foster writes the most memorable paragraph I’ve ever read about Christians and money:

“The Christian is given the high calling of using mammon without serving mammon.  We are using mammon when we allow God to determine our economic decisions.  We are serving mammon when we allow mammon to determine our economic decisions.  We simply must decide who is going to make our decisions – God or mammon…. If money determines what we do or do not do, then money is our boss.  If God determines what we do or do not do, then God is our boss.”

If it’s true that 85% of all churches are stagnating or shrinking, my guess is that most of those churches let money make their decisions.

It takes great faith to trust God over money.  As Jesus said, we can’t serve both.  But whenever church leaders say, “We can’t do that … we don’t have the money,” they’re confessing that money makes the decisions in their church.

And how can God bless such a church?

Now here’s the irony:

Pastors preach to their congregations, “The Bible teaches that God’s people should give a tithe of their income to the Lord’s work.  Even if you don’t have the money, just start tithing, and the Lord will bless you in many ways … including your finances.”

It takes faith to believe that God will take care of you if you give ten percent of your income to Him, doesn’t it?

And yet more often than not, those same leaders want congregational members to demonstrate faith in the way they manage their incomes but demonstrate faithlessness in the way they manage their church’s income.

There is nothing more exciting than for a church to focus on a God-given dream designed to reach others for Christ.

There is nothing more miserable than for a church to focus all its energies and finances on itself.

Focus on money … and the church will go downhill.

Focus on ministry … and the church will come alive.

Does your church focus on ministry or money?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I write a lot about the toll that forced terminations have on pastors and their wives … both personally and professionally.

I also write about the effects that pushing out an innocent pastor has on an entire congregation and its future.

But there is one group that I … and many in the Christian world … tend to forget about when it comes to pastoral exits: the average churchgoer.

Several years ago, I met with a longtime friend at Starbucks.  My book Church Coup had just been published and he wanted to discuss what I wrote.

My friend told me that he and his wife had been attending a church where they really liked the pastor … but seemingly overnight, the pastor disappeared … and the word was that the pastor did not leave voluntarily.

The church quickly hired a new pastor, and once again, my friend and his wife really liked him, but within a short period of time, that pastor was pushed out as well.

My friend and his wife were both hurt and sickened by what they had experienced.  He admitted that the two of them were not currently attending a local church although he didn’t rule out going to church sometime in the future.

My friend would be an asset to any church.  He has an earned doctorate … has taught in a Christian university … and for decades has been a key leader in one of America’s greatest institutions.

But somehow, I doubt that those who pushed out those two pastors even gave someone like my friend a second thought.

I suppose the only way to find out how the average churchgoer feels about their pastor is to call a public meeting and let each person vote on his future … either to give him a vote of confidence or to vote him out of office.

If and when a church does take that step, they’re almost always shooting themselves in both feet … as well as the heart.

Since most church leaders don’t want a pastor-board or pastor-staff rift to become known, they’ll work behind the scenes to try and checkmate their pastor privately.

But … and I ask this question all the time … how many people attend that church because of the pastor … and how many attend because of the pastor’s detractors?

Let’s say Sonrise Church averages 300 adults every Sunday.

And let’s say 15 people … that’s 5% of the congregation … want Pastor Paul to leave.  (That’s a typical percentage.)

And let’s say out of those 15 people:

*there are two board members and their wives.

*two are the associate pastor and his wife.

*there are three couples who believe the associate should be the pastor.

*there are three older individuals who have been in the church since its founding.

Then let’s say that out of the 300 who attend Sonrise:

*240 (that’s 80%) attend that church because they love Pastor Paul’s sermons … leadership … and personality.

*30 attend because they’re loyal to the church as an institution.

*15 attend because they’ve been there for more than 20 years.

*15 want Pastor Paul to leave.

Let me ask several questions about this situation:

First, why do most people attend Sonrise Church? 

They attend Sonrise because of Pastor Paul … pure and simple.

They may have initially come to Sonrise because of a personal invitation or a marketing tool, but they have made Sonrise their church home because they like the pastor.

Virtually nobody attends Sonrise because of the church board or the pastor’s detractors … and it’s highly likely that the great majority of the people couldn’t even name one board member.

Second, how likely is it that those 240 people are aware that 15 people want to get rid of Pastor Paul?

It’s not likely.  Those 15 know they must act in secrecy or risk having their plot exposed.  While they speak almost exclusively to each other, they are open to increasing their ranks if they know for certain someone feels as they do.

But if even a handful of those 240 discovered the plot, they might ream out the plotters, or contact Pastor Paul or another leader with their findings.

Third, why don’t the 15 leave the church quietly instead of trying to force out their pastor?

I wish I knew the answer to this question.  It would save everyone a lot of heartache.

My research and experience tells me that the 15:

*believe they are smarter and more spiritual than their pastor.

*believe they know the direction the church should go in the future.

*believe that one of their group should be the church’s true leader, not the pastor.

*believe that they somehow “own” the church in a greater way than others.  (This is “my” church or “our” church, not “their” church or “his” church.)

*believe that the pastor is either a “bad man” or a “bad leader” and deserves to be sent packing.

Fourth, how likely is it that the 15 are aware of the love and loyalty that the 240 have for Pastor Paul?

Again, it’s not likely.  Most of the 15 have closed ranks and only socialize with each other.  They don’t socialize with many people from the 240 … and when they do, they either discount their feelings or disagree with them.

If someone came to any of the 15 and said to them, “Most of the people in this church have great affection for Pastor Paul,” they would respond, “I don’t think that’s accurate.”  But they’ve isolated themselves from others for so long that they can’t accurately measure reality.

Finally, what’s the best word to describe the feelings of the 15 over against those of the 240?

Sinful … with selfish a close second.

Most of the time, when a faction pushes out an innocent pastor, they are thinking primarily of the wishes and desires of their own group rather than the church as a whole.

In fact, the faction is blind and deaf as to how the average churchgoer feels about their pastor.

I have heard the following statements from non-leaders whose pastors were forced out:

“The spirit has gone out of this church.”

“I don’t think I will ever be the same.”

“I’m so hurt that I can’t bring myself to go to church anywhere.”

“He was the best preacher I ever heard in my life.”

In their book Church Refugees, Dr. Josh Packard and Ashleigh Hope claim that a high percentage of Christians are now “the dechurched.”  To save what’s left of their faith, they’re “done” with the local church, and never going back.

I wonder how many of those people were driven away from a church where a small percentage of bullies organized to take out their pastor.

The Book of James ends this way:

My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.  James 5:19-20

The implication in this verse is that the “wanderer” has left the fellowship because he or she did something wrong.

But it is entirely possible in our day for someone to wander away from church … or their faith … because of the way that professing Christians treated their pastor.

Thirty years ago, I attended a conference led by Win Arn called “How to Close the Back Door to Your Church.”  I learned a great deal.

One of the things I learned is that a church needs to track its attendees closely.  Once someone misses a few Sundays (at my last church, it was two), they need to be contacted right away.

Once people have missed six to eight Sundays in a row, they are nearly impossible to get back because they have reinvested their lives in other things … and have concluded that “the people of that church don’t care about me.”

When a faction in a church … whether it’s the official board, or just 5% of the congregation, succeeds in forcing out their pastor … the last place they’re focusing is on the average churchgoer.

They’re focusing on keeping the staff in place … selecting guest speakers for future Sundays … finding an interim pastor … and putting together a team to search for a new pastor.

So it’s easy for people who are angry … or bewildered … or hurt to slip out the back door and never be seen again.

It’s getting more and more difficult to win people to Christ these days.

How tragic for Christ’s kingdom if we bring some through the front door … and lose even more through the back door … because we keep beating up our shepherds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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One of the primary factors in causing – and perpetuating – conflicts in churches is narrow thinking.

When people feel highly anxious … and under stress … their thinking ability shrinks.

Here are several examples taken from my own ministries over the years:

*When I was a teenager, our youth group used to meet before the Sunday evening service on the church campus, but the trend was toward meeting after the service in a home.  When the issue came before the congregation (which it never should have done), a furious discussion ensued.  The church secretary was so against the youth meeting in homes that she stormed out of the meeting, entered the church office (the door was at the back of the auditorium), and slammed the door behind her.

When she slammed the door, she in essence quit her job and left the church.

That’s narrow thinking.

*In my second pastorate, our youth pastor took the youth group to a Christian rock concert, which was fine with me.  The deacon chairman’s two children seemed to enjoy the concert, but not their father, who gave me a 15-page summary of a silly book slamming Christian rock music.  I wrote comments in the margins and asked to meet with him to discuss his viewpoint.

He asked me, “Are you going to let the kids go to any more rock concerts?”  I replied, “Yes.”  He responded, “Then we’re leaving the church.”

That’s narrow thinking.

*In one church, a woman on the worship team convinced herself that the congregation was going to start singing for half an hour every Sunday even though I had different plans for our worship time.  Because she was causing dissension, I invited her to my office, listened to her concerns, asked her if she understood my reasoning, and asked her to bring any additional complaints to me personally.

A few weeks later, she was basically telling people, “Either Jim goes or I go.”

That’s narrow thinking.

When we’re anxious and under stress, we often see only one or two ways to resolve a situation.

One common reaction to stress is the classic fight or flight syndrome.  In churches, this is usually directed against the pastor when someone says, “Either he goes or I go.”

On the old 24 TV series, Jack Bauer would often do something rash … like kill someone … and when he was confronted, he’d say, “I didn’t have a choice.”

That’s narrow thinking.

In his excellent book Congregational Leadership in Anxious Times, church conflict consultant Peter Steinke writes:

“When we are flooded with anxiety, we can neither hear what is said without distortion nor respond with clarity.  Bruce McEwen, a neuroendocrinologist, comments that stress limits our repertoire of responses.  Fixated on what is endangering us, we forfeit our imaginative capacities.  We act with a small and sometimes unproductive repertoire of behaviors.  With fewer alternatives, we act foolishly.”

When a church leader … like a pastor, staff member, or board member … is under great stress, they are tempted to make decisions that will end their temporary stress.

But the problem, of course, is that they may alleviate their own stress but create much greater stresses for others down the road.

Here are some thoughts as to how church leaders can better handle stressful decisions:

First, the bigger the decision, the more time the leaders should take.

I once spoke with the chairman of a church board that had fired their pastor.  Based on what the chairman told me, the pastor deserved to be removed from office.

The pastor did something in a board meeting that was not only wrong, but dangerous.  His actions created enormous trauma for everyone involved.  After the pastor left the meeting, the board chose to let him go and voted to give him a token severance.

I told the chairman that it was fine to decide to fire him that night but that the board should have waited several days before deciding on his exit package.  They were so stressed that, in my mind, they would have made a better decision had they waited.

Most of the time, I believe church boards should give a departing pastor a generous severance package because it provides the pastor with more options for his future.  The fewer the options, the greater the stress … and the greater the chance the pastor will start a church in his former church’s backyard.

Second, the bigger the decision, the more experts should be consulted.

In the first chapter of my book Church Coup, entitled “Pushed,” I recounted how the church board in my last pastorate tried to force me to resign.

When I met with the board at a showdown meeting, I asked them how many experts they had consulted to make their decision.  Their answer?  “Two” … and one person gave me the name of a pastor in another state.

By contrast, a few days later, I had consulted with seventeen experts, including seminary professors, conflict professionals, Christian counselors, an attorney, and several former board chairmen.

To this day, I remain convinced that the board’s thinking became so narrow that they didn’t really know what they were doing … and I told them that to their faces.

Proverbs 15:22 says, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers, they succeed.”

Proverbs 24:6 adds, “… for waging war you need guidance, and for victory many advisers.”

The pastors, staff members, and board members who create the most chaos in their churches are the ones who either don’t consult with anyone or who listen to only one or two others.

To truly resolve a major conflict, a leader needs “many advisers.”

Third, the bigger the decision, the more options need to be generated.

In his book, Steinke tells the story of a church board where their thinking was dominated by money worries.

A new board member named Chip offered various imaginative ideas for dealing with the church’s perpetual financial crisis, but the other board members “couldn’t accept the fact that their offerings reached the top five years ago and were steadily declining.”

The four leaders who were focused on finances had blocked an attempt to turn one of their two worship services into a contemporary one five years before.  When they made that decision, about forty members left … and took their checkbooks with them.

Over the previous five years, the board had come up with only one option continually: a line of credit at the bank.

Chip finally asked the board this question: “Are we going to stay focused on difficulty or are we going to look at the possible?”

(Besides many more options, that church also needs a new board.)

New leaders often bring fresh approaches to stressful situations … and should at least be heard.

Finally, the bigger the decision, the more calm the leaders’ spirits should be.

I don’t know about you, but when I’m super-stressed, I don’t tend to make good decisions.

Pastors … church staffs … and board members react the same way.

When church leaders undergo stress, their tendency is to alleviate the stress quickly … and in the process, they often make horrendous choices.

It’s better to take some time … dig into God’s Word … cast your burdens on the Lord … and ask Him to give you a peaceful heart.

That can be done individually, but it’s often wise to do it as a leadership group.

My third pastorate was my best, but it was also the most stressful.  In the first few years, we often had board meetings that lasted five to seven hours.

Our first chairman would usually choose a passage of Scripture and read it aloud to the rest of us.  Then we’d pray around the room, asking God for His guidance and direction in the decisions we were about to make.

While some board members probably wanted to “get in and get out” of the meeting quickly, the decisions we made were so important that we needed to have peaceful spirits.

This concept is so important to me that if I were running the church board, I’d tell the others, “We’re only going to make decisions when our spirits are calm.”

Taking time … consulting experts … generating options … and creating peaceful spirits are great ways for church leaders to expand their thinking.

And expanded thinking leads to churches that advance Christ’s kingdom.

 

 

 

 

 

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One of the greatest injustices in Christian churches today is that when a pastor is accused of wrongdoing, he usually lacks any kind of meaningful forum for responding to the charges.

And when he doesn’t respond adequately or immediately, any accusations are assumed by the pastor’s detractors to be true.

But it’s likely that pastors don’t answer charges well because they don’t know how to go about it.

The following story is a composite of situations I’ve heard about or experienced.

Pastor Bill attended a worship planning meeting one Monday night on his church’s campus, and after the meeting concluded, Jill, a team member, wanted to speak with him.

Jill was very emotional, and Bill did his best to listen, but ten minutes later, they were the only people in the building.

As soon as Bill realized they were alone, he began walking the distressed Jill toward the exit while trying his best to listen to her sorrow.

They spoke for a few minutes more outside the worship center, and as Bill turned to leave, Jill gave him a big “thank you” hug … which was witnessed by Cindy, a team member who had returned to retrieve her phone in the worship planning room.

The next day, the news was circulating around the church that Pastor Bill and Jill were involved.

The board chairman found out about it on Wednesday.

The entire board heard the news by Friday … as did most of their wives.

Bill didn’t hear anything until Sunday morning … in an email sent by a friend at 1:45 am, which he didn’t read until right before he left for church the next morning.

Most of the staff knew by Sunday morning … as did Jill’s husband and Bill’s wife.

Bill didn’t have a “thing” for Jill.  She was a ministry team member and a longtime friend.  He was just trying to be a good pastor by lending Jill an ear for a few minutes.

But when Cindy reported the incident to a few of her friends, they read their own experiences into what they heard and blew matters out of proportion, and suddenly Bill was on the hot seat.

Once Bill knew that the “incident” had traveled throughout the church, how should he handle matters?

Here are seven steps toward resolution:

First, the pastor can’t act like nothing happened.

He can remain silent publicly.  He can preach his sermon … greet his people … and go home.  Refuse to feed the fire.  Hope it will all blow over soon.

That approach might work with many such incidents, but the church grapevine comes alive whenever the pastor and another woman might be involved.

While the pastor might choose not to say anything … at least initially … he has to stay calm … and that’s not easy.

But he has to take action and get out ahead of this one.

Second, the pastor must tell his wife, board chairman, and associate pastor his version of events … separately and quickly. 

The pastor can’t overreact.

He must patiently tell his story to those closest to him.  He needs to be as open and honest as possible.

He must ask them if they believe him.  If they do, they will defend him.  If even one isn’t sure, however, it could cause trouble down the road.

The sooner the pastor gets the board on his side, the better, so the chairman should inform the rest of the board immediately.

The associate should handle the rest of the staff.

But most of all, the pastor’s wife needs to stand by him … strongly.

It would be advisable for the board chairman to contact Jill and receive her version of events as well.

The quicker the board acts, the sooner matters will be resolved.

This might seem like overkill, but let me assure you … the alternative is far worse.

Third, the pastor should ask the board to have a plan for response ready.

If the pastor’s marriage is loving and healthy … and everyone knows it … then this crisis will probably pass pretty quickly.

And if the pastor has a reputation for integrity, most people will give him the benefit of the doubt.

However … if there are churchgoers who don’t like the pastor, and want to see him leave … they might very well add their own charges to this “mini-scandal.”

For some reason, when a single accusation against a pastor makes its way around a congregation, there are usually those who seize the opportunity to make their own accusations against him.

One charge becomes two … becomes four .. becomes seven … becomes ten.

And then someone will call for the pastor’s resignation.

The board cannot assume that because Bill and Jill say that “nothing happened” that everyone else will believe them.

The truth is that a distinct minority may not want to believe them.

So the board needs to meet with Pastor Bill quickly … either on Sunday or Monday evening.

They need to hear his story from his own lips, and if they stand behind him, they need to put a plan in place for addressing any further accusations.

Fourth, the pastor needs to be an active participant in this process.

A mistake that many pastors make at this juncture is to relinquish everything into the hands of the board.

Why?

Because without guidance, some boards will make things even worse.

On the one hand, it’s understandable why the pastor would want to leave matters in the board’s hands.

When a pastor is under attack, it’s difficult for him to defend himself sufficiently.

The attacks hurt him and wound his spirit.  Since most pastors are pretty sensitive, they would prefer to assume a fetal position and lock themselves in a closet until matters are resolved.

But on the other hand, unless board members have had a lot of experience and have been well-trained in conflict management, their default position may be to put the incident behind them as quickly as possible.

And in the process, they may sell out their pastor.

I don’t like to say this, but when it comes to church matters, the pastor is likely a professional, and the board members are likely amateurs.

So the professional needs to provide guidance and expertise for the amateurs.

True, the pastor cannot exonerate himself.  He needs the board to do that for him.

But he needs to steer the process so the board can make their best possible decisions.

Fifth, the pastor must challenge the board to identify and confront those who have been spreading charges against him.

This is where most church boards blow it.

Stand behind our pastor?  Sure.

That’s playing defense.

Confront those spreading rumors?  Pass.

That’s playing offense.

I don’t know why this is so hard.

When Paul dealt with troublemakers, he named names: Hymenaeus and Alexander (1 Timothy 1:19); Hymenaeus and Philetus (2 Timothy 2:17); Demas (2 Timothy 4:10); Alexander the metalworker (2 Timothy 4:14).

And John did the same thing when he singled out Diotrephes by name in 3 John 9-10.

These verses aren’t just taking up space in our Bibles:

I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned.  Keep away from them.  For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites.  By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people.  Romans 16:17-18

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

A pastor once told me that he was under attack at his church.  He brought in a consultant who asked the board members, “Who is attacking your pastor?”

They knew who the individuals were.

The consultant then told them, “Go meet with them and tell them to stop what they’re doing.”

The board members replied, “But we can’t go.  Those people are our friends!”

The consultant responded, “Go … now!”

They got in their cars and went … around 9 pm, as I recall.

But most boards think that it’s somehow offensive to go on offense at this point … but it’s the best thing they can do.

The board is showing churchgoers that they take the Bible … church unity … truth … and their pastor seriously.

And believe me, word will get around the church … and people will think twice the next time they’re tempted to spread gossip about their pastor.

But if the board wilts at this point, they’re not only throwing their pastor to the wolves … they’re establishing a culture that says the board won’t stand behind their pastor.

I have known several good pastors who quit at this point … not because they did anything wrong, but because their boards actively or passively caved on supporting their shepherd.

Sixth, the pastor must wait patiently for the board to finish their work.

This is so difficult.

Many years ago, a church leader vocalized an accusation against me.  It was a spur-of-the-moment thing … and I didn’t react calmly.

I immediately contacted the board chairman and an attorney in the church.  The board launched an investigation.

The next day, they met with my accuser and with me separately.

Then they asked me to apologize to my accuser.  Although I didn’t think I had done anything wrong, I did apologize … the next morning.

Then the board asked my accuser how many people had been told about the incident.  After gathering their names, board members contacted each person and told them not to spread things any further.

I not only had to wait for the board to finish their work … I had to wait to see if there would be any fallout down the road.

Tom Petty is right … the waiting is the hardest part.

Several individuals eventually left the church over it, but what could have been a tragedy was averted because the board handled things patiently and quietly.

And I had to let them do it.

I had input on the process because I had written a policy handbook months before that addressed how to handle such incidents … and thankfully, the board not only approved it, they followed it.

Finally, the pastor needs to teach his church how to handle both interpersonal and institutional conflict.

Once board members confronted those who spread rumors about Pastor Bill, the rumors died a quick death.

But had the board members failed to confront the gossips, matters could have gotten worse … much worse.

In many ways, the board had a choice: either confront the talebearers privately in their homes or eventually address the issues publicly in a congregational meeting.

And if you’ve ever seen a pastor on trial in a public meeting, you’ll never forget it … and won’t ever want to see it again.

In a few months … after the church is at peace … Pastor Bill needs to do some teaching on how believers should address conflict with each other and how believers should address grievances with church leaders … including their pastor.

Whenever I spoke on conflict, I automatically ruled out relating any incidents from my current church … only churches from my past or those I heard about from others.

So the pastor should not connect his sermon to the incident several months before.

Instead of trying to rectify the past, the pastor should try and prevent such incidents in the future.

In fact, I believe a pastor should discuss “how we handle conflict around here” at least once or twice every year.

Because when people become emotional, they become irrational, and such people can cause a lot of damage in a church.

Biblical safeguards are the church’s … and the pastor’s … ultimate protection.

_______________

Today marks the 550th blog article that I have written and published.

As of today, I’ve had more than 202,000 views on the blog over the past six-and-a-half years.

Sometimes I’ll write an article … it will do well initially … and few people will ever view it again.

Other times, I’ll write an article … it seems to go nowhere … and yet several years later, it will receive a healthy viewership.

With today’s article, I started in one direction, and as I wrote, I sensed I needed to go another direction.  I trust this article will be just what someone needs.

Whether you’re a longtime reader, or have stumbled onto this blog, thanks for checking in.

If I can help you with a conflict situation, please write me at jim@restoringkingdombuilders.org and we’ll make plans to talk.

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.  Romans 12:18

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already.  Why not rather be wronged?  Why not rather be cheated?  Instead, you yourselves cheat and do wrong, and you do this to your brothers.  1 Corinthians 6:7-8

Many years ago, when my family lived in Silicon Valley, we lived next door to a family that scared us half to death.

For example, one night around 11:15, I saw a glow outside our bathroom window.  When I opened it, I saw that our neighbor’s roof was on fire.

Matt, a young man in his early twenties, had lit a pillow on fire while smoking.  Not thinking, he quickly threw the pillow outside his window onto the roof …and tried to put out the fire by barraging it with glasses of water.

From time-to-time, Matt and his buddies would be drinking outside late at night, and they would sit on our front lawn … right by our bedroom window.  Strong disagreements sometimes ensued between Matt and his colleagues.

One time … around 3:00 am … I saw Matt slug his girlfriend after an argument … after which I immediately called the police.

Let’s put it this way: if our family was having problems, the last place we would go for help would be Matt’s family.

In the same way, when families in a community hear that Christians in a church are fighting … and resigning … and leaving … that’s the last place they would go for help … and that feeling might last for years.

This thought reminds me of a conversation that was relayed to me after a major conflict surfaced in my last ministry.

Someone was asking about our church, and an individual in city government replied, “You don’t want to go there.  They’re having problems.”

Until that time, as far as I knew, our church had a glowing reputation throughout the community.  We marched in our city’s annual parade (where people sometimes cheered when we walked by), were members of the Chamber of Commerce, participated in events like Relay for Life, and adopted a school, among other things.

But our conflict quickly spilled outside the congregation and made its way into people’s ears and homes.

Let me make four observations about how major conflict affects a church’s reputation:

First, churches in conflict turn off those they’re trying to reach.

Last night, my wife was watching a news show, and clips were shown of a well-known politician uttering hateful and vile language.

I instinctively blurted out, “You are not welcome in our house,” and muted the sound.

I do the same thing if a television debate becomes too nasty or volatile.  The rancor deeply disturbs my spirit and adds to my stress level.  I don’t need it.

That’s exactly how most unchurched people respond when they hear about a church that’s fighting.  Families have enough conflict of their own.  They don’t want anymore … especially from people who claim to love others unconditionally.

Much of the time, when a church forces out an innocent pastor, the news gets around the community, and those who considered visiting the church refrain.  If they visit any church, it will be one where people seem to get along.

The best “church shrinkage” strategy is for a congregation to let its differences hit the grapevine … including social media.

Second, churches in conflict negate their message of reconciliation.

Dr. Francis Schaeffer claimed that love was the final apologetic for Christians.

Jesus told His disciples in John 13:35, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Is the converse also true?

We might put it this way: “By this all men will doubt if you are my disciples, if you hate one another.”

By the time a conflict gets around a community, the core issue is largely forgotten … and people focus on the relational fallout instead.  (“The people at that church don’t get along.”)

How can churches that claim to embrace the gospel preach effectively about Jesus when it’s obvious they’re not living its core belief?

We Christians basically have two messages: love God and love one another.

Major conflicts contradict both messages.

Why would anyone be attracted to Christ when it doesn’t seem to be doing any good in the life of His followers?

And why would anyone think that a “fighting church” could help them with their own relational problems?

Third, churches in conflict negate the process for reconciliation.

The gospel is the message of reconciliation.  But the New Testament is clear there is a process for reconciliation as well.

That process is often found in a church’s governing documents.  The process is based on Jesus’ words in Matthew 18:15-20 and amplified by verses like Luke 17:3-4; Galatians 6:1-2; and 1 Timothy 5:19-21.

I believe that when church leaders follow the teaching of Matthew 18 seriously, most conflicts inside a church can be resolved, and those conflicts will not spill out into the community.

But when church leaders ignore Matthew 18 … especially when they go straight to power and play church politics … one can almost guarantee that the conflict will get around the community.

Jesus’ words in Matthew 18 lay out deliberate steps, and the time between steps may take weeks, if not months.

Godly leaders are patiently willing to work those steps.

But anxious, immature leaders don’t want to work a process, so they envision the outcome they want and then devise shortcuts to get there … and in the process, wreak havoc on their congregation.

As Paul mentions in 1 Corinthians 6:1-8, a lawsuit between believers is one such shortcut.

Paul says that those who sue other believers “have been completely defeated already” and “cheat” and “wrong” their brothers.

From time-to-time, I advocate for what I call a Conflict Resolution Group in every church.  Composed of at least three spiritual and wise individuals, this group’s charter is not to manage/resolve conflicts when they arise, but to train, coach, and make sure that believers – especially leaders – follow the biblical directives for conflict resolution.

Because, sad to say, it’s often church leaders who violate the biblical reconciliation process the most.

The governing board needs a group they’re accountable to for the process they use, but not the decisions they make.

Finally, churches in conflict implicitly confess they don’t know the pathway to reconciliation.

Evangelical churches tend to resolve major conflicts in one of three ways:

First, they force out their pastor and blame him for the entire conflict.

Whether the pastor started the conflict, or whether he couldn’t fix it fast enough, it’s amazing how many churches end up scapegoating the pastor for all their troubles.

Because when the pastor is 100% responsible for a church’s problems, those who blame him never have to admit they did anything wrong … and when they hire a new pastor, they get to remain in their current ministries.

Second, they either allow or encourage disgruntled people to leave the church.

Pastors and other leaders often assume that if a contentious faction leaves their church, the congregation will quickly resort to health.

Maybe yes … probably no.

The departing faction may end up at another local church … and use their former church as a mission field, thus perpetuating the conflict.

Finally, they act like nothing happened and sweep the issues under the carpet.

This is the default position in most evangelical churches.

*The pastor has been fired … but the leaders won’t talk about it.

*A staff person has been dismissed … but nobody will answer questions.

*A faction has angrily left … but the leaders act like everything is fine.

And in the process, we Christians never learn from our leaders how to address issues, disagree honestly, respond biblically, and work toward wise and loving solutions.

To use a football analogy, all we do in our churches is punt … punt … punt.

Is it any wonder then that all too many Christian couples divorce … that Christian parents stop talking to their adult children … and that Christian friends stop talking to each other for good?

Church leaders don’t model conflict resolution for us.  They model conflict avoidance instead.

Have you ever been in a church that handled conflict openly?

No, they’re all managed behind closed doors, where demands and threats may be used to end matters.

But in the process, God’s people never learn how godly people are supposed to handle conflict.

As Paul asks in 1 Corinthians 6:5:

Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers?

Sometimes I wonder.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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