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I just dropped a final payment and a sharply-worded letter in the mailbox to my former cable company (let’s call them Corrupt Cable) a few minutes ago.

Last April, Corrupt bought out my previous cable company (which I was very happy with) and immediately began alienating their new customers.

The bills were higher than they had been.  When I called customer service – which I did every month – the reps would tell me I owed one amount, but the subsequent bill would be larger.

When my bill in July was double what the customer rep said that I owed in June, I immediately cancelled (I was on a month-to-month contract) and contacted another company, which came the next day and exceeded my expectations with their professional attitude and performance.

I called Corrupt’s customer service again, asked how much my final bill was, and sent in that amount.  But Corrupt later billed me twice the amount the rep said I owed.

That was it for me.  I sent Corrupt management a strongly-worded two page letter along with a check for the amount the rep said I owed.  Corrupt countered with a letter threatening my credit if I didn’t pay them the remaining balance immediately.

I have never written the word “Corrupt!” on a check before, but I just did.

Now here’s the deal: I don’t want to hurt Corrupt’s CEO or force him from office.  I don’t want to destroy the company or its shareholders.

I just don’t want to think about them or talk about them anymore.  I am done with the Corrupt Cable Company forever.

But in many churches, when someone becomes upset with the pastor, they want to hurt him.  They want to target him.  They want to force him from office.

And they want revenge.

It’s my contention that many pastoral terminations are really the result of one or more church leaders seeking retribution against their shepherd.

More and more, I’m hearing stories of pastors and staff members who are forced out of their positions, and when they’re done sharing, I say to them, “You know what this sounds like to me?  Revenge.”

Let me share with you a composite of situations I’ve heard about firsthand.

Tom (who is now in his early 60s) has been the lead pastor of New Life Church for fifteen years.  The church has grown steadily and has a weekend attendance of 1100 people.  Tom and the board hired an associate pastor named Joe five years ago, and the first several years went well, but over the past two years, Joe has made Tom’s life a living hell.

Joe (who is in his mid-40s) is surrounded by family and friends who think that he’s a better leader and preacher than Tom and that he’s more culturally relevant.  Joe’s wife has been especially vocal in this area.

Some members of Joe’s group (which numbers about thirty) have started to make snide comments about the church and its leadership on social media.  Though they don’t mention Pastor Tom by name, it’s obvious they’re aiming their barbs at him.

By contrast, when Pastor Joe does anything in public, he’s praised on Facebook and Twitter by the FOJ Brigade.

At this point, the ideal solution is for the official board to intervene and tell Joe that (a) he still works for Pastor Tom; (b) he needs to tell his supporters to knock off their social media campaign; (c) if Joe has any concerns, he should discuss them with Tom first; and (d) any deviations from their instructions will result in Joe’s dismissal.

But because most church boards are afraid of conflict, and because some board members like Joe more than Tom, this solution isn’t likely to be implemented.

If Pastor Tom does nothing, he’s going to be driven from his position within a short while, because Joe’s followers are starting to smell blood.

But if Tom goes to the board and enacts too heavy-handed an approach, some board members will turn on him and back Joe instead.

So Tom decides that he will talk to Joe in private first.  Tom will tell Joe what he’s seeing with his attitude and ask Joe what he plans to do about it.

Tom’s plan doesn’t work and, in fact, upsets Joe greatly.  Ten minutes after their meeting, Joe is texting and calling his group, telling them, “How dare the pastor talk to me like that!”

Tom comes out of their meeting dazed and confused, while Joe calls a couple of board members that he senses are sympathetic and negatively exaggerates both Tom’s tone and words.

The verdict?  Pastor Tom can’t get along with the staff (even though he gets along with everybody but Joe) and he can’t get along with important people (like Joe’s followers).

So Tom has to go.

I wrote the following paragraph in my book Church Coup:

“I have a theory about the mentality of those who seek to target a pastor they don’t like. Because they sense that what they’re doing is wrong, they have to (a) exaggerate any charges to the level of a capital crime; (b) find others who agree with them to alleviate their guilt; (c) justify their actions by convincing themselves it’s for the common good; and (d) work up their hatred so they follow through with their plan. While this progression sounds like the kind of diabolical rage one might find in politics or war (or the prelude to a murder), the last place we’d expect to find such irrationality is inside a church.”

Over the next three months, Joe’s revenge against Tom manifests itself in five ways:

*Joe lets scores of people know – both directly and through his minions – that Tom should no longer be the pastor at New Life.  Joe details Tom’s inadequacies for anyone who will listen, including veiled swipes at his age.  As news spreads through the church underground, people add their own grievances against Pastor Tom to Joe’s list.  Some people start saying that if Tom doesn’t leave, they will.

*The church board absorbs Joe’s complaints against Tom and calls a special meeting to deal with the conflict.  Since nobody on the board has a clue how to handle matters, the easy way out is to dismiss Tom, even though he isn’t guilty of any major offense.  Because the board lacks any impeachable offense, they decide to justify their actions by “gunnysacking” Tom – listing as many faults and petty offenses against him as they can create in a single meeting.  They come up with seventeen reasons why Tom must leave but make a pact they won’t tell Tom anything.

*Keeping Joe informed at every turn, the board then ambushes Pastor Tom at their next regular meeting and informs him that he has a choice of resigning (with a small severance package) or being fired (without a severance package).  When Pastor Tom asks for the charges against him to be read, the board declines.  When Tom pleads for them to let him defend himself, they refuse.  The charges against Tom are merely a smokescreen for personal hatred.  When Tom becomes upset, they add that to their list.

*Pastor Tom resigns and receives a three-month severance package.  However, he’s told he must (a) clear out his office (and all his books) in two days; (b) turn in his keys immediately afterward; (c) never set foot on the church campus again; (d) not discuss his dismissal with anyone or his severance will be curtailed; (e) cut off all contact with everyone at the church.

*After Tom’s resignation is read to the congregation, Joe and his minions want to make sure that Tom’s supporters (at least 95% of the congregation) won’t cause any future trouble, so they spread rumors that (a) he was having an affair; (b) he was using drugs; and (c) he had trouble in previous churches that never came to light.  Several of Joe’s supporters also call the local district office and exaggerate the charges against him to make sure that no church in the denomination ever hires him again.  The district minister complies.

Some quick observations:

First, this whole situation was handled politically, not spiritually.

When revenge is involved, church politics rule.  It’s all about maximizing power … counting noses … denying the pastor due process … and checkmating him personally and professionally.  It may not look or sound like revenge, but it is.  Where’s the Bible in all this?

Second, the church board wimped out.

Had I been on New Life’s board, I would have recommended that Pastor Joe be confronted for challenging Pastor Tom’s authority.  If he wouldn’t repent, I would recommend his dismissal instead.  Tom didn’t do anything wrong; Joe did.  And it’s far easier to get a new associate than a new lead pastor.  But the board went with the squeaky wheel rather than any semblance of fairness or righteousness.

Third, the church lacked a predetermined process for handling complaints against the pastor.

Every church needs such a process.  It automatically kicks in whenever dirt starts being thrown at the pastor.  Because church boards often operate politically, I believe that another group in the church needs to monitor this process: a CRG (Conflict Resolution Group).  It’s not their job to make decisions about a pastor’s future.  It’s their job to make sure that the board and the church treat the pastor fairly: according to Scripture, the church’s governing documents, and the law.  And if the CRG’s directives aren’t followed, the entire board should be asked to resign rather than the lead pastor.

Fourth, treating Pastor Tom badly will come back and bite the church … hard.

Yes, people will leave the church, even if they never find out the details surrounding Tom’s departure.  But more than this: unless Pastor Joe and the complying board members repent, do you really believe that God is going to bless New Life Church in the future?  If so, you and I worship a different God.

Finally, God seeks redemption for His leaders, not revenge.

Allow me a personal word.  When I left my last church ministry nearly seven years ago, the entire church board resigned because they initiated a coup that failed.  They wrote and signed a resignation letter that was cruel and demeaning and intended to provide me with the maximum amount of pain.  (I have read it only three times.)  They obviously were upset with me about some issues, but they never sat down and talked with me about them.  Instead, they concocted a plan designed to checkmate me at every turn, and when their plan backfired, they left enraged.

There was never any attempt at restoration or redemption.  It was all about retribution and revenge.

Several weeks ago, I found out that two couples from my former church who had been friends for forty years severed their friendship over the way I was treated.  One couple bought into the gunnysacking charges the board made against me, while the other couple – which never heard from me directly – defended me to the hilt based on the pettiness of the charges themselves.  While this new information made me sad, I thought to myself, “This is what happens when people seek revenge against their pastor.”

When church leaders hear complaints about their pastor, they have two options:

First, they can lovingly bring the charges to their pastor’s attention, let him face his accusers, ask him for explanations, and remain open to his staying.  That’s redemptive.

Second, they can angrily spread charges behind the pastor’s back, refuse to let him face his accusers, insure that he’s not permitted any kind of defense, and remain determined to get rid of him.  That’s revenge.

We all know these verses, but they’re a good reminder during such times:

“Do not repay anyone evil for evil…. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written, ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord…. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:17,19,21).

What are your thoughts on what I have written?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him:

haughty eyes,

a lying tongue,

hands that shed innocent blood,

a heart that devises wicked schemes,

feet that are quick to rush into evil,

a false witness who pours out lies

and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.

Proverbs 6:16-19

There are individuals scattered throughout Christian churches all over the world who fit Solomon’s description in Proverbs 6:16-19 perfectly.

Some people call them clergy killers.  For my purposes, let’s call them church bullies.

Church bullies attend churches where they become so angry with their pastor that they use any and every method possible to destroy their pastor’s reputation so they can force him to resign and leave their church forever.

When I was writing my doctoral project for Fuller Seminary on antagonism in the local church, my editor found it hard to believe that such Christians really do exist.

To this day, I find it hard to believe they do as well.

But they do, and at a time of their choosing, they spring into action and attempt to run their pastor out of the church … and even out of the community.

Because this kind of behavior makes no sense to most of us, we cannot fathom why a professing Christian – usually a church leader – would engage in this kind of reckless pursuit … but it happens all the time in the Christian community.

What motivates these church bullies?  Why are they so bent on destroying their pastor?

From all my research … from hearing scores of stories from other pastors … and from my own experience … let me suggest seven reasons why church bullies attack their pastor … in no particular order:

First, the church bully wants nonstop access to the pastor but isn’t granted it.

There are persons in every church who want to run the church through the pastor.  They want to become “the power behind the throne.”

So they try and become the pastor’s friend.  They invite him out to lunch … invite him and his wife over for dinner … and even suggest that the pastoral couple vacation with him and his wife.  (I’m going to use the terms “he” and “him” throughout this article even though a woman can also be a church bully.)

Sometimes these individuals will even give the pastor a special monetary gift or advocate that the pastor should receive a larger salary.  By doing this, they’re telling the pastor, “I’m your man.  You can always count on me.”

But if the pastor resists the bully’s machinations … or stops becoming his best friend … or the pastor starts investing himself into someone else … the bully will feel rejected … and may begin to plot against the pastor.

But when the pastor inevitably cuts off the attention – and especially the access – the bully will go berserk, not only because he senses he’s not as close to the pastor as he once was, but because he’s lost his ability to influence the church’s direction.

Second, the church bully believes he knows how to run the church better than the pastor.

According to Proverbs 6:16, this person has “haughty eyes,” meaning they are extremely proud.

Many years ago, I came to a church and met a board member who was full of hostility toward me.

He didn’t even know me, but at my first board meeting, he jumped down my throat over a trivial issue.

Several weeks later, he wanted to meet with me one-on-one.  We sat down together – I still remember the time and place – and he asked me all kinds of questions about the direction I wanted to take the church.

He shared his approach for growing the ministry, but I wasn’t comfortable with it.  His approach was 100% business-oriented.  For example, he wanted to advertise on television and believed that we’d pack the place out if we did.

Over the next few months, this gentleman came after me with a vengeance.  He misrepresented things I said behind my back and tried to turn others against me.

I was a threat to his plans for the church.

When he demanded to speak to me one day, and I delayed phoning him back, he angrily resigned from a volunteer position and left the church.

I was relieved.

God didn’t appoint that gentleman as the church’s leader.  Wisely or unwisely, God had appointed me.

I wasn’t about to be So-and-So’s man.  I wanted to be God’s man.

Third, the church bully senses he is losing control of his life.

Most church bullies don’t have their act together in their personal life:

*Maybe their marriage is falling apart.

*Maybe one of their kids is flunking out of school or is on drugs.

*Maybe they’ve been fired from a job or their career has stalled.

*Maybe they’re heavily in debt and have stopped paying certain accounts.

*Maybe their adult children don’t want to see them.

Whatever the issue, the bully hasn’t been able to control life events, so he feels that he can at least control events somewhere: at church.

Usually unconsciously, the bully says to himself: “I am losing significance at home … my career is going south … and I can’t seem to do anything about it.  But there is one place I can still make a difference: my church family.”

So the bully surveys the congregation and says to himself, “I can make a difference by making this proposal … supporting that idea … or stopping the pastor’s future plans.”

Even though God hasn’t called him to run the church, that’s exactly what the bully wants to do, because if he can control the church, maybe life won’t hurt so bad.

But to control the church, the bully needs to control, neutralize, or destroy the pastor … because the pastor is the one person who can thwart the bully’s plans.

I once spoke to a church consultant about some problems I was having with the church board.  He asked me how they were doing in their personal and vocational lives.  When I told him that two of the men were having major struggles at work, he said, “They’re angry.”

In other words, no matter how placid they looked when they came onto the church campus, they came to church perpetually ticked off … and it didn’t take much for that anger to surface.

Fourth, the church bully is fearful that the pastor will discover secrets in his life.

That same church consultant I just mentioned told me something I’ve never forgotten.

He told me that when a church board gangs up on their pastor to remove him from office, at least one board member is often discovered to be having an affair.

I haven’t heard this observation anywhere else, but his statement was based upon his experience in consulting with many churches.

The bully’s thinking may go like this:

“I have this problem in my life that nobody knows about.  If anybody discovers it, I could lose everything, and I can’t let that happen.  More than anyone I know, the pastor seems to have spiritual discernment, and I wonder if he knows what I’m doing.  So before he ever finds out … maybe from my wife, or my kids, or from friends … I’m going to get him instead.  That way, he’ll never be able to expose me.”

Whenever I did counseling, I was privy to secrets in people’s lives.  While I kept those sessions confidential, there are times when a pastor is preaching and he’ll mention an issue that was touched on in a counseling session … even years before.  The pastor may have forgotten who he counseled and what their problem was, but if the ex-counselee is sitting in church that Sunday, he may very well think the pastor is preaching about him – maybe even trying to change his behavior – and decide to go after the pastor for exposing his secret.

Yes, that’s paranoid behavior, but it happens more than any of us know.

Fifth, the church bully refuses to forgive his pastor for offending him.

Bullies are, by their very nature, notoriously sensitive individuals.  They see offenses where they don’t exist.

And this is especially true when it comes to pastors, because they represent God to many people.

If a bully offends a pastor, he expects to be forgiven.  That’s what pastors do: forgive.

But if the pastor offends the bully, the bully may never forgive him.  He may hold a grudge – sometimes for years – and not let anyone know how much it bothers him.

He probably won’t tell the pastor, either.  Instead, the bully will bide his time and later use that offense to run the pastor out of the church.

Only the bully won’t mention the offense to his friends – or the church board – because the issue that upsets him will look petty in the eyes of others.

Instead, the bully will begin to make official charges against the pastor: “He’s not working enough hours … he’s mismanaging funds … he’s been neglecting the seniors … he seems too absorbed with the office manager” … and so on.

Those aren’t the real issues.  The real issue is that the pastor offended the bully at some time in the past.  The bully hasn’t talked to the pastor about it, and he probably never will.

So what are personal charges end up morphing into official charges.

Proverbs 6:16-19 mentions “feet that are quick to rush into evil.”  I’ve seen those feet before, and they’re silently running toward mischief … and away from God.

Sixth, the church bully has collected grievances from others.

In the words of Proverbs 6:16-19, this person is “a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.”

The second church I pastored was a nightmare in many ways … mostly because of the worst church bully I’ve ever encountered.

His wife was upset with me, and quit coming to church, so he quit coming, too.

But a year later, he returned to lead a rebellion against me, and we lost 20% of our people overnight.

One of his tactics was to call people who had left the church to dig up some dirt on me.  Then he compiled a list of my supposed offenses, making it as long as possible.  Then he presented the list to the church board, which defended and supported me to the hilt.

His tactic didn’t work, but I saw what he was doing … and it was evil.

If a church bully wants to get rid of his pastor, and the pastor is guilty of heresy, sexual immorality, or criminal behavior – the Big Three – then the pastor has dug his own grave … although church leaders should aim for his restoration, not his destruction.

But if the pastor isn’t guilty of any impeachable offense, but the bully wants him to leave, then he may do one of three things:

*He will manufacture serious charges.  This is what the Jewish leaders did with Jesus.

*He will solicit charges from others – hoping there’s a major offense in there somewhere – and pass it around the church as if to say, “Do we want someone so flawed and imperfect as our pastor?”  But this is nothing more than carrying the offenses of others rather than encouraging people to see the pastor personally to make things right.

*He will make a litany of false accusations against the pastor, hoping that the sheer number of charges will drive the pastor far away.  But love doesn’t keep lists of offenses … love deals with offenses as they occur … and one at a time.

All three tactics are evil.  Doesn’t Proverbs 6:16-19 tell us that the Lord hates “a lying tongue” and “a false witness who pours out lies?”

Finally, the church bully has aligned himself with Satan.

Let me quote from Chris Creech in his recent book Toxic Church:

“It is my belief, however, that the one sure way to recognize a clergy killer is the use of the lie.  When an individual within the church is shown to have used a lie, there is no doubt that evil is at work and the person has tied himself or herself to an alliance with the devil, either knowingly or unknowingly” (see John 8:44).

How is the devil able to influence a Christian … even a Christian leader … to destroy his pastor?

It’s disturbing to say this, but the bully is so bitter and so vengeful that he gives himself over to the will of Satan.  In the words of Proverbs 6:16-19, this person has “hands that shed innocent blood” as well as “a heart that devises wicked schemes.”

I have recounted what happened to my wife and me in my book Church Coup … and our conflict climaxed, of all days, on Halloween.

There is no doubt in my mind that Satan attacked my wife and me repeatedly during the fifty days of our conflict.  His intention?  To destroy us in hopes that he could destroy the church.

There were so many lies going around the church … so much chaos … and so much hatred that it was absolutely unbelievable.  I could tell you story after story of Satan’s work during that time, and it would send shivers up and down your spine … unless you’ve been through this kind of thing yourself.

But most of all, Satan used false accusations to try and destroy my wife and me.  His strategy is simple: deception leads to destruction.

And yet here’s the ironic thing: the church bully believes that he is doing the will of God!

Where in the New Testament do we have even one positive example of a believer trying to destroy one of God’s chosen leaders?

We don’t.  Such behavior is condemned throughout the New Testament.

But as I look around the Christian world today, I see incident after incident where Satan influences a bully … the bully tries to destroy the pastor by lying … the pastor ends up leaving … the bully is never confronted or corrected … and someone from headquarters is sent to cover the whole thing up.

In fact, after the pastor leaves, in all too many cases the bully ends up being asked to serve on the church board … or the church staff … or even become the interim pastor.

What a dysfunctional lot the church of Jesus can be at times!

If a church bully read this article, he wouldn’t recognize himself.  I once heard a prominent Christian leader state that any individual who tries to destroy their pastor might be termed a “sociopath lite.”

Since the bully’s conscience isn’t functioning well, the consciences of the rest of the congregation need to be operational and discerning, or Satan can take out a pastor … or an entire church.

Let’s resolve not to let that happen anywhere.

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Of the 450 or so blog posts that I’ve written, this is one of my favorites.  It’s based on the film High Noon starring Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly and is considered to be one of the greatest films ever made.  If you’ve never seen it, I encourage you to check it out … I saw it offered on Netflix the other night … and to ponder its relevance for the Christian church.

Toward the end of the last millennium, the American Film Institute produced a list of the Top 100 Films of All-Time.  Since I was unfamiliar with most of them, I systematically visited the local video store and checked out as many as I could.

One of those films was High Noon – now listed by the Institute as the 27th greatest film ever.

Last night, through the magic of Roku, my wife and I watched the film again.

Gary Cooper stars as Marshal Will Kane.  (My brother John has lived for years in Montana on land once owned by Gary Cooper.)  As the film opens, it’s Kane’s wedding day.  He’s marrying Amy (played by Grace Kelly).

But as they’re ready to leave on their honeymoon, Kane and his wife learn that the dreaded Frank Miller has been released from prison … and is coming to town on the noontime train … to wreak vengeance on the marshal who put him behind bars.

As evidence of this fact, Miller’s brother and two cohorts ride through the middle of town toward the train depot while all the townspeople scatter.

Marshal Kane is advised to hightail it out of town with his bride and not look back.  After all, a new marshal is scheduled to take over the next day.  Let him handle the Ferocious Four.

Kane is torn.  On the one hand, everybody’s telling him to leave town with Amy … so that’s what he does.  But five minutes outside town, he turns around and goes back, telling Amy that they’ll never be safe if he doesn’t confront Frank Miller and his boys now.

As I watched the film with fascination, I saw many parallels between the way people reacted to the conflict inside their town and the way churchgoers respond to open conflict at their church:

First, everyone feels anxious when a group’s leader experiences an attack.

The opening scenes of High Noon show a town that’s been rejuvenated.  The people of the town are having fun and laughing.

But when Ben Miller (Frank’s younger brother) and his two buddies ride through town, everybody gets off the street and hides.

The town became a happy place because of the work done by Marshal Kane.  He’s the one who cleaned up the streets and made the place safe for women and children.

But as anxiety rises in the town, people begin to engage in self-preservation.

When a group – and it’s always a group – attacks a pastor, the entire church senses something is wrong.

Sometimes people can tell a pastor is under attack because he’s no longer himself.  He lowers his head, doesn’t smile, and seems jittery.

Other times, people start to hear rumors about the pastor – or charges by people who don’t like him.

And as anxiety begins to spread around the church, people start heading for the tall grass.

Second, a leader under attack needs reinforcements.

Marshal Kane was a tall, strong man who knew how to handle a gun.  But would he prevail in a showdown with four experienced gunmen?

Probably not – so Kane began asking the townspeople for help.  He asked men whom he had once deputized.  He asked the guys in the local saloon.  He even interrupted a church service and asked the congregation if a few men would volunteer to assist him.

After all, if 8 or 10 men stood shoulder-to-shoulder next to Kane, then maybe Frank Miller and his gang would see they were outnumbered and just ride out of town.

No pastor attacked by a group in a church can survive unless he has reinforcements.

Maybe some staff members are willing to stand with him … or the entire governing board … or some former leaders … or a group of longtime friends.

If the associate pastor stands with the pastor … along with the board chairman … and a few other key leaders, the pastor may have enough support to turn back the Gang of Gunmen.

But without that support, the pastor … and possibly the church … are toast.

Third, most people bail on their leader when he needs them the most.

This is the heart of the film.

Amy, the marshal’s new bride, runs away from her husband when they return to town because she’s a Quaker and doesn’t want to see any killing.

The guys in the saloon prove worthless.

The people in the church discuss helping their marshal … then decide against doing anything at all.  (The pastor says he doesn’t know what to do.)

And Marshal Kane can’t convince any of his deputies to help him.  One who said he’d stand by his leader runs when he discovers nobody else will help the marshal, and the current deputy is angry with Kane because he wasn’t selected to be marshal after Kane’s tenure.

Kane even goes to see a former girlfriend … and she announces she’s leaving town, too.

Over 25 years as a solo or senior pastor, there were attempts to get rid of me on three separate occasions.

The first two times, the board stood with me.

The last time, most of the staff and a group of current and former leaders stood with me.

But when most pastors are threatened, everybody bails on them.

Why is this?

Because people aren’t informed?  Because it’s not their fight?

No, it’s usually because those who stand beside their pastor when he’s under attack end up enduring the same vilification that the pastor receives … and few are willing to suffer like that.

Finally, the only way to defeat the attackers is to stand strong.

After Frank Miller came in on the noon train, he and his boys left for town to carry out their plan: kill Marshal Kane.

At the same time, Kane’s former girlfriend climbed onto the train … along with his wife Amy.

When Amy hears shots, she instinctively bolts off the train and heads for town.

When she gets there, her husband has already killed two of the four gunmen.

While the drunks in the saloon nervously wait … and Kane’s friends hide in their homes … and the congregation down the road prays … Amy, of all people, defends her husband.

And in so doing, she saves his life … and their future together.

When a group attacks a pastor, they have one of two goals in mind: defeat him (by forcing him to leave) or destroy him (by ruining his reputation and damaging his career).

Because most pastors are tender souls, he usually has just two chances to emerge victorious after such a showdown: slim and none.

Even if the pastor wilts while attacked … and most do … the attackers can be driven away – and even eradicated – if the pastor has just a few Amys on his side.

While we have several incidents in the New Testament where a spiritual leader is corrected (Paul opposed Peter to his face in Galatians; Aquila and Priscilla instructed Apollos in Acts 18), we don’t have any incidents in the New Testament where a group of believers tries to destroy their spiritual leader.

So let’s do our best to eliminate this ecclesiastical plague in the 21st century.

With the Gang of Four lying motionless on the town’s streets, the townspeople come outside and cheer Amy and Marshal Kane … who drops his badge onto the street and leaves town for the final time.

Once upon a time, pastors would endure an attack in one church … then go to another church, where they’d be attacked again … then do the same thing several more times.

In our day, most pastors are leaving ministry after the first attack.

If High Noon ever comes to your church, don’t just talk or pray.  If your pastor is being unfairly accused, be willing to fight with him.

Because if he leaves town, the Gang of Four will end up in charge.

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It is the nature of a pastor to want everyone in a congregation to like him.

And when a pastor discovers that some people don’t like him, that revelation can be painful … especially if they eventually leave the church.

But sometimes those who don’t like the pastor choose to stay … and want him gone instead.

The pastor’s detractors start pooling their grievances against him … meeting secretly … and plotting their strategy to make him unemployed.

When he’s under attack, it’s natural for a pastor to focus on those who stand against him.  After all, the knowledge that some people think you shouldn’t pastor their church is devastating.

But a healthier approach is for the pastor to ask himself, “How many allies do I still have in this church?”

The more allies … and the stronger their support … the better chance the pastor has of surviving any attacks against him.

Let me share with you seven kinds of allies that every pastor needs to survive internal attacks:

The first ally is God Himself.

If a pastor believes that he is innocent of wrongdoing before God … no matter what his opponents claim … then he may confidently count the Lord God among his allies.

I read Psalm 56 during my quiet time today.  David begins:

“Be merciful to me, O God, for men hotly pursue me; all day long they press their attack.  My slanderers pursue me all day long; many are attacking me in their pride.  When I am afraid, I will trust in you.  In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid.  What can mortal man do to me?”

David believed strongly that God was 100% behind him.  From his perspective, the Lord wasn’t on the side of his enemies; he was on David’s side.  After all, God had called David to lead Israel, hadn’t He?

When a pastor is under attack, he needs to remind himself, “God called me to lead and shepherd this church.  He did not call my detractors.  Therefore, I will assume that God is on my side.”

A pastor can have no greater ally than God Himself.

Paul asks in Romans 8:31, “If God is for us, who can be against us?”  This rings true in the spiritual realm.

Yet inside a congregation, a pastor may sense that God fully supports him … and yet get bounced by people who aren’t listening to God.

So the pastor needs human allies as well … the more, the better.

The second ally is the pastor’s wife.

If a pastor’s wife doesn’t respect him, or doesn’t believe he should be in ministry, or wants nothing to do with the local church, her feelings will impact her husband’s ability to pastor.

In such cases, it would be better for a pastor to leave ministry and work on his marriage than to stay in the church and eventually lose both his marriage and his ministry.

But if a pastor’s wife is solidly behind him … if she tells her husband, “I support you no matter what anyone else thinks” … if she listens to his fears and takes care of his needs and prays with him when he’s under attack … then that pastor can truly count his wife among his allies.

Before we met 42 years ago, my wife wanted to be a missionary.  I felt called to be a pastor.

Because of her love for me, she was willing to submerge her dreams and serve at my side throughout my 35+ years of church ministry.

On those rare occasions when I was attacked, she stood solidly beside me.

I cannot imagine a better human ally.

The third ally is the church’s governing documents.

Whenever a group inside a church chooses to attack their pastor, they often fail to consult their church’s constitution and bylaws.

Those governing documents were adopted when church leaders were calm and thinking clearly.  And they usually specify how the congregation is to behave when people have become reactive and irrational toward their pastor.

When pastors contact me and tell me they’re under attack, I ask them, “What do your governing documents say about how to remove a pastor?”

Sadly, in too many cases, the church doesn’t have any governing documents … and it’s too late to create them when a group wants the pastor’s scalp.

The governing documents are really a legal and organizational ally.  And if they do specify how a pastor is to be removed from office … and the pastor’s detractors ignore them … then they need to be told … possibly by a board or staff member … that their efforts will not be recognized unless they conform to church protocol.

No church should ever abide by the law of the jungle.

Since most groups opposing a pastor thrive in the dark but wilt in the light, just informing them that they’re violating “church law” can be enough for them to stop … or at least adjust their strategy.

The fourth ally is the official church board.

If the Lord, the pastor’s wife, and the church’s governing documents are all on the pastor’s side, then everything comes down to where the official board stands regarding the pastor’s future.

Whether they’re called elders, deacons, trustees, the church council, the board of directors, or something else, the official board … usually voted in by the congregation … can make or break a pastor’s position.

Some observations:

*If the board chairman strongly supports the pastor, that’s a huge advantage.  During my 25 years as a solo or senior pastor, every board chairman fully stood behind me … except the last one.

*If a majority of the board stands behind the pastor … including the chairman … then it will be difficult for the pastor’s detractors to prevail.

*Much of the time, when a group attacks the pastor, they already have one or two allies on the church board … maybe more.  The group is emboldened largely because they have friends in high places.  Those board members often remain quiet about their position until they sense they’re going to prevail … and only then will they make their position known.

*If the entire board stands behind the pastor, then it may not matter who stands against him.

*If the entire board caves on the pastor, then it may not matter who else stands behind him.

Nearly 30 years ago … when I was in my mid-thirties … I was attacked by the Senior’s Sunday School class at my church.  They compiled a list of my faults, met with two board members, and demanded that the board remove me from office.

To a man, the board stood solidly behind me.  And they told me privately that if I resigned, they would all quit as well … thereby turning the church over to the Seniors … who knew absolutely nothing about leading a church.

When the board told the Seniors they supported me, the Seniors all left … when they disappeared, we were free to pursue God’s vision for our church … but it took time.

Judith Viorst once wrote a book called Necessary Losses.  That’s what those Seniors were.

The fifth ally is the church staff.

This includes the church secretary/office manager … the worship/music director … the youth director/pastor … and any associate pastors.

I have known office managers who undermined the pastor … right under his nose … from inside the church office.

I have known worship/music directors who insisted that worship be done their way … even if the pastor disagreed.

I have known youth pastors who openly rebelled against their pastor … and quietly joined his opposition.

I have known associate pastors who wanted their pastor’s job … and were willing to do or say almost anything to get it.

But I have also known staff members who were completely loyal … utterly faithful … and totally supportive of their pastor.

I believe that if a pastor has the support of his entire board and staff, no group in the church can push him out.

Knowing this, most groups that seek to remove a pastor have to find allies on the board and/or staff.

Even if the entire board collapses their support for their pastor, if certain key staff members stand with the pastor, he may be able to survive … but the combination of key board/staff members who don’t support their pastor can be deadly.

Sometimes a pastor knows that a staff member doesn’t fully support his leadership, but the pastor lets that person stay on because they’re doing a good job … or because they’re afraid of the fallout should that person be fired.

Staff support can be tricky.

The sixth ally is key church opinion makers.

This would include former staff members … board members … and church leaders who are still in the church.

And sometimes, this includes people who have moved away but whose opinion others still value.

When I went through my attack five-and-a-half years ago, some of my best allies were two former board members and a former staff member from inside the church.  They worked behind-the-scenes to call for a fair process dealing with particular issues.

I also consulted with two former board chairmen … one from my previous church, another from my current one … and their counsel was invaluable.

If the former board members had stood against me, I might have instantly resigned … but they wanted me to stay.

If the former board chairmen thought I was out of line, I might have quit … but they encouraged me to hang in there.

If a pastor is under attack, and doesn’t have any ecclesiastical allies, that might be a sign he needs to trade a resignation letter for a severance package.

But if he does have prominent church allies … even if they don’t currently hold offices … they can sway a lot of people.

The seventh and final ally is vocal churchgoers.

When a pastor is under attack, and the charges against him float through the congregation, most people don’t know whether they should believe what they’re hearing.

The focus of most people is on whether or not the charges are true.

But a better way is to ask whether a fair and just process is being used with the pastor.

The pastor’s opponents will tell people, “The pastor is guilty of this … we heard him say that … and we don’t like the fact he does this.”

But does the pastor know what’s being said about him?  Does he know who has lined up against him?  And has he been given the opportunity to respond to the charges that are going around?

When a group presses charges against a pastor, they’re hoping that people become reactive and emotional and demand en masse that their pastor leave.

But when others come along and insist on a fair and just process, they’re hoping to calm down people … engage their brains … and determine the truth before demanding anything.

Every church needs a group of fair-minded, spiritual, and vocal members who tell the pastor’s detractors, “We will not let you engage in a lynch mob to dismiss our pastor.  Whether he’s innocent or guilty of your charges, let’s take our time and work through a fair and just process first.”

These people comprise a pastor’s ecclesiastical safety net.

When Elisha and his servant were in Dothan (2 Kings 6), Elisha’s servant got up early and saw “an army with horses and chariots” surrounding the city … and he instantly panicked.

But Elisha remarked, “Don’t be afraid.  Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”

When the Lord opened his servant’s eyes, he saw “the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha” … the armies of the Lord.

Sometimes a church is full of horses and chariots surrounding the pastor, too … a pastor just needs someone to open his eyes.

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What does it mean when a pastor is “under attack?”

It means that people from inside your church are openly challenging your right to lead the congregation anymore.

These people (often including official leaders) believe that your ministry is finished, not because God says you’re through, or because the official leaders say you’re through, but because these self-appointed vigilantes say you’re through.

Their goal?  To destroy your reputation … remove you from your position as pastor … and, in some cases, end your career in ministry altogether.

How should a pastor respond when under attack?

Last time, I offered the following five suggestions:

First, trust your pastoral instincts.

Second, locate several comforting passages of Scripture and read them daily.

Third, confide in believers from outside the church.

Fourth, identify and meet with your supporters from inside your church … cautiously.

Fifth, gauge the opposition against you: both who and how many.

Let me add five more suggestions:

Sixth, try and determine the charges against you, but realize they’re probably irrelevant.

Why do I say this?

Because once there is a movement inside the church to force you out, the charges really don’t matter to your accusers.

Those who insist that you leave aren’t interested in a biblical process, or your own repentance and redemption, or the health of your congregation, or your church’s testimony in the community.

Once they have launched an attack, they are only interested in one thing: your departure.

I wish I didn’t have to say this, but I need to: you can’t reason with your attackers.  And if you try and set up a meeting with several of them, it will not go well.  It’s a waste of time.

Once they’ve decided that you need to go, they will stop at nothing until you clean out your office and turn in your keys.

Based on my experience:

*There won’t be any single impeachable accusation against you.  If you were guilty of heresy, sexual immorality, or criminal behavior, your opponents would have presented their evidence to the church board and let them dismiss you.

*There will be a laundry list of charges against you.  If your opponents had just one or two charges, you might be able to answer them favorably, so to make sure that doesn’t happen, they’ll hit you with multiple charges.

*There will be charges you know nothing about.  You offended a board member’s wife two years ago … you failed to greet someone in the church lobby one Sunday … you speak too much about cultural issues … and so on.  In most cases, you will hear about these “charges” for the first time …  but nobody has ever had the courage to share any concerns with you until your opponents decided to pool their complaints together.

*There will be new charges created until you resign.  If you answer one charge, another one will be created.  The charges aren’t grounded in reality, but in the hardness of some people’s hearts.

*There will be different charges from different people.  One person doesn’t like the way you dress … another doesn’t like the seminary you graduated from … another doesn’t like your lack of denominational involvement.  There won’t be a consensus on why you need to leave, but only that you need to leave.

Seventh, try and discern if your church has already created a process for terminating a pastor through its governing documents or board policies.

When your church began, it probably adopted a constitution and set of bylaws.  These are your governing documents.

They were created when people were thinking clearly … and biblically.  Those documents are intended to govern your church … especially when people overreact and become irrational.

So locate the latest version of your governing documents.  Look carefully at what they say about removing a pastor from office.

And realize that your opponents may not know what the documents say about a pastor’s removal … or care.

If you plan to stay and fight, then point out how your detractors are ignoring the governing documents, and insist they comply with them.  They’ll probably pull back, regroup, and reload, but it will buy you some time.

If you plan to leave, then keep those violations to yourself … and only bring them up in any negotiations for a severance package.

Eighth, do everything in your power to avoid a public congregational meeting.

Sadly, I’ve been through two of these meetings in my 36-year ministry career.

The first meeting was called to vote out our church’s pastor … and that’s exactly what the congregation did.

The second meeting ended up focusing on me and is described in my book Church Coup in a chapter entitled, “Hell Invades the Church.”  While no formal vote was taken at that meeting (there were actually two meetings on the same day), I knew I had to leave when those meetings ended.

Most church governing documents require that any upcoming meeting of the congregation be announced ahead of time … let’s say seven days in advance.

And the governing documents may require that the purpose of any special meeting be shared with the congregation as well.

But once your adversaries discover why you’ve called the meeting, they will accelerate their campaign to force your resignation.

They will contact people who have left the church, hoping that a few of them will feed them some dirt … and they will be invited to the meeting … even if they can’t vote.

Your detractors will be highly motivated to fill the auditorium with their friends … to announce the charges against you … and to trash your reputation in front of the congregation.

I heard about a pastor who was accused … along with his wife … of smoking pot.  When the pastor tried to defend himself in a public meeting, he was shouted down … and left the meeting in shock.

The only way I would engage in a public meeting is if:

*I knew I could control the microphone.

*I knew I could control the process … and that might be difficult if a moderator or board chairman runs the meeting.

*I knew ahead of time that I would be given the opportunity to present my case to the congregation.

*I knew ahead of time that any vote on my position would not be held on the same day as the meeting.

*I knew that most of the congregation was behind me … and would be willing to stand up to my opponents.

Other than meetings of the official church board, more damage occurs in public congregational meetings than anywhere else in a church’s life.

Do your best not to call one.  They can harm people for years.

I know … firsthand.

Ninth, realize that Satan is behind all the chaos … and that his ultimate aim is to destroy your church.

You are NOT the enemy’s target.  It may feel like you are, but you aren’t.

The proof?  Whenever you leave the church, the enemy will most likely leave you alone.  He doesn’t hate you as a person … at least no more than he hates the average Christian.

No, he hates you as a pastor.  If he can drive out the shepherd, he can scatter the sheep … and assume control of the entire pasture.

You are simply the means to an end.  The devil knows that the quickest way to take out a church is to take out its pastor.

To do that, he will use two primary tactics: deception and destruction … or deception leading to destruction.

In other words, Satan will lie about you … throw all kinds of false accusations at you … in order to smear you and force you to leave your position.

And tragically, all too many churchgoers will believe the first negative thing they hear about you without ever checking with you to see if it’s true.

When they’re attacked, many pastors go into hiding and curl into the fetal position.  They blame themselves for the entire mess, castigating themselves for (a) not being perfect, (b) not knowing the attacks were coming, (c) choosing disloyal church leaders, or (d) not creating a forum in which to answer the charges against them.

But this all plays into Satan’s hands.

If your detractors were truly spiritual, Bible-believing Christians, they would never hold secret meetings, pool their grievances against you, attack you anonymously, and demand your resignation.

Where in the New Testament do we find believers acting that way?

We don’t.

If your opponents really loved God, and truly followed Scripture, they would never act in an unbiblical, political fashion against you.  They would use a biblical/constitutional process instead.

But when they use the law of the jungle, that’s the tipoff that they’ve surrendered their hearts to Satan.

Finally, God will use this experience to give you a better life … and ministry.

If you remain as pastor of your congregation, make sure that your church’s leaders use a biblical process to confront the troublemakers.

*If they repent, forgive them and let them stay … but do not let them be leaders for at least two years … and monitor their speech and behavior.

*If they refuse to repent, then ask them to leave your church.  You cannot let them stay and resurface with new complaints down the road.

However, if you are forced to resign from your position as pastor, realize that God in His sovereignty may very well be protecting you from future harm.

The spiritual temperature of your congregation can be difficult to measure.  Sometimes the pastor thinks a church is healthier than it really is … and only a crisis reveals the truth.

In my case, I thought my congregation was more mature than it ended up demonstrating.  On a 1 to 10 scale … with 10 being the most spiritual … I thought my church was at a 7 … when it was probably around a 3.

Some individuals were at a 10 level spiritually … while others hovered around a 1 or a 2 … and unfortunately, those at the lower levels were the ones who prevailed … which says something about the church’s overall maturity.

I was worn out when I left, and had I stayed, I might have become a basket case.  God knew that.

Referring to Lot leaving Sodom and Gomorrah, 2 Peter 2:9 says that “the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials …”  Another version says that “God knows how to deliver the righteous …”

For months after I resigned, I told myself, “I’ve been forced to leave a congregation.  How humiliating!”

But somewhere along the line, I started telling myself, “I’ve been delivered from an intolerable situation.  How liberating!”

I’m sure Jonah didn’t like being swallowed by a large fish, but that’s the means God used to get him to Nineveh.

And I’m sure that most pastors don’t like being swallowed by a few detractors, but sometimes that’s the method God uses to propel a pastor toward more effective ministry.

No, God isn’t directing your detractors to lie about you, and He will hold them accountable … but He is above and behind all that is happening to you.

Remember the story of Joseph in Genesis?

Or the story of Jesus in the Gospels?

God used the evil motives of conspirators to save others in both those cases … and He will do the same for you.

If you’re under attack, and you’d like someone to listen to you … pray with you … and help you think things through, please write me at jim@restoringkingdombuilders.org.

There is no cost to you … I just want to help as I’ve been helped.

What are your thoughts about what I’ve written?

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Good afternoon, church family.  I’ve called this meeting today to share with you some additional perspective about the resignation of our now-former senior pastor, George Anderson.

Pastor George served our church effectively for nine years.  Under his leadership, our attendance doubled, we’ve made inroads into our community, and many lives have been changed.  For much of this time, I’ve served on the church board alongside him, and now serve as chairman.

As you may know, Pastor George had big dreams for our congregation’s future, and he was eager to share those dreams both in public and in private.

But over the past several years, two groups opposed to his plans emerged inside our church.  One group was dead set against Pastor George’s desire to build a new worship center.  The other group felt that it was time for Pastor George to leave.

When I first heard about these groups and their dissatisfaction with the pastor, I involved other elders and met with leaders from both groups separately, listening to them, answering their questions, and letting them know that I cared for them.

I told them our policy here at Grace Church: if you have a problem with the pastor personally, then you need to sit down and discuss it with him directly.  But if you have a problem with our future plans or church policies, then you need to sit down and discuss your concerns with any of the elders.  If we believe your concerns have merit, we’ll take them to the next elder meeting, discuss them, and get back to you with our decision.

This is exactly what we did on several occasions with members from both groups.  They seemed satisfied for a few weeks, but then they’d start complaining all over again.

Then somewhere along the line, the two groups merged into one.

In the meantime, various members of this new group began bypassing the board and complaining directly to the pastor.  But they didn’t just express their concerns: they began verbally abusing him, threatening his position and career, and promising to leave the church en masse if he did not agree to their demands.

At this point, I stepped in, trying to mediate the situation between Pastor George and this new group.  But The Group wouldn’t budge an inch.  They all threatened to leave the church if Pastor George did not resign.

Looking back, I made two mistakes at this juncture:

First, I should have recommended bringing in a conflict mediator or a conflict consultant to try and resolve matters between the pastor and The Group.  Whenever a group in the church says, “Either he leaves or we leave,” the conflict cannot be resolved from inside the church.  I didn’t know this at the time.  Now I do.

Second, I should have stood more solidly behind the pastor. There are several individuals in The Group with whom I have been friends for years, and I couldn’t bear for them to leave the church.  But The Group interpreted my wavering as a lack of support for the pastor and turned up the heat for him to resign.  They began spreading rumors about him and his wife that simply weren’t true, and unfortunately, some people began to believe them.

When some people began attacking Pastor George and his family, he came to me with tears in his eyes and said, “This has got to stop.  We can’t take this anymore.  I am willing to offer my resignation in exchange for a severance package that will allow me to support my family until I can discern God’s next assignment for me.”

So the elders reluctantly accepted Pastor George’s resignation and unanimously decided to give him a fair and generous severance package so he and his family can heal in the days ahead.

But not only must Pastor George and his family heal: the people of Grace Church need to heal as well.

I have learned that in almost every situation where a senior pastor is forced to resign, the elders/church board do their best to act like nothing happened.  They sweep sinful behavior under the rug, pretend to start over, and privately blame the departing pastor for everything negative that happened.

But that is not going to happen here at Grace.

Let me briefly share four steps that the elders are going to take to bring healing to our church:

First, the elders are going to identify and confront the members of The Group with their abuse toward Pastor George.

We made it very clear to members of The Group how to handle their disagreements with Pastor George, and they handled matters with power, not with love, which is not the way the New Testament specifies.  Therefore, the elders will be meeting with every person in The Group.

We will ask each person to repent of their sin toward Pastor George, the elders, and this church family.

If they refuse, we will ask them to leave the church.

If they agree, we will ask for them to contact Pastor George and apologize.  We will also let them attend the next meeting of the elders to apologize to us as well.

If they wish to stay in the church, they cannot hold a position of leadership for at least two years, and we will carefully monitor their conduct.  We don’t want a repeat performance with a new pastor.

If you have been part of The Group, and you’d like to confess your part in our pastor’s departure, the elders will be available here at the front after today’s meeting.

Second, the elders will not tolerate any attempts to destroy Pastor George’s reputation or career.

The elders felt that Pastor George was a man called by God when we invited him to be our pastor, and we still feel that way today.  As a human being, he made some mistakes at times during his tenure here, but he was never guilty of any major offense against Scripture.

When many pastors are forced to resign, some people inside that church later scapegoat the pastor for anything and everything that went wrong during his tenure.  But this is playing into the devil’s hands, and we will not allow this to occur.

We believe that once he heals, Pastor George has a bright future in ministry, and the elders will do all in their power to make sure that Pastor George is spoken of in the highest terms here at Grace.

Third, the elders are aware that some people are going to leave the church over this situation.

If you came to this church because of Pastor George’s ministry … and most of you did … I ask that you stay and help make Grace a great church.

If you find that you miss Pastor George a great deal, will you come and speak with me or one of the elders?  If after a few months, you wish to leave the church, just let us know that’s why you’re leaving.

If you want to leave the church because of the way the elders are handling things today, then be my guest.

I didn’t know this until the last several weeks, but whenever a pastor is forced out, many people leave the church.

When the elders keep quiet about why the pastor left, the healthy people leave.

When the elders are open about why the pastor left, the troublemakers leave.

Guess which group we want to stay?

Finally, the elders welcome your questions, comments, and concerns.

In many churches, when the pastor resigns under pressure, the elders put a gag order on the staff and congregation, telling them they are not to discuss matters at all.

But that’s how dysfunctional families operate, and we want to operate in a different manner: we want to tell the truth in love.

There are some matters that we will not discuss openly, not so much for legal reasons, but because we prefer to handle matters behind the scenes.  If the elders sense that we need to go public with an issue, we may do that through the church website, the newsletter, through small group meetings, or through another public congregational meeting.

Our methodology is to tell you as much as we can rather than tell you as little as we can.

If you want to know why Pastor George resigned, please contact him directly.  If he wishes to speak, great.  If he doesn’t, that’s his business.  We are not going to try and control him, and he is not going to try and control us.

The unity of a church is fragile at a time like this, and we’re tempted to blame various groups or individuals for what’s happened.

But I believe that unity is based on truth … not on cover ups or lies … and we’re going to put that theory to the test.

Do you have any questions for me?

 

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When a pastor is under attack inside his church, he begins to suffer from a condition I’d like to call Damaged Pastor Syndrome.

DPS strikes a pastor when he picks up signals that an individual or a group are laying the groundwork to force him from office.

These signals include church members:

*Making inquiries about church attendance and giving patterns.

*Requesting copies of the church constitution and bylaws.

*Calling district or denominational headquarters.

*Visibly gathering before and after church … even if they don’t travel in the same social circles.

*Increasingly making negative comments on social media about the church and/or pastor.

In addition:

*The governing board may call itself into executive session without the pastor’s foreknowledge.

*Staff members may begin to resist the pastor’s directives.

*Staffers may become secretive while talking on the phone.

*Some church leaders may limit or avoid social time with the pastor altogether.

*Certain board and staff members may stop coming to worship … especially when the pastor is preaching.

Most pastors – nearly 80% – are very sensitive individuals, and when they sense an attack is coming, they quickly acquire DPS.

Let me share a story from my own ministry to illustrate this more concretely.

During my second pastorate, the seniors’ Bible class rebelled against me.

They didn’t like the new music the board had approved for worship.  They didn’t feel I was paying them enough attention.  And the class’s teacher – a former pastor who couldn’t find a job anywhere in Christendom – began to feel powerful as his class focused on the source of their discontent: their pastor.

Before long, rumors of discontent became reality.

A board member found out that a group of seniors were going to hold a secret meeting at a specific time and place.  He told me about the meeting.

I was afraid and anxious.  I couldn’t think.  And I wondered, “Why doesn’t this group like me?  What have I done to offend them?”

My wife and I went to a movie – a Disney cartoon, as I recall – just so I could focus on something other than that meeting.

In the end, it didn’t come off because the supportive board member showed up at the meeting unannounced and took away all their fun.

But that didn’t stop them.  They rescheduled and reloaded.

Because I didn’t know what was happening … and could only imagine the worst … I shifted into survival mode.

In the end, they created a two-page list of complaints against me, my wife, our son (who was 9), and our daughter (who was 6).

When I found out about this, I called a special board meeting and informed the entire group about the plot.

To a man, they stood with me … even though my district minister recommended that I resign.

But for weeks, I was a wreck.  I couldn’t sleep … couldn’t carry on a decent conversation … couldn’t trust people … and couldn’t think about anything other than the attack.

Because I had shifted into fight or flight mode, I was pumping adrenaline at a furious rate to handle the emergency.

The conflict went on for months … until the seniors and their buddies all left the church en masse … forming a new church one mile away.

Now here’s how DPS becomes relevant: when a pastor is under attack, he will be further attacked for responding to the attack like a human being.

For example, when a pastor is under attack:

*If he becomes depressed, he will be attacked for looking gloomy.

*If he becomes fearful, he will be attacked for not appearing strong.

*If he becomes anxious, he will be attacked for not trusting God.

*If he becomes isolated, he will be attacked for being aloof.

*If he becomes ill, he will be attacked for appearing unhealthy.

In other words, the very people who abuse, betray, and criticize the pastor will kick him around even more for not handling himself the way they think he should.

They will ask people in the church: “How can he be our pastor if he isn’t going to set a better example for the rest of us?”

DPS may be the primary reason why pastors end up resigning after enduring a sheep attack.

It took me six months to recover my energy after that group left the church.  The pastor of one of America’s largest churches told me that after he survived a similar attack, it also took him six months to recover, so this may be a pattern.

The group attacking the pastor is correct: the pastor may not be very effective for a while due to anxiety, depression, and fear.

But the group is wrong about why the pastor quickly wilts.  It’s not because he’s a poor example … it’s because shepherds are never prepared for sheep to turn on them and stomp them into the ground.

Since pastors are attacked while on the job, it only seems fair for the congregation and/or church board to assume responsibility for the pastor’s care while he recovers.  This includes a reduced workload … extended time off … funds for counseling … a visit to a retreat center … and creating safeguards to resist another attack.

Because most of the time, it’s not a weakness in the pastor that causes him to collapse under pressure … it’s a weakness in the church system that allows the attack in the first place.

Think about it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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