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Posts Tagged ‘church boundaries’

When I was in third grade, my class received music instruction from Miss Rose via closed-circuit television.

I loved to sing, and I liked Miss Rose – until she visited our classroom one day.  I was disappointed because Miss Rose didn’t look like she did on TV.

So when my class was lining up after recess, I told somebody that I thought Miss Rose was ugly.  A girl immediately wheeled around and told me, “Ummm.  I’m going to tell the teacher you said that.”

Okay, I shouldn’t have said what I did, but it wasn’t any of that girl’s business, either.  If she had told the teacher – or Miss Rose – she could have turned a thoughtless remark into a larger incident.

And this kind of thing happens all the time in churches.

Let me share with you three kinds of boundary violations that happen in churches all the time:

First, sometimes a previous pastor interferes with the ministry of his successor.

Several years ago, I read about the pastor of a megachurch (let’s call him Wally) who resigned and moved 800 miles away to become the pastor of another church.

The church he left called a new pastor (let’s call him Harry) whose ministry began to go well.

But Wally’s new ministry wasn’t going that well, so he decided he wanted to return to his original church.

So he orchestrated Harry’s departure, and then returned to his old church … and damaged hundreds of people in the process.

When a pastor leaves a church, he needs to leave that church alone.

It’s okay to stay on the mailing list … to have friends in the church … to have a general idea of what’s going on … and to pray for the church’s pastor and ministry.

But it’s wrong to become a complaint center for naysayers … to undermine the new pastor’s ministry … to second-guess leadership decisions … and to provide counsel for the pastor’s detractors.

Sad to say, but some pastors are so narcissistic that they’ll cross ethical boundaries just to harm someone else’s ministry … and that creates major conflict.

Second, sometimes people try and turn their current church into their previous one.

21 years ago, I was involved in rebirthing a church.  We changed our ministry, sold our property, and started over in a new location with a new name.

An upper-class couple began attending our church.  They had once attended a nationally-known megachurch and seemed intent on helping us.

One night, the husband gave me a piece of paper on which he had evaluated major church leaders by certain categories, like appearance … work ethic … giftedness … and so on.

He even evaluated the pastor … me.

I was shocked by how brazen his actions were.  He’d only attended our church a few times … and he didn’t serve in any capacity … but he had the audacity to try and remake our church into his previous one.

After I overcame my depression, I told the gentleman that I didn’t need his help anymore, and I never saw him or his wife again.

While he tried crossing boundaries, I’m thankful that I caught it and put a stop to it.  Sometimes pastors … and church leaders … have to define and enforce boundaries or people will run roughshod over them.

Finally, sometimes people snoop around where they don’t belong.

When I first entered church ministry, I heard the pastor talking one day through a wall.  He seemed animated and passionate, so I put my ear to the wall to hear what he was saying.

Suddenly, I was seized with guilt, and quickly backed off.  Whatever he was saying wasn’t meant for me.

In a dysfunctional family, boundaries are violated all the time.  Dads search their son’s rooms for drugs and magazines.  Moms try and read their daughter’s diaries.  After their children leave home, the parents interfere with their marriages, offer unsolicited advice, and take over family gatherings without permission.

The parents think they’re helping, but they’re just making things worse.

By the same token, it’s wrong to drive by the church to see if the pastor’s car is there … to snoop around the church office looking for classified information … to monitor the pastor’s behavior to find some dirt on him … and to form conclusions without knowing the facts.

I’ve noticed that whenever there’s major conflict in a church, some individuals have violated their boundaries:

*The board begins disciplining staff members directly … usurping the role of the pastor.

*The pastor starts lying down guidelines for the women’s ministry … rather than letting the women do it.

*The youth pastor starts telling people how the church should really worship … although that’s the role of the worship director.

*The worship director starts demanding that he should make all the final decisions for the services … but that’s the pastor’s job.

*The associate pastor tells friends that he’s the best preacher in the church … but that’s not his assignment.

And on and on and on …

In 2 Chronicles 26, King Uzziah of Judah violated divine boundaries when he entered the temple to burn incense.  Azariah the priest confronted him and said in verse 18:

“It is not right for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the Lord.  That is for the priests, the descendants of Aaron, who have been consecrated to burn incense.  Leave the sanctuary, for you have been unfaithful; and you will not be honored by the Lord God.”  And then God gave Uzziah leprosy until the day he died as a way of saying, “The king is to be a king, not a priest, and a priest is to be a priest, not a king.”

Read 2 Chronicles 26:18 again and let it serve as a warning from Almighty God:

Violate the space of others … and go where you don’t belong … and you will cause many to suffer.

But if you stay in your own space … and refuse to cross boundaries … God will reward you.

What are some other boundaries that Christians cross at church?  I’m interested in hearing your thoughts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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