Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘finding a new church home; when you don’t like your pastor’

One of the most common emails I receive goes something like this:

“I love my church, and have been attending for many years.  I have many friends there … my family loves going … and I have a meaningful place of service.  But my pastor is driving me crazy.  He doesn’t listen to suggestions … responds harshly to the slightest criticism … manipulates people and situations … attacks critics from the pulpit … and presides over a declining church with no meaningful plans for turning things around.  I’ve tried to meet with the pastor and express my concerns, but he doesn’t seem to hear me.  I’m really torn up about this issue.  What should I do?”

Yes, there are chronic complainers in every church, but I don’t sense these people fit that description.  Most complainers aren’t seeking solutions … they just want to receive attention by venting.  But the people who write me really want to know what to do.

If this is how you feel about your pastor, let me offer five options for resolving matters … and this is not an exhaustive list:

First, stay and stew. 

Many people who are frustrated with their pastor get up every Sunday morning … get dressed … take their family to church … become upset all over again by their pastor’s announcements or sermon or manner … and go home even more frustrated than before.

Sometimes, their family members agree with their views.  Other times, they’re the only one in the family who feels the way they do.

These people contemplate leaving their church, but don’t feel they can because (a) key family members still love the church, (b) they still have meaningful friendships there, and (c) they’re still engaged in significant ministry.

So they feel helpless … trapped, even … like they’re forced to stay at a place where they’re increasingly miserable.

But that’s just not the case.  You don’t have to attend your church on autopilot every week.

You have a choice.

You can go … or not go … and that’s up to you.  God has given you the ability to decide where you attend church, and you don’t have to go where you’ve gone for years.

Staying and stewing isn’t going to resolve your dilemma, but it is a choice.

But does God want you hurting and unfulfilled for years?

Second, pray that the pastor will change.

A church leader wrote me months ago wanting to know how he could convince his pastor to change his behavior.

I told him that his desire was ultimately futile, although that’s not what he wanted to hear.

When a pastor comes to a church, his basic character and personality have already been formed.  Pastors aren’t four-year-old kids who can still be molded by their parents.  What you see is usually what you get.

If a pastor is an introvert, he’s not going to become an extrovert.

If a pastor is short, he’s not going to become tall.

If a pastor is sensitive (and most are), he’s not going to become tough overnight.

If a pastor loves the Giants (as I do), he’s not going to become a Dodgers fan.

A wise board member once told me that Christians shouldn’t play Holy Spirit in each other’s lives.  It takes time for the Holy Spirit to prompt change in your life … and it takes time for the Spirit to change pastors, too.

Pastors can and do change outwardly.  They can change their appearance … utilize new expressions … add humor to their messages … become less intense … and learn to speak more slowly.

And God can and does change pastors from the inside out … but it’s a work that He does rather than something that we do … and it’s always done on His timetable.

Most of the time, pastors don’t change very much, if at all.  If a pastor changed to make you happy, that change might make someone else unhappy.

The truth is that the great majority of people in your church are happy with who your pastor is.  That’s why they attend.

Better to say, “Lord, I’m going to stay in this church and let You change our pastor” than to say, “Lord, I’m only going to stay in our church if the pastor changes … hopefully tomorrow.”

Third, leave the church abruptly … maybe angrily.

Last year, I attended a local megachurch three times.  I liked it less each time I went.

On my third visit, I felt that the pastor was manipulating people to receive Christ so he could have enough people to baptize later that afternoon.

The manipulation really bothered me … as it always does … so I stopped attending.

That’s easy to do when you’ve only invested three Sundays of your life.  It’s much more difficult when you’ve invested hundreds of Sundays and thousands of dollars in a specific ministry.

But I’ve known people who left a church suddenly.  They didn’t like something the pastor said … or the pastor’s announced plans for the future … or the way a staff member was fired … and so they told themselves, “I’m never going to that church again.”

In my second pastorate, the board and I agreed that we would update the music and begin singing praise and worship songs on Sunday mornings.  A board member’s wife immediately stopped coming, and then her husband stopped, too.

And boy, were they angry!  They made lots of noise on their way out the door … which spoke volumes about their character.

I believe that leaving a church abruptly and angrily isn’t a great option, but it is an option.  If you’re miserable when you hear your pastor preach on Sunday, you can end the misery immediately.

Just don’t go back … ever.

But leaving suddenly usually means giving up many of your friends … surrendering your ministries … and disappointing your family.

It’s doable, but maybe not preferable.

Fourth, conspire with others to force out the pastor.

Start complaining about your pastor … frequently and loudly.  It won’t take long before you find others who agree with you and have been waiting for someone to voice their feelings.

I can tell you exactly how to get rid of your pastor, but unless he’s guilty of heresy, sexual immorality, or criminal behavior, I’d leave this decision up to the official leaders.

However, most people who write me have already rejected this option.  If they really wanted to force out their pastor, they would just do it rather than look for other solutions.

If you’re thinking about leading a rebellion against your pastor, though, let me warn you: you may destroy your church … your pastor … his family … and your own spiritual life.

This may be a destructive option, but it is an option … and sadly, one that’s increasingly common these days.

Finally, find a church where you can grow spiritually.

There used to be a group that believed that according to the New Testament, there was only one God-sanctioned local church in every city (for example, the church at Corinth, the church at Ephesus, and so on) and that their churches were the only legitimate churches in every city.

But my guess is that in your community, there are many more churches around than just the one you’re attending.

Being a member of a church isn’t like taking marriage vows.  You don’t have to be committed to one church for life.

If the pastor continually frustrates you … if you go home on Sundays feeling crazy and confused … you don’t have to keep going back to that church.

Rather than leaving suddenly, the better way to handle things might be to visit some other churches in your area.

You might attend your church one Sunday … then another church the next Sunday … then your church … then another church … and so on.  That way, you keep a presence in your church, and you no longer feel trapped.

If you really like a church, go back several times.  If you’re married, invite your spouse along and solicit their opinion.

In my experience, it takes at least six months to find a new church home.  The whole process can drive you crazy.  No church has everything you want.

But the smaller the church, the more important it is that you like the pastor, because in many smaller churches, the church revolves around the pastor.  If you don’t like a pastor or his preaching, cross that church off your list.

I don’t know why, but this is a step that many Christians just don’t want to take.  Looking for another church makes them feel disloyal.

But this is a short life.  God wants us fulfilled, not frustrated.

There are three questions that I believe every pastor-frustrated person needs to answer honestly:

*What is the pastor’s plan for growing this church?  Can I get behind it?

If the pastor doesn’t have a plan, or his plan doesn’t inspire people, your church is headed for some rough days.

*How much am I growing spiritually here?  If I’m not, is there somewhere else where I can grow?

Church life isn’t primarily about friendships and ministries.  It’s about deepening and enhancing our walk with God.  My guess is that most people who are upset with their pastor stopped growing spiritually a long time ago.  Will staying or leaving stimulate that process more?

*What does God want me to do about attending here in the future?  If He wants me to go … or stay … or change … will I completely obey Him?

My wife and I got married a month before I entered seminary.  Her father married us in our home church.  I had been his youth pastor for two years.  We wanted to stay there a long time.

But barely a month after we were married, we left … and went to a sister church several miles away.

Some of my friends from my former church were really upset with me.  They felt I was being disloyal … and after throwing us a big wedding, even ungrateful.

But circumstances had changed, and we had changed.  I needed to start over again, to make new friends, to find a healthier place where I could serve.

Maybe we left our old church too soon, but God abundantly blessed our decision.

I was eventually hired as a staff member and later ordained in that new church.

God will abundantly bless your decision, too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: