Posts Tagged ‘pastor regrets’

I’ve just spent the past few days listening to professors and pastors talk about best practices among healthy churches.

And in the process, I realize that I made some mistakes over my 36-year career in church ministry.

These mistakes weren’t intentional … they were simply omissions … but they were crucial omissions.

Maybe you can learn from my blunders:

First, I failed to insist that governing leaders undergo leadership training.

I recently heard a church staff member say that the board in his church goes on an overnight retreat every quarter.  Board members assess how they’re doing spiritually and then assess how their congregation is growing spiritually as well.

Only then do they assess how the church is doing as a whole and make future plans.

Years ago, I used to hold board retreats every six months … but over time, the practice gradually died out.  We’d plan a retreat, but then board members would back out at the last moment, and we’d have to cancel it.

Maybe that was an indication that some of them shouldn’t have been on the board in the first place.

But if I had to do it over again, I’d insist that we go through leadership training on a regular basis … no excuses, no exceptions.

Second, I failed to know what board and staff members gave to the church.

I’ve been hearing this theme over and over, and even posted a blog about this issue recently.

A pastor – and maybe several other leaders – must know the giving records of the leaders in the inner circle.

Some pastors know what everyone in the church gives … and in all honesty, knowing that much might make some of us feel uncomfortable.

But it’s crucial that pastors know the giving patterns of top leaders.

A friend I respect … who always gave generously to his church … roughly put it this way:

“A pastor should ask the financial secretary to contact him if a top leader isn’t giving to the church.  The pastor should then approach that leader and ask what’s going on.  It may be that the leader has a spiritual problem or is purposely withholding giving so the church falls short of the budget.  Later on, that leader might recommend that the pastor be removed from office because he’s presiding over declining donations.”

When top leaders aren’t giving, it’s a sign of a spiritual problem … and may be a sign of an upcoming coup attempt as well.

If a pastor is being sabotaged by leaders who are withholding their giving intentionally, those leaders should resign … and leave the church quickly.

I wish I had known this years ago.

Third, I failed to confront church bullies in the name of niceness.

Seven years ago, I wrote my final project for my doctoral program on church antagonists.  When the project was done, I made copies available to anyone in the church who wanted one … but I removed the second chapter.


Because it contained five real-life examples of antagonism from our own church (three under my predecessor, two under my ministry) and some in the church knew who some individuals were.

In each case, an individual – usually a church leader – thought he or she had a special relationship with the pastor.

In each case, the pastor made a decision that went against that individual.

In each case, that individual then become openly antagonistic toward the pastor.

And in each case, church leaders … including the pastor … did absolutely nothing about the destructive behavior of those five individuals.

In several cases, the antagonists left the church, and then did their best to sabotage the pastor from the privacy of their home.

Most of the time, when antagonists act this way, pastors throw up their hands and ask, “What can I do?”

But a pastor … and a church’s governing leaders … can do plenty.

*They should confront antagonistic behavior the first time it happens.

*They should encourage the individuals involved to repent immediately.

*They should forgive them if they genuinely repent … but monitor their behavior afterwards.

*They should ask them to leave the church if their antagonism continues.

While visiting an all-day class at my seminary last week, I heard story after story of churches that weren’t growing because of the machinations of church bullies.

When God’s people tolerated the rebellious behavior, their church stagnated.

But when God’s people took on the bullies, they either repented or left the church.

And when that happened, the churches mysteriously and miraculously began to grow.

If only I had confronted the bullies sooner …

Finally, I waited too long to correct public lies told about me.

Let me tell you a secret about pastors.

Pastors are extremely sensitive individuals.  They are feelers more than thinkers.

They love God … love the people in their church … and aren’t good at taking care of themselves.

And when churchgoers lie about them … pastors collapse in tears.

Oh, I know … a few pastors take to the pulpit and denounce their critics … but most pastors don’t.

They internalize their pain instead.

And the lies wound them to the very core.

We have a problem in our churches.

When people spread rumors about a pastor, they usually do so in private … and the pastor has no idea where they originated … so he can’t answer them effectively.

I know a pastor who is a very strong individual, but when someone in his church merely threatened to spread lies about him, he instantly quit.

Lying about a pastor … inspired by Satan … is evil.

When people lie about a pastor in a widespread manner, he needs a fair and just forum where he can respond to the charges made against him.

But most churches lack that kind of forum … and everybody knows it.

So the lies about pastors go largely unanswered.

God ultimately gave me a forum for addressing this issue … my book Church Coup … although it took me 3 1/2 years to answer some charges.

(By the way, if you ever hear anything said about me, and want to check its veracity, please write me and ask.  I am not afraid of any question.)

I’d rather look ahead than back, but if any of my mistakes can help others, then we can turn the tables on the enemy.

Check out our website at www.restoringkingdombuilders.org  You’ll find Jim’s story, recommended resources on conflict, and a forum where you can ask questions about conflict situations in your church.

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