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Posts Tagged ‘private reasons why pastors are terminated’

Whenever a pastor is forced out of his position, there are usually two stories as to what happened.

There’s the public version … designed to placate the pastor’s supporters and congregation.

Then there’s the real version … smothered beneath a pile of rhetoric and obfuscation.

In most cases, a pastor is accountable to some kind of governing board, whether they’re called elders, deacons, a council, a vision team … whatever.

When a pastor is dismissed, that board wants to say as little as possible to the church as a whole.

In some cases, they don’t want to make the pastor look bad … but in many cases, they don’t want to make themselves look bad.

So they try and smooth matters over by using phrases in public like, “We just felt it was time” or “We’re going in a different direction” or “If you knew what we know about the pastor, you’d have asked for his resignation, too.”

But so often, nobody ever mentions the real reasons why an innocent pastor was permanently exiled … so let me take a shot at it:

First, the pastor was gaining too much power.

This is especially true in small or rural churches where a family and their cohorts have run things for decades.

A new pastor is called to the church.  He attracts lots of newcomers … who start serving in various ministries.

Some become leaders … and their allegiance is to the pastor … not to the board or even the church.

Feeling their power slipping away, the old timers resist the pastor’s leadership … resent his success … and finally decide, “He has to go.”  (Of course, this is the same scenario that happened with Jesus and the Sanhedrin.)

Most of the time, the pastor’s detractors won’t even breathe what’s in their hearts to the pastor or his supporters.  To criticize a pastor for bringing in new people looks petty … vindictive … and unspiritual.

This scenario often occurs when a church grows too fast too soon … or the pastor makes too many changes early in his ministry … but it can happen at any time during a pastor’s tenure.

And once the pastor has disappeared, the governing board is back in control … and get to choose any interims as well as the next pastor.

Second, the pastor was perceived as being too stubborn.

When I was in high school, I hung out with a group of friends who were all … and still are … great guys.  They didn’t drink (around me, anyway) … didn’t take drugs … and didn’t cause trouble.

One Friday night after a football game, they wanted to drive by the home of a song leader they liked … honk a car horn … and yell.  (It’s as close as they were ever going to get to her.)  It was fine with me if they did it … I just thought it was stupid.  So I asked to be taken home first.

Because I didn’t want to go with them, was I being stubborn or acting out of some kind of conviction?

I mention this because people … even board members … sometimes bring pastors stupid proposals … and if the pastor doesn’t say, “Oh, that’s a great idea!” he’s branded as being controlling … stiff-necked … and stubborn.

For twenty years, I wanted my ministry in churches to be characterized by four values: theological accuracy … moral integrity … methodological flexibility … and an outreach orientation.

I tried to be flexible with people’s suggestions and ideas as long as we didn’t sacrifice those values.  But if somebody wanted me to bend on integrity … or stop caring about spiritually lost people … I simply wasn’t going to do it … and if I paid for my convictions by being terminated … so be it.

For example, most pastors believe they can only marry two Christians … not a Christian to a non-Christian.  And if the daughter of the board chairman wants to marry an unbeliever … and the pastor refuses to perform their ceremony … his refusal may be termed “stubbornness” rather than “a biblical and personal conviction.”

I honestly think that many members of the church staff and board don’t understand how strongly most pastors hold their convictions … so maybe pastors need to do a better job of explaining in public why they believe what they do … even if people don’t understand or like what he’s saying.

But when a stubborn pastor meets a stubborn board … the pastor is usually the one who takes a hike.

Third, the pastor personally offended someone who wouldn’t forgive him.

If we could see into the hearts of God’s people, this reason just might emerge as Number One.

Being human and flawed, pastors sin against people at times.

I’d like to think that when a pastor is aware of his sin against someone, he seeks that person out … apologizes to them … receives verbal forgiveness … and their relationship continues unabated.

But there are two common scenarios where these steps are circumvented … or discarded altogether:

*The pastor has said or done something that offends someone … but the pastor doesn’t know anything about it.

The pastor could have said something that offended someone from the pulpit … or in a private conversation … or in a church communique … but the person offended never talks to the pastor about it.

But rather than forgive him unilaterally … or talk with the pastor personally … this individual starts finding fault with the pastor on many levels … completely hiding what their real motivation is.

How can the pastor ever make such an offense right?  He can’t.

*The pastor finds out that he hurt someone and apologizes for his actions … but the person offended either won’t forgive him or … more likely … says he or she forgives him but really doesn’t.

How can the pastor make that situation right?  Once again … he can’t.

The real offense in this scenario is not that the pastor said or did something wrong … it’s that the person the pastor hurt refuses to forgive him from the heart … because they view his offense as unforgivable.

Hebrews 12:15 says, “See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.”

Many Christians believe that the “bitter root” refers to a believer who is angry with someone else and won’t forgive them … but in context, it seems to refer to a Christian who is so bitter against another believer that their anger spreads inside the congregation and poisons many.

If true, how ironic that a congregation that preaches forgiveness to sinners might expel their pastor because a single person refused to forgive him!

But sadly, the pastor might never discover the real reason for his departure.

Fourth, the pastor offended a group that threatened, “Either he goes or we go.”

I remember reading about a prominent megachurch pastor who angered some long-time families in his congregation.

The pastor was trying to make changes to their worship services.  He went through the proper channels … the staff, the official board, worship team personnel … but there was one group he didn’t consult: those with old money.

They weren’t in positions of official power anymore, but when they heard about the pastor’s proposed changes, they went berserk because in their eyes, they were important … and he should have run everything by them.

(This story reminds me of the truism: small churches have small problems … while big churches have big problems.)

Due to the criticisms leveled against him, this megachurch pastor … someone I knew many years ago … resigned his ministry after 14 successful years.

The conflict made the local newspaper, which is where I read about the charges made by the people with old money.

If those making this ultimatum are good friends with members of the official board … if they hold important leadership positions … if they are wealthy and/or generous donors … then more often than not, this tactic will work … and the board will send the pastor packing.

But chances are poor that the pastor will ever hear anything about it.

Finally, the pastor was hit with an allegation that he couldn’t address in public.

One pastor told me that an older woman in his congregation threatened to make some charges against him and circulate them throughout the church.

The pastor knew that the charges were false, but he also knew that if they got out, some people would automatically believe them and insist that he resign … or threaten to leave themselves … so he quit instead.

I love Christ’s church, but I can’t stand this kind of lying.  I just hate it.

This is not who Jesus is … nor who Jesus wants His people to be … and it’s exactly what Satan wants: to make a spiritual leader quit based on deception and destruction.

Once a false accusation hits the ecclesiastical grapevine, a pastor is toast unless the church/board provides him with a quick and credible way of defending himself in public.

And sadly, most churches lack such a mechanism.

If I was a member of a church board, I would not let my pastor be driven out of the church based on a lie … even if I thought his best days were behind him.

In fact, I’d do the following things:

*track down the source of the false charge

*confront the person making the allegation and ask them to repent … and ask them to leave the church if they didn’t

*ask the pastor to respond to the allegation in public as soon as possible

*support the pastor’s version of events in public

*teach the church that Christians never use the devil’s tactics to do God’s work

How could I as a spiritual leader allow Satan to have free reign in Christ’s church?

Power struggles … pastoral convictions … bitter parishioners … group threats … and false allegations … these are among the real reasons why pastors are terminated in our day.

But I believe there’s one more reason that I haven’t yet mentioned that towers above them all … and I promise to write a separate article about it soon.

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