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Truth is, with friends like most churches have, you don't need enemies! Rest assured, once you are gone you will be forgotten and the same folks will do it again and again to another minister. Don't be deceived! You will not change them.In reality, many times they are just acting in the same manner the pastor or other leaders have acted towards them in the past. It is a vicious, never-ending cycle and, keep in mind you can be, regardless of the service you provide, be offered on the altar of piety as a sacrifice in the honor of the church's Almighty God -- itself. And once out-of-sight, you will be out-of-mind as well!
I was a staff person in my last church. There was one family who controlled everything. Yeah, I know, it's unbelievable isn't it. I was not fired, but God wonderfully released us to much greener pastures. After we left, the 80% of the people who were good folks stepped up and decided to stop the nonsense. Thankfully, there was no bloodshed, but the church is much healthier now. The "problem" people stepped down from power, possible to say "let's see if it gets any better without us". And it has. I write all this to say that no guns were brandished, as in #4, but people did indeed step up.
I was fired this school year and I did not see it coming. I did not fight or make a scene as you suggest in your article.BUT BY LEAVING QUIETLY did I enable those who were unfair, unjust (and illegal) to continue this kind of behavior in the future? I escaped with enough pay to survive a while, but my wife may never recover and neither might my ministry.(Is this column a reference to the Asbury seminary mess?)
Th advice you gave in this article is what I had hoped for in a recent "loss" by a person many admired in a nearby seminary. I am afraid that your advice could be corrrect but imporrible to follow for even the greatest men and women when there is real injustice. Yet maybe that is when they must do it all the more?
I think I am the person you wrote the email to originally before it became an article.At the time I thought you were urging me to capitulate and let them abuse me.With passing time I now think the advice was good--I would be a better person today with less scars if I had "just walked away" as you advised me.Thanks for that reminder.
I would venture to say there were many of us who read this article knowing exactly what this meant, the realization of betrayal, the feelings of anger, and the sin-grace struggle to live out the Crucified in that moment of decision. Will we retaliate? Will we submit? Will we turn our backs on God and give up?There is no excuse for the sin of the church in wounding, and killing, its own. It makes our souls foul. Sometimes the wounds are deeper than others, and sometimes their effects are far more reaching.Two truths that kept me:1. I am not forsaken. However these people treat me, the Father keeps me. Whatever becomes of me after, He is true when the world is not.2. God wants me to be broken over their brokeness. Grace wants my heart to break for the sin that has taken control not only of their lives but the church.And I should add another. I must accept any responsibility for the circumstances that developed.In Christ, Vaughn W. Thurston-Cox
Good thoughts.This is a little bit of Flipside comment:1) Some of the best, most mature and rich leaders I know, were at some point, early in their career, deeply wounded by others in the church--usually in one of these "divorces" you are mentioning (That's a great analogy). Many of them left the ministry only to return later bearing their scars with a much richer relationship with God and deeper compassion for His people.2) Some of the worst, most bitter and shallow leaders I know, were at some point, early in their career, deeply wounded by others in the church--usually in one of these "divorces." Some of them left the ministry to return later, many others remained in ministry but sought out safer, more predictable ministry jobs. Either way, their wounds remain open and sometimes festering, their relationship with God is stunted, and they see God's people with equal parts caution and contempt.The church is a much harsher environment in which to work than a comparable secular workplace. This is a spiritual truth, not simply a product of different communcation dynamics and organizational structures. Those called to ministry need to be counseled in this truth--the church is not a walled city of God where people who love him get to work in peace and safety; Rather it is an open city, gates thrown open to both enemy and friend alike, whose workers must serve with disregard for their own safety and little prospect of reward outside of eternity.
What beautiful advice. Christ-like in every way. Thanks!
Great advice.We do not need gunslinging fired pastors to clean up power holds, that is the DS's job! Interesting that some DS's feel that way!
I was recently a staff pastor and I was relieved of my responsibility, when I left my senior pastor was worse off than I was. He didn't sleep for like 3 days.I really saw how much it tore him up to have to go through it. I guess it made me realize that I couldn't be mad and angry.
To be like Christ in all our conversation and conduct is the only thing the scriptures will allow under any circumstance, even persecution and martyrdom. Coupled with this truth is the Pauline example of accepting responsibility as a fellow Christian to confront injustice and sin in the church. There is a Christ-like way to accomplish this. To abscond from such responsibiity is no substitute for meekness. However, if one is going to rule out or otherwise ignore Christlikness during such a crisis, thereby making null and void their Christian testimony, what has been gained? This suggestion would only be helpful in such an instance that sin on the part of those responsibile for the firing was involved. In those instances where a person was at fault and quite frankly needed to be fired, they need to follow your advise entirely. (JWW)
All this has brought up for me the importance of authority and discipline. I can go meekly "as a lamb before the slaughter" when treated badly IF I know there is some authority that will correct the source of the abuse and evil. Being in a denomination supposedly ahs this advantage, BUT only if a DS functions this way. I know some who do, but in other cases (in a youth apstor's firing this Fall that I know about) the DS simply stayed away to keep his suit clean. Yet I should remember that eventually God the Father is the ultimate authority and settles the scores I walk away from. But I'd prefer the DS settle some of it sooner--especially when there is a dysfunctional board and a cabel of power-weilding board members intent on running the church their way and sending any dissenters to the highway.
fresh fired: My heart goes out to you. There is one consolation, they will not escape the judgment of God. You never touch one of God's anointed w/out suffering yourself!And no, you did not enable them to continue. I use to believe that too. The enabling talk from psychology teaches that. You've allowed them to let their cycle of sin run until it yields fruit. Eventually, that fruit will rot. I've watched a Wesleyan community of believers do it again and again to folk. All "their" assets and the like are just that, assets. They are down to just a few and when they die off the church will be given to another group or sold. The building and resourses they guarded so closely.No, you did not enable them to contine....you gave them over to the social club they desired and removed God for their midst.I firmly believe in situations like that, a Godly pastor needs to leave and remove all covering of God on a group such as that so as not to sully His reputation. Regardless of who is pastoring an inclusive social club will continue until its members die off or move. If you don't believe me, look at all the other community social clubs.As for you and your wife recovering, I doubt that God wants you to recover. If you notice, recovery is not a Scriptural concept, it is a psychological concept. Having faith regardless of the situation is!There is a computer game for kids that allows Bible man to fight the enemy with Scripture. When he goes to battle and gets half-killed and his faith runs low there is always a chapel he can go to and pray for his faith to be restored. He regains both his strength and his faith and can continue in the battle. Faith can move mountains, recovery can't!I've seen both the worst and the best the church has to offer and very few offer the "real" God. I wish you well in your continued search for Him. He will never do to you what the organized chuch does/did--few of His members really have his mind and walk after him, even those in leadership positions! Just remember that. God bless you both!
I have to disagree that the church is a less-harsh environment than the workplace....just ask Foley!!!Not it is not. It is just that folks expect perfection and everyone defines perfection very differently. And, because church tends to deal in the deepest recesses of our being and touch our soul and emotions, any hurt, whether great or small in the depth of our being, tends to have a greater impact and a much greater potential of crippling us!
Well, truthfully, all you have to do is not send in the gun-slinging wounded pastors to settle the score nor a DS, just put out the word that that is a bad church to pastors and nobody accept a call or invite to candidate for a year or two. That will force the power-hungry folk into preaching, teaching and the like. Once they do the job themselves for a while, the problem will be solved!You can't command change, but you can effect change! By the way, sharing that type of info about a church or congregation is not unScriptural as holiness folk have been taught. Paul did it on a couple of occasions when there was a problem with a ministry team.
Just keep in mind, the power-hungry folks in the church oftentimes are the pastors! Be sure you are not one of them.
I believe the first step is to evaluate ourselves. Have I fulfilled my duties as outlined in God's Word? II Timothy 4:5 is particularly relevant:"But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry." If I can say before God that I have, then Matthew 10:14 may be the order of the day: "If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town." Life is tough, but God is sovereign. Circumstances will not keep a man of God from his appointed rounds. Fall six times. Get up seven. Continue to serve God!!! Fluffy
anonymous has had a lot to say about being fired perhaps he has been fired from his post in the past.
From the pastor's wife point of view...I agree with you, Keith. In 18 years of ministry we found out a few things. Early on in our ministry we tried to defend ourselves only to find we made things worse. We left the full-time vocational ministry 4 years ago to show our children how to be good lay people and true ministers in our world. When we left that church - we left quietly and today they invite us back and tell us how much they appreciated us. We are minstering in a wonderful way today and are thankful for our opportunity to share Christ with teenagers - every day! Our kids have grown spiritually, we've grown and believe God has honored our decision to save our family. We almost became bitter because we felt the "church" had forsaken us. Thankfully - God hadn't and we are in a good church family and serving God! Isn't that what ministry is all about? It's better than being bitter. We pray for all of you in ministry who are currently in pain. Stay close to God and let him battle for you!
I like that you deal with real things. I'm guessing getting "let go" was never on a syllabus.Personally, one other thing I had to think of in a situation like you are talking about was to think about what you win by fighting back, and think through whether that is worth it. I once had the opportunity to fight back and I had pretty good ammunition, but when I considered what I would win by winning I realized it wasn’t worth it.The experience left its mark, but a few years down the road, I was able to see what I had learned through the experience and I was able to see God’s faithfulness and provisions for me.To answer one of your questions specifically, my two cents says even if an organization is in need of being destructed, the person being fired is not the right person for that job, nor would the heat of the moment be the time to implement such a plan. Just my thoughts.
colin:If only I would/could have been fired from my post it would have been a welcomed event!
I agree with Keith wholeheartedly. Grace IS the way to effect change. Though it goes against the behavioralist in me that wants to provide negative immediate and certain consequences to undesireable behavior, graceousness is the only way we can handle the injustice. On the way out, we empower and lift up those who were are supporters, letting them know that the Kingdom of God is bigger than one pastor or one church and certainly that one circumstance. Though, I have not been fired, I once resigned because of injustice. I can only pray that I left as graceously as Keith describes.
This is not good news for me. T think that some day a church might fire me? How could a Christian organization fire people??? What a discouraging column for students like me!
The question is not how can they fire leaders, the question is how can they keep leaders who do not spend time preparing spiritually, who don't know the word of God in detail -- the very regulations that government a relationship with God, others and the world, etc. In private industry and the government, if you expect to survive, you had better know the regulations and issues in your field and be able to discuss them intelligently and apply them to every area of the organization, as applicable.I have been following a ministry couple over the past several years who have to be in their 50's or maybe 60's, have pastored more than one church, the husband is seminary trained, etc. And, I must say, I am shocked at how little of the actual word of God the man really knows, how few of the precepts and concepts taught by God he implements and how many times he lies to folks in his preaching while calling other pastors skunks and liars!No, the question is, why should we hire ministry folk who are not competent and how can we keep ministry folks on staff who are incompetent.I have to laugh at the leadership training concepts taught by the Maxwell's of the world. While having the capability to identify and train leaders is essential, if you know what the word of God says and have His mind, most of that will be second-nature to you! Every pastor I've ever seen who knew the word of God and God Himself never had a leadership problem nor an ego problem for that matter.Working in ministry is no different than any other field, you are expected to produce and if you don't, then you should be fired. So, I do not understand your concern unless you came in with the idea that working for the church would be a free ride.
I was taught and have entered and exited by this advice, "Years from now you will be remembered for two things, how you came into your job and how you left." I was recently "let go" from a job and I feel that the way I carried myself out the door was a real life witness to those around me.
I think I believe the "turn the other cheek" approach to getting fired unjustly may only be "enabling" to the power-abusers in control and make the church a worse place. "Making a scene" might be the better response in either an unfair firing or a rape. Simply "taking it" has long term effects on your psyche and on your family--ask me, I know.UNNAMED FORMER PASTOR(Sorry, I can't give my name--buT I am out of the ministry forever because I let my wife stand by and watch two power-hungry laymen "rape" me by expelling me from my church. I "turned the other cheek" as suggested in this article and the result was a wife who vows she she will never return to a minister's life.
THANKS for the excellent and thoughtful (and sometimes painful)comments above readers. My seniors are reading them this week. You have shed good light on the subject and there is much to discuss still outstanding. If you'd like to add additional insights and conclusions over the next few weeks please do so, but for now we have a significant collection of responses to prod furthur discusion. I'll post next week's column TuesdayThanks! --Keith
My step-father was fired and run out of the church I grew up in. It was a very sticky situation. Becuase I knew and loved the people of that church I tried to continued attending there, so the first Sunday after the incident I went there. It was only to hear some of the people come up to me during a "Greet your neighbor" in service to tell me that my mom and my step-dad were awful people and shouldn't have been on staff in the first place. I left and began attending another church in town, but because I, my mom, and my step-dad left quietly and withtout any force we are actually able to visit that church today and see those who truly loved us and the work we were doing for the Lord.It helped to remember during that time that God's will is best. My mom and step-dad were hired on at another church, where they have better pay and benefits, and their marriage is stronger than ever.
I need to edit one remark. I did not mean to say, "[we] must accept any responsibility for the circumstances that developed." I meant to write we must accept responsibility for how we contributed to circmstances. We can't be responsible for everyone, but should be for ourselves.
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