This week I came across an amusing article from John Roberts writing for the Journal Advocate of Sterling, Colorado about “How To Get Rid Of Your Pastor.” A DISCLAIMER: This article in no way represents my feelings toward Medina United Methodist Church. Medina UMC without doubt has been the best congregation I have ever served. I post this because I have colleagues in the ministry who desperately need their congregation to read this article.
Some time back, I heard about a church that had been trying to “get rid” of their pastor. Sadly, this is something that happens a lot in the American church scene. We get unhappy with the pastor or with something the church is doing; and then, instead of doing the biblical thing and prayerfully seeking to work out the differences, we choose up sides. Then, if there are enough votes to dismiss or enough people to make things really unpleasant, out the pastor goes.
It’s tragic, not only because of what it does to that pastor, but because of the broken relationships and the slow-healing wounds left behind, which often remain long after the pastor departs. Frankly, there are simpler ways. If you ever want to get rid of your pastor, instead of looking for votes or choosing up sides, try one of these five ideas.
Idea No. 1: During the Sunday morning message, listen closely and take notes. Look your pastor straight in the eye, and occasionally nod your head and say, “Amen!” Begin to make serious efforts to apply the life lessons you learn from the sermons. In six months, he’ll preach himself to death.
Idea No. 2: Pat your pastor on the back and brag on his good points two or three times a month. Make a bunch of phone calls to your friends and neighbors and tell them all the good things about your pastor. In a little while, so many more people will start coming to your church, you’ll have to hire an associate pastor, and your senior pastor will be free to leave.
Idea No. 3: Next Sunday, in response to the sermon, go forward to the altar and rededicate your life to Christ. Then make an appointment with the pastor sometime next week. Ask him to give you some job you could do for the church, preferably some lost people you could go visit with a view to winning them to Christ. He’ll likely die of heart failure on the spot.
Idea No. 4: Organize a ministry to call on the shut-ins and elderly members of the church, and encourage the pastor, as the early church did (see Acts 6:1-7), to devote more of his time to prayer, the study of God’s Word and sermon preparation. Tell him you’ll take care of the widows if he’ll take care of the preaching. He’ll think the whole congregation has gone completely crazy and start looking for another church immediately.
Idea No. 5: Get a whole bunch of the church members to unite in earnest intercessory prayer for the pastor, his ministry and his family. Organize prayer meetings in which you pray for the growth of the church and the blessing of the pastor. The pastor may become so effective in ministry that some larger church will gladly take him off your hands.
One note of caution, however: if you try one of these methods, you may find that you don’t want to get rid of your pastor after all.
John Roberts is the longtime pastor of First Baptist Church in Sterling.
There are so many misconceptions about what forgiveness is and what forgiveness is not that I thought I would lay it out in this month’s newsletter. A couple of weeks ago in the Adult Sunday School class we had an in depth discussion about forgiveness. We looked at specific Scriptures and then we watched a short 10-minute video clip from Mark Driscoll who is the pastor of Mars Hills Church in Seattle, Washington. (You can view the clip at http://bit.ly/o25BJp)
Mark offered some very insightful teaching about what forgiveness is and several people in the Sunday School class asked me to summarize and republish his teaching.
1. Forgiveness is not approving or diminishing sin. It’s not saying, “It’s OK, nobody’s perfect… everybody makes mistakes… its no big deal.” The fact of the matter is that it IS a big deal! It’s SO BIG that God died for it! So don’t dishonor the cross of Jesus and approve or diminish something that required the death of Christ.
2. Forgiveness is not enabling sin. You see this sometimes with wives who misunderstand submission. For example, the Bible teaches that the husband is the head of the house and that he is suppose to lead which isn’t a problem if he leads by lovingly following Jesus, but what if he’s not following Jesus? The wife shouldn’t follow him because her ultimate allegiance is to Jesus. The truth is that you can forgive someone without enabling their sin and participating in it. You can have a family or friend that is an addict… you can forgive them without enabling them. Forgiveness is not enabling. Forgiveness can even include confronting and rebuking.
3. Forgiveness is not denying a wrongdoing.
“It didn’t happen… I forgot all about it… I just moved on… I didn’t let it affect me.” That’s not true. Forgiveness is not the denial of a wrongdoing. It’s not denying that you were sinned against.
4. Forgiveness is not waiting for an apology. A lot of people won’t forgive till the other person apologizes. “I will forgive them as soon as they say they are sorry.” The fact of the matter is that some people are never going to apologize. Some people will continue in their rebellious and foolish life course. Some people will be stubborn and self-righteous and they will never confess or admit. Some people will move away and you’ll never speak with them again. Some people may even die before they ever articulate repentance. So you what do you do? You forgive them before they apologize.
5. Forgiveness is not forgetting. This is one of the great Christian myths. “Were suppose to forgive and forget.” NO YOU DON’T! You can’t forgive and forget! You can’t! If you were raped, molested, abandoned, beaten, abused, cheated on, betrayed, lied about… forget it? You can’t forget it. It’s impossible. Some will appeal to Scriptural passages such as Jeremiah 31:34 that says, “God will remember their sin no more,” and they’ll say, “SEE, God doesn’t remember our sin.” But God DOES remember our sin. He’s omniscient. He’s all knowing. He forgets nothing. He knows everything. So what does it mean when it says, “God will remember their sin no more?” It means that God chooses not to interact with us based upon what we’ve done, but to instead interact with us based on what Christ has done. It means that He chooses to see us as new creations and He chooses to work for a new future. It means that at the forefront of God’s thinking is not all of the sin that we’ve committed, but all the work that Jesus has done. Forgiveness is not a matter of forgetting, but it is a matter of releasing.
6. Forgiveness is not ceasing to feel the pain.
Just because your hurt doesn’t mean that you’ve failed to forgive. It still hurts! Some of you have had horrible things done to you. Horrible things! It would be so cruel for me to say, “Well, if you’ve forgiven them then you shouldn’t hurt anymore.” That simply is not true. Sure it hurts. We don’t hear in the Bible that all the tears are wiped from our eyes until the resurrection of the dead and the final unveiling of the kingdom. It means people are crying all the way to Jesus. It still hurts. It’s OK for it to bother you.
7. Forgiveness is not a one-time event.
Forgiveness is both a one-time event and a process because sometimes they keep sinning so you need to keep forgiving or sometimes you forgive them but there are emotional moments where it feels fresh. For example, a husband commits adultery. The wife can forgive him and the husband can earnestly repent and seek Biblical counseling and they can work things out. But there still could be times that the husband might innocently be talking to another woman at church and just the mere sight of him talking to another woman might trigger her to feel all of that betrayal again. She needs to forgive him again for what he did in the past. Sometimes forgiveness is something that is regularly required.
8. Forgiveness is not neglecting justice.
You can forgive a person and call the police and have them arrested. You can forgive someone and testify against them in court. “Well I thought you forgave me?” “I did, but you’ve committed a crime… you’ve broken the law and so these are the consequences.” You can forgive and pursue justice.
9. Forgiveness is not trusting. “My dad molested me and he’s sorry… so should I let him babysit my kids?” Answer: NO WAY! “My husband hit me, but he said he’s sorry… should we just pick up where we left off and keep going?” Answer: NO WAY! Trust is built slowly and it’s lost quickly. If someone sins against you grievously then trust has to be rebuilt slowly over time. Some people can be trusted with time. Other people should never be trusted because the risk is simply too high. This is particularly true with children.
10.Forgiveness is not reconciliation.
It’s not that you become friends again and hang out together. It takes one person to repent and it takes one person to forgive; and it takes two people to reconcile. In Romans 12 Paul writes, “In as much as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” Here’s what he’s saying… do your best, but you can’t be at peace with everyone.
So what IS forgiveness? A definition for forgiveness could be — giving up my right to hurt you, for hurting me. Gary Smalley writes, “The original definition of forgiveness actually means that you untie or release someone.” As long as you remain bitter and unforgiving, you’re tied to that person with emotional knots. So being untied involves a conscious and deliberate release of the offender through an act of forgiveness… and important though difficult part of releasing someone is giving up the expectation that the person will eventually see the error of his or her ways and take the initiative to make things right with you.”
The bottom line is that we need to forgive. Unforgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. After being forgiven such a great debt, how can we not also forgive?
Lloyd Ogilvie gives some great advise both to us pastors and the people we pastor on the need to be connected to the person and POWER of Jesus Christ. The following is a quote I read at the Wednesday’s Bible Study that meets in our home. We were studying Acts chapter 18 and the discussion was, “Introducing Religious People to the Grace and Power of Jesus Christ.
“Our churches are filled with good, moral, respectable people. They have domesticated the gospel into a set of rules and regulations, rites and rituals, which can be accomplished with little contact with, or need for, the Lord. The church for them has become a culturally conditioned institution of cherished programs, traditions, and procedures. The result is a practical agnosticism. Daily pressures and demands are confronted as if Calvary and Pentecost had never happened.
The secret of the renewal of our churches lies in liberating religious people who don’t know Christ personally. All that we long to have happen to our churches in new life, mission and evangelism, and courageous stewardship is dependent upon enabling these people to discover how to live the adventure of the abundant life.” – Lloyd J. Ogilvie
I can’t help but think of how many of our churches limit themselves by functioning and trying to get by in their own strength. I mean let’s face it, much of what the church attempts to do today can be done with “little contact with, or need for, the Lord.”
That’s where I think our Charismatic brothers and sisters have something we can learn. You can say what you will about their antics and YES sometimes they do get carried away, but you got to give them credit. When they get together they REALLY expect God to MOVE in their midst.
Do we really expect God to move in our lives? This is really an important point. I mean if you don’t really believe God is going to move in people’s lives, what’s the point in coming together? Do we gather to pay homage to a God that is powerless to change lives or do we gather to worship the God that makes all things possible for those who believe? What would happen if we came to church with a real anticipation that God is going to move in our church.
Matthew records a time that Jesus comes into his own hometown. He preached in the synagogue and everyone was blown away with His teaching… but He wasn’t able to do many mighty works because of their unbelief. (Matthew 13:58) I don’t think it was that Jesus was powerless do any mighty works, but rather not many came to Him to do mighty works.
Don’t we do the same thing? Too many times we treat God like a spare tire… only to be used in an emergency. I’m afraid that if God actually showed up in a lot of our churches a lot of us wouldn’t know what to do. Our tendency is to try to put God in a box and tell Him exactly what He can and can’t do in our lives.
Paul tells us in Ephesians 3:20 that we serve a God who is “able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or even think!” and yet how often do we really believe that? How often do we sell God short of everything that He is capable of doing? This Easter let’s let God out of the Box. We can’t confine Him there anyway. He might allow us to have the illusion of being able to put Him in the box, but that’s not where He dwells. He dwells in a temple not made with hands. He dwells within the human heart.
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Nineteen years ago I married my BEST FRIEND… Annie (I’m the only one allowed to call her that). Funny, I thought it was just eighteen years till I pulled out the calendar and did the math. Chuck Swindoll once said, “Marriage is like a screen door… those on the outside want to get in and those on the inside want to get out.” I’m the exception to that rule. I’m very content in being inside the confines of marriage. Is my marriage perfect? No, because people aren’t perfect. But one thing is for sure: I’m glad I married her and I definitely got the better deal in the arrangement. I can think of very few women who would put up with being a Pastor’s wife (In our 19 years of marriage we’ve moved to 5 different congregations!)
What has been the secret of almost 20 years of marriage? Two things:
(1) FAITH in Jesus Christ.
1 John 4:19 says that we love because Christ first loved us. Warren Wiersbe writes in his commentary, “By nature, we know little about love (Titus 3:3–6); God had to show it to us on the cross (Rom. 5:8) and plant it in our hearts (Rom. 5:5).”
(2) A proper understanding of what LOVE is.
When I think of Love, I think of Paul’s description in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
NASB: Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
There is nothing in those verses that describe LOVE as a feeling. Yet too often that’s what we’ve restricted love to being. Love isn’t so much something you feel as much as it is something you DO. Love is a VERB! Everything in those verses describe something you DO whether you FEEL like it or not.
Someone once said that FEELINGS often follow ACTIONS. In other words, if you act like you LOVE someone, the FEELINGS will eventually follow. I think too many people check out of a relationship when the feeling are gone. Love is a COMMITMENT.
I don’t always “feel” in love with Anna (I’m sure she could say the same thing about me) but that’s where FAITH both in Christ and in His ability to enable me to LOVE comes into play. The beautiful thing I’ve found in my faith… is that my relationship with Christ has deepened my love for my wife and vise versa. Imagine LOVE being a triangle with Christ at the apex and the Husband and Wife at each corner of the base. As the husband and wife grow closer and closer to Christ they in the process become closer and closer to one another.
Happy Anniversary, ANNIE… I would do it all over again!