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Archive for June, 2010

Just today I saw 5 people in our current church from our former church.  These are new this Sunday.  One man was a die hard “not going to leave” and his wife was pushing hard to leave.  Letting go of two pastors, especially since they are viewed as solid, really put it over.  I wonder how many more have jumped ship?  Where we live there are hundreds of church options close enough to drive comfortably, so I can imagine if there were 5 in our church there could be many who have left.  It will be interesting to see what happens in our former missional/spiritual formation/emergent youth focused/ purpose driven church.

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I am going to go to church today to worship, learn, and fellowship.  Not at all interested in drama (meaning human disputes).  I pray for the Lord’s church and His people.  May we all wake fresh and new today in fellowship with Him.  I think I’d prefer to fellowship than to focus, wouldn’t you?

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There are two places I can see where a toxic church (abusive or has wrong teachings…or both can be outed.  First to others in the church through interaction between a person who realizes the church is toxic, and then in public through media or online. 

Most people, I believe, do not out a toxic church.  They may stay for family or for social reasons and not say anything to keep the peace.  Others do out the church to friends or family, but keep it pretty quiet.  Then there is someone like me, I’ve told some people that are not just family and close friends as time has gone on and am writing an anonymous blog.  Some friends who still attend my former church know my feelings and some of my reasons, but for the most part, people don’t know much about why we left that church.

Then there’s another group of people, bold people or maybe unwise, not sure.  They openly write the toxic church’s name out there in the public.  They name names not just situations.  They share it all.  Am I ready to do this?  I am not sure.

First, I must pray.  I must read scripture. I must seek counsel.  I must see what my husband thinks.  I must get organized.  I must decide.  Do I want to openly name our former church?  I’ve named a few associations, but not named them directly.  Do I want to name pastors?  I know my motives must not be for revenge or self promotion.  I also do not want to hurt someone (the pastor has a family and children…and the pastor need only to be accountable for what he’s done not smeared for assumptions or unfair conclusions). 

If I can help teach others without naming names, it may be better.  This church is likely similar in nature to a lot of churches.  I’ve had some people write me thinking I might be from their area after reading my posts, or they say their story is similar.  So the point can be made without bringing someone into the spot light of critique.

I just wonder when it’s time to be specific?

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Ever get the feeling someone has a button that makes this invisible hood around their head soundproofed?  I see it when I try to explain to someone the problems with Spiritual Formation style churches.  I also see it when I speak about problems with Rick Warren’s teachings.  Even if I’m sharing with someone who knows me, knows I left my former church, and begin to point out issues…I get the glazed over look and the sudden comment that they need to wash their cat.  I’m trying to decide which is scarier, a person who won’t see what’s right in front of them and avoids hearing anything critical OR a person who attacks you when you’re speaking the truth. 

People tend to do strange things in churches.  They let a lot of things slide.  Because a pastor preaches about unity, people will try to get along with severe error.  They will take a “wait and see” approach to something that is going on.  A pastor can say a situation calls for a halt on gossip, so then people are afraid to speak to each other about it.  They don’t seek counsel of other believers for fear of breaking confidentiality.  A culture of silence is created.  So when someone speaks boldly and tries to point directly to the problems, the sound proof hoods come out. 

When it happens to me, when someone puts on the hood I sigh.  I sigh and try my best to move on.  You cannot force someone to hear the truth.  I wait for a better opportunity with the person, wait a while to restate myself.  Maybe later a person will be ready to hear the truth.  I can only hope.

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We had a sporting event to attend today and we saw a couple who still attends our former church.  Immediately, we were asked if we heard about the pastors who have been let go.  We explained that we had (by social network no less…so many people have commented).  We don’t really know details, though we have picked up on some (see previous post).   We learned that people in the church, at least some of them, were given an email and told the pastors did not fit with the rest of the staff.  There had apparently been some sort of “communication difficulty.” 

What struck me immediately was the confusion and hurt expressed by our friends.  They were completely shocked and couldn’t understand why this had happened.  Why would a pastor of about 20 years suddenly not fit with the staff?  Why would a popular pastor who has been there for over 6 years be dropped for communication difficulties?  There is no moral failure, no sin issues on the part of the pastors let go.  No power plays.  I guess the email had a quote in it pertaining to the split between Paul and Barnabas.  Somewhere there was a fight, and our former church claims it to be biblical. 

What of the hurt of it’s members?  What of the issues in this church?   How can these leaders request everyone to not be divisive when they have forced two pastors out based on division? 

I pray for people who are still in my former church, may they open their eyes!  I pray for those who have been hurt by decisions of leadership in this church.    I think something stinks.

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Since leaving my former church ( a Purpose Driven/Missional/Spiritual Formation church) at least three pastors have been let go.   The stated reason for one was strictly financial.  Two have been let go because they are “not going in the same direction…and we should all be in the same boat.”  In the case of these two pastors, everyone was to trust the leadership on the decisions to let them go.  No one was supposed to talk about it because it might divide the church.   This is typical in this church, something happens and they must keep it all quiet.  If you talk about it you are being divisive.   The only statement on the forced resignations was that there was no moral failure of any kind, just they were going in different directions.

One of these pastors was a great comfort to my husband and to me when we were leaving our former church.  He prayed with us, listened to us, and encouraged us to communicate our concerns.   I believe he was one of the best leaders on the staff, and felt very comfortable (after a while) coming to him with questions about what the church was up to.  He actually acted when I spoke to him, even confronting a group the church was affiliated with that uses contemplative prayer WITH breathing exercises etc. just like meditation in eastern religions. 

I cannot speculate as to what these pastors did to cause them to be let go.  I have no clue and don’t expect to ever know.  The church leaders make these decisions and don’t think the people need to have explainations.  I just want to know, what is a justified reason for letting a pastor go? 

What gets me is that many people who have spoken about the forced resignations of these pastors is they claim, “It hurts to loose great pastors at our church but we just have to trust in God.”  Are they claiming God is at fault for the leadership decision?  Many are quoting scripture in their proclaimation that they will miss their dear brothers in Christ but believe God can be trusted.  It reminds me of when I had a miscarriage and people would say, “God has a plan, it’s a blessing in disguise because the baby was probably defective.”  This situation is different though in that the decisions being made are by men.  It’s not that God isn’t in control, but to label the actions of men as of God….well, sometimes men do something that he approves of…but there are many other times when they just flat out sin.  And it feels to me the leadership is using the “God card” to keep people from asking the right questions.  The ones making such statements are likely just putting their hands over their eyes…saying “God has a plan.”

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