Posts Tagged ‘elders’

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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I recently discovered a declining church in our area has looked to my former church for some sort of help.  I listened to podcasts, and the meetings were very interesting.  The direction seems to be a slow take-over by my former church.  *If* this melding happens, the small 50 member church will be under the authority of the eldership of my former church.  They will also get a new name, and no one can answer for sure who will own the paid off property from this little church.  Another issue is that this little church with it’s long history, has a Christian school that appears to be doing pretty well. 

I found a podcast of a meeting also on my former church’s site, and combining all podcasts available (for transparency), I hear a few concerns.  First, a church is down to 50 and that is deemed a failure. This is now an emergency according to both parties (actually, there’s some 3rd party involved) and because of this, the small church must be lead by the larger church.   I hear on the podcasts that the small church is going to get 3 pastors, at least one from my former church, one from outside (I think…it’s different) and the 3rd may currently be in leadership of the small church.  I am not clear on this exactly, but there is not a vote or anything really (they mentioned a vote of affirmation…).  The smaller church is likely going to get a name change, and the arrangements for the school are going to change.  One woman was very foward in asking why this little church wasn’t contacting former members who had left for help or relying and waiting on God instead of going to a big church to come in and run things.  Others have asked why my former church elders have to be in authority rather than the pastors and leadership at their site.  The leadership of the smaller church keeps mentioning (in podcast) the pastor who will be teaching there not from my former church who they like but have not met…but like him because people who have met him like him.  Uh…okay. 

Seems my former church is bringing a team over???and so is the outside pastor guy no one has met from the little church.  So, there will be familes coming in and becoming a part of the whole thing. The three parts joined are to make decisions, but of course, my former church elders are really the ones with authority.

I really feel very bad for this little church.  What say does the congregation have?  The focus is so much on outreach to the community with growth as the hoped end.  However, I only heard the word “worship” mentioned by one woman talking about how the little church has family worship.  The mention of glory to God, focus on Christ, being bible centered is not a factor.  It’s all business.  Sad.

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I have speculated, even heard tell of people on staff or in leadership who have difficulties with things going on in our former church.  (A few have visited in our new church and it’s only speculation that they may be taking a break where they can be fed, so it’s unfair to assume they are actually having a problem with the former church).   When the focus gets off of Christ and on to seeker sensitive doctrines, or maybe veers into contemplative practices, or church is on a corporate style plan rather than into the bible, there may be staff/leadership disturbed by this problem.  What are they to do? 

We suspect two staff members and maybe a few in leadership positions are unhappy with things at our former church based on a few clues.  First, support when we were starting the process of questioning.  This/these people listened in a different way.  One even addressed our issues directly (not at the church but with an organization our former church is still involved in).  Change did occur because of this person’s actions.  We believe this person is stuck.  There’s family to think of, uprooting kids.  In some cases, people in leadership are paid (a minister or some other type person like church administrator, accountant, etc) and have issues with how things are going.  They may confront elders/pastors directly or show strong support for the ordinary members who express frustration with teachings and influences being brought into the church.  This alone can be risky.

Stay or go?  People in leadership/staff positions have much to think about when the church starts to get toxic.  Should they stay and continue to provide for their family if paid by the church?    Sometimes a person who serves in children’s ministry or in adult bible study…or especially a pastor, can teach truth in a bad environment.  Though they may not intend to be “warriors” they may in fact be used to protect and train some of the sheep who find themselves seeking for some spiritual truth in a bad environment. 

Also, the staff/leader may need to confirm what is really going on before deciding to take a stand and step out.  It’s not something to be taken lightly if their role is visible in the church.  It’s easy to fall into tempation, easy to assume too much, easy to leave in a way that does not honor Christ.  There are ways to leave without causing more harm than good.  I believe each situation is unique and requires much prayer and discussion/counsel.  Some may slip quietly out the back door of the church, others may resign and make an announcement at the pulpit (especially asking for forgiveness if they were involved in introducing bad teaching initially).  It all depends on God’s will what would be best to do.

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My cousin spoke with me last night, and recounted the story of her grandmother and grandfather who no longer attend sermons at their Nazarene church.  There are aunts and uncles too, who helped to build the church, who are no longer even attending there.  One was an assistant preacher, and he was basically run off.  All of this because some upstart from a  college in Colorado came in as pastor. 

 This man has taken the core group of Christians who started this church and has broken their hearts.  Some he has shooed away.  My cousin’s grandmother now attends only Sunday school.  The loud rock music they call worship sent her husband away because he physically cannot sit in the service.  It hurts his ears. 

When my cousin’s grandmother told the pastor about this issue, the response was to only get louder and louder.  My cousin says the church is filled with people her grandmother doesn’t know, all the old faithful Christians are gone.  She says when her grandmother talks about it, she lowers her head and nearly weeps every time.  This should not be, a woman in her later years mourning over her church. 

 “Put up or shut up old lady, that is what you get”  has not been said aloud but has been said in action.  These elderly people could teach the young so much, but they have been shunned and forgotten.  What a disgrace, what discrimination.  When a generation forgets it’s elders, it is nothing but sinful and shameful and wrong. 

A poem I wrote a while back gives my feelings on the issue:


Shame on you

for proclaiming to the woman

seasoned with white silver hair

“we’re all about young families now”

and letting her miss church

the place where

she first believed

where she prayed at the altar

and repented once for all

where she learned

how to read her Bible

and sing sweet amazing grace

where her father took her arm

as she walked on rose petals

and red carpet

Shame on you

for pushing her out the doors

to the church

where her children

learned about Jesus

drawing on bulletins

dogs and flowers in crayon

during long sermons

while she whispered amen

nodding her head

where she watched

her children sing in vests

and pretty velvet dresses

with shiny black shoes

where she saw her boys and girls

dunk down in the tank

and carefully rise with water

streaming down their rounded


the place

she gave faithfully

in Sunday school

and choir

dusting pews on Saturday

with oil and a cloth

playing the piano

and leaving bills

in the offering plate

Shame on you

for forgetting

the widow

who found comfort

in the place

where her fathter was


and her son

prayed for in war

and her daughters

blushing in white

her husband

aging with her

week by week

finally coming after

years of prayer

before going home

to be with his Lord

she spoke up

you put her out

Shame on you.

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We have maintained contact with one pastor from our old church as he is very concerned with the changes and the emergent message.  He did email today and shared that the lead pastor is planning in some way to address the issues with the emegent church.  This is good news, but I fear it may not go far enough.  I hope that the church recognizes the influence of Dallas Willard and others (Beth Moore, Bill Hybels, Rick Warren) is part of the problem.  There is a disconnect with the “emerging” side, not realizing they are headed in the same direction.  Emergent have just gotten further down the path.  Maybe we should meet with this lead  pastor, at least to point to the truth and to his responsibility to adhere to it and preach it.  He cannot make the elders change their votes and change the system, but he can preach the truth even if it risks his job. 

On another note, we were called last night by an elder asking if we knew why people left (there are others, of course).  Specifically, it was asked if changing the children’s midweek program was the issue, which it wasn’t by itself.  He also asked about another couple’s reasons for leaving, which I felt was not entirely appropriate because we may know what we’ve been told, but should we be sharing?  In general is one thing, but a specific couple is another altogether.  It’s starting to sound like they at least notice the numbers headed for the door and want to fix this problem.  However, if they have been following the Warrenite system, they will expect this loss of people and will be proud of themselves for getting through this rough time.  We shall see in a few years how they’ve handled it…and if they’ve changed or not.  My husband is not at all interested in going back.

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I have realized that the Rick Warrenites don’t necessarily identify themselves as emergent or emerging, they don’t like labels.  However, they are quick to point out labels of others.  I’ve read it, but not yet heard it openly in my church.  Those who oppose are called “wolves.”  I guess I am what Warrenites would call a wolf then.  I am not intending to be so.  But the truth is, whether they think I’m a wolf or goat matters not.  What matters is whether or not I’m doing the will of my Father in Heaven.  That is what I must focus on.

We have had a few events occur this week.  Our small group had the “group supervisors” (our church uses a different term) come to and lead a meeting.  We’re going through a touchy-feely marriage book, and so we spent an entire night discussing our selves and marriages in depth with each other.  One bible verse was mentioned by the wife of the supervisor…and I mentioned the model for marriage in that Christ is the head of the Body, and marriage is to be like this.  That’s it.  I think there is some value in looking at how your spouse needs to be loved, and we are to focus on our spouses, but I don’t find these exercises in small group to really do anything substantive in my marriage.  I just feel guilty for not doing the exercises well, enough, or for doing them quickly before the next small group meeting.  Sure, we might get a little for our marriage, but would we not do MUCH better in studying the bible and learning about Jesus?  Wouldn’t we benefit our marriages if we were close to God?

I learned, as the wife supervisor mentioned, our group is tracked by our weekly reports.  This is not just a report to the supervisor couple with our prayer requests (by the way, what is said in group is supposed to stay in group), but it’s a small report on the group topic and discussion as well as prayer requests that are put into some sort of church data base.  What is said in group goes into file if someone happens to write it down.  Yummy.  Big Brother Church?

My husband doesn’t have the time to study up on the Warrenite movement (as well as emergent church etc) and so relies on me for research and knowing.  He is however going by the most appropriate method and is the leader and head of the household.  So, he’s the one going to elders to discuss problems.  Unfortunely, his grasp of this all is a little patchy, so when he shares with an elder, he often is pulled a bit in their direciton.  He went to an elder mentor of his this week with a few concerns and questions.  The elder glossed over much of it, and then told my husband he would nominate him for elder.  What tactic is this?  I know this elder teddy bear giving man, but why on earth would a family as busy as mine, and who has not got their money in order (I mean it, we are poor budgeters) need to have an eldership thing?  We have small children, and I believe we’re too much in the season of raising our kids to go that direction.  At first it sounded great because the elder teddy bear giving man said, “you can best change things in this church as an elder.”  However, my husband is not ready to fight like that.  Not in there.  He’s not aware of the manipulative nuances.  I’m not a good one in face to face either.  I wilt, and shake, I either seem meek or downright crazy.  Besides, the elders are men, so I am not going to be one anyway.  However, I think this move is an attempt to boost an ego and to keep my husband in the church.  Telling him he’s a good enough leader to be considered an elder plays right into his fears and insecurities.  He’s afraid he’s not a good enough leader at work, and cares what this man thinks.  If this man, who seems to be such a wonderful leader, is saying my husband can lead it must be true.  I do believe my husband is a leader, a very calm and compassionate leader, he’s just not a fighter.  He’s also not yet got that foundation of biblical knowledge and doctrine down pat yet.  I think eldership for him is a few years off, and he has to commit to study first. 

At first, I said to go for it if it happens, thinking in my own plans that we could fight through that platform.  Now, after consideration, prayer, and listening to the promptings I believe God is actually giving, and asking a trusted friend in our church, I think the eldership would be a bad thing at this time for our family.  It would take valuable training time away from our kids.  It would push my husband right into the Warrenite philosophy as he’d have to read those books they read.  He’s not got my warning bells.  He relies on my discernement a lot, and I cannot be at elder meetings. 

Difficult times are ahead, I can tell. 

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“When we speak of total agreement, we are speaking about the final conclusion of the
elders concerning a matter. Total agreement does not mean that every policy adopted or
decision made has a unanimous perspective during the processing and deliberation. Total
agreement means that every elder comes to a unified consensus about the decision or
policy; that every elder agrees with every policy or decision that is made.
The process of getting to total agreement is to be a forthright, no holds barred, honest,
and vulnerable exchange of perspectives. The board allows each elder to deliberate in
his own voice—each elder can argue, take exception, disagree, examine, evaluate,
scrutinize, investigate, explore, etc whatever is being proposed. However, when all the
discussion is done and the elders come to a consensus, all the elders speak with one
voice. When the elder board comes to a decision or sets a policy, everybody must unite
behind the decision or the policy. That policy or opinion then becomes the voice of the
Coming to total agreement will not always be easy. Any one elder, when standing on
unwavering conviction, can stop any decision. If in the process of evaluating a decision
or policy an elder comes to the conclusion that the issue at hand is not weighty enough
for him to stop the decision or policy (i.e. it is a matter of your personal opinion rather
than a matter of theological or philosophical conviction), then he should yield to the
group. If he believes that the decision or policy may be unwise, then he should request
that the elders table the decision. At that point, the Chairman will initiate the scheduling
of extended time for the elders to spend in prayerful reflection, fasting, and ongoing
However, once an elder agrees with the team to set a policy or make a decision (either
through an affirmative vote or an abstention), even if he personally deliberated against it
at the beginning, he is now united with the whole team on that decision. At the point he
unites to speak as one voice, he gives up any personal rights to say to anyone that he
disagrees with the decision. If he does not believe that the decision or policy was worth
stopping because of conviction, then he has chosen to stand united behind that decision or
In addition, total agreement means that no elder may speak his personal opinion as if it
carried special weight. He may have moral suasion because of his spiritual maturity, but
his personal opinions do not have any more value just because he is an elder. The
authority of the elders belongs to those decisions and policies agreed upon by the whole
elder team.
A misuse of authority or the undermining of elder unity is considered an offense for
which an elder may be disciplined and/or removed from office”

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