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Posts Tagged ‘leadership’

Hubby was speaking with someone who mentioned our former church.  He stated some issues that had been going on in the leadership, and it’s amazing how a bunch of men can line up behind a bad leader and basically support him despite his horrible behavior.  They can do something unethical, and as a group, break a promise.  I am glad I wasn’t anywhere near when this corporate decision was made, and I am so glad we left when we did.  Ugh.  I am noting that even when we don’t want to know things about our former church, there are people still sharing awful stories.  There is a theme too, it has to do with leadership.  Time and again, leadership.

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We are all sinners in church, so leaving a church because people in the congregation sin is stupid.  Seems stupid, right?  We left a church because of false teaching, but more than that, we left because we would likely have been asked to leave anyway.

Our church had become a Saddleback/Willow Creek/Spiritual Formation church.  The youth were involved in Youthfront, and yes, the leader of Youthfront (Mike King) does promote silence, breathing exercises and such for contemplative prayer.  (Cannot recall the web site, but there used to be one linked to the Youthfront website proper, and it’s been removed).  So, since many of the youth were sent to this camp, we knew that influence was beginning in the youth.  One dear friend and elder had this conversation with his boys (this is to illustrate the teachings and understandings in the church).  

son:  Dad, we learned that God is in everything right?  So that would mean God is in my butt.

dad:  Uhm….I guess you are right.

So, based on bad teachings and based especially on the fact that youth were being taught questionable things beyond just in house debate type stuff, we left.

But more than that, the church promoted books and other materials from horrible teachers.  I’ve written on this blog about a man who took the account of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead and said we all had “grave clothes.”  He defined these as our problems.  His son was in the military and sent into combat, his fear for his son was a grave cloth.  Someone else had cancer, that fear of death, a grave cloth.  Another had an addiction, again, a grave cloth.  So, we are to be in small group because when Lazarus came out of the grave Jesus told them to remove his grave cloths.  Twist scripture to promote small groups, and of course, you could buy his book.  This man spoke from the pulpit, a place of authority.  We knew our church was then teaching clear false doctrines.  The words of Jesus were misused as a means to an end, an agenda.  When we asked about this we were told it was okay to use the events in Jesus’ life as an illustration or as a life lesson to apply to today.  Kind of like a parable but different.  Uh, and something about it not being propositional (or is it that it is propositional).  I don’t know exaclty, but all I know is that John’s gospel was written that we may believe that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God and that we may have eternal life.  Applications can be helpful, but not if scripture is misused and twisted in the process.

But further than the myriad of false teachings, we left because of one thing.  We knew nothing we would do would make any difference.  We were members, we were to submit to the authority of our pastor.  In the past we watched a couple argue, bring charges, and some division was caused.  Yes it was.  The man confronted false teachings in an angry way.  He was treated to one long process and was then cut off from the church.  He was to be treated as one released, not to be in fellowship until restoration.  We witnessed this, and knew our attempts to point to false teachings would end in a public vote for us to leave.  Every attempt we made to talk to anyone was met with doublespeak, was met with strange answers and ambiguity.  All exept one pastor who did encourage us to stay, who prayed with us, and asked us to at least write a letter stating our issues.  We only tackled a few of our issues, and we were met with anger.  We were pointed to as Sanballats and called “liars from the pit of hell.” 

We were treated like resisters.  You see, our former pastor has exchanged pulpits with Dan Southerland.  He’s chummy with him, they’ve spoken in each other’s churches.  Dan Southerland wrote a book called Transitioning, and it has a chapter all about resisters.  A church is to encourage them to leave, and if they do not leave, the church is then to boot them.

So, leaving a church may seem like a cop out, a whimpy thing to do.  Trust me, as a person who has left, it’s not easy.  It feels like divorce (as a child of divorce, I know it’s horrible).  It’s a death.  It was painful.  We did not want to do it.  We looked though at our options.  One option was to stop pointing out the errors in teaching and continue as we had been, with kids we needed to teach truth to, this was NOT a good option.  The next option was to stay and fight.  We had no outside help in this.  We were somewhat unsure as to the right way to proceed.  The pastor helping us was put in an awkward position, we were actually worried for him.  Then we also wondered, “was there a good cop/bad cop situation with the pastors?”  We didn’t know if we could trust him, which was sad.  We did learn though in the long run we could have trusted him.  He’s since been let go from our former church and is out of a job.   We had no real help from elders, they just denied the problems and deflected.  The lead pastor denied and then belittled us.  He was agressive in approach and intimidating.  Final option, leave and take our kids to a church that taught the bible plainly with no flash.  That’s the option we went for.

In reality, if we had no children, we might have stayed and fought.  We didn’t want to fight in our church, but that’s what we felt we would have had to do.  I realize there is another option.  Stay and pray.  Well, we decided to pray throughout our process, and we decided to leave and pray.  We were not sinless in this process, we were not perfect, but we had been under poor teaching and therefore, had little guidance as to the best course of action.  We didn’t know much in the way of dealing with false teaching and how to handle it in your church especially coming from the leaders.

So we did what we thought was best.  We left.

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I ran across a woman who went to another church in our area. She and her husband began to get uncomfortable with small group studies, and also with some of their church teachings. They thought, after their eyes were opened to the misuse of the bible in these studies and in teachings from the pulpit, that discussing it in small group would be a good idea. From what the woman said, they were not trying to cause division but were attempting to point out errors as they had great faith in their church leadership. They brought things up to the leadership, as well as continuing to share their fears with the group. They were shocked the day they were asked to leave their church.

She said that in their next church it was five years before they really could trust enough to serve. They had been shunned by many in their former church, many who had been good friends before the issues were brought up. Some later did apologize to them, and some have left over time.

We had a different experience in that we did not share our issues with many people. We did tell some things to a few friends, and we’ve known a very small number who have left. We do feel though, had we been open to our small group or to more of the leadership we would eventually have been asked to be quiet or leave.

Being shunned hurts. When a person begins to understand how leadership teaches from men’s work rather than from the bible, or uses many methods rather than relying on God’s word and the Holy Spirit, it’s a hard thing to decide what to do. Do you share with others? Will you find someone who understands what your are saying? Will you be accused of being divisive? Will you be asked to leave?

I believe it’s of utmost importance that each person who encounters poor or bad teaching pray first. Spend time thinking how to handle things. Then, don’t worry about the consequences to you so much as what will your voice in this accomplish? Is it about getting even? If it’s about you and your pride, you really have to pause. If it’s about trying to restore people to truth and good doctrine, and you are hoping to help others in the long run, then move forward in wisdom. There are times for open mouths, and times for closed mouths.

We weren’t perfect as we proceeded, but we did try very hard to do the right thing. Looking back, I can see areas we could have improved upon BUT in the long run, I believe we did the right thing overall.

I feel for this woman I met who has gone through such pain in her former church. I pray for other men and women out there just trying to point out the errors and do the right thing.

It happens to pastors too.  This article is a great resource. 

http://reformednazarene.wordpress.com/2010/02/19/nazarene-pastor-fired-for-fighting-emergent-ideology/

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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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I have to say, that on this Father’s Day, I appreciate my husband.  Yes, I appreciate him for his way as a father.  He is a provider, his salary is it for money in this house besides those who have helped out of the kindness of their hearts in times of need.  He works tirelessly for us. 

He reads to his children, prays with them, plays with them, eats with them AT THE TABLE.  He coaches their ball teams and shows up at games he’s not coaching.  He disciplines them when needed, but is not agressive in any way.  He shows them how he loves me often, and the respect and love he gives me is a model for how they should treat me.  He will take no disrespect for me from the 12 year old nor will he even let the 21 month old hit me in the midst of her tantrums. 

Most of all, he loves God.  He lets his kids know he is a saved sinner.  He apologizes when he’s wrong, and expects much out of himself in behavior.  He never looks at another woman, never.  I mean never.  He won’t be caught doing this, and he has made sure his computer is clean.  I am not saying he is perfect, but he works hard at purity.  If he has ever faltered, he’s actually asked for my help in this area.  He teaches his daughters to be modest and his boys to respect girls.  He also expects the boys to someday only choose modest girls. 

In my battles with false doctrine, my husband has backed me up.  He knows that if I take the time to point it out to him, it must be really bothering me.  He knows to trust me.  He will tell me honestly if he doesn’t see what I see, but he will definitely listen to me and give me the chance to prove what I see. 

I tend to wait for his lead when it comes to action because I know that I am very emotional about doctrinal issues and if I am wrong, I will go headlong into the wall so fast.  He is more even keeled, so I wait on him.  Every time I have been like a caged animal with anxiety of doctrine and twisting of scripture, my husband has been there to hear it and back me up. 

He is the one who decided when to leave our former church.  He spoke to the elders, it was that kind of church…better for him to speak to the elders than me (at least that’s what we felt…may not be but it felt this way).  He trusted when a pastor spoke to me and suggested writing a letter, he agreed with me this pastor’s intentions were probably good.  When things  didn’t change and only got worse, my husband didn’t allow the lead pastor (different than the one suggesting our final letter) to speak to me and attack me.  He spoke directly to the pastor and defended me.  He also didn’t just “back me up” but also put himself on the line, he believed the church was not right and he made himself be the responsible one. 

If he hadn’t been with me on this, hadn’t listened to me initially and then commented that he too had been feeling uncomfortable with the sermons, I don’t know what I would have done.  He led, he prayed, he sought counsel, he initiated.  In short, he got our family out when it was the best time.  If we were still in that church I would be sinning, I know it.  I would be going crazy,  confronting people, stepping on toes, fighting with my husband, and being generally snarky in church.  I would likely pout.  It would not be pretty.  It would not be the way a woman is supposed to be.  Being stuck in a church knowing my children would be taught a man centered gospel with a focus on Rick Warren’s P.E.A.C.E. plan would make me crawl out of my skin, no matter how nice the people are there.   Thank God for my husband!

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