Sometimes my husband and I still speak to each other about the events leading up to our leaving our former church. We rehash and analyse what happened point by point. We both came out with a point we had been thinking, and it’s an interesting problem.
Our former lead pastor has some sort of anger issues, this is evident from his confrontational style. He is not a good listener, and really bowled us over. He prepared for the last meeting like a student debater who wanted to “win.” Maybe it’s his style, maybe it’s all the others before us who have made him so defensive and even very offensive in stance. This would be no surprise to anyone who knows him and has dealt with him. Not saying he doesn’t have his good qualities, it’s just how he is. This we suspected, and now know…our lead pastor is either power hungry or very manipulative or both.
The point we’ve come to though is not about this pastor, it’s about the “good cop” pastor. I’ve personally been puzzled about him. He didn’t want us to leave, and enouraged us to write our letter, and met with us a few times. I told him everything I thought at the time, and ran the letter through him. He encouraged us to put more specifics in. It seemed he was on our side, and he did honestly caution us that he was not the lone pastor in this church fighting a battle. He saw some of the issues we did, but obviously didn’t agree with it all necessarily. Yet he thought our approach was humble and we were a good couple to bring these issues to the forefront.
This was all well and good, until closer to our meeting with the head pastor. Good cop (who was kind all throughout) warned us to be “teachable.” In our meeting with the lead pastor, his conclusion was that we were no longer teachable. Okay, we knew they had been meeting, but the same words came out of both mouths. When the whole thing was over, we didn’t contact the good cop pastor about it except just to say we had a terrible meeting. He did not pry.
It’s hard to covey why in this post, but we both came to the conclusion that we were kind of being used by the good cop pastor to bring up issues. He did squarly differ than us in that he thought terminology was nothing important. Examples he was not uncomfortable with were words like “spiritual formation” and “transformation.” He also didn’t want us to attack anything from Warren or Hybels. I believe he saw the fringe things that were new age in nature or emergent in flavor as a problem. He recognized the problem with Youth Front and it’s contemplative/meditative prayer. He even sent them a note and asked them to remove a link to meditative prayer on their website, which they did.
He also asked the youth pastors about youthfront, and they assured him they ran their camps not youth front. This was a problem for me personally though, I think the issues at youth front are huge and being there, promoting camps there, and the fact that children growing up in our former church go to an emergent church influencing youth front. He may have gotten the cosmetic problem put away, but there was no real confrontation.
We were hung up to dry and I feel, had time gone on with us in the house, we would have had to walk such a careful line. If we spoke in any way that would have been seen aggressive, we would have been chastised. If we would not compromise in the right areas, we would have been seen as divisive. This good cop pastor had to bow to authority of the lead pastor, and this causes problems. Of course it’s important to recognize authority, but if there are serious problems they need to be seriously confronted. A couple like us felt on our own in this. Even with the pastor that seemed to be with us a bit, we were in the dark about previous confrontations that were similar, and were kept from opening this up to the entire church leadership. One particular assistant pastor also was protected in all this, and it was his sermon causing all our questions to begin with.
All the special politics, the way things are confronted and dealt with, it all seems like a strange corporation. The mystery the whole time was “what is the best way to do this?” We didn’t know who we were to go to, and what the “protocol” was. What was the biblical way to do this? Who should we have confronted? We went to elders, and got unsatisfactory wishy washy answers to our questions. Our investigations and the sermons confirmed our fears of emergent/new age influence and youth front was a real problem. We finally just decided to quietly leave.
The “good cop” pastor had to be informed as I did a small thing for the church and he was the one in charge of this. He wanted to know why we were leaving and encouraged our letter. This finally seemed like the right thing for a while. I believe though, there is no real right way to confront error in this church. Yes, there is a right biblical way to do things. However, there is no way in this church to do it so that there is peace and the whole truth comes forth. The lead pastor really pushed, and my own personal weakness got the best of me. I excitedly told a former attender in public my reasons for leaving the church and was overheard. This was reported to the lead pastor and a mess insued. We were “spreading rumors” and according to the former lead “telling lies from the pit of hell.” At least at that point we were no longer under the authority of the former church. We had left.
If the former “good cop” pastor was really with us, as I initially thought, I believe he would see the issues and would have to eventually make his exit or make a ruckus of some sort. Last time I saw him, and it was at a play at our former church this past summer, he used some interesting phrases such as “journey” and “coversation.” He very much seems to be in the Hybels/Warren style of it all. Maybe I’m wrong, but he really seemed to be in it all.
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