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Why pastors need strong healthy boundaries (will be a series of posts)

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“The pastor is called so serve God and his people, right?” the person said.

The pastor hesitantly responded with a “Yes.”

“Well then, when one of the people has a need, he should always be there to serve them, right?”

“No.”

At least that is my answer, and the answer of more and more pastors. We all will have our reasons…

Here is a link to the rest of part one of my fleshing this out: http://wp.me/P3etrg-gb

(the conversation above us a construct, not a quote)

 

The damage of congregations ‘firing’ pastors

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I am about to share a rather provocative blog piece. I share it because I think it is important for all congregations to know this reality of the other side of a difficult parting with a pastor. Ministers don’t readily talk about the pain of this if they have experienced it (I have), partly because it just sounds like complaining and sour grapes after the fact. In sharing this, I am not directly accusing Nobleford CRC of doing this or being a “clergy killer” (language used in the linked article), but I also cannot pretend that what is described in the article has nothing to do with what transpired here. It is simply something I believe you should know.

A pastor serves a congregation. Congregations are filled with people who each have their own list of things they expect a pastor to be like and a pastor to do. Those will not be the same for any two people. That means a LOT of expectations are placed on that one pastor. Yet we all agree that the Pastor’s main “boss” is God. Few would object to that, I think. Problem is, if there are 300 people in the congregation they tend to act like 200 bosses (because maybe 100 don’t care too much either way) of the pastor. They do that because they forget the principled statement we all agree to, and/or they believe they themselves are speaking ‘for’ God. When that process goes sideways, goes off the rails, we get the trainwrecks and pain the article speaks of. Being let go from a church is very very personal and very very public, in a way that does not apply to any other job, career or calling I can think of. It involves a person’s spiritual, emotional, psychological, personal self, really all of the person, and so is a shock and hardship at all levels. The article speaks of various aspects of this.

The start of a solution is for church leaders, especially Elders – as support and accountability for the pastor – to learn to ‘see’ how people try to inappropriately make themselves ‘the boss’ of the pastor (Elders sometimes do it too) in a way that displaces what God is calling the Pastor to do. Having seen how this works, they can then help work counter to that sin. Those who are heavily invested in having power over what the Pastor does as a leader have very very subtle and sneaky and nasty ways of disrupting things, so it is not easy to spot.

Anyway, here is the article: http://wp.me/P3etrg-fY

 

Two of the interesting things I’ve read recently

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I have lately been taking up interest in some developments at the denominational level. I am working on a significant blog post related to the denominational picture more than to Nobleford, but it is not fully ready. I’m  not sure it every will be, actually.

Instead, for now, I’ll share a few things by others which I have read recently and which are pretty close to my own views. Transition Team members are especially likely to appreciate the applicability of the second one.

This first one you can skip the first four paragraphs about a particular dispute, and begin reading at the heading “What to make of little progress.” I do agree with him that the self-awareness he writes about is a big part of transformation.

http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2014/may-web-only/real-transformation-happens-when.html?start=3

This one is by a consultant who has worked with many many churches. He says the single common factor in churches that are dying is their inward focus. Here is his list of warning signs:

Warning Symptoms

  • There are very few attempts to minister to those in the community.
  • Church business meetings become arguments over preferences and desires.
  • Numbers of members in the congregation are openly critical of the pastor, and lay leaders in the church.
  • Any change necessary to become a Great Commission church is met with anger and resistance.
  • The past becomes the hero.
  • Culture is seen as the enemy instead of an opportunity for believers to become salt and light.
  • Pastors and other leaders in the church become discouraged and withdraw from effective leadership.
  • If the churches are a part of a denomination or similar affiliation, meetings of those denominations mirror the churches in lost focus and divisiveness.

http://thomrainer.com/2014/05/31/common-factor-declining-churches/?fb_action_ids=10152407711820129&fb_action_types=og.likes

Happily, not all apply here! But the ones that do will likely sting a little. More hopefully, the prod will be seen as an opportunity to work more on transformation in the congregation!

Discernment and Decision making

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2014-05-24 11.51.13

View lying prostrate before the cross at Kingsfold retreat

The weekend silent directed retreat gave me some startling insight. I went into it with some questions I hoped to pray through, mainly personal life direction and growth questions. Very very quickly, in and after the first guided prayer time that is part of the weekend, those question got set aside and I got a very strong sense of a need to abide with God and let God abide in and with me, and those future things would sort themselves out. Matt 6:25 and following, along with John 15:5 and following became both my answer and my discerned new theme, which I refer to in the shorthand phrase “to abide is to be guided.” The starting questions faded far into the background, and appropriately so. Today I am much more relaxed and comfortable with them resloving well so long as I maintain relationship with God.

But the outcome and experience is not what I wanted to focus on this week for the blog, not the substance of that, anyway, but the change of direction that happened. I firmly believe surprise turns like that are what discernment is all about. Or having space for them in our life. My post for this week is about discernment, what it means in a church leadership setting, and a bit about what it feels like.

Here’s the post: http://wp.me/P3etrg-fd

Relational theology creating dissonance for Doctrinalists

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Well, I’m not going to promise my brain a week off from having to write a blog post. Because instead of taking a break I’ve been overflowing with new thoughts, and now have produced a second one for the week.

This one is very crucial and timely, so I chose not to wait with it (I could have just saved it and published it next week, but it is relevant to some discussions we had at council, for instance, so I did not want too much time to pass. I believe it explains some of why some people have some trouble relating to and understanding my preaching style.

Here it is: http://wp.me/P3etrg-f3

Listening in on a conversation about how church structures affect size

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This seems to have been a week of finding many interesting things others have written, most of which I chose not to share. This one is very specific to the CRC and talks about how the way we organize the operations of a church actually contribute to how big it is able to grow. And many other things. Warning, both my buddy Paul and Larry Doornbos who writes a good comment tend to be a a bit rambly. You’d think they thought they were getting paid per word typed.

http://paulvanderklay.wordpress.com/2014/05/08/how-does-size-matter-crc-edition/

In Formation vs Information

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I have lots of thoughts and ideas rumbling around in me after Easter weekend and then a retreat. I wrote a post that puts two of them out for you to consider.

Our conference speaker Graham Standish spoke about how many churches believe that sharing information is what the sermon and church teaching is all about, and how the church needs to relearn instead the value of Spiritual formation. As he spoke about that I began to see that my approach to preaching and the shaping of worship services focuses more on the second one while you in general as a congregation might be expecting the first.

Here’s the link to the page where I explain this: http://wp.me/P3etrg-eq

 

Anxiety in the preservationist church system

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Warning. This is probably the most complex and longest posting to date, one which ties a number of things I have talked about before together. It will take some time to read and digest. Be prepared to invest that.

This posting is very important, particularly for anyone in leadership. In the blog posting I take some small matters related to practices or the way we do things like preaching, worship and Lord’s Supper and attempt to show how I see them as issues that arise because we’ve lost a principled Reformed way of shaping worship and have in fact fallen into simply keeping and maintaining what was done before. All of that to the detriment of making room for God to grow us spiritually, emotionally, and personally in relationship to him and each other. Here is the actual posting: http://wp.me/P3etrg-eb

Nomination season

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Yup, almost sounds like an announcement of hunting season.

I had hoped to work in some sermons in which we looked at the passages that describe what Kingdom Leadership or Leadership in the Body of Christ looks like, but looking at the calendar I can’t see that working out. So I’m going to try communicate some of the same things via this blog.

Today’s reflection is more about mistaken criteria we often use to select leaders.

http://wp.me/P3etrg-dZ

Considering Church Discipline

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At the Classis (regional gathering of representative officeholders of churches) last week, a time was set aside for a discussion of what we call Discipline in the church. It was abundantly clear that many churches struggle with this. The church plants, or newer churches, do so in a different way than established, more unicultural churches, but all struggle. Closely tied to this struggle is the struggle with what membership is today. I talked to one church planter who said they get people coming to their church who are fed up with membership requirements in other churches they’ve attended, and they just want to get to know God better in a community and serve their community through the church’s ministries, forget about membership papers and all that.

So, it was clear this is a struggle.

My blog page this week shares some brief thoughts I have about the subject of Church Discipline.

http://wp.me/P3etrg-dL

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