How to distinguish between the truly concerned and the consistently anxious

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Some questions and statements have me trying to think this through. What clues do I, as a pastor or a person, go by in my interactions with others by which I discern if the person is concerned about something in a healthy way, or is one of ‘the anxious.’

Here are my thoughts: http://wp.me/P3etrg-gk

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


Discernment and Decision making


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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

What colour is the forbidden fruit?

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Ok that title is intended to make you curious.

My posting this week is more general and expresses something theological and relational that I have been thinking about for a long long time, since a discussion about the forbidden fruit with my Sowminary buddy back in the late ’80s or so. I’m a little afraid to share it, because I know how provocative it has been for me, and how much it has challenged and changed my approach to things as I have come to understand it more and more.

Before I get to it, I need to tell you what sparked thinking about it afresh. Two things, really. An internet discussion group I am part of is debating women in office, (again) and what is striking me in that is that one person who would be considered a progressive person, is speaking in very stark terms about expectations as to where we should go next as a denomination, and can’t see any middle ground.

The other is a great initial meeting with a group of young people who are preparing to publicly profess their faith. We studied the parable of the Lost Son together and had some good discussion. That parable came to mind because yesterday morning I began reading “The Prodigal God” by Tim Keller which was lent to me. I highly recommend that book, in fact it would make a great bible study group.

Well, those elements all came together this morning, and I wrote this reflection which you can get to by this link: http://wp.me/P3etrg-eL

An illustration I just had to run with this week it is so true to life

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There’s a very bad pun in that title. Some days I just can’t resist walking right out to the edge of what is appropriate.

Some folks from our congregation made a presentation about a water project in Nicaragua last Saturday evening. The project is a great example of how we can help people help themselves instead of moving in and deciding what help they need. During the presentation I was sparked by a couple of things. They make up the blog post for today: http://wp.me/P3etrg-e5


On Tyranny and Democracy and Leadership in the Church

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Here is this week’s reflection: http://wp.me/P3etrg-5v

For a printable version, follow this link: https://www.dropbox.com/s/n6j0xsa0dygj0uu/Tyranny%20and%20Democracy%20and%20Church%20Leadership.pdf

To hear Pastor Pete reading this reflection, click here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/2829l8anueyludd/Audio%20recording%20of%20blog%20post%20on%20Tyranny%20Democracy%20and%20Church%20Leadership.wma