What one new pastor told his church

“(I ask) that they may all be one, even as Thou, Father, art in me, and I in Thee, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that Thou didst send me” (John 17:21).

No one wants your church to be unified more than the Lord.

In fact, almost everything depends on unity.

On April 14, 2012, Pastor Charles McLain stood before his congregation, ready to lead his first monthly business session.

Before they got underway with reports and motions and votes, however, he had something to say which they needed to hear.  His little speech would affect the course of that church for years to come.

He wanted them to know how their business meetings were going to be conducted.

What follows is his written message just as he gave it (which he gave me, alongwith permission to share)….

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When should a pastor leave a church?

“The one who rejects you rejects me” (Luke 10:16).

When should a pastor leave a church?

1) When they fire you.

If they vote you out, preacher, and change the locks on the door, it’s a pretty good sign they want you gone. At that point, even if you know beyond all doubt that God sent you and this action represents complete rebellion on their part, it’s time to leave.  The Lord no longer expects you to stay.  (Whether He wants you to go down the street and rent an empty building and start a new church is an entirely different matter.)

2) When the Holy Spirit tells you.

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When to submit, when to insist

“Be subject to one another in the fear of Christ” (Ephesians 5:21).

I leaned over to my grandson in church yesterday and whispered, “I remember when Brother Ken brought the drum set into the church. Some almost died. Now look.”

On the platform was the usual dozen or so musicians–pianist, keyboard, several guitars, two or three drummers, one violin, a couple of horns, and this time, for a special emphasis, a mandolin and banjo.  The music was great.

What I thought was, “What if we had given in to the critics? What if Dr. Ken Gabrielse–now the dean of the Warren Angell School of Fine Arts at Oklahoma Baptist University–and I had feared the criticism and buckled?”

There are times when church leaders need to pay attention to the criticism, and times to ignore it.

Knowing “what time it is” is the hard part.  For God’s children, that’s a function of the Holy Spirit.

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How the pastor can worry himself into an early grave

Why do people do the things they do?

Try to figure that one out and soon your brain will explode from over-exertion.

Why did certain people leave your church? Why did that pastor search committee–that looked so promising, talked so excitedly, and seemed so certain–suddenly disappear without a word of explanation? Why did a friend turn on you and walk out of your life without a word?

People are going to leave your church, pastor.

You ministered to them faithfully, you thought you had a great relationship with them and they were happy under your ministry, then suddenly you noticed they were gone. Sometime later, you learn they joined another church down the road a mile. What happened?  Ideally, they will make an appointment to explain their actions.

But don’t hold your breath, preacher. This is not an ideal world.

In a half century of ministry, the number of families that have come to explain why they were leaving, I could count on one hand.

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How to be disappointed in your pastor (Reasons 11-20)

When we asked Facebook friends for ways to find disappointment in the pastor, we were swamped with responses.  Apparently, everyone knows ways to put down the preacher. So, following up on yesterday’s list, here are 10 more pointers to (ahem) help readers conclude that their pastor is a loser and should exit the church so hot-shots like you can bring in a real God-called minister. (Can you tell this is tongue-in-cheek?)

“Therefore, also, we have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him” (2 Corinthians 5:9). That’s the preacher’s assignment.  Yours, too, church member. Okay, let’s cut to the chase….

11. Expect the pastor to be in the office all the time.

“I ran by the church to see the preacher and he wasn’t there. The secretary said, ‘I don’t know where he is. He never tells me anything!’”

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How to be disappointed in your pastor (Reasons 1-10)

“Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching” (I Timothy 5:17).

The first step toward running a pastor off or leaving the church in search of a better preacher is rejecting the one you have.

We have some pointers on how to do that.

Not that some people need a recipe for finding shortcomings with God’s shepherds. Fault-finders will always find a way. But just in case anyone out there in churchland has been wondering how they could justify rejecting their pastors (to themselves at least), we have the blueprint….

1) Expect the pastor to read your mind.

“You know we always have our meeting on the first Tuesday of September, Pastor. Why did you schedule that revival then?”

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How to revitalize an old church and live to tell about it

Let’s state the obvious here. If we let a church die and go out of business, then bring a new group into the building and start afresh with something different, we have not revitalized anything.  We have held a funeral and then birthed a new flock.  And that is often necessary and good.

We’re talking here about taking a dying, dwindling congregation, one that has been on the decline for years and even decades, and turning it around, giving the people new vision, and watching God turn it into a strong body of believers.

Hard to do? You bet.  And, may we say, pretty rare, too.  Most dying congregations are that way for a reason, chief among them being that they are wed to the present way of doing things and are dead-set on not changing a thing.

A young friend will be leaving his church soon to move to another state where he will be taking the pastorate of an older congregation that has been dwindling in numbers. Members who remain are all in their golden years.

The pastor was excited but clear-headed. He knows this can be hard in the best situations and impossible in others. So, wisely, he’s picking the brains of seminary professors and veteran pastors with experience in the business of turning around dying congregations. And, he’s interviewing young ministers who are accomplishing this very thing, wanting to know what they have learned.

As is often case, his small congregation has invited a larger, dynamic church to adopt them, completely turning over the keys to them, so to speak, which is the only way to achieve this.  The big church is the one bringing in my friend to lead the one on life-support.  That’s a good sign and shows the weak congregation is serious about wanting to survive and have a strong presence in their community.

For what they are worth, here are a few of my comments to the young minister….

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How to fire a staff member, and have him like it

There are healthy ways to do the most unpleasant of things.

Nothing is more difficult, more unpleasant, and with a greater possibility for collateral damage than terminating a minister on the church staff.  Few churches get this right.  Many end up doing far more damage to the kingdom of God than if they had left that staff member where he was and done nothing.

To be sure, there are occasions when terminating a minister on the spot with no advance notice is necessary. I can think of several reasons…

–He has been arrested and there is probable cause.

–He is guilty of a serious immorality and people were hurt by him.

–He is doing teaching something blatantly unscriptural and insisting that he will continue.

–He is being disruptive in the church and doing great harm.  Let’s say he is leading a movement to get the pastor fired.  He should be terminated on the spot.

However, even in those situations, you as a church leader have more people to think about than just that one person.  If he has a wife and children, you owe them the Christlike care and continued ministry of the church until their lives straighten out.  If that minister has the trust and affection of church members, you owe them the assurance that this matter is being handled in a way they would approve of if they were doing it.

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How tiny churches do things

Not long ago, I was worshiping with friends in a small, rural and very old church not far from our family home in North Alabama.  The building was erected in 1857 and has been used by various congregations over the decades. Presently, it’s a Baptist church. The members, mostly retirees, treasure its quaintness and its unpainted exterior and try to keep things natural.  The building has no electricity, no nursery, no cushioned pews, and no frills of any kind.  A few kerosene lamps can be seen here and there, and out back are the toilets.  Since the church activities consist of one service each Sunday at 8:30 am, I’d be surprised if the facilities are ever used.

The members don’t demand a lot of their church and appreciate what they have found, the fellowship. (Some go on to other churches in town later in the morning.)

The pastor of that little congregation is a retired minister only a couple of years shy of his eightieth birthday. But he’s still sharp and energetic and it seems to be a good union.

While I was there, they did something most unusual.

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Thank you, Father, for the pain

“No suffering for the present time seems joyful but grievous; nevertheless, afterward….it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness” (Hebrews 12:11).

“And indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (II Timothy 3:12).

I hated the pain at the time, Lord.

It’s no fun hurting, lying awake at night hoping for sleep that will not come, wishing for relief and seeing none on the horizon.  At those times I knew why some turn to drink or drugs or worse, but that issue was settled decades ago, Lord, that I would not be bypassing, shortcutting, or tranquilizing whatever you send me in this life.

Remember that time back in the 1960s when a few unhappy people were stirring up matters in your church, saying that I was pushing integration and was going to destroy their church?  Remember that?  I do too.  Oh, how I do.  That was no fun.

As though it were their church. That’s a laugh.  They’re long off the scene and Your church is still there. And integrated, too, I imagine. (smiley-face goes here)

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