The deacon made no attempt to hide his disgust with his preacher. As far as he was concerned, preachers were the hired servants of the church. And, as a head deacon, that put him in charge.
“Preacher, I have some new rules for you.”
“You have rules for me?”
“From now on,” said the old man, “you will keep a written account of every copy you make on the copier. And you will keep a notation on every phone call you make.”
And that was not all.
“Furthermore, you are not to make any personal calls from the church office. If you have a personal call to make, you will go to your house and make it.”
Pastor: “What if I need to call my wife when she is at home?”
“Then, you will get in your car and go there and talk to her. But you will not call her from the church phone.”
This conversation actually happened, just this way.
The pastor said, “I’m sorry, sir. This is not going to happen. I will use this church phone in any Christ-honoring way I see fit. And I will not be keeping a record of every call or every copy made on the copy machine.”
“Now,” said the pastor, “is there anything else you wanted to talk about?”
The old fellow left, one unhappy camper.
The pastor survived and serves that church to this day. That deacon, however, after fuming for a year or more, was suddenly summoned home to meet the Lord of the Church (see Matthew 16:18) and give account of his stewardship.
There’s no record of how that visit went.
I suppose, if we had a list of every bizarre thing said to pastors by those who thought they were in charge of the Lord’s church, we would not know whether it was fiction or satire or a comedy routine. Some are pretty bizarre.
As a pastor to pastors, I hear the stories. Some tell of churches under the domination of a small group of self-appointed leaders who hire and fire preachers for no reason other than “We thought it was time for a change.” “The pastor didn’t visit me when I was in the hospital.” “My children don’t like him.”
The one thing no one must do is to try to talk to these church bosses about “what the Word says.” That’s the last thing they are interested in. “This is our church,” they will insist. “And we will run it as we see fit.”
For those who doubt, mark my words. They actually say those things, astounding as it may seem.
There are hundreds of churches in the land whose pastors are terminated on a regular basis as determined by a small group of men. It’s always men. For reasons known only to the Lord, some men love to throw their weight around, to be big frogs in little ponds, to be the go-to person in the congregation.
Lord, help your church. Protect your church from such people.
The Lord’s church is suffering because of them. The witness of the church is weakened due to their domination of the God-appointed pastor. (God appointed? See Acts 20:28) The enemy is having a field day as a result.
Why doesn’t the membership stand up to them? Why don’t right-thinking deacons call a halt to this travesty? Why don’t mature men and women who love their church decide enough is enough?
“We don’t want to rock the boat.”
That’s what they say, believe it or not. “We don’t want to stir up a fight.” “We don’t want to tear up the church.” “We don’t want to get into a confrontation.”
There is another word for this refusal of the right-thinking church members to take a stand and rescue the Lord’s church from the hands of those who are dragging it down: cowardice.
They lack courage. That’s the beginning and end of it.
In every church where I address these issues, I counsel, “If someone asks you to be a leader of this church and you do not have courage, please turn them down. You have no business being a leader of the Lord’s church if you do not have the courage to speak up and save it from those who would try to destroy it.”
Some get offended by that and accuse the preacher of having informed on them. But he hasn’t. I never want to know the details about a church before leading such conferences.
Let the chips fall where they will. Let the Holy Spirit convict the wrong-doers.
Someone needs to stand up and rock the boat.
The boat, after all–to push the metaphor–is taking on water at an alarming rate and threatening to go under. Those at the till are running her onto the rocks. Someone who can see what’s happening needs to stand up and ask for an accounting.
Do not miss that: Ask for an accounting.
In most situations, that’s all it would take.
At the first opportunity, in a meeting of the congregation, have the sweetest, godliest person in the room stand and ask, “How was it decided that the pastor would not be able to use the church phone for personal reasons?” (or whatever the issue)
Then, remain standing. Do not sit down.
Wait for an answer.
In most cases, the answer that comes–when it finally does–will be a variation of this: “Well, these issues are better off not being discussed on the floor of the church” or “This is a private matter between the deacons and the pastor.”
Expect that. The wrong-doers know full well that their shenanigans cannot stand the light of the day and they will do anything to keep them hidden.
Don’t let them.
Be ready with a followup to your first question. You have two choices. First choice, laugh big. “You’re kidding, right? You think you can do anything you like to the pastor and not have to give accounting? Is that what you are saying?”
Or, second church. Something like, “Thank you, sir, butI have asked a legitimate question and would like an answer. That’s not too much to ask. How was the decision made?” (or “Who made the decision?”)
In either case, after your followup question, stand there.
Do not sit down.
At this point,have two or three others stand up also and echo the request from the inquirer. If possible, have them all be the godliest, sweetest people in the church.
They are not starting anything.
They are not stirring up anything.
They are simply asking for an accounting from their leaders, and doing so in the most non-threatening way possible.
I’ll let you in on a little secret.
There is one group in the church every church boss fears.
He fears the little old ladies who love Jesus with all their heart and who are the “mamas” of the congregation. Everyone adores them. They are the godliest, sweetest and least threatening people on the planet. And that’s why the church bosses tremble when they stand in a business meeting.
The Diotrephes (church bosses run amok) know their shenanigans cannot stand exposure. And so long as the right-thinking men and women in the church are spineless–which they camouflage as “protecting the church” and “not wanting to rock the boat”–they rule the day.
Okay, then repeat this in every church business meeting.
Keep doing it, and I will tell you what will happen.
The bosses will stop. Once they know the congregation is going to hold them accountable and they are going to be called to task by the unassailable “mothers of the church” they will stop harassing the preacher.
It’s that simple. And the best part is no one was injured, no funerals had to be held, and the church was not torn up.
Accountability is a glorious thing for everyone except one group: The wrongdoers. Only those trying to cover their tracks resent having to explain why they did what they did.
If your church does not have a regular accounting time, you must see that one is installed. Otherwise, nothing good will come from this oversight.