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Pastoral Transitions (When Asked to Leave)
By: Dr. Fred Childs
Making a change in pastoral ministry is challenging for any pastor and his family, even when they have chosen the time to make that transition. However, a staff pastor and family who are released from their present ministry and must make a transition to a new place of ministry face a different situation. Thus the question, “How should a minister respond, act, and live if he is asked to leave his pastoral ministry?”
Ministers have been released from staff ministry positions for various reasons: decreased church income, downsizing of pastoral staff, the phasing out of a particular ministry position or consolidating church ministries. Regardless of the reason(s) for ministry release, this type of transition can be traumatic to the pastor and his family. Because of the emotional, financial, spiritual, and family issues, this topic must be addressed to help ministers and their families who have been asked to transition from their church ministry. Having been through this type of transition myself as a staff pastor in the past due to pastoral change and staff downsizing, I share some insights that will help edify and support the minister and his family who are in transition.
The ministry family leaving a church may experience emotional stress, financial strain, grief, and a sense of frustration. The exiting staff pastor may question the effectiveness, value, usefulness, credibility, future, and potential of his ministry. Income may be an issue, especially if the staff pastor was the major wage earner in the family. There will also be the question of health insurance. Because health costs can be expensive, health insurance is a necessity. If a transitioning staff member lives in a church parsonage he may wonder, How long can we live here? These are just a few of the concerns that a transitioning staff pastor will be forced to address. What follows are a few suggestions that will help the transitioning pastor and family.
1. Affirm your personhood as a Christian.
God loves you. You, your ministry, and family are valuable to Him. He knew this change would take place before you were asked to make your transition. He has confidence that, with His help, you will make it and your future will still be bright. He knows this is a traumatic change that affects your life, finances, ministry, self-perceptions, spouse, and children.
2. Continue growing in your personal faith walk with God.
You will need to grow spiritually through this situation. Don’t become stuck on, Why is this happening to me? Instead ask,How can I grow through this situation and see glory brought to God?
[ read more...]
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I’ve heard many people say over the last year that, as we enter into the 21st century, it will not be the size of the church that matters, but its health that will ensure its survival. So, what about the health of the church? May I suggest a few guidelines for assessing the health of a congregation of any size?
- Biblically based. Do your congregation members have a clear understanding of what they believe and substantial information to assist them in defending their faith? Is there a discipleship- training program?
- Mutually concerned. Do your people genuinely care for one another? Is there a system in operation that easily allows your congregation to know when people have needs and a prayer chain to respond to those needs?
- Socially concerned. If you do not have a small group ministry, do you have a Sunday School program that provides adequate time for your people to break bread together? Church is fellowship as much as it is a formal worship service.
- Community saturated. Are you aware of the day-to-day decisions that are made in your community that affect the school system, the social programs, and the overall moral climate of the city you serve?
- Financially stable. The church that is fiscally responsible will be able to weather any situation. Every pastor and board should insist on maintaining a certain dollar reserve, and do everything possible to avoid paralyzation of ministry through an unrealistic building or property debt. People must be taught by example to give and to give cheerfully.
Put It In Writing
The written word is persuasive. A spoken word is quickly forgotten, but put the same words in writing and the phrase is instantly given new credence and respect. For that reason, putting it in writing is a wise practice. When everything is written out, you're able to see clearly what needs to be accomplished, how it will be done, and what your responsibility is. By putting it in writing, you're making a commitment.
Putting it in writing will also motivate you and keep you on track. By writing down your goals you make a commitment to them. Written goals urge us to action and determine direction.
Decide for yourself what your goals are and when and how you wish to reach them. Then after you have written them down, keep them in a place that is in plain view throughout each day. As you accomplish each one, cross it off! As you do, allow yourself some personal gratification. There is therapy in seeing a long list of goals accomplished.
A things to do list will ease the mental stress of the day. Often our minds are more on thinking of what needs to be done rather than on what do do to get something done. It is easier to set a pace for the day when you have a written list. Plan your day by allowing yourself an allotted amount of time for each item. Write that time next to each item. Don't let other people or situations keep you from accomplishing each task.[ read more...]
The expression of guarding the gates really has to do with guarding the mind. As noted in the previous message, John Bunyan wrote another classic although much less recognized than Pilgrim’s Progress entitled The Holy War which tells the story of Mansoul being captured and taken over by Diabolus because of the gates being compromised. That same plan is still being effectively carried out in our generation. People of every kind and status within the church have a responsibility to not let this kind of thing take place. This is especially true of those who are actively called into the ministry. If the shepherd can be toppled, the sheep will scatter.
It was explored how that study allows a man who serves a church to guard his mind. While that is a good measure to take up, there is another crucial “guard” that we have to recognize. It is the aspect of prayer. Of all the disciplines involved in a Christian’s life, prayer is the most difficult one to maintain conversely it can be one of the most joyous and powerful tools we can find in our spiritual arsenal. A preacher must maintain regular habits of communion with God in prayer. If a minister is not careful he can come to the place in which he will neglect his place of prayer because of his attention to the Kingdom. He may have all kinds of grand truths rolling through his soul because of the constant exposure to the Word. He can be so busy with various meetings, discipleship of new converts, and counseling of those who are in the throes of some dilemma of life, and obligations to duties of the organizational stripe, that he can entirely neglect his prayer life. In fact a minister is more likely to omit his praying than a new convert who has just come in to the church.
Diabolus loves to get the men involved in ministry to fall to the temptation of substitutes for prayer. Sermons on prayer, reading books on prayer, attending prayer conferences, and hearing sermons on prayer can never take the place of prayer. One can even come under the belief that church attendance, praise, singing, giving, and doing measures of physical labor at church can be a valid substitute for prayer. What soon happens is a tendency to resort to all of these things to move us into a position for revival without true heart-felt prayer.
Pastoral prayer is a great biblical concept and it has great authority. There is an ingredient of spiritual authority that comes to life when a pastor will discipline himself to prayer for his people. From the outset, I have to tell you that this is NOT an easy task to do. Prayer that is truly heart-felt and sincere rarely takes place (for me, perhaps not others) when we just decide to get on our knees and begin to pray. There has to be some stimulus of preparation that is involved in it. There are useful things that you will learn to use to help put your mind into a vein of prayer.
There are times when reading books on prayer will be very helpful to put you into a mindset of prayer. Some of the ones that I have regularly gone back to frequently and year after year are listed below:
E. M. Bounds Complete Works on Prayer—There are eight books in a single volume and are very rich and motivational toward opening my heart for prayer. The Necessity of Prayer, The Essentials of Prayer, The Possibilities of Prayer, The Reality of Prayer, Purpose in Prayer, The Weapon of Prayer, Power Through Prayer, and Prayer and Praying Men.
Leonard Ravenhill on Prayer—Ravenhill’s material is becoming increasingly rarer to find in bookstores these days. He was a staple for many of the preachers who attended the Deeper Life conferences scattered around the nation in the 1970’s. There have been times that I have read just a page or so of Ravenhill’s material and found it incredibly rich in preparing my heart and mind for prayer. Particularly helpful a [ read more...]
Last week, time was spent on the Barnabas Blog with a series of posts called “Guard the Gates” and how important that our minds are in this spiritual battle that we are involved in. Late last night, I was mulling over the next series of things to write about that might bring a little inspiration to those hearty souls who are involved in ministry. During that time of productive meditation, I was drawn to another theme from Bunyan’s The Holy War that sort of lodged in my spirit.
Early on in the taking of Mansoul, Bunyan pulls us in with the majesty of his word pictures when he tells us that Captain Resistance was one of the chief men of the city who had great influence. As he tells us of the approach of Diabolus in attacking the Eye Gate and Ear Gate, Captain Resistance gets up on top of the walls of the city. From that high point, one of the deadly archers of Diabolus shoots him off of the wall with an arrow to the head. Obviously the word picture gives us the idea that Captain Resistance is a godly pastor who is preparing to shout his warning from the top of the wall. When he goes down, the whole city soon falls to the evil hordes of Diabolus and his minions.
After the capture of the city, Prince Emmanuel determines that he will attack the city in the same manner that Diabolus managed to breach the place. He will attack by the Eye-Gate and the Ear-Gate; however, Prince Emmanuel determines to put a huge amount of energy of his attack into the Ear-Gate. So begins the journey of recovery for Mansoul. The four captains are all preachers whose voices will assault the Ear-Gate so the citizens within will be able to turn the tables on Diabolus.
• Captain Boanerges—He was the leader of the others. He was the strongest of all of them and his first lieutenant was Mr. Thunder. They all wore black and the insignia on their uniforms was three lightning bolts. In all four companies were ten thousand men.
• Captain Conviction—His first lieutenant was Mr. Sorrow. Their uniforms were pale and their insignia was the book of the Law that issued a flame of fire.
• Captain Judgment—His first lieutenant was Mr. Terror. Their uniforms were red and their insignia was a burning fiery furnace.
• Captain Execution—His first lieutenant was Mr. Justice. Their uniforms were also red and the insignia had a fruitless tree with an ax lying at the root of the tree.[ read more...]
Often times in ministry we feel that the problems we face in the church are usually people problems. After all we are in the business of ministering to people. So when a problem arises it must be a people problem - right? Not always. Too often, but thankfully, a problem is not as it seems. It's not ALWAYS a people problem. Let's face it. People problems are a hassle. Dealing with personalities and character flaws is exhausting. Sadly, many Pastors and Ministers simply stop trying to improve the ministry capacity of their congregation simply because they have grown tired of trying to change the behaviors of people to create positive change. Do you feel that people are most often the problem in your ministry? If so, you are among the majority of pastors and ministers. Would you be interested to find that not all problems are people problems? In fact, many of the situations that we believe are people problems are simply situation problems. Here's an example of a situation problem: The person who is the lead minister over your churches Greeters ministry is growing frustrated. Too often, the people they employ to greet guests are calling at the last minute to say they cannot be a "greeter" that Sunday morning. This is very frustrating for the lead minister as they thought they had everything under control. Their work was done...everyone was in place. But now at the last minute, there is confusion and worse yet, disappointment in people. This all creates another host of problems, as now the faithful few who the lead minister is about to call upon to "fill in" for the absentee are about to become burdened with the constant chore of being a greeter. These gracious people have limited patients too. If constantly obliged upon, they are going to begin to experience resentment at those who are "calling off" all the time. Worse yet, they are going to begin to feel frustration at their fearless leader who is once again asking them to fill in for someone else.
Often times in ministry we feel that the problems we face in the church are usually people problems. After all we are in the business of ministering to people. So when a problem arises it must be a people problem - right? Not always.
Too often, but thankfully, a problem is not as it seems. It's not ALWAYS a people problem. Let's face it. People problems are a hassle. Dealing with personalities and character flaws is exhausting. Sadly, many Pastors and Ministers simply stop trying to improve the ministry capacity of their congregation simply because they have grown tired of trying to change the behaviors of people to create positive change.
Do you feel that people are most often the problem in your ministry? If so, you are among the majority of pastors and ministers. Would you be interested to find that not all problems are people problems? In fact, many of the situations that we believe are people problems are simply situation problems.
Here's an example of a situation problem: The person who is the lead minister over your churches Greeters ministry is growing frustrated. Too often, the people they employ to greet guests are calling at the last minute to say they cannot be a "greeter" that Sunday morning. This is very frustrating for the lead minister as they thought they had everything under control. Their work was done...everyone was in place. But now at the last minute, there is confusion and worse yet, disappointment in people.
This all creates another host of problems, as now the faithful few who the lead minister is about to call upon to "fill in" for the absentee are about to become burdened with the constant chore of being a greeter. These gracious people have limited patients too. If constantly obliged upon, they are going to begin to experience resentment at those who are "calling off" all the time. Worse yet, they are going to begin to feel frustration at their fearless leader who is once again asking them to fill in for someone else.[ read more...]
Investing The Talents
The following is an article being shared with the Indiana Trumpet. You might want to place it in your weekly bulletin or in a place where your members can read it.
Mt 25 14-30
Mat 25:14 For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods.
Mat 25:15 And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey...
This often misunderstood passage of scripture is a key parable for real revival. Revival and growth can only come when we understand and implement the simple factors spoken of here.
The man traveling into a far country is Jesus Christ. His servants are the Pastors of churches and the talents are the saints of the churches. When Jesus placed a shepherd in the church, he was doing more than placing someone there who would watch over the souls of the church. He was also placing someone there who would lead that group of people into personal and numerical growth (Revival).
This parable was not written to the saints, it was written to the Pastors of the churches. As a saint, this is important for me to understand as it allows me to comprehend the burden and psyche of my Pastor.
Every Pastor is under a great burden for the souls of not only those who attend the local church, but also for the souls of those people in the community who do not attend. This burden does not leave a Pastor day or night, the entire time he Pastor’s a particular church. Those who do not understand this burden will usually misunderstand the actions and decisions of their Pastor.
Notice in the parable the Lord gave us, the servant/Pastor pays a great price if he does not invest his Lord’s talents/saints wisely. Saints will wonder why their Pastor is pushing so hard to begin a new program or simply encourage the church to get involved in evangelism. They will grumble and complain because he has asked them to consider a new ministry the church is capable of implementing. Yet, regardless of their lack of cooperation, the Pastor is still under the directive to cause every talent/saint in the church to become involved.
Notice what happened to the servant who buried his talent in the ground. His labor was to hide his talents. This Pastor simply preached to the “Us 4 and no more crowd”. He was satisfied with a lack of growth and had grown weary of trying to get the church to become involved in soul winning. So he stopped trying. He just kept the same old crowd. His burden for the community died and his church had no increase. With this mindset, this servant purchased a harsh judgment.[ read more...]
The problem with life is that is shows up regular and so suddenly, leaving in its wake—Our Reality. Many of us wish that our Reality was something much different: all good and no bad; all sunshine, no clouds; all answered prayer, no waiting, or even worse…refusals. Reality can become a Prison Of Despair, which can drag the best of us way down. We must allow Faith to forecast change, so that our Reality becomes all God intends. Remember; today is not final; the God of Glory has the great power to alter and change what seems to be Final. Time is totally subject to God; He can use it to alter whatever in our lives that is not becoming what He wants.
So many of us have in our lives either hoped for or worked toward a Reality that was of our dreams. Reality, for most of us, is a far cry from the ideal, but that does not mean we cannot make some real progress, so that our Reality can become a better issue for us. I refuse to allow what is now existing to stop all that can be. Reality is not the final word; Jesus has that all to Himself.
How many of the followers of our Lord have found themselves in situations less desirable and not at all what they had believed for, yet they did not cave in, but, rather, moved ahead and did some great things? How many cripples were affected when He impacted their Reality? How many lost and sinful lives were greatly altered, even though their Reality seemed set in stone?[ read more...]
This is the third installment in a series on spiritual abuse. The whole idea of spiritual abuse is a very troubling at best. The church was intended to be a place of redemptive recovery facilitated by the grace of God. When manipulative control moves to the forefront it can have a very harmful effect on the people who gather to worship. It also has to be established that spiritual abuse can take place in a reverse order. It can originate from the congregation in the form of a board of elders or a single influential member who controls the pastor through financial means or sometimes through psychological and physical intimidation. Increasingly one will find the reverse order in churches that once had to deal with a pastor who was spiritually abusive.
Spiritual abuse is defined as “the mistreatment of a person who is in need of help, support, or greater spiritual empowerment, with the result of weakening, undermining or decreasing that person’s spiritual empowerment.” It can be defined another way as “destructive and dangerous involvement in a religion that allows the religion, not a relationship with God, to control a person’s life. He also goes on to say, “People broken by various experiences, people from dysfunctional families, people with unrealistic expectations, and people out for their own gain or comfort seem especially prone to it.”Spiritual leaders who resort to this kind of activity may or may not immediately recognize the control they are exerting. The trend usually isn’t immediately recognized but as time passes the cycle of behavior manifests in a manner that has a horrific effect on people’s lives. Even worse is the leader who acclimates himself to a state of denial of his own personal responsibility. To compensate for the increasingly unsettled environment, he may begin to assign all of the spiritual shipwrecks of the past as those who were “wolves” or “rebellious.”
As I filtered through all of the material concerning spiritual abuse, I jotted down a series of questions concerning not just the church but the leader too. They were based more on a rhetorical nature that did not so much require an answer but rather an evaluation of the spiritual health of the place where this activity is taking place.
• What does spiritual abuse do to those who worship there? How does it affect their sense of worship and understanding of God?
• Can God have freedom to transform and can grace really do an adequate work in this atmosphere where fear, intimidation, and manipulation prevail?
• Can true spiritual growth and discipleship take place in this setting?
• What do the actions of the pastor have on his soul in the long term? This was a very troubling question to me personally. What dark things begin to take place in the soul of the pastor who exerts force in such a way that he is never challenged and held to a standard of accountability himself?
• Are his actions motivated by pride of place or position?
• Has he moved from being an under-shepherd to a lord over God’s heritage? Such spiritual abuse literally takes the place of God in the working of the church.
• Is there a sense of the grace of God reflected in any of the public ministry of the Word?
• Is there an attempt to place heavy weights on the people he is called to shepherd?
• Does he empower people to live in a venue of spiritual growth in a public setting as well as within the private confines of the heart?[ read more...]
Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: (Philippians 2:5)
"You can think your way to failure and unhappiness, but you can also think your way to success and happiness. The world in which you live is not primarily determined by outward conditions and circumstances but by the thoughts that habitually occupy your mind." -Norman Vincent Peale
Marcus Aurelius said, "A man's life is what his thoughts make of it."
It has been said that the wisest man who ever lived in America was Ralph Waldo Emerson, the Sage of Concord. Emerson declared, "A man is what he thinks about all day long."
If you think you can have revival, you can.
You get what you preach. If you are preaching revival and believe with all of your heart that revival will come, it will come. It will come with God's timing, and He is bound by His word. And His word says that He hears us when we pray. If we are seeking for His will and are sincerely seeking revival for our church and community, it will come. We have to believe!
"But when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come." (Mark 4:29)
If you think your church will grow, it will.
If you are praying for your church to grow, it will. If you plant the seed of faith, and water it with prayers and fasting, the church is destined to grow. It is the will of God for the church to grow. This is His church and He wants it to succeed. We have to get our thinking right, get our attitudes straightened up and get on board with what God has in store for us. Rick Warren, in his book A Purpose Driven Church, tells us to not ask the question "Why is the church not growing," but to ask, "What is causing the church to not grow." Whenever we get our thinking on the right path, the church will begin to grow and mature. Paul wrote to the church at Corinth,
"I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase." (1 Cor. 3:6)[ read more...]