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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Almost Perfect Church: Chapter 9- From Bad to Worse

This is Chapter 9. You won't understand it if you haven't read the previous chapters, beginning here.

The lay elders pretty much avoided me during the next month, including Sunday mornings when I would see them huddled in corners whispering to one another.  Having said my piece in the letter I began the October meeting by giving each of them a chance to speak his mind.  Some were non-committal, others continued to place all the blame on me- whatever had gone wrong, it was all my fault.  One did concede that perhaps "the timing was bad".

I was told I should work 6o hours a week including five hours of home visitation.  I was told that if someone filled out one of our response forms I should call them, even if they only checked the box asking for prayer, not the one asking for me to call (I already put my email address and cell phone # in every week for anyone who wanted to contact me at any time).  I believed that sometimes people just wanted prayer, not a call but this was small potatoes anyway, it wasn't going to determine whether or not the church died in three (or was it now two?) months.

Another said that I should go to the men's retreat in November and stay through Sunday. When I told him that, prior to the date being set, my daughter had, as a birthday present to me, entered both myself and her in a marathon that weekend and had been training hard for months so we could do it together he just said, "It's a hard choice, I pray God will guide you." His implication was obvious, disappoint my daughter or defy the board.  Frankly, I didn't think it was a hard choice at all.

Finally Elder H spoke. He had asked to be last and went into a rage, resigned and stormed out of the room.  It was the most immature, unchristian behavior I have ever witnessed in a board meeting (as a pastor or as a lay elder myself).  I found out later that he had told the others what he was going to do.  No one said to him, "This is not how Christians handle things."  I believe they felt that this would possibly be the last straw that broke me for good.  Certainly now I  would see that I had no choice but to submit to their demands and control over every aspect of my ministry.

I told them what I've told you, that for the past 2-3 years I had been bringing my testimonies of evangelistic outreach and imploring them to bring theirs to the board meeting to set an example of the other elders and to Sunday mornings to set an example for the church and that I had sought numerous changes to make TA more outreach-oriented but they had resisted them all and that I believed that our real problem was that the church was too ingrown and now they were telling me to spend LESS time with unbelievers and more time "servicing" the consumers in the pews... they did not respond.

I "knew" that it was over, but I still refused to admit it.  How COULD God let it end this way?  Facing the loss of church, ministry, income, friends, everything I had worked toward for almost 20 years and almost everything that was important to me on earth.  I retreated within myself.  I didn't even tell Jeanie what was going on.  She wondered what was wrong with me.  I can't explain my actions during the next couple of months, I've never experienced such a breakdown before or since but I don't think many other people would have fared much better given the circumstances.

Short of resigning, what could I do?

If I took a sabbatical my assistant would be in charge and he didn't share my vision.  When I recovered emotionally the first thing I would have to do to move forward would be to remove him and that seemed like a chain of events that wouldn't work and would haunt me the whole time I was supposed to be recovering from the stress.  I talked to our District Superintendent who told Jeanie and I that he would talk to Pastor B himself about needing to resign if I wanted him to.  I sought to encourage B to leave voluntarily, promising a large severance (more than I ended up getting) but he became angry and soon I was being called before the elders to explain my actions.

Day by day depression, ennui, hopelessness increased and took over my life.  I didn't want to leave, yet the board had made it impossible for me to stay.  I couldn't sleep, especially before Sunday services when I would toss and turn until 4 or 5 and then go to church sleep-deprived, depressed and barely functioning.

They say they didn't force me out.

Interlude.

1 comment:

David Haddon said...

I remember your testimonies of evangelistic opportunities and successes that you recount in this chapter. And of course I attended your class at the home of one of the elders using Bill Fay's "How to share your faith without an argument". That so many of the staff and elders could be opposed to promoting evangelistic outreach in a CMA or any evangelical church is remarkable, but in retrospect it fits. I thought that the issue would have been the transition to focus groups, not something as fundamental to the Great Commission as outreach. God help us!