Conflicted Churches (Part 1)

Not every church is a peaceful, gracious, and loving as the one I now pastor (Huffman Baptist in Birmingham, AL).  In fact… over the years I’ve heard stories and experienced things that are heart breaking (This is true of most every pastor).  I read on Thursday of last week about one such event/congregation on Ray Ortlund’s blog regarding his dad (Click here) and decided to write about it last Friday.  Here’s what happened…

Ray Ortlund’s dad followed a pastor who’d served a church for 38 years.  At about year 2 some people started spreading rumors that he was a  communist sympathizer… even though he was a conservative Republican.  Some members went so far as to send a letter with this accusation to the whole church.  Why?  Quote… “He went to Princeton Seminary.  Princeton Seminary is liberal.  So he must be a liberal, and every other horrible thing that flows therefrom.”  Eventually the lay leadership of the church handled the situation and the church experienced great growth.

After reading that, I remembered stories from pastors and their families that are pretty incredulous.  There are plenty of stories in the news periodically about wayward ministers… but what about conflicted churches?  There are plenty of those too.  (NOTE: I have a reasosn for posting these that I’ll blog about tomorrow… God willing.  For now I ask you to contemplate and ruminate on what follows.)

One pastor was told prior to a business meeting by a deacon… “I have a knife… and if I have to, I’ll use it.”  At the same meeting another deacon showed the pastor that he had an ambulance parked in front of the church and planned to make it so hard on him during the business meeting that the ambulance would be needed to take him out.

UPDATE 8/9/2011: A tasing and stabbing took place at a church in Alabama.  CLICK HERE (Thanks Dr. Whipley)

Once the personnel team told the pastor it was time for him to find another church.  They did this without consulting in any way with the Deacon Body or the church.  When the pastor asked what he had done, they wouldn’t tell him.  So he resigned.  The church was very upset at the Personnel Team and as a result many left the church… including members of the Personnel Team and Deacons.  The pastor as of this writing, a year and a half later, still hasn’t found a place of ministry.

Another time a pastor and deacon got so mad at each other that once the business meeting was over, the pastor shot the deacon!  He did survive…

Then there was the pastor who’s wife was accused of having an affair… the pastor was accused of having an affair and using the church credit card for an $80.00 haircut.

One pastor I know was serving a church that had a history of being very hard on ministers.  After two years of growth and God’s blessing the church, the pressure turned on him to leave.  It got to the point that one Sunday the deacons formed a line blocking entrance to the church to keep the pastor and his family from entering… which was unsuccessful.  At a called business meeting the church had a “vote of confidence,” which he won 51% to 49%.  He accepted the vote and announced he’d stay.  Immediately the 49% who voted against him walked out.  Then a motion was made to remove the 49% from the church membership roll (It passed without dissent).  In the coming years God grew the church exponentially.

Another pastor related how his children were lied about in the community accusing them of drug use and sexual misconduct.

One church I know… in the space of 16 months… pressured their pastor of 23 years to resign, fired the Youth Pastor, and also pressured their Worship Leader to resign.

Then there’s the story about the pastor who was accused of putting pornography on his personal web page.  The accusation was presented to the deacons and pictures were shown to many church members.  It turned out the person who made the accusation had been visiting porn sites and a virus had invaded their computer redirecting their web surfing to the porn site.

Then there was the pastor who found out that the deacons were having secret meetings away from the church discussing accusations regarding his ministry.  He told me his problem was that they never would tell him what the accusations were.  Instead he was told, “Either resign or we will bring them all before he church… and it won’t be pretty.”

In one church three deacons went to the parsonage and told the pastor they would accept his resignation.  He asked what he had done, they wouldn’t tell him.  So he resigned.  At the following business meeting after his resignation, church members questioned the deacon chairman about the event.  All he would say was, “We accepted his resignation.”  Later, the next pastor was told that the reason for the prior minister’s dismissal was, “He wasn’t a good fit for the church.”

Last… I talked with a denominational leader who described a church that over the space of 20 years had 15 pastors… forcing each of them to resign one way or another.  But this is not the church that over the time period from 1953 to 2004 had pressured 5 of their 7 pastors to resign… and this didn’t include other staff.  One of thoses pastors told me the reason he left the church was… “I was afraid it’d kill me because I couldn’t live up to their expectations.”  It was one of those churches that are called “Perpetually conflicted” (According to the same state worker).

THE OTHER SIDE…

I like the story I heard about a lone deacon who knew that accusations being made about the pastor were lies.  He did everything he could to bring some sense to the situation… but no one would listen.  He finally decided that there was virtually no hope of recovery for his pastor and told him he’d support whatever the pastor decided to do.  The pastor decided to resign.  Here’s the good part.  He found out what the pastor wanted as a severance package… then went to the leaders of the “opposition.”  He told them… “I want a 100% vote to support the severance package.  If anyone so much as says anything in opposition to it, I am going to name names and tell the truth about what all of you have done.  Things will go south and they will go south FAST.”  Guess what… the vote was 100% supporting his motion without any discussion.

No church is perfect and there are plenty of stories about ministers who fail.  Some ministers deserve harsh treatment because of how they’ve treated the Bride of Christ improperly.  However… there is the post for tomorrow… God willing.  There I’ll suggest some thoughts that might be of some help… (God willing).

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7 comments on “Conflicted Churches (Part 1)

  1. Margaret Hall says:

    Ohhh, Ron, this is so sad …these kind of people in the Lord’s House making these kinds of threats? Unbelievable!! I do remember when I lived in Atlanta Charles Stanley had been the pastor at First Baptist only a very few years …right below he came Pastor, there was a business-Deacon meeting and one of the Deacons slapped him ……Dr. Stanley said he felt such a strong calling from God to get by all of this and become the pastor. You know at times I have wanted to change my religious affiliation due to some set backs on family members and also a wonderful church School Director that was relieved of her job due to NOTHING. I honestly believe the Baptists (nd maybe others) have gone too far in how they hurt people and handle things. Have a great day, my friend.

  2. Peggy Holder says:

    This makes a Christians heart… bleed, yet I know things like this happen. However much it hurts my heart, it hurts the heart of our precious Lord more to see people who label themselves Christian and His followers act in this angry, hurtful way. No wonder our churches aren’t growing. No wonder we hear people say, “If this is Chrisitanity, I want no part of it.” God help us all to live so people can know we are Chrisitans by our love and actions.

  3. Joan says:

    Truth is stranger than fiction — read “The Devil in Pew Number Seven” by Rebecca Nichols Alonzo to learn how a pastor and his family were presecuted.

  4. Me says:

    The deacon that the pastor shot…was he the one who had the knife?

  5. Sarah Jumper says:

    Pastor Ron, I would never have believed things like this occurred in churches with people who call them Christians, had I not been through it. For those who have not, count your blessings because it can destroy all your faith and has done so for some. Praise God, I was strong enough to get through it, but my heart still aches for those involved and I miss them so much. Needless to say, my faith was tested…

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