Last Post of “Ron’s Reflections”

RM Logo 500“Ron’s Reflections” has a new address: http://redemptionministry.org . Along with the new location will be a new blog name: Redemption Ministry. The address is: http://redemptionministry.org/blog/ . It can be accessed through the Redemption Ministry (RM) website or directly by the previous link.

My goal, desire, and prayer through God’s providence in my life and ministry (My unique experiences as pastor) is to “Comfort others with the comfort by which I have been comforted by God” (2 Cor 1:3-7). I’m asking God to help me find hurting, wounded, and struggling ministers so I can (If He so allows) help them through the unique trials ministers face. Here are a few of the resources from Redemption Ministry…

You are not alone.” Testimonies given to RM from Junior Hill, Rick Lance, Mike McLemore and others with more to come (GW).

Healing For Hurting Ministers.” This is a process I’ve relied on for years during my difficult times as a pastor (Minister Resources).

Helping Staff Reconcile.” For when there are problems between staff at a church (Church Resources).

How you can pray if you are so led…

For God to be glorified through Redemption Ministry,

For God to “make the connections” with ministers and churches to encourage and help as He wills,

For a project I’m working on titled, “Dancing In The Dungeon.”

I close this blog address with “I Asked The Lord That I Might Grow

Why Pastors Leave (Part 2)

fired-colorPart 1 can be found HERE.

Some pastors leave because God calls them to another church and/or ministry. Some pastors leave because they find a better deal or are climbing the ministerial ladder. Some leave because they’re running from a tough situation. 1,700 a month are fired in the United States. Then there’s another group. These guys usually aren’t understood by their friends, church members, or family. Let me explain…

Sure… ministry is tough. But no tougher than any other vocation. Pastors don’t have it easy, but neither does anyone else in this world. My thoughts are not with the situation in churches… but rather what ought to happen in churches when there are struggles among pastor… staff… and/or the membership. Of all places where love, grace, mercy, forgiveness, and reconciliation ought to be front and center it is the church. But sadly too many times those virtues are trampled under foot. Sometimes Jesus’ recommendation is the best course to follow (CLICK HERE and HERE).

I know a pastor who was called to a church on a 100% vote. A year later the church voted “no confidence” by a  75% margin. He hadn’t preached heresy… there was no immorality… he hadn’t broken any laws. The problem? The same one the last two pastors had… a personality conflict with church leadership (A man & his wife). So what was he to do? This suggestion was made to him as a plan of action… (Note: I’m feeling very defensive for him!)

Acknowledge openly to all there is a unity problem. Admit and confess honestly any fault or failure of your own.

Set before the leadership (Staff, Deacons, & Personnel Team) the importance of following Scripture for all to: Repentconfessforgive… and be reconciled. Remind all (Including yourself) that if the church is not able to (Or won’t) do these things, then everyone’s credibility has been compromised… the message of the cross won’t be believed in the community… and have contributed to Jesus’ name being tarnished (Ro 2:24).

Set before the leadership to call for a time of prayer for repentance, restoration, and reconciliation.

Then leave the decision about this in their hands trusting God for the outcome (See Gen 13:8-9).

Then it was suggested he spend much time in prayer and reflection in God’s Word… and if the leadership rejected his offer, to remember what is written in the Scripture…

Mt 10:14 If anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town. 23 When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next…

Mt 5:39 Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.

Mt 5:9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. 10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Ro 12:14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all (So everyone can see it). 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God… 20 “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink… 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Update: His offer was rejected. He was given 3 months severance and is to move out of church housing in three weeks.

Some pastors leave because they refuse to be a flash point for the church to get a black eye in the community (The church splitting). Some pastors choose to get slapped rather than to slap the Bride of Christ. Some pastors choose what looks like running and weakness because they will not be a cause for those inside and outside the church to stumble. Some pastors leave because their definition of “winning” is not the world’s definition. Some pastors leave because they are trying to keep The Golden Rule as best they can. Some pastors leave and affirm what Paul wrote in 1 Cor 4:3-5…

With me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. 4 I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. 5 Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart.

Why Pastors Leave (Part 1)

TimPetersBecause of my desire to help hurting, wounded, and struggling pastors, an article in The Alabama Baptist caught my attention. Tim Peters wrote 10 common reasons pastors quit too soon (Click the previous for his explanation of each). His points were:

1) Discouragement, Fifty percent of pastors report feeling so discouraged they would leave the ministry if they could.

2) Failure, Seventy percent of pastors say they have a lower self-image now than when they started.

3) Loneliness, Seventy percent of pastors do not have someone they consider a close friend.

4) Moral Failure, Thirty-three percent of pastors confess having been involved in inappropriate sexual behavior.

5) Financial Pressure, Seventy percent of pastors feel grossly underpaid.

6) Anger, Each year, 4,000 new churches begin and 7,000 churches close.

7) Burnout, Ninety percent of pastors report working between 55 and 75 hours per week.

8) Physical Health, Seventy-five percent of pastors report a significant stress-related crisis at least once in their ministry.

9) Marriage/Family Problems, Eighty percent of pastors believe pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families.

10) To Busy/Driven, Ninety percent of pastors feel they are inadequately trained to cope with ministry demands.

His ten reasons could be described as… LIFE (From my perspective, while accurate, not nuanced enough). His suggestions could describe the business world where, by comparison, pastors have it easier. My thoughts of why pastors leave are different from Mr. Peters, probably because I’ve been a pastor local churches while he served in church media communications… the two calls are worlds apart.

Every vocation is difficult, ministry is no different. But how issues are handled in church should be different. Outside the church it is dog eat dog. Only the strong survive. The ends justify the means. The goal is to win at all costs. All that matters is the bottom line (Profits). But in the church there is supposed to be a different dynamic at work.

But sadly, too often churches and staff function, act, and look like the world. “Playing the game” as seen on Celebrity Apprentice and Survivor has made its way into the church. Deception, manipulation, and misrepresentation have taken the place of love, compassion, mercy, grace, forgiveness, and reconciliation in intrapersonal relations. And we wonder why revival tarries… why people outside the church won’t listen to our message… why churches are dying…

Monday, God willing, I’ll suggest another perspective of why pastors leave…

Why Congregations Die (Part 2)

dying church 2Click here to read part 1.

Thinking through the analogy a little more, I served a church from years 160 to 171 in it’s life span (Now 180+). By God’s grace we grew from 315 to 650… built a $3.2 mm building… and operated in the black for the first time in over 20 years. Most recently I served a church in a transitioned community over 100 years old with the average age of 70+. In 20 years they declined from 1,100 to 275 primarily due to a changed community. If it only boiled down to “want to,” this congregation could’ve reached the community. But people on walkers with oxygen tanks knocking on doors in a high crime neighborhood wasn’t wise (70% of the membership had moved out of the community but commuted back on Sunday AM). At the same time, an ethnic church (African/American) next door is busting at the seams!

I suggest the “death” of some congregations is God’s will in order that: New/Other congregations grow… New congregations are born… Kingdom work (Always) continues… New methods replace outdated ones… and God is glorified. After all… “God works all things after the counsel of His will” (Eph 1:11).

The SBC Missions philosophy is: Go to a country… reach people of that culture… train them in the Gospel… provide ongoing support and resources… then leave the work for them to carry on while we go to another unreached culture. The best people to reach Vietnamese are Vietnamese, the best people to reach Asians are Asians, and the best people to reach a community are those who live IN the community and reflect their demographic. To fight this reality (In an ethnic diverse city/nation) is not wise in my estimation. BUT THERE IS A GOOD PATH TO TAKE!

From personal experience, the best way a church in a transitioned community can honor God is to recognize their situation and embrace God’s will for the Kingdom according to the SBC Missions Philosophy. As written, “One plants… another waters… God gives the increase.” Whether a congregation is part of planting, watering, or reaping the harvest… they are ALL part of God’s work and are ALL necessary in expanding the kingdom.

Why does a church die? Again, It doesn’t. Congregations die… not the Church. The problem is that congregations equate their personal existence (Life/death) as being The Church. If/when a congregation can embrace their immortal existence AND their place in God’s eternal plan for redemption, THEN they will be free to embrace what is happening in America ethnically and demographically and participate in something God sized (Continuing to reach people for Christ).

Like dying humans, congregations fight against the inevitable (Death) not considering that “A grain of wheat must fall to the ground and die” in order for life to spring forth. A congregation must be content to be part of the eternal process of the kingdom! They may plant… without ever seeing the harvest. They might water… without ever seeing the harvest. They may reap the harvest… without ever planting or watering. One is not more important than the other because God gives the increase. Too many today just want to be harvesters. There is something to be said for those who are like those described in Heb 11:13, “These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar…”

Maybe the best stewardship a plateaued/declining congregation could follow would be to plant or tend or water for another generation to reap the harvest AND be content not to actually SEE the harvest, but greet it from afar. Just a thought…

Why Churches Die (Part 1)

4SaleFBCA recent article in The Alabama Baptist addressed the hard question of churches that are plateaued/declining/dying (CLICK HERE). Many may not read my thoughts, but here they are…

Why do churches die? I came up with a theory 20 years ago that I now assert is true (I’m sure I’m not the first to write this): Churches… like people… have life spans. Just as people live 20… 50… 70 years or more, churches exist for differing lengths of time. As some people are athletic and physically healthy or physically challenged… some churches enjoy robust existence while others struggle to survive. As with people, when churches start the downhill slide to death, they fight to their last ounce of strength before the inevitable happens.

Could it be that some churches struggle for the same reason the man was born blind (John 9:1-7)… that God would be glorified? Could it be that God ordains some churches to fulfill a more modest role than others, and that’s okay? Maybe it is God’s will for one church to rise to a certain level of maturity and ministry that is different from other congregations… much like He determines the level to which we mature spiritually in this life. Then.. WHAT IF… God ordains the death of one to impact the world greater BY dying than continuing to live (As with Stephen’s death who a young man named Saul observed and became an Apostle. Acts 7:54-8:1; 9:1-18)? In other words, maybe it is God’s will for a local congregation to die SO THAT another congregation can do greater works as a ressult than they ever did or would have done!

Death is not a bad thing for Christians! It is from death that life springs (Resurrection). As Christians are resurrected to a new body, life, and existence… so too churches that die and are resurrected are not what they once were. Whereas a church may have been a white, middle class, community congregation… the resurrection may be a multi-ethnic, regional congregation of every economic status. But for the resurrection to occur, the old has to die… and that is NOT BAD!

“One plants… another waters… tends… harvests… God gives the increase” (1 Cor 3:6-9 Paraphrased). What a glory it would be to God IF a dying church with great facilities decided to partner with a multi-ethnic congregation to reach a community they could no longer reach because of age and resources? What a glory it would be to God IF that church decided to GIVE the facilities to the multi-ethnic congregation RATHER THAN sell the plant to them so they wouldn’t be shackled with debt?! WHAT IF a dying congregation got a kingdom view of it being “Better to give than receive?” Those things would indeed glorify God.

Congregations die… The Church doesn’t! If/when a congregation embraces a Universal Church mindset over a Local Congregation concept, THEN they will be able to do the kind of thing that makes God smile. THEN they will be thinking of others before themselves. However, there will be stress if/when some catch a kingdom vision but others resist it.

Maybe it is God’s will for resurrection to follow death… in a local congregation. Wouldn’t that be a novel idea? Part 2 will post tomorrow… God willing.

Calvinism I Agree With

John 3-16This Q & A between Charles Simeon and John Wesley is the kind Calvinism I agree with!

Simeon: “Sir, I understand that you are called an Arminian; and I have been sometimes called a Calvinist; and therefore I suppose we are to draw daggers. But before I consent to begin the combat, with your permission I will ask you a few questions. Pray, Sir, do you feel yourself a depraved creature, so depraved that you would never have thought of turning to God, if God had not first put it into your heart?”
Wesley: “Yes! I do indeed.”
Simeon: “And do you utterly despair of recommending yourself to God by anything you can do; and look for salvation solely through the blood and righteousness of Christ?”
Wesley: “Yes, solely through Christ.”
Simeon: But, Sir, supposing you were at first saved by Christ, are you not somehow or other to save yourself afterwards by your own works?”
Wesley: “No, I must be saved by Christ from first to last.”
Simeon: “Allowing, then, that you first turned by the grace of God, are you not in some way or other to keep yourself by your own power?”
Wesley: “No!”
Simeon: “What, then, are you to be upheld every hour and every moment by God, as much as an infant in its mother’s womb?”
Wesley: “Yes, altogether!”
Simeon: “And is all your hope in the grace and mercy of God to preserve you unto His heavenly kingdom?”
Wesley: “Yes, I have no hope but in Him.”
Simeon: “Then, Sir, with your leave I will put up my dagger again; for this is all my Calvinism; this is my election, my justification by faith, my final perseverance: it is in substance all that I hold, and as I hold it; and therefore, if you please, instead of searching out terms and phrases to be a ground of contention between us, we will cordially unite in those things wherein we agree.”
As for me, that settles it. An advisoray committe presented it’s report to the Southern Baptist Convention recently. It is a good and fair document that you can read HERE. If you get bogged down, just come back and read Mr. Simeon’s questions to John Wesley…

Pastor’s Pastor?

Pastor hardshipToo many pastors don’t have a pastor. Everyone else in the church does, but many times pastors suffer silently and alone.

For the last several weeks I have been seeking out hurting and wounded pastors (Thus the previous posts: Click 1, Click 2, Click 3). In just a few weeks I have heard a number of pastors tell me their stories of heartbreak, disappointment, and difficulty while trying to shepherd God’s people faithfully. Along with these men I have talked with several Baptist Directors of Missions with each of them telling me about the churches under their care that have struggles and difficulties.

I’m of the opinion that there are many pastors and churches that are struggling. I believe the significance of these difficulties are hindering Kingdom work because pastors, staff, and churches are trying to function in unhealthy situations. But all of that is for another time, this blog is for different purpose.

If God allows, I will search out diligently pastors and other ministers who are wounded and hurting. Men and women who try to do their best to honor God in vocational ministry but find themselves under attack… struggling to be faithful… and feel like giving up. I want to find these faithful servants, come along side them, and encourage them in every way I can (2 Tim 1:16-17; 2 Cor 1:3-5). I’m calling what I am attempting Redemption Ministry.

Only other pastors know how difficult it is to be an undershepherd to God’s people (Paul’s hardest difficulty!). I want to go to my brothers in ministry who are hurting. I want to listen to their struggles and encourage them (Regardless of the reason for their struggle!). I want to come along side them… give them practical resources to help them… and walk with them through dark times into times of refreshing (If God so wills). I would like to be like this man was to Paul (2 Tim 1:16-17)…

May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains, 17 but when he arrived in Rome he searched for me earnestly and found me…

I’ve seen good and bad times… blessing and hardship… victories and failure. I have walked where most struggling minister are and can help them (God willing) to not give up hope. My personal prayer request is for God to make the connections for this ministry.

Suggestion: Encourage your pastor every chance you get because they are “keeping watch over your soul as those who will give an account” (Heb 13:17-b).