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

Advertisements

Defrauded Christians

fraudThis post is an introduction for the next two days. Be sure to check back…

Co-workers malign you unfairly. They misrepresent you to your boss. People lie about you and your family. People do things that harm you and yours for many years. So should you: Get even… malign them… do unto them as they did unto you… exact your pound of flesh… go after eye for eye… take them to court (Slander/libel)?

Following Christ is contrary to the desires of an unregenerate heart. It isn’t natural to turn the other cheek when treated wrong. It isn’t natural to do good to those who harm us… to help those who stab you in the back… to bless a person who insults you… to take a hit and not fight back when people attack you. We want to defend out name… prove we aren’t what others say we are… and protect our reputation. Consider 1 Cor 6:5-8…

Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers, 6 but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers? 7 To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? 8 But you yourselves wrong and defraud—even your own brothers!

Paul writes to take the hit… be wronged… be defrauded. It is better to endure those things than for the name of Christ to be maligned.

The name of Christ… the reputation of Christianity… and the validity of the Gospel are more important than “winning” a dispute in a church. Humility and obedience will cause a Christian to “Suffer according to God’s (and) entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good” (1 Pet 4:17).

The hallmark of a Christian is their attitude and conduct in the face of suffering wrong… especially when the wrong happens from within the church or from church members. If or when someone (Anyone… including church members) say or do things that harm you, choose to take God at His Word from Romans 12:10…

Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 12 Be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 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. 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, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “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.

Sorely Needed In Church

frustrationI used to watch Fox News Channel (CNN, MSNBC, etc), now I don’t. The reason is I’m disappointed that the world’s attitudes have infiltrated the Church and causing havoc. News outlets staples are accusations… arguing… casting doubt and vitrolic debate. The goal?  WINDefeat the enemy (Whoever disagrees with you).  Persuade everyone YOU are right.

This is in every church I’ve served and it ought not be. I’ve talked to many pastors and what I describe crosses boundaries of denomination and geographical location.

The same issues are in the church as the world: Disagreement… disappointment… mistakes… offenses… differences of opinion, etc. A different set of values is supposed to reign in the church: Grace… mercy… compassion… patience… love… forgiveness… restoration… and reconciliation. Too many have the world’s attitude in the church which stirs up dissension (Which is not of God).

People will fail you sooner or later. They will make mistakes and blow it. As will you. The question is not “If?” but “When and how will you respond?” Will you react like the world or in a manner that glorifies God?

Sorely needed in the church is a serious commitment to compassion, mercy, love, & grace… being patient with all, and especially forgiving as you have been forgiven. Working for restoration when there is brokenness… reconciling instead of dividing because as Jesus said, “All men will know you are my disciples by your love for one another” (John 13:35). As one pastor I know teaches his congregation, “We don’t talk about people, we talk to them!” I like that.

Two concepts needed in church when there is stress: “Whatever happens, conduct yourself in a manner worthy of the Gospel” (Phil 1:27).  “If it is possible, as much as it depends on you, be at peace with all men” (Ro 12:18).

No matter what others may do… YOU follow Philippians 1:27 and Romans 12:18.

CLICK

But I AM INNOCENT!!!

Ever used phrases like: “It just isn’t right…” “It’s not fair…” “He/she doesn’t deserve THAT…” “You don’t know what it’s like to be treated like this…” “I don’t deserve this!”? Consider 1 Corinthians 4:2-4…

It is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy. 3 But 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.

We ALL believe ourselves to be innocent. We ALL think the OTHER person is guilty. EVERYONE sees themselves as the martyr… the one who is RIGHT… the one that IS misunderstood… and being treated unfairly. There’s just one problem and Paul (The Apostle) points it out (If we’ll not be defensive and listen to the Spirit inspired Word we might learn something)…

Just because we think we’re innocent doesn’t mean we are innocent (4:4). Just because we are convinced we’re right, doesn’t mean others are wrong. Just because a person has another perspective doesn’t mean they are an enemy. Sometimes I think about myself and ask… “I see your point Ron, but have you considered that YOU HAVE contributed to this situation AND that in all this God has lessons for YOU to learn?” That’s a hard concept to embrace.

NO ONE is completely innocent… ever (Including me). NO ONE really is perfectly pure… holy… righteous… or RIGHT (Ever). In every situation and/or event, no matter how minute or miniscule, there ARE things we shouldn’t have done… should have done differently… and/or could have done better. The problem is our hearts are so infected with sin we justify and rationalize our behavior to become the martyr while casting others as evil… most every time. So what is my point?

In every event… situation… circumstance… or problem, we need to ask God: “Father… what lesson do you have for me about myself in this?” “Lord… show me my blind spot(s) so that I may be more like your Son.” “Father God… reveal to me what I need to repent of, ask forgiveness for, and change so that I don’t cause others to stumble because of this.” “God… please show me what I need to do that honors You regardless of what anyone else says or does…” (Phil 1:27; 1 Cor 10:31).

Any person who believes they are completely innocent… absolutely guilt free… or did everything perfectly in a situation is massively deceiving themselves (1 Cor 4:4). Paul the Apostle recognized this and wrote about it in Romans 7…

15 I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 18 I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 23 In my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Conflicted Churches (Part 2)

Yesterday I posted about churches and some of the problems I know… some problems I’ve heard of… and some I’ve experienced.  Readers from yesterday may wonder why I didn’t give the other side of the story about ministers who conduct themselves improperly.  Well, those are pretty much widely known, so I took the approach of being “equal time” in my post.

Yet the question arises… How should difficult church/minister relations be handled?  At this point I’d like to make a few suggestions… from experience and observation.  First the Scripture…

1 Timothy 5:19 Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses.

Galatians 6:1 Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.  Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. 2  Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

Romans 2:24 The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.

Paul writes in 1 Timothy 5 that there must be… EVIDENCENot hearsay, not rumors, not gossip… EVIDENCE that an Elder (Called minister of the church) has committed some act that is worthy (explained below) of being disciplined or… as happens in many churches… forced to leave or terminated.  The EVIDENCE must come from TWO or THREE who have WITNESSED the event in question.  Now let’s take that a step further…

In America the accused has the right to be confronted by his accusers.  He is also presumed innocent until proven guilty.  He also has the right to give his side of the story about the event or situation.  Yet it has been my experience (Did you catch that… “my experience“) that the accusers prefer to manipulate the system.  “Wtinesses” don’t want to step up and go public with their accusation.  They prefer to not put all their cards on the table.  They don’t want or seek reconciliation or restoration, they want their way regaardless of Scriptural mandates.   They prefer to work behind the scenes with threats rather than bring everything (!) into the light.  That attitude and practice is an affront to God… Christ… and the Scriptures.  Not only that, it just ain’t right!  Shouldn’t the church AT LEAST practice the same as the world when it comes to accusations… in other words be able to confront those accusing them, be presumed innocent till proven guilty, and be able to give their side of the story?

Aside: What are offenses worthy of dismissal?  Sexual Immorality, Embezzlement, and Doctrinal Heresy.  Excluding those, I’m of the opinion that all others can be worked through and settled without causing undue harm to the Name of Christ… the Christian Faith… and the reputation of the local church in question.  The eventual conclusion may mean a change of ministry positions, but not without attempts to help restore the minister and rectify the situation.

In Galatians 6 Paul gives clear direction regarding ATTITUDE when difficult situations arise.  The goal is RESTORATION.  And it is to be done GENTLY (Which is very rare in church situations).  Not only is the meeting between two parties to be gentle rather than confrontational or accusatory… those confronting the minister must have first examined themselves (“Keep watch on yourselves”).  In what way should they have gone through self-examination?

They need to make sure there’s not a log in their own eye before they accuse someone else.

They need to contemplate if they are part of the problem.

They need to determine if there have been attempts to help the minister prior to the “final option” of firing him.

They must have a godly motivation to HELP the minister rather than getting rid of a problem.

They must make very sure that what they do is being done in keeping with the Scripture and admonition of love.

They must make very sure that their goal is to glorify God in what they are doing.

They must make very sure they are willing to help the minister (“Bear one another’s burdens”).

After going through this check list diligently, only then can they prayerfully approach the minister with respect.

But all that takes work doesn’t it?  All that seems to be too hard… right?  After all, “Can a leopard change his spots?”  No… but God can.  Remember, “With God all things are possible.”

My hope is that somewhere, somehow, sometime, SOMEONE will read this and at least think through how they deal with difficult church/minister relationships.  After all, if they aren’t handled in a Godly manner, the name of God is blasphemed (Romans 2:24)…

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).

Ways To Destroy A Church (D.A. Carson)

I am burdened for the church in America.  I believe Jesus when He said, “I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it,” but I’m struggling to put my arms around His truth and what I see.  I know that the world will know we are Christ’s followers “by our love one for another,” but I’m troubled that not many are meeting the test.  God is doing something and whatever it is, I want to be a part of healing… restoring… and building the church in any way I can.

Maybe part of where I am is to bring in a very small way some realization of the church’s condition.  A good physician tells people what their symptoms mean, so maybe the churches need to hear messages that are more prophetic about how church is supposed to be conducted.  The first step is to herald a warning… to yell “fire” so that those who are sleeping can wake up.  If that’s the case, maybe these few posts might make a slight difference at least in some believer’s understanding of what is going on in the church in America.

Consider how it is possible for a church to lose its effectiveness from Dr. D. A. Carson…

“The ways of destroying the church are many and colorful.  Raw factionalism will do it.  Rank heresy will do it.  Taking your eyes off the cross and letting other, more peripheral matters dominate the agenda will do it–admittedly more slowly than frank heresy, but just as effectively over the long haul.  Building the church with superficial ‘conversions’ and wonderful programs that rarely bring people into a deepening knowledge of the living God will do it.  Entertaining people to death but never fostering the beauty of holiness or the centrality of self-crucifying love will build an assembling of religious people, but it will destroy the church of the living God.  Gossip, prayerlessness, bitterness, sustained biblical illiteracy, self-promotion, materialism–all of these things, and many more, can destroy a church.  And to do so is dangerous: ‘If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple (1 Cor. 3:17).  It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”