Dancing In The Dungeon

9781462734993_COVER.inddOne reason for a blog is to disseminate information. Thus, I have published a book titled: “Dancing In The Dungeon: Suffering With Hopeful Joy For God’s Glory.” It can be found on Amazon and Barnes & Noble as of this date. The Kindle edition should be available soon (God willing).

I wrote DITD first for my children to have a resource one day when life kicks them in the teeth… then for all my brothers and sisters in Christ to experience the God of comfort by considering how God comforted me in my trials (2 Cor 1:3-4). DITD is filled with practical ways God comforted me. It is written as one who’s walked a somewhat difficult path and found God faithful. DITD isn’t a philosophical treatise nor a bunch of ivory tower Bible studies about suffering. Three men who endorsed DITD say it better than I can…

Dr. Rick Lance (Executive Director of Alabama Baptists)

The problem of suffering has always haunted Christians. If you are a follower of Christ, why do you suffer? The answer to that age old question is not easy, but it may be obvious. Because we are followers of Christ, we experience suffering.

Ron Ethridge has transformed his story of dealing with suffering into a book which is a helpful guide for all of us. Dancing In The Dungeon is a personal story. Ron is very transparent in telling about those moments when he suffered most in life. He does so knowing that our God can use suffering for His glory. That is the theme of this book.

Dancing In The Dungeon is not only personal in nature, but Biblical in content and practical in application. As a fellow-sufferer, you find comfort and hope in the pages of this book. You will be encouraged to worship, pray and serve our Lord, even in the midst of suffering.

I am grateful that Ron Ethridge has shared his story and the redemptive lessons which can be learned from it. Experiences of suffering can be and should be a laboratory of learning for Christ followers.

Dr. Timothy George (Founding Dean of Beeson Divinity School of Samford University)

Ron Ethridge is an ordained Baptist minister whose past service in the church follows a well-trodden trajectory. Brought up in the church, followed by undergraduate studies in a denominational setting, and then seminary at a fine theological school, Ron was ready to pursue a life of pastoral ministry in fulfillment of what he was sure was God’s calling on his life. Then, midstream, Ron found himself on the outside of the church looking in when he was asked to leave two of the churches he had been called to serve. Rather than precipitate a knock-down floor fight at the church business meeting, Ron decided to walk away.

Ron admits that he himself made mistakes along the way and that, in hindsight, he would do some things quite differently. This book is not about victimhood or retaliation. Rather, it is the anguished cry of a wounded shepherd, one who has come to understand that healing only happens in the broken places. Through Redemption Ministry, Ron Ethridge is now reaching out to all who are hurting with an emphasis on fellow ministers who find themselves the situation of conflict, and possibly termination, on that part of God’s flock they have been called to serve. Ron wants to come alongside his fellow struggling pastors and hurting Christians to offer encouragement and counsel.

Dr. Ray Pritchard (Keep Believing Ministries; Author of: An Anchor for the Soul, The Healing Power of Forgiveness)

We all go through hard times. As Ron Ethridge wisely reminds us, no one gets a free ride through life. That certainly includes pastors who serve in vocational ministry. If that’s the bad news, then the good news is that God uses those hard times for our good and his glory. Dancing in the Dungeon takes us to the ragged edge of life to show us that when we feel most forgotten, God is doing his best work in us. Of all the good things about this book, the best is that Ron brings us back again and again to the Bible so that we will discover what God has said about the hard times of life. Read it so that you will be equipped when your time comes to dance in the dungeon.

Here are a few chapter titles:

What God Can Do. Reflection: One Night From Hell

A Theology Of Encouragement. Reflection: Satan’s Achilles Heel…Forgiveness

Why Me, Why This, Why Now? Reflection: The Problem Of God And Evil

When God Is Silent. Reflection: Before All Hell Breaks Loose

Comfort When Betrayed. Reflection: Enemies As Emissaries of God’s Grace

Comfort In Personal Failure. Reflection: Mind Over Heart

When Sheep Attack Shepherds.

How To Fire A Minister.

Blessings.

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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

I’m Disappointed…?

disappointPaul wrote, “Speak the truth in love” (Eph 4:15). Thus…

It is time for those who are believers… who love Jesus… and care for the Bride of Christ to conduct themselves as such. It is time for Christians to carry out what God commands about forgiveness, mercy, restoration, and reconciliation. Not preachers… not staff either. Deacons. Opinion leaders. The people who tell pastors in secret they support them to do so openly! Why? Keep reading…

For a while I have been observing a significant number of ministers suffering and hurting… silently… in private… unbeknownst to many. I must say that I have been surprised by the depth and significance of the pain these men are enduring. People who are supposed to be relating to them according to Hebrews 13:17 (“Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.”)  is appalling. I’ve seen it so many times I am close to agreeing with the piccy to the right…

The depth of pain and hurt inflicted on ministers (Primarily Pastors) by church members is just not right! As I hear my brother’s stories I ask… Where is love? Where is forgiveness? Where is grace? Where is mercy? What happened to compassion?! Yes, I AM defensive for my brothers in the ministry! Yes, I am incensed at the way pastors are treated. I ask… “How long oh Lord will You allow this to continue?”

Consider: Five years after graduating seminary 50% will have quit the ministry. 1,700 ministers are fired every month in the U.S. Why is such true? Because of how dysfunctional many congregations are.

When a pastor (Because he didn’t have good “leadership skills”) is given two weeks to get out of the house and two weeks severance, something is wrong. When a pastor is told he doesn’t have a vision the same as the staff and therefore he must resign, something is terribly wrong. When deacons allow church members to spread rumors and lies about the pastor that undercut his credibility with the congregation, there is a problem (Not with the pastor!). When it is acceptable for the tail to wag the dog in a congregation (Rejecting a pastor’s leadership), that fellowship is dysfunctional. When church leadership refuse to support the pastor because the people they’d have to confront are their friends, well… what can be said?

Disappointed? Almost. This I know, there are wolves among the sheep and tares among the wheat. The problem is at times it is difficult to tell the two apart. Sometimes it isn’t. It is obvious a person is a believer when they seek: Reconciliation, forgiveness, show mercy… grace… and compassion, to those who they don’t understand… necessarily agree with… and especially with those who have failed.

I’m done now…

Dysfunction In Churches (Pastors And People)

RM Logo 2True story: At a church business meeting the Pastor was told by a deacon, “I have a knife and I plan to use it on you tonight.” Then another deacon opened the door to the church and said, “See that ambulance? I plan to put so much pressure on you tonight they take you out and put you in it.”

God willing, I desire to find hurting and struggling ministers like this brother to help and encourage them. I am calling this endeavor Redemption Ministries. My observation and experience is that many ministers are hurting and wounded, as are churches. Many churches are ailing because the ministers and staff are ailing physically, emotionally, and spiritually. If God will allow, I want to find these ministers and become a “Onesiphorus” to them (2 Tim 1:16-17). I also desire (GW) to help and encourage congregations that are troubled.

My thinking is that if God would allow me to help, support, encourage, and strengthen His under-shepherds (Ministers)… then they would better be able to do the same thing for the sheep of His pasture (Congregants)… that would result in healthier congregations… by which God is glorified.

I’m asking God to allow me to bring meaningful resources to ministers (And possibly their congregations) for comfort, healing, and restoration. In Scripture it is called “speaking the truth in love” (Eph 4:15). There will be massive doses of encouragement… affirmation… comfort… counsel… support… prayer… and practical helps I am pulling together that will be on a website soon (GW).

Why this ministry? Because I have been in difficult situations during my 23 years of pastoral ministry. Most pastors I know struggle without adequate support and resources. I have struggled alone, wept bitterly, been confused, questioned my calling, not slept, been depressed, and deeply wounded by the words and actions of others in congregations. I know what it is like to make mistakes and beat myself up because of them… AND have God comfort me through them all! Thus I want to live out what Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 1:3-7

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. 6 If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. 7 Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.

SDG

Fire The Pastor? Think First

joemckeeverBelow are seven things Joe McKeever suggests churches consider before asking a pastor to resign.  Click here to read the entire article which is full of practical wisdom.

1. Are you doing this in obedience to Christ… or is this just something you want done?

2. Are you willing to stand before the Lord at judgment and take full responsibility for doing this?

3. Have you brought in outside counsel? (More than one person)

4. Has the pastor been able to present his side of the matter before a responsible, non-judgmental group?

5. Have you checked your church’s constitution and by-laws to make sure you are doing things right? NOTE: I would add, have you searched the Scriptures to honor God in the process? A good start is The Golden Rule. RE

6. Have you rushed into this?

7. Are you willing to tell the full story to the next pastor you consider bringing in?

His concluding comment: So, church leader, think this thing through. What kind of church do you want yours to become?

Having served several churches that fired the pastor prior to me, I understand Mr. McKeever’s thoughts. I’ve had men who were part of forcing a pastor to resign that deeply regretted their conduct later. Oh if we all would take more time to search the Scriptures and pray for God’s direction before we act we’d all be much better off and the church would not get a black eye in the world.

My purpose in posting this is that hopefully some may read Mr. McKeever’s article while considering seriously his points.

The Scarlet “T”

TrmatdIf/When you are terminated where you work or serve, consider the following…

Those in authority have just told you your services are no longer needed. Your days are over. There’s no need to stay any longer. You’ve been TERMINATED. What do you do now? What will you tell your wife… kids… and friends? Who would want someone with a “Scarlet T” on their chest?

Not long back everyone loved you. They patted your back and glad you came. But once you began carrying out your responsibilities as a believer in Christ, opposition arose. Some supported you, but others saw you as a threat. Then the day came it was easier for you to be let go than needed changes to take place… and you were the most expendable. Your head is spinning from being blindsided. Deep in your soul you ask… “God, why?!”

This type event is played out in varying degrees across America every day… in businesses and churches. You may be reading this by Divine providence. If so, my prayer is you will find words of comfort and encouragement in light of 2 Cor 1:3-4.

As one who knows what it is like to be in difficult circumstances… including the dreaded “Scarlet T,” what I present is tried and true. God made what follows real in the midst of fire, pain, tears, doubt, and fear. Though I felt abandoned and betrayed, God keeps His Word even when our faith is at 90… 70… 50… 30%… or less (2 Tim 2:13)!

My strong encouragement is to not only read these texts, but meditate on them deeply, often, and constantly. Pray them to God. Ask God to push them deep into your heart. You know, “Man does not live by bread alone but every Word that proceeds from His mouth…” (Mt 4:4).

You Are In Good Company (Matthew 5:10-12)

Joseph was hated by his brothers, almost murdered, sold into slavery twice, falsely accused of rape, unjustly thrown into prison, and forgotten (Gen 50:20). David was stalked by King Saul who made several attempts on his life (1 Sam 18:11). Isaiah was sawed in two. Jeremiah struggled with depression (Jer 9:1) was beaten and imprisoned (Jer 32:1-3; 33:1; 37:15-21; 38:6-13; 39:15-18). Three Hebrew youths were thrown into a furnace (Dan 3:16-25). Daniel was thrown into a lion’s den (Dan 6:16). Steven was stoned to death (Acts 7:54-60). Paul was constantly persecuted (2 Cor 11:23-29). The Apostles were all murdered, except for John who was exiled to Patmos. Early Christians were martyred (Acts 8:3, 22:4). And then there was Jesus (1 Peter 2:19-25; Hebrews 13:12-15)…

Without minimizing what you are going through, remember what those before you have endured (1 Peter 5:6-10). From all these things remember God’s promise that you are in good company in your suffering. You are blessed eternally and your reward in heaven is great (Mt 5:10-12).

God Is With You (Hebrews 13:5)

God Will Sustain You (2 Cor 12:9-10)

God Will Comfort You (2 Cor 1:3-4)

God Is Working For Your Good (Ro 8:28-29)

God Is Increasing Your Eternal Rewards (2 Tim 4:7-8)

God Is Proving He Loves You Deeply (Heb 12:3-14)

God Has Willed This For His Glory And Your Ultimate Good (Phil 1:29)

Your Ultimate Good Is Conformity To Christ, To Share In HIS Holiness (Ro 8:29; Heb 12:10-B)

Therefore, By A Scripture Driven Heart, Rejoice In What God Is Doing (Ja 1:2-4 with Ro 8:29)

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)…