A Sick Body


                                  John M. Crowe, M.Div., D.Min.



I. Startling Statistics.


Statistics regarding healthy pastor-parish relationships are startling. Karen Krakower in her 1997 Internet article, “Clergy in Crisis: Who ministers to the ministers?” shares the following:


Nearly a fourth, 22.8 percent of pastors have either been terminated or forced to resign.



Nearly two-thirds, 62 percent, of the forced-out pastors said the church that dumped them had also forced out other pastors-and 41 percent said the church had done it more than twice.


Nearly half, 43 percent, of the forced-out pastors said a “faction” in the church forced them to leave, and 71 percent of those indicated that the “faction” membered 10 or fewer congregates.


Only 20 percent of the forced-out pastors said the real reason for their leaving was made known to the congregation.


George Barna’s 1998 Internet Press Release “Survey Provides Profile of Protestant Pastors” reports the subsequent sad news:


Long pastorates are increasingly uncommon these days. A mere 6% of today’s pastors-just one out of every seventeen pastors-has been at his or her current church for more than 20 years. The types of individuals who last for an extended period in one church are those in churches that are not growing numerically, pastors of fundamentalist churches, and those who rate their own teaching and preaching as average or worse. The types of pastors least likely to last for a prolonged term in a given church are those with the spiritual gift of leadership.


Furthermore, the Mission Growth Studies did some research for the Board of Higher Education of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. Their study reveals the following church health issues related to clergy drop out:


People, both laity and clergy, are verbally and emotionally beating on each other;


Outward oriented clergy are consistently mismatched with inward oriented churches;


Failing to send only the most mature pastor and strong pastoral family in hopes of bringing peace into a fighting congregation;


The extremely low level of trust held by pastors concerning denominational means of assistance;


A large number of pastors are in the advanced stages of professional and personal burnout;


Pastors’ wives and children stand in greater need of support than pastors;


Grossly unreasonable expectations too often lead pastors to neglect their own health and family;


Allowing churches with a long history of chewing up one pastor and family after another continue without any substantial intervention;


A few congregations who are held hostage by an EGO-centered minority who Edge God Out;
and the need for pastors to address what drives them in ministry and live balanced lives. (Klaas and Klaas)


(See also Clergy Health Studies and Statistics.)


In addition, some denominational leaders indicate that “the most optimistic assessment is that 20 percent of our churches are functioning as living organisms and bearing substantial fruit. They estimate that between 35 to 50 percent are dysfunctional, bearing no fruit at all” (Anderson and Mylander 13). Despite tremendous church growth efforts, “it is estimated that 80 percent of church growth in recent years is a result of people moving from one church to another” (London and Wiseman 36).


II. The Real Scandal of the Church.


If someone asked you to tell them the greatest tragedy of the American Church within our lifetime, what would you name? Was it the scandals of the TV evangelists several years ago? Is it the increased interest in non-Christian religions like the New Age movement, Islam, and Buddhism? Is it the decrease of biblical values and morality among church people? No, as Robert Moeller wrote in 1994 in his book, Love In Action,


The well-publicized televangelist scandals of the late eighties did minimal harm to the reputation of the church in our culture—that is, in comparison to the true scandal of our time. The true scandal is the way Christians mistreat one another, fighting and conducting uncivil wars against one another in churches across our nation. (41)


This description and the statistics mentioned earlier help us understand why people are writing so many books about church health. They also make clear the reason for the recent works about spiritual abuse, sick churches and unhealthy conflict (Anderson and Mylander; Boers; Enroth; Haugk; Johnson and VanVonderen; Mains Moeller; Rediger; VanVonderen).



    A. Clergy Abuse.


Unfortunately, the lay leadership and members of unhealthy churches desires the pastor to do their ministry instead of leading them in the ministry of all Christians. Such a passive church becomes an audience and not a body. Then the audience becomes the critic of the latest pastoral performance. Ogden confronts such an unhealthy attitude by stating “the biblical emphasis is not on the ‘omnicompetent’ pastor, but a ‘multigifted’ body” (75).


Unhealthy churches also frequently abuse their pastors by “cutting their salary or slicing away at their integrity with gossip” (Hansen 124). As Rediger bluntly states in his book, Clergy Killers,


The growing abuse is also a significant commentary on the mental and spiritual health of the church, for how the church treats its leaders reveals even more about the church than about the leaders. Only a sick and dying church batters its pastors. (20)


One of the great tragedies of our day is the increase in forced pastoral resignations. Two of the leading causes of the crisis of clergy burnout, dropout, and kickout involve conflict over who is in charge and the lack of unity in churches (Ross).


The high number of such forced pastoral resignations are not surprising when seen in the light of a survey of one-thousand pastors and churches. Only 10 percent of the churches and their pastors said “the purpose of the church is to win the world for Jesus Christ” (Warren, Purpose 82).


All of the above church health problems help us understand the following statistics about pastors as a whole in America from H.B. London and Neil Wiseman’s book, Pastors at Risk. Consider the following sobering survey results of the personal and professional lives of the clergy:


90% of pastors work more than 46 hours a week.


80% believe that pastoral ministry has affected their families negatively.


33% say that being in the ministry is a hazard to their family.


75% reported a significant stress-related crisis at least once in their ministry.


70% say they have a lower self-esteem than when they started in the ministry.


70% do not have someone they consider a close friend.


40% report a serious conflict with a parishioner at least once a month. (22)


(See also “Prescriptions for the Epidemic”)


    B. The Business Model.


Rediger, author of Clergy Killers, points out a major contributor to the problem of poor church health. Whenever churches operate from a business model that does not view pastors as spiritual leaders of a mission, they become sick (19-20, 26-27, 53). (See article below, "Church Inc. Chrushes People) Often, pastors learn such a business, competency, performance model in seminary. As Brewer points out,


In the broad sweep of learning that comprises seminary education, the spiritual formation of the minister remains largely neglected. Pastors lead the church in the way they are trained with a primary focus upon competency and performance (17).


With pastors who have learned to place a premium on human technique and control in pastoral ministry, churches learn this unhealthy business model from their pastoral leadership.

When the business model replaces the biblical model of mission in a church, the consequent blood filled waters breed clergy killers. As Rediger accurately points out,

Because the church…has succumbed to the business model of operation…the pastor has become an employee, and parishioners the stockholders/customers. The pastor is hired to manage the small business we used to call a congregation. This means his primary task is to keep the stockholders happy; the secondary task is to produce and market an attractive product. When this mindset infects the church, the church is no longer a mission but has become a business. Parishioners and pastors agree that participants are “entitled” to a fair return on their investments; that any member can disrupt normal polity; that employment contracts and evaluations only of the pastor are the norm; and that evangelism is essentially a marketing effort…the budget is necessarily the bottom line…This is the reverse of how a healthy congregation functions. When the church operates as a mission, the pastor is “called” rather than hired. He “serves” God first, and the denomination and congregation second.


Whether parishioners “like” or “dislike” the pastor is irrelevant, for the pastor comes with authority to nurture and lead them spiritually. Liking and disliking are the parishioners’ problem, not the pastor’s. (53)


A general sense of entitlement is growing in the church, as well as in society. Church members feel entitled to comfort and privilege. It a pastor does not please them, they feel free to criticize and punish. The business mentality that pervades the church says if the CEO (pastor) does not produce, the pastor should be fired. (20).


The market-driven business model is unhealthy for more than only the pastor, the pastor’s family, and the congregation. It is also unhealthy for the evangelistic outreach of the church. While various marketing campaigns attract crowds of people, many are leaving in their search for a community of truth, reality, and authenticity (Dawn, Hendricks). Does this factor help us understand some of why the majority of church growth in America involves the transfer of people?


    C. Broken Homes and Dysfunctional Persons.


Another part of the church health problem involves the breakdown of the home. London and Wiseman share the following startling information:

Now dysfunctional family relationships are so common that a high percentage of individuals in every congregation carry scars from a fractured childhood. They look to the church as their most convenient help. When churches ignore these pains in persons in their fellowship, the unresolved issues pop up in strange and unexpected ways. Like an acre of dandelions, the crop gets worse when ignored. (45)


Also, Carder et al. writes,


Since churches are made up of families, it only makes sense that they often operate exactly like the family-of-origin pattern of the dominant leader and/or of the congregants. Many of us select the church system we do because of the unfinished business we carry from our family of origin. (17-18)


As Bill Hybels points out in his book Rediscovering Church,


In an increasingly dysfunctional society, individuals are becoming increasingly aware of their emotional needs, their loneliness, and their need for help. Victims of child abuse need a safe place to heal. Those recovering from divorce need understanding and guidance. Single parents need emotional support and tangible help. Though many of these people reject the distant-God image and impersonal church environment of their childhood, they long for (spiritual re-parenting) and for a loving “family to take them in” (15).


This is another reason why the business model is unhealthy. It tends to crush wounded people.


Knowing the brokenness of today’s society helps us to understand the new challenge in developing leaders and ministries within a church. According to Dale Galloway and Kathi Mills in the book, The Small Group Book,


Most churches today are filled with broken, bruised, inexperienced converts, but few healthy, dedicated disciples. That’s why it is so hard to find enough competent, qualified and willing leaders to begin and maintain needed ministries (14).


Any leadership team composed of unhealthy, wounded, persons offers little help to the health of a congregation. For one thing, they cannot help prevent a church and/or its pastor from a hostile take-over. Like a foreign mold of church life and ministry, these takeovers sometime sneak in like a ‘Trojan Horse’. These foreign molds are formed by the hidden agendas and out-of-order lives of some who transfer in or who arise from within a church (Crowe and Fischer, “Dealing with”; Galloway, 20/20).


Instead of wallowing in frustration, pastors can plan to develop leaders by first working on the Christian discipleship of their leaders and potential leaders on a one on one basis and in small groups. However, occasionally the dysfunctional issues of a church member in a voluntary ministry role, an elected office, or a staff position expresses itself as some disorder behind various religious masks (Oates; Pate and Pate). Whatever their problem, these Extra Grace Needed people need help. Sometimes, their issues obstruct them in fulfilling their roles. When that happens, take steps of loving action for their health and the health of the church. This means graciously informing them that their lives are out of order. Then point them toward a time out of healing. Small groups focused on dysfunctional issues related to boundaries, past hurts, etc. can help such wounded brothers and sisters in Christ find holy wholeness in Jesus (Crabb, Thompson).



    D. Wounded Healers: Abused or Abusive?


The dysfunctional issues of either pastors and/or their families sometimes express themselves as different dysfunctions behind various religious masks as well (Oates, Wayne C; Pate, Marvin and Sheryl L. Pate). Conrad Weiser’s book, Healers: Harmed & Harmful, shares the following bleak description:


The literature about church professionals or congregations often presents health as the predominant condition and makes sickness or dysfunction the exception. The truth seems darker--in fact, the data indicate the reverse. As life-stage theoreticians have indicated over the last few decades, change--not stability--is the norm, and change moves toward dysfunction and disequilibrium, not toward health. (4) 


If one-quarter to one-third of the clergy are at risk or operating at less than mature levels, then each congregation served by this portion of the professional population will remain in or move toward immaturity. Five to seven years are needed for a congregation to grow and heal after an inadequate ministry. If the average length of a ministry in one place is seven years or less, then at any one point in time as many as 60 percent of all parishes are dysfunctional or potentially so--no small systemic  issue. Mature pastors can spend most of their time cleaning up dysfunction and immaturity in parish after parish in an endless circle. What clergy-person wants to undertake the task of establishing healthy functioning while knowing that this congregation has a two-out-of-three chance of becoming dysfunctional again? It is as if healthy pastors are window washers who create a clear vision for only brief periods of time until the glass becomes clouded and distorted again. (6)


His book highlights the imperative need of all clergy to heed the call to physical, mental and spiritual fitness. Otherwise, healthy pastors will continue cleaning up after an at-risk clergy person explodes like a time bomb.


A close study of Christian leadership helps one begin to understand our need as pastors to grow healthier ourselves. Then pastors can become developers of leadership teams and to act as change agents for the sake of building churches focused on healthy church growth. In light of these observations, Rick Warren contrasts the skills needed for growing a church and those needed for building a healthy church.


The skills may not be all that different, but growing a healthy church depends on the personal character of the leader. It is possible for an unhealthy pastor to lead a growing church, but it takes a healthy pastor to lead a healthy church. You can’t lead people further than you are in your own spiritual health. (“Comprehensive Health” 22)


    E. Penetrating Church Health Questions.


Church growth literature depicts the practical fruit of approaching church health from a biblical, organic model. At the heart of this matter are three questions primarily for church health that pastors need to ask themselves, the staff, the officers and the congregation.


“Who is our master?” (Warren, Purpose 71) Jesus is truly Lord of a healthy church. Unhealthy churches are mastered by tradition, personality, finances, programs, buildings, events, or by seekers. (77-79)


 “What is our motive?” (Purpose 71) The Holy Spirit provides the motive of God’s love in our hearts. He provides us with the power to be Jesus’ witnesses (Galloway, 20/20 43-56).


“What is our message?” (Purpose 71) The master and head of the church, Jesus Christ, gives us our apostolic message. (Hunter, Church for 28-30)


Warren’s three questions concerning church health can also be applied to church leaders. The inner orientation of unhealthy church leaders is on institutional matters while that of healthy church leaders are on matters of mission (Easum and Bandy 12). Unhealthy church leaders could easily support a church day care because it is a nice service to the community and brings in additional income. Healthy church leaders will support it for the sake of reaching into homes of the community to share the transforming Gospel. The various motives for pursuing a stewardship campaign or writing a new mission statement also illustrates the contrast between healthy and unhealthy church leadership (Easum and Bandy 13-14).


    F.  A New Definition of Church Health.


My research considered the mechanistic and organic approaches to defining church health. I favored an organic approach rooted in basic Christian teaching about the Church.



            a. Mechanistic Definition Critiqued.


Peter Wagner’s book, Your Church Can Grow: Seven Signs of a Healthy Church, launched a new direction for the twenty-year-old church growth movement. Since 1976, church growth literature has focused on church health or vitality. While Wagner defines church growth, he never offers readers a compact definition of church health. Each of his seven chapters concerning the signs of church health focuses on their contribution to church growth.


Wagner contends that a growing church will demonstrate vitality in most of the following seven signs of a healthy church:


A pastor who is a possibility thinker and whose dynamic leadership has been used to catalyze the entire church into action for growth.


A well-mobilized laity which has discovered, has developed, and is using all the spiritual gifts for growth.


A church big enough to provide the range of services that meets the needs and expectations of its members.


The proper balance of the dynamic relationship between celebration, congregation, and cell.


A membership drawn primarily from one homogeneous unit.


Evangelistic methods that have proved to make disciples.


Priorities arranged in biblical order. (67-68)


His one sentence description of the pastor’s leadership role in the first sign could lead to a focus upon personality and task orientation alone. However, his chapter on this first sign speaks more of earning the authority to lead through building loving relationships with the people. From a foundation of mutual love and trust between pastor and people arises the second sign of a healthy church; the laity are liberated to discover, develop, and use their gifts for ministry.


If these first two signs are in place, the next five could naturally develop from that foundation. The seventh sign of having their priorities ordered biblically could influence such healthy development. The biblical ordering of a congregation’s life means majoring on bringing people to God more than on increasing attendance of programs. Healthy churches do this because their members have become new creatures through trust in Jesus and daily live for God. They also do this out of their commitment to the body of Christ and to Christ’s work in the world (Wagner 180-182).


Other works explored the contribution of worship, small groups, lay ministry and pastoral leadership to church health (Callahan, Schaller and Tidwell). These books either ignored or assumed a church’s passionate spirituality and unity in Christian love. They also failed to address the place of biblical teaching concerning the Church in shaping a congregation. Like Wagner’s books, these books view a church as a machine. From their mechanistic view arises a rational analysis and solutions to make a church function more effectively. As James Hopewell points out in his book, Congregation Stories and Structures, “Mechanistic images power most of Wagner’s points: dynamics, catalysis, mobilization, size, range, balance, unit, priority and order” (25). For Wagner, Lyle Schaller, and others, “the primary need of churches today is the rationalization of congregational process and the animation of social will to achieve results” (Hopewell 26).



            b. An Organic Approach Evaluated.


A work which takes a contrary viewpoint to the dominant mechanistic approach is Win Arn, Carol Yquist, and Charles Arn’s Who Cares About Love?  Their research noted a strong relationship between Christian love and church growth. Their book presents these findings and offers useful steps for helping churches to grow more loving. His work developed a tool for measuring how loving a congregation or even a whole denomination is perceived to be.


The approach of Arn, Yquist, Arn, and others to a church is organic not mechanistic. Such a view recognizes the variety of people composing congregations and views the Church more like a complex, maturing organism. An organic approach to a church usually has three characteristics. First, the whole of a church is greater than the sum of its unique parts. Second, a church is a dynamic, self-modifying organism due to the interaction and adjustments between its subsystems. Third, the subsystems of a church share its systemic purpose and are responsible to each other for the church’s wholeness (Hopewell 26-28).



 Currently, the organic view of church health is dominated by Family Systems Theory which views the church as an emotional/psychological system. Edwin Friedman was one of the first to apply the Family Systems Theory to churches in his monumental work, Generation to Generation: Family Process in Church and Synagogue. His book and others who have followed in his footsteps have been basically silent in including the Bible and Christian teaching in their writings. 



           c.  My definition of a healthy church body as a living spiritual system in Christ.


The idea of a church body having several subsystems was presented in the the article about a spiritual anatomy of a church body. This analogy helps us see that these interact with each other just like the subsystems of our human anatomy does.


                            Five subsystems of a spiritual anatomy of a church body as a living system in Christ are


1. the head-Jesus Christ;


2. the musculoskeletal system which is made up muscles, bones, and joints-loving harmony;


3. the nervous system-healthy relationships of the pastor and church leaders;


4. the circulation system- the well-being of the pastor as well as the church members in their personal lives, their marriages if married, their families if they have children, their work and their life in the world; and


5. the skin-incarnating or putting flesh on God’s love in the world by obeying the great commission (Matt. 28:16-20) and the great commandment (Matt. 22:36-40).


Four ingredients make up a healthy church body.


1. The Biblical teaching of what it means to be a church in each of its subsystems. Without this, there can be no soundness in the body of Christ.


2. Applying this to our attitudes, behavior, beliefs, thinking, relationships and spirituality.


3. This is possible because of the free gift of God’s grace in Christ.


4. This takes place by the empowering of the Holy Spirit whom Christ promised would empower us to be his witnesses or disciples.


In a nutshell,  a healthy church body is a congregation of holy loving relationships by God's amazing grace in Christ, the empowering of the Holy Spirit, and shaped by New Testament teaching about being the body of Christ for fulfilling both the great commission (Matt. 28:16-20) and practicing the great commandment (Matt. 22:36-40). To say this another way, a healthy church is one where Biblical teaching is being lived out in people’s whole lives in ever increasing maturity in every area of a church’s life and ministries. 



            d. Two Approaches for Evaluating Church Health.


One might use at least two different approaches to evaluate the health of a church. One could use a mechanistic or a whole-person approach.


A mechanistic approach would assess church health based on a single evaluative focus on institutional behavior. Such a focus asks how many people are attending, giving, serving, and praying. On the one hand, it elevates the significance of outward actions related to church involvement as an organized institutional corporation. On the other hand, it unintentionally devalues the person’s thoughts, feelings, spirituality, relationships, and personal behavior related to the church as a living corporate organism. Unfortunately, these churches typically produce an inactive membership of 40 percent to 50 percent of whom half may attend monthly while the other half does not come at all and where one-eighth of the people make the church function (Hunter, Doing Church 4).


On the other hand, a whole-person approach recognizes that the outward actions of church involvement apart from the grace of God in Jesus Christ are unhealthy. Such a focus recognizes that the actions of attending, giving, serving, and praying are supported by a person’s thoughts, feelings, spirituality, relationships, and personal behavior. Here is helpful list of signs of congregational health:


Infectious smiles, laughter, and celebration (not flippancy)


A pandemic sense of reverence and respect (not piousness)


A spreading witness to God’s salvation (not parochial triumphalism)


Fitness in organization and maintenance (not careless shabbiness)


High levels of affirmation and recognition (not jealousy)


Exploratory learning and programming (not stodginess)

Allergic reactions to injustice (not a sense of entitlement)


Quick recuperation form set-backs (not victim-thinking)


Passionate stewardship (not possessiveness)


Chronic interest in negotiating differences (not competitiveness)


Persistent positive expectations (not complaining)


Sensitivity to each other’s needs (not exploitation)


Efficacious care for pastors (not employer-employee attitudes) (Rediger 184).



            e. Summary and Conclusion.


Years of working various church growth programs have left the North American continent as “the only continent where Christianity is in decline” (Moore 1). We see the visible evidence of decline in the increasing number of church closings, clergy health problems, destructive church conflict, and pastoral dropouts. Sometime there is unseen evidence of decline in some churches that appear to thrive outwardly. Their infrastructure’s sickness remains hidden deep inside for a season. Many of these unhealthy churches function solely from a secular business model by crunching numbers about attendance, giving units, numerical growth, and programs. Therefore, the doctrinal formation of the congregation’s spirituality, attitudes, behavior, thinking, and relationships is ignored for the sake of keeping the machine running. Number crunching leads to people crushing as Dwight Carlson points out in his book: “When we focus on these external things, all too often we neglect and inadvertently hurt the wounded among us” (117).


Many churches have benefited very little from various church growth programs over the years. While churches need better attendance, stronger finances, more involvement, and increased membership, something deeper is required to tie everything else together. The biblical focus of being church by God’s free grace in Jesus Christ provides that missing something. It involves the biblical formation concerning the church for people in and between each subsystem of a church body as a living system in Christ. Without such biblical formation, the outer functions of doing church evaporate when divorced from the inner substance of being church. This assertion formed the core of my approach to developing a healthy church.



    G. The Penetrating Question of Church Health from Revelation.


The book of Revelation portrays Jesus Christ standing amidst the churches with fiery eyes examining their faith according to the measure of their love for God and others. Jesus said that by our love, people would know that we are his disciples. Several NT verses speak of the importance of brotherly love within the church. In particular, the NT speaks of faith as demonstrated by loving truthfully in our attitudes, actions, and speech. If a church does not have loving relationships within itself, strangers and those in need are in trouble.


If the relationships with a congregation are angry, tense, irritable, out of biblical balance and otherwise not loving, then strangers, those in need, leaders of the church and others mentioned in Hebrews chapter 13 are in trouble. They will not find the healthy Christ-like love that the whole NT calls us to demonstrate. Biblically speaking, the fiery eyes of our risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ scan the churches of God’s world, our country, our county, and our community. Jesus wonders if he will find faith on earth upon his return. He knows the love of many will grow cold because of sin hardened, embittered, unforgiving, hearts.


Jesus is looking for faith filled churches whose love for God and others is not lukewarm. Jesus is looking for faithful churches who have not left their first love for God, each other, the stranger and those in need. He tells lukewarm churches that he feels like throwing up and calls them to repent. He warns those who have left their first love like the church at Ephesus that unless they repent, he will take their lamp stand for God is a consuming fire. The good news is that as the Ephesian church heard Jesus’ words calling them to repent, churches are returning to their first love Jesus Christ. Other congregations have acquired the fire of God’s love afresh so that they are no longer lukewarm in their love for God, each other, and others.


As he did in the book of Revelation, Jesus is encouraging the faithful to keep on for their labor of love in the Lord is not in vain. May the cry of our hearts be “Lord, I want to be a Christian, Lord I want to be more loving in my heart.” May God’s love divine descend upon our hearts and set our hearts aflame a new with love for God, for each other, for strangers and for those in need. May we together serve God acceptably by holy, Christ-like, loving attitudes, actions, and words for our God is a consuming fire!



 

 Based on my article in

 


Sharing The Practice: The International Quarterly Journal of the Academy of Parish Clergy. Winter 2001 pages 11-19 and my book, Church Health For The Twenty-First Century A Biblical Approach..

Additional diagnosis

 
 

A. General Pathology.


     1.) 7 important questions and answers by John M. Crowe


    2.) Clinging to the Past is unhealthy for Churches and Clergy, ( no longer online) 


    3.) Dealing with Trojan Horse Transfers by John M. Crowe and Thomas F. Fischer


    4.) Healthy and Unhealthy Models of Pastoral Leadership


    5.) Healthy Boundaries And Co-Dependent Extremes by Thomas F. Fischer


    6.) The Dark Side of The Intimate Pastorate by Thomas F. Fischer


    7.) Healthy Church or Unhealthy Church. by Rebecca Hanson


    8.) Healthy Pastoral Moves by John M. Crowe


    9.) Pastor-Church Relationships from a Biblical/Systems Perspective by John M. Crowe


   10.) Practical Spiritual Self Defense for the congregation by John M. Crowe


   11.) There is a sure way to tell if your church is in poor health. by Gill Cann


   12.) The trick of works vs the treats of grace by John M. Crowe


   13.) When Shepherds Flee: Confronting The Stress Wolves In The Smaller Church. by Glenn Daman


B. Theological.

 

    1.) Spiritual Principles of Church Health.


    2.) "What Makes a Church Healthy or Unhealthy?" by Dr. Richard J. Krejcir



C. Unhealthy Conflict.


    1.) Are Pastors and Churches Being Shortchanged? by Charles H. Chandler, D.Min.


    2.) Chaos Results When Small, Vocal Minority is Allowed to Rule by Charles H. Chandler, D.Min.


    3.) Church Inc. Crushes Hurt People by John M. Crowe


    4.) Forced Termination Affects Churches Too. by David A. Myers, D.Min.


    5.) How Forced Termination Affects the Pastor's Children.  by D. Ross Campbell, M.D.


    6.) Protecting and Investing God's Pearls--The Pastor by Thomas F. Fischer


    7.) Is There A Rulebook On Forced Termination?  by Charles H. Chandler, D.Min.


    8.) Life Way executive addresses churches' 'dirty little secret'


    9.) Spouses Are Casualties Too.


  10.) Suffer the Children . . . A true and tragic story with a very realistic ending! by Ronnieye Arrington​


  11.)  The Church Scandal That Does Not Make the News by John M. Crowe


  12.) The Impact in the Minister's Home. by James Donahue, D. Min


  13.) Why Do So Many Christians Remain Silent During Church Conflicts? by Charles H. Chandler, D.Min.


  14.) Why is There Such an Epidemic of Incivility Toward Ministers? by Charles H. Chandler, D.Min.



D. Clergy Health Crisis.


    1.) Clergy Health Research and Reports


    2.) A collaboration for clergy health and wellness The physical and mental health of Clergy in North America has reached a crisis point.


  3.) Hundreds of Pastors Leave Their Ministry Each Month.


    4.) STRESS AND BURNOUT IN MINISTRY by Rowland Croucher


    5.) DEAR CHURCH! WE QUIT! Marriage and Ministry Depression by Dr. Paddy Ducklow


    6.) Mental Health Needs of Clergy by John M. Crowe


    7.) A Cyberspace view of Church Health with Responses from National and International Leaders by John M. Crowe


    8.) "Which Way to Clergy Health?" by Bob Wells


   9.) Lutherans Ask How Healthy Are Our Pastors?


"Mental health problems including chemical dependency are the leading cause of disability in the ELCA health plan, accounting for one-third of the 300 rostered [ministers on disability]," she said. Despite studies suggesting a stable rate of depression in the general population, the ELCA health plan shows more clinic visits and prescriptions to treat depression.


Weight and exercise top health concerns A recent elective survey found that unhealthy weight and cholesterol and blood pressure levels are the top medical-risk factors facing ELCA pastors, lay and rostered leaders, seminarians, and their families.


  10.) The pastor's well-being often reflects a church's health and happiness. by Tony Headley (no longer online)


 

  11.) Southern Baptists address depression in "Clergy Wounded Heroes "


  12.) The Face of Depression by Rev. Susan. Gregg-Schroeder


  13.) ECLA Studies the Health and Wellness of its Ministers.


Works Cited


Anderson, Neil, and Charles Mylander. Setting Your Church Free. Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 1994.


Arn, Win, Carroll Yquist, and Charles Arn. Who Cares About Love? Pasadena: Church Growth P, 1986.


Barna, George. “Survey Provides Profile of Protestant Pastors” 6 Jan. 1998


Boers, Arthur Paul. Never Call Them Jerks: Healthy Responses to Difficult Behavior. Bethesda, MD: Alban Institute, 1999.


Brewer, Guy. “The Effect of Metanoia, A Forty-Day Season of Prayer, on Heart Attitudes of Murray Hill United Methodist Church.” Diss. Asbury Theological Seminary, 2000.


Callahan, Kennon L. The Twelve Keys to an Effective Church. San Harper, 1983.


Carder, Dave, et al. Secrets of Your Family Tree. Chicago: Moody, 1991


Carlson, Dwight L. Why Christians Shoot Their Wounded?: Helping (Not Hurting) Those with Emotional Difficulties. Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity, 1994.


Crabb, Larry. Connecting: Healing for Ourselves and Our Relationships A Radical New Vision. Nashville: Word, 1997.


Crowe, John M., and Thomas F. Fischer. “Dealing with ‘Trojan Horse’ Transfers.” Sharing The Practice: The International Journal for Parish Clergy Fall 1998 pg 12-16.


Dawn, Marva J. Reaching Out without Dumbing Down. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans. 1995.


Easum, William M., and Thomas G. Bandy. Growing Spiritual Redwoods. Nashville: Abingdon, 1997.


Enroth, Ronald. Recovering From Churches That Abuse. Grand Rapids:  Zondervan 1994.


Galloway, Dale. 20/20 Vision. West Linn, OR: Scott-20/20 Vision, 1996.


Galloway, Dale, and Kathi Mills. The Small Group Book. Grand Rapids: Revell, 1995.


Hansen, David. The Power of Loving Your Church: Leading Through Acceptance and Grace.Minneapolis: Bethany Fellowship, 1998.


Haugk, Kenneth C. Antagonists in the Church. Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1988.


Hendricks, William D. Exit Interviews: Revealing Stories of Why People are Leaving the Church. Chicago: Moody Press, 1993.


Hopewell, James F. Congregation Stories and Structures. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1987.


Hunter, George G. Church for the Unchurched. Nashville: Abingdon, 1996.


---. “Doing Church” to Reach Secular Urban Pre-Christian People. Handout to DM 832. Asbury Theological Seminary. Wilmore, KY. 20 July 1998.


Hybels, Bill. Rediscovering Church. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995.


Johnson, David, and Jeff VanVonderen. The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse. Minneapolis:  Bethany House, 1991.


Klaas, Alan C., and Cheryl D. Klaas. Clergy Shortage Study. Mission Growth Studies for the Board of Higher Education of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. Nov. 1999. 20 Jul. 2000.


Krakower, Karen. “Clergy in crisis: Who ministers to the ministers?” Ministering to Ministers Foundation, Inc. June 1997. 13 Oct. 1999.


London, H.B., Jr., and Neil B. Wiseman. Pastors At Risk. Wheaton: Victor Books, 1993.


Mains, David. Healing the Dysfunctional Church Family. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1992.


Moeller, Robert. Love in Action: Healing Conflict in Your Church. Sisters, OR: Questar Publishers, 1994.



Moore, Filbert L., Jr. “Do you care about pastors? Help PastorCare Span the Nation!” PastorCare The National Clergy Support Network 6 (Summer 2000)


Oates, Wayne E. Behind the Masks: Personality Disorders in Religious Behavior. Louisville: Westminster, 1987.


Pate, C. Marvin, and Sheryl L. Pate. Behind the Masks: Personality Disorders in the Church. Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2000.


Rediger, G. Lloyd. Clergy Killers. Louisville: Westminster, 1997.


Schaller, Lyle E., and Charles A. Tidwell. Creative Church Administration. Nashville: Abingdon, 1975.


Thompson, David L., with Gina Thompson Eickhoff. Holiness for Hurting People. Indianapolis, IN: Wesleyan Publishing House, 1998.


VanVonderen, Jeff. When God’s People Let You Down. Minneapolis: Bethany, 1995.


Wagner, C. Peter. Your Church Can Grow: Seven Vital Signs of A Healthy Church.  Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 1976.


Warren, Rick. “Comprehensive Health Plan.” Leadership Journal Summer, 1997:  pg. 22. 


---. The Purpose Driven Church. Grand Rapids:  Zondervan, 1995.


Weiser, Conrad. Healers: Harmed & Harmful. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1994.

                                    

Church Inc. Crushes Hurt People

John M. Crowe, M.Div., D.Min. 



The ethos of Church, Inc. is one of congregational growth in numbers, attendance, programs, and finances at any price. It stands on the illusion that if you fully give yourself to the work of church growth, then God will take care of your marriage, your family, and your health. It is supported by comments like ‘we expect our ministerial staff to make such sacrifices here. If you are not up to it then probably you do not belong here and we will replace you with someone who can.” The ethos of Church, Inc. is the same as that of operating a church from a business model.


Rediger, author of Clergy Killers, points out a major contributor to the problem of poor church health. Whenever churches operate from a business model that does not view pastors as spiritual leaders of a mission, they become sick (19-20, 26-27, 53). Often, pastors learn such a business, competency, performance model in seminary. As Brewer points out,


In the broad sweep of learning that comprises seminary education, the spiritual formation of the minister remains largely neglected. Pastors lead the church in the way they are trained with a primary focus upon competency and performance (17).


With pastors who have learned to place a premium on human technique and control in pastoral ministry, churches learn this unhealthy business model from their pastoral leadership.


When the business model replaces the biblical model of mission in a church, the consequent blood filled waters breed clergy killers. As Rediger accurately points out,


Because the church…has succumbed to the business model of operation…the pastor has become an employee, and parishioners the stockholders/customers. The pastor is hired to manage the small business we used to call a congregation. This means his primary task is to keep the stockholders happy; the secondary task is to produce and market an attractive product. When this mindset infects the church, the church is no longer a mission but has become a business. Parishioners and pastors agree that participants are “entitled” to a fair return on their investments; that any member can disrupt normal polity; that employment contracts and evaluations only of the pastor are the norm; and that evangelism is essentially a marketing effort…the budget is necessarily the bottom line…This is the reverse of how a healthy congregation functions. When the church operates as a mission, the pastor is “called” rather than hired. He “serves” God first, and the denomination and congregation second.


Whether parishioners “like” or “dislike” the pastor is irrelevant, for the pastor comes with authority to nurture and lead them spiritually. Liking and disliking are the parishioners’ problem, not the pastor’s. (53)


A general sense of entitlement is growing in the church, as well as in society. Church members feel entitled to comfort and privilege. It a pastor does not please them, they feel free to criticize and punish. The business mentality that pervades the church says if the CEO (pastor) does not produce, the pastor should be fired. (20).


The market-driven business model is unhealthy for more than only the pastor, the pastor’s family, and the congregation. It is also unhealthy for the evangelistic outreach of the church. While various marketing campaigns attract crowds of people, many are leaving in their search for a community of truth, reality, and authenticity (Dawn, Hendricks).


Does this factor help us understand some of why the majority of church growth in America involves the transfer of people?


Clergy with a narcissistic personality disorder thrive in today’s business model for denominations, media ministries, and local churches where the gospel and religious revivals becomes a recruitment technique for building bigger denominations, media ministries and/or local churches in order to make a name for themselves. To accomplish their goals, they often exploit people laboring with a dependent or compulsive personalities as well as trample under foot or ignore people with other mental health issues in their self-absorbed haste to build a religious tower of Babel supposedly to the glory of God in Christ’s name by the leading of the Holy Spirit when in fact they are built to their own glory in the flesh, not in the Spirit.


Guy Brewer’s testimony affirms the weakness of leading a church with the ethos of Church, Inc.


Over the course of three years I worked day and night to build the congregation and physical facility that became Edgewater United Methodist Church. Although I devoted virtually no time to prayer, I averaged eighty hours per week in committee meetings, visitation, sermon preparation, and the work of the ministry. By the end of those three years, Edgewater United Methodist Church was a success according to the standards of the annual conference. We had gathered a congregation of 200 plus persons and completed construction of a church building and a parsonage. Under the veneer of performance standards, this fledgling congregation was exhausted, under-nourished, and fearful with a worn-out, depressed pastor. Edgewater United Methodist Church appeared to be a success but lacked the marks of congregational health such as joy, unity, patience, and enthusiasm. We relied on ourselves and achieved exactly what we set out to do. We built a church under our own power. (5)


When volume of activity becomes the measure of ministry, matters of interior transformation often go unnoticed and neglected. As Peterson puts it, “Busyness is an illness of the spirit, a rush from one thing to another because there is no ballast of vocational integrity and no confidence in the primacy of grace. (132-133)” 


Statistics regarding healthy pastor-parish relationships are startling. Karen Krakower in her 1997 Internet article, “Clergy in Crisis: Who ministers to the ministers?” shares the following:


Nearly a fourth, 22.8 percent of pastors have either been terminated or forced to resign.


Nearly two-thirds, 62 percent, of the forced-out pastors said the church that dumped them  had also forced out other pastors-and 41 percent said the church had done it more than twice.


Nearly half, 43 percent, of the forced-out pastors said a “faction” in the church forced  them to leave, and 71 percent of those indicated that the “faction” membered 10 or fewer congregates.


Only 20 percent of the forced-out pastors said the real reason for their leaving was made known to the congregation.


George Barna’s 1998 Internet Press Release “Survey Provides Profile of Protestant Pastors” reports the subsequent sad news:


Long pastorates are increasingly uncommon these days. A mere 6% of today’s pastors-just one out of every seventeen pastors-has been at his or her current church for more than 20 years. The types of individuals who last for an extended period in one church are those in churches that are not growing numerically, pastors of fundamentalist churches, and those who rate their own teaching and preaching as average or worse. The types of pastors least likely to last for a prolonged term in a given church are those with the spiritual gift of leadership.


Furthermore, the Mission Growth Studies did some research for the Board of Higher Education of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. Their study reveals the following church health issues related to clergy drop out:


People, both laity and clergy, are verbally and emotionally beating on each other;


Outward oriented clergy are consistently mismatched with inward oriented churches;


Failing to send only the most mature pastor and strong pastoral family in hopes of bringing peace into a fighting congregation;


The extremely low level of trust held by pastors concerning denominational means of assistance;


A large number of pastors are in the advanced stages of professional and personal burnout;


Pastors’ wives and children stand in greater need of support than pastors;


Grossly unreasonable expectations too often lead pastors to neglect their own health and family;


Allowing churches with a long history of chewing up one pastor and family after another continue without any substantial intervention;


A few congregations who are held hostage by an EGO-centered minority who Edge God Out; and the need for pastors to address what drives them in ministry and live balanced lives. (Klaas and Klaas)


(See also Clergy Health Research and Reports.)


Unfortunately, the lay leadership and members of unhealthy churches desires the pastor to do their ministry instead of leading them in the ministry of all Christians. Such a passive church becomes an audience and not a body. Then the audience becomes the critic of the latest pastoral performance. Ogden confronts such an unhealthy attitude by stating “the biblical emphasis is not on the ‘omnicompetent’ pastor, but a ‘multigifted’ body” (75).


Unhealthy churches also frequently abuse their pastors by “cutting their salary or slicing away at their integrity with gossip” (Hansen 124). As Rediger bluntly states in his book, Clergy Killers, “The growing abuse is also a significant commentary on the mental and spiritual health of the church, for how the church treats its leaders reveals even more about the church than about the leaders. Only a sick and dying church batters its pastors.” (20)


One of the great tragedies of our day is the increase in forced pastoral resignations. Two of the leading causes of the crisis of clergy burnout, dropout, and kickout involve conflict over who is in charge and the lack of unity in churches (Ross).


The high number of such forced pastoral resignations are not surprising when seen in the light of a survey of one-thousand pastors and churches. Only 10 percent of the churches and their pastors said “the purpose of the church is to win the world for Jesus Christ” (Warren, Purpose 82).


All of the above church health problems help us understand the following statistics about pastors as a whole in America from H.B. London and Neil Wiseman’s book, Pastors at Risk. Consider the following sobering survey results of the personal and professional lives of the clergy: 


90% of pastors work more than 46 hours a week.


80% believe that pastoral ministry has affected their families negatively.


33% say that being in the ministry is a hazard to their family.


75% reported a significant stress-related crisis at least once in their ministry.


70% say they have a lower self-esteem than when they started in the ministry.


70% do not have someone they consider a close friend.


40% report a serious conflict with a parishioner at least once a month. (22)


(See also “Prescriptions for the Epidemic” )


Several years ago, my wife pointed out an article in the News-Argus to me about a pastor leaving the ministry. The September 6, 2004 edition of the Goldsboro News-Argus story told of a pastor of a Church in North Carolina who had left the ministry. He admitted to plagiarizing his sermons to cover up his depression for the last two years. The irony of the whole story is the title of a book authored by a well known author. Someone whom I consider a church health colleague. Dr. Wagner wrote the book, Escape From Church, Inc.


Dr. Wagner came to Calvary Church to further lead them within the framework of the Church, Inc. ethos. Somewhere along the way, he grew beyond a C.E.O. view of pastoral ministry to a more biblical view. This transition fueled the writing of two of his books, Escape From Church, Inc. and The Church You Always Wanted.


While Wagner evidently escaped the ethos of Church, Inc., this did not appear true of the congregation’s core leadership. Their denial of his request to quit in 2002 is the real tragedy of this story. He was already fighting a losing battle with depression. Thus, it would have been much better for him at age 49 and the church to of honored his request to resign in 2002.


Thank God there are churches whose core leadership are not trapped by the ethos of Church, Inc. They are not all Willow Creek or Brooklyn Tabernacle where Dr. Wagner may have been ministered to much better. Nor are these churches always big in any other way than big in heart. When my sister-in-law found out she had cancer, her new congregations rallied around her and her family. They supported her financially as if she was their full time pastor while contributing to those who filled in for her. Near the end of that year it became clear that she would never pastor a church again. Knowing that her husband was busy tending to his wife, and was not all that healthy himself led them to take matters into their own hands. They told my in-laws to not worry about cleaning up the parsonage or packing up items in the house. The church members decided they would do all of this and move the belongings themselves to where my sis-in-law moved too.


Sometimes denominational leaders function from the Church, Inc. ethos. When the spouse of the church’s pastor went through multiple hospitalizations due to her depression problems, they tried to get the whole family some help from the denominational leadership. They recognized the need for the family to have a whole year off with financial support. While the congregation was not operating from the Church, Inc. ethos, the denominational leadership was not helpful. Thus, the family did not get what they needed. So, the church gave the pastor three months off during his last year there which was too little too late. Ironically, the church that this family moved to sparkled in many ways except for their Church, Inc. ethos. Furthermore, unlike the time before, on this occasion the denominational leadership saw how much this pastoral family needed a break and saw to them getting a break without financial worries. That time the denominational leadership did not operate from a Church, Inc. ethos. Therefore, the family got the help they needed.


The rest of Dr. Wagner's journey has now emerged.


Coming Out of the Dark: Two Pastors’ Journey Out of Depression.


Longevity and success in ministry does not guarantee that pastors will not suffer from clinical depression. Two successful pastors share their journey and how, with the help of family and medical professionals, they came out of the dark and survived.



Coming Out Of The Dark: Two Pastors’ Wives Share In Their Husbands’ Journey Out Of Depression


A pastor does not experience clinical depression alone; it also affects his family. Two ministry wives share their thoughts and experiences as they walked alongside their husbands and their battles with depression.


Works Cited


Barna, George. “Survey Provides Profile of Protestant Pastors” 6 Jan. 1998


Brewer, Guy. “The Effect of Metanoia, A Forty-Day Season of Prayer, on Heart Attitudes of Murray Hill United Methodist Church.” Diss. Asbury Theological Seminary, 2000. 


Dawn, Marva J. Reaching Out without Dumbing Down. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans. 1995.


Hansen, David. The Power of Loving Your Church: Leading Through Acceptance and Grace. Minneapolis: Bethany Fellowship, 1998. 


Hendricks, William D. Exit Interviews: Revealing Stories of Why People are Leaving the Church. Chicago: Moody Press, 1993.


Klaas, Alan C., and Cheryl D. Klaas. Clergy Shortage Study. Conducted in November of 1999 by Mission Growth Studies for the Board of Higher Education of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. 20 Jul.2000


Krakower, Karen. “Clergy in crisis: Who ministers to the ministers?” Ministering to Ministers Foundation, Inc. June 1997. 13 Oct. 1999 


London, H.B., Jr., and Neil B. Wiseman. Pastors At Risk. Wheaton: Victor Books, 1993.


Ogden, Greg. The New Reformation: Returning the Ministry to the People of God. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1990.


Peterson, Eugene H. Working the Angels: The Shape of Pastoral Integrity. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987.


Rediger, G. Lloyd. Clergy Killers. Louisville: Westminster, 1997.


Ross, Michael. “Hundreds of Pastors Leave Their Ministry Each Month.” Charisma Online News Service. 26 Feb. 2001.


Wagner, E. Glenn. Escape From Church, Inc. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001.


Wagner, E. Glenn., and Steve Halliday. The Church You Always Wanted. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002.


Warren, Rick. The Purpose Driven Church. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995.



The church scandal that does not make the news.

John M. Crowe, M.Div., D.Min. 


Family secrets of betrayal, mistrust, physical violence, sexual abuse, emotional incest, neglect, abandonment, ridicule, and the absence of genuine love creates extreme tensions within a household. Such secrets also have a devastating impact upon each member of the family. Some families maintain a respectful appearance in front of people in general, but show no respect for others at home. Some family secrets are so well hidden that outsiders sometimes find it hard to believe such disrespectful behavior goes on in that family. Do we find similar secrets within the family of faith--church?


Do you remember the last time you heard a sermon or read a devotional on respect? Verses with the word "respect" occurs many times in the Bible. The New Testament writers exhorted the early church to treat people with respect; to live in honorably in Christ to gain the respect of others; and to select people for leadership in the church who are well respected both within and without the family of faith.


Duke's recent "Pulpit and the Pew" study focused on clergy health. It concluded that just telling clergy to take better care of themselves was not enough. The real answer is the church regaining respect for the stewardship of one's health. Then churches will respect the pastor's weekly time off, other time related boundaries for one's family and personal exercise, and annual vacations. As a result these activities will not be seen as time away from ministry but as time spent taking care of ministry.


My dad played tennis with a retired Lutheran pastor who served as a troubleshooter for almost his entire ministry. Like my dad, the man not only plays tennis, but he competes in tournaments as well. He is a remarkable man and a cancer survivor. However, every time dad sees a member from the Lutheran Church the retired pastor attends all they can talk about is how much that man plays tennis. From the way they talk, one would think that retired Lutheran pastor played tennis all the time.


Dad assures them and me that the man does not play tennis all that much, he's too old to. It's as if some in that church believe even a retired pastor should not exercise or have a sport they really enjoy.


Personally, I'm not sure how really Lutheran those petty complainers are. The grown up Lutherans that I knew in my teen and college years were only a little above the Presbyterians in the respect in which they spoke of their pastor.


Anyhow, Martin Luther had his own disrespectful parishioners. One day, the story goes, Luther was hanging out diapers outside his home with many children. A parishioner told Dr. Martin to return quickly to his pastoral duties and cease his present activity. Being a family man and a quick theological thinker on his feet, Luther replied "The angels in heaven rejoice!" as he continued his present course of activity.


Surely the angels did not rejoice over the televangelists scandals of the previous century. They exemplified disrespect for God, others, and damaged others respect for the church. We can make similar comments about this century's horrific scandals within the Roman Catholic Church. However, this is not the worst or the most frequently covered up "dirty little secret" within the North American Church.


In the Old Testament book of Malachi, God presents the pointed question, "Where is my respect?" Do we dare ask, like the Israelites, how? As much as we have expressed disrespectful behavior or withheld the respect due others within the body of Christ, we have also done such to Jesus.


A non-Christian leader in India, Gandhi, once said something like, "your Christ I like but your church I can do without," Unchurched people who say things like this have either heard reports the church's dirty little family secret or know people  who have. Our de-churched brothers and sisters in Christ don't often say the same phrase. They just leave the institutional church because of their firsthand experience with the lack of respect within churches and those who cover it up. They have had all they can take with those who demand a false peace at any price while treating others with extreme disrespect.


Not every de-churched person suffers with memories of abuse like the pagan Britons portrayed in the movie "King Arthur." Some are no longer willing to remain trapped by a parochial dysfunctional system like Martin Luther.


A preteen boy described the church where his dad was pastor as "racial." True, he meant to say racist. In addition, he felt like an unwanted orphan in that "loving" congregation. Trauma of various types comes into every ones life. However, the church's disrespectful racism, clannish treatment of others and this unwelcoming treatment of the mentally ill as well as their family members also create de-churched people.


One Sunday, a six-year-old boy asked his mother who owned the church. She told him God does. After thinking for a moment, he replied, "well God owns the church, dad's preaching God's Word and some people don't like his preaching. Hey, let's go see a movie."  So, after lunch they went out to see Star Wars.


Ever hear of an E.G.O. person? (By the way this is not Freudian. It's Lutheran.) They don't respect who owns the church for they Edge God Out. Some act as if God died and left them in charge. During the choir special, one such clergy killer type once gave a pastor a fussy note about forgetting to recognize birthdays and irritably said, "This is from the lord of the universe." He thought but did not tell the man "step aside Darth Vader, I'll deal with the empress later."


Yes, there are a few spiritual and very gifted Luke Skywalker types for very troubled churches. God provides to them   possibly lead a congregation to freedom from the death grip of parishioners who Edge God Out.


Some pastors are potential healthy leaders of 1st church Corinth type congregations. Their ministry gifts and graces are impressive, yes very impressive, but they are not a spiritual Jedi night for Jesus yet! Far too often they jump too quickly into a troubled church. Sometime they will accept such a challenge for a denominational official persuades them to do so without telling them all the facts. If that is not disrespectful enough, the pastor oftentimes becomes sacrificial lamb. Sad to say but the slaughter goes on while some denominational leaders wash their hands as Pontius Pilate did with Jesus.


What impact does it have on churches to see these pastors come and go, but never hear a denominational leader call them to task or really back up the pastor? As my Lutheran friend, Rev. Tom Fischer, has written in his article, Protecting and Investing God's Pearls--The Pastor,


If the denomination and those placing pastors won't respect the worth of pastors, but send them to places of certain failure anyway, Is it any wonder that the congregations won't respect them either?. . . Let's not take God's "talents" and bury them in a hole of multiple dysfunctional congregational dynamics when opportunities for maximizing such gifts abound.


It's long overdue, but it needs to stop now. Pastor after pastor comes and goes like a revolving door. Often, these churches feel entitled to a pastor regardless of how they treat him or her. Almost every time another pastor leaves after one or two years, some more of the healthy members leave never to return. However, as the healthy ones leave, more of the unhealthy ones come back. Thus, the later state of the congregation is worse than the former.


Very often the clergy and lay ministry leaders who leave do so in far worse shape. Depending on the disrespectful inflicted trauma's depth and breadth, their recovery may take years or wait until the resurrection. To abandon these brothers and sisters in Christ is very disrespectful. King David demonstrated more respect for the very unhealthy king Saul than we often do for the church's deeply wounded clergy who very often have not done anything wrong at all.


Whenever any ministry leader, clergy or laity, is the target of very disrespectful behavior and actions, several people are hurt by Christians are disillusioned. Children are frightened. The ministry leader's children often suffer the most pain. Their secure world is shattered and they find themselves very worried about his or her parents. They often wonder if their relationship with their parents or their parents’ relationship will be traumatized also. Sometimes couples do break up because the spouse just can't take it anymore.


Forget the naive belief in how resilient children are. If the adult ministry leader in their home is horribly mistreated, then their spiritual journey is in great danger. Truly, it would be better for those who cause these young ones to stumble if a millstone were upon their neck and someone threw them into the sea. Believe it if you will, but some pastors' children will no longer darken the door of a church.



Forget the naïve belief in how resilient children are. If the adult ministry leader in their home is horribly mistreated, then their spiritual journey is in great danger. Truly, it would be better for those who cause these young ones to stumble if a millstone were upon their neck and someone threw them into the sea. Believe it if you will, but some pastors' children will no longer darken the door of a church.



Whenever a ministry leader experiences extreme disrespect, it wears down their self-confidence, their emotional health, as well as their trust in the local church and/or denomination. It does the same to their spouse and children. Furthermore, the ability of the family to trust again, their commitment to stay in ministry leadership, their ability to be a loving spouse; and their ability to be a loving person as well as a caring person.