There are several related articles on this page.


1. The Nervous System by John M. Crowe


2. Balancing Grace and Truth by John M. Crowe


3. Clergy Appreciation


4. Praying for Clergy and Their Families


5. Healthy Pastoral Moves by John M. Crowe


6. Motivation, Meaning, and Ministry by John M. Crowe


7. The Pastor's Wife


8. Women in Ministry


9. The Pastor's Husband


10. Power in Leadership and Martial Arts by John M. Crowe


11. Practical Spiritual Self-Defense for the Congregation by 

John M. Crowe  


12. Dealing with "Trojan Horse" Transfers by John M. Crowe and Thomas F. Fischer

The Nervous System

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


The nervous system connects the muscles, internal organs and the skin of the human body in terms of action, direction, and coordination. Likewise, within a church system there is a very small but important part of the congregation's inner life. It involves wholesome relationships between the pastor and the leaders which each fulfilling their biblical roles. The NT teaching about church offers guidance to the relationships between those involved in congregational leadership.

The Apostle Paul exhorts Timothy to train reliable leaders in the church who will be qualified to teach others (II Tim. 2:2). In reading II Timothy, Paul’s understanding of those “qualified” involves the quality of their Christian character. The development of Christian character is discipleship issue. Thus, Paul is exhorting Timothy about encouraging a healthy leadership team, the church’s nervous system, through discipleship.


Too often, pastors find more hurting or weak disciples, than healthy ones who are able to begin and maintain needed ministries. Instead of wallowing in frustration, the Pastoral Epistles call pastors to develop leaders by addressing the Christian discipleship of staff persons, officers and influencers on a one-on-one basis. 


The first step toward developing a healthy team means identifying where church leaders are as disciples of Christ. Then he or she can seek to nurture them forward in Jesus. Such pastoral spiritual direction involves asking each leader about their prayer life, their use of the Bible, and their understanding of church. 


I will address the issue of developing more healthy leaders and their selection in a future article. Presently, our interest is in developing the leaders we have into a healthy team in 2003.


The NT’s call for pastors to disciple their leaders will likely raise the anxiety level of some pastors and some church leaders. However, this is the model that Jesus gives us in the Gospels. John Frye’s book, Jesus the Pastor, develops this theme well. 


A second step of developing sound team is through the lay leadership or nominating committee intentionally focusing on the discipleship of church officers. “The charge of this committee is to identify, develop, deploy, evaluate, and monitor Christian spiritual leadership for the local congregation.” It is also the responsibility of this committee to develop leaders in areas where the utilization of the gifts of the pastor(s) and staff persons leads to an inappropriate stewardship of time. By the way, how will you and the lay leadership committee work on developing your congregation’s officers into a healthy team in 2003?


A third step for a pastor to encourage a healthy leadership team is through the discipleship of the church staff. One of the most important tasks for a pastor is recruiting and building a paid or voluntary staff into a working team. By developing healthy relationships with the staff, both individually and as a group, a pastor can reach the goal of developing mutual their trust and respect as a team. Through such healthy relationships, the pastor can aim toward equipping both the staff member’s personal life in Christ and their ministry. 


The pastor’s role in nourishing the seeds of healthy teamwork through loving one-on-one personal discipleship of individuals in the congregation’s leadership team includes not only the Lay Leadership Committee and the staff, but also the church officers, and influencers. Such discipleship includes the following related steps: (1) affirming them and listening to them; (2) identifying where people are in their Christian discipleship; (3) seeking to nurture them forward in Christ; (4) observing their view of being a church; (5) seeking to develop them in a biblical understanding of being a church; (6) leading leaders in discovering their spiritual gifts, and; (7) sharing your faith in Jesus Christ and view of the church’s ministry. 


A fourth step involves responding instead of reacting to negative leaders? Dr. Dale Galloway offered the following ideas in his presentation: 1. Try every way to win them over as a friend; 2. Understand your authority as a pastor and use it rightly; 3. Treat others as you would want to be treated. Be responsive but not reactionary. Be kind, but not stupid; 4. Do not go up against them in a public meeting, but deal with them one on one; 5. Isolate the negative and don't give them a platform in front of a group like putting them on a committee; 6. Consider what is best for the church; 7. Lead a church through preaching; 8. Never take anger out on a congregation; 9. Have a big say in the agenda for a meeting by asking for items in advance; 10. Pastor runs the staff meeting; and 11. Never surrender your leadership to negative people.


A fifth step of encouraging a healthy team calls for situational management. Dr. George Hunter, said in a lecture, that like coaches, pastors cannot manage every staff member, officer, influencer or volunteer in churches the same way. Like teachers, pastors will ask questions about what people are looking for and listen well before sharing their insights. Like good parents of a large family, pastors recognize that the leaders and volunteers of a church are all over the map as far as individual maturity level is concerned. Pastors will follow suit by seeking to respond accordingly to where each person is and where they are heading.


A sixth step means involving leaders in a special workshop as needed to help restore healthy teamwork. Sometimes a pastor will enter a church whose leadership has been through a season of extreme difficulty. Such seasons often leads a congregation into corporate bondage both spiritually and emotionally. Corporate bondage inhibits a church from being a healthy body for a hurting world because the church’s nervous system is either burned out or shut-down. 


A seventh step in building sound leaders calls for following Paul’s example of praying for others and relying deeply upon God’s free grace in the discipleship of other leaders.


Dr. Dale Galloway shared the following with us in his lecture on “Great Leaders” at Asbury Theological Seminary. “If you can build healthy relationships with the leaders of your church, then your church can minister to hurting people. This is not possible if you have unhealthy leaders. A pastor needs to build the healthiest relationship with leaders who are full people in Christ.” 


For those who desire more guidance about encouraging a healthy leadership team, I highly recommend reading the following books: Galloway’s Leading with Vision, Hansen’s The Power of Loving Your Church, Maxwell’s Developing the Leaders Around You, Miller’s The Empowered Leader, and. Ogden’s The New Reformation.


The contents of this article comes from chapter 4 of my book, Church Health For The Twenty-First Century A Biblical Approach.


See also

 

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



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


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


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


"Healthy and Unhealthy Models of Pastoral Leadership" by Dr. Steve Martyn



  


Balancing Grace and Truth

 John M. Crowe, M.Div., D.Min.



Today, many Christian authors write about balancing grace (love) and truth (boundaries) for the sake of a healthier life and vital discipleship. Grace and truth are balancing in martial arts also. Thus, martial arts serve as both an illustrative tool for balancing these two qualities which appear so opposite.


I. The Need for Balance.


Why use martial arts to illustrate balancing Grace and Truth? It is a useful tool to illustrate important points for soldiers of Christ’s kingdom.


Doesn’t this imagery suggest conflict and struggle? It does.


Many people think that the Christian faith would end their troubles and help them make life turn out like they want it to. Some seem genuinely shocked when the Enemy takes a shot at them. By not understanding the ongoing spiritual war, many feel betrayed by God and abandon their walk with Jesus.


Doesn’t the Bible call us to live peaceably with all people as much as it is possible (Romans 12:18)? Yes. However, the Bible also recognizes that it is not always possible to live in peace with all people. There is a world war, a spiritual world war that began with the crucifixion, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus. Since the enemy of our souls could not defeat Jesus, he seeks to devour Christ’s disciples. Thus, the NT offers us guidance in dealing with those who attack our genuine spiritual peace in Jesus. Anyhow, did Jesus live in peace with everyone?


Why does the enemy assault us with well-aimed and consistent wounds? He wants to take us out. If he can’t destroy us he desires to get us out of the action by making us a shell of a person who is no longer full of passionate freedom, deep gratification, and radiant love. The descriptions of how the enemy takes Christians out of active duty in the Lord’s army are too numerous to write. However, altogether the casualties points to one fact. This is one brutal war!


We may find this hard to believe, but the enemy actually fears us as disciples of Jesus Christ. He knows that if we fully commit ourselves to Christ as the apostle Paul did, we would cause hemorrhaging in the realms of darkness (Acts 26:17-18; Colos. 1:13-14). The primary goal of this article is to help us avoid being taken out by the enemy although he will wound us. The good news is that the more we are identified with the sufferings of Christ as his wounded soldiers, the more we will know Christ in the power of his resurrection. (Romans 8:31-39; II Corinthians 1:8-10, 4:7-18; Philippians 3:10).


The combination of grace and truth is seen in a martial artist's perception of power. Understanding real power goes far beyond brute strength and size. It is graceful power for the use of one’s own or others self-defense.


Why do we need the Bible to teach us about combining love and boundaries for healthy living? Isn’t that what we have self-help books for? We need the Bible to teach us how dangerous it is for us to forget that everyone is born into a world at war. Life is not Father Knows Best or Home Improvement, it’s Saving Private Ryan.


A movie scene from either Saving Private Ryan or The Longest Day showed some allied soldiers seeing perhaps the greatest dereliction of duty. Some allied paratroopers had found liquor in a farmhouse. These drunken soldiers knew they were at war, yet they did not act like it. “They lived in dangerous denial, a denial that not only endangered them but countless others who depended on them to do their part. It is a perfect picture of the church in the West when it comes to spiritual warfare” (p159-159 Wild at Heart by John Elderedge).


What we too often fail to see in de-churched Christians, divided churches, destroyed ministers, and dissolved marriages is how the Enemy throws gasoline all over the human issues involved and creates a bonfire from twigs. Are we living in dangerous denial of the Enemy, a denial that places both others and ourselves in danger?


Too many Christians in the West have already been taken out by the Enemy’s first line of attack mentioned by C. S. Lewis in The Screwtape Letters: “I’m not here—this is all just you.” If you think the Enemy only prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour in third world countries, then read I Peter 5:8-9. Were all the epistles written that mention conflict with the Enemy written to third world countries? No, they were written to the largest empire of the west at that time—the Roman Empire.


John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, preached and taught greatly about these matters. In fact, Wesley went into great detail about spiritual warfare in his sermon on Ephesians 6:12, “Of Evil Angels,” and I quote,

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We know that Satan and all his angels are continually warring against us, and watching over every child of man. …But, above all, he strives to damp our love of God, as he knows this is the spring of all our religion, and that, as this rises or falls, the work of God flourishes or decays in the soul. 5. Next to the love of God, there is nothing which Satan so cordially abhors as the love of our neighbor. He uses, therefore, every possible means to prevent or destroy this; to excite either private or public suspicions, animosities, resentment, quarrels; to destroy the peace of families or of nations; and to banish unity and concord from the earth. And this, indeed, is the triumph of his art; to embitter the poor, miserable children of men against each other, and at length urge them to do his own work, to plunge one another into the pit of destruction.6. This enemy of all righteousness is equally diligent to hinder every good word and work. If he cannot prevail upon us to do evil, he will, if possible, prevent our doing good. He endeavors to inspire those passions and tempers which are directly opposite to the fruit of the Spirit. (Works Vol. 5” 418)


II. The Spiritual Context.


After being filled with the Holy Spirit at his baptism, Jesus entered the wilderness. There he was tempted by the devil. Each time the devil sought to push Jesus into proving his identity or taking a short cut to his goal. The third temptation sought to push Jesus to the extreme of putting God to the test. Jesus refused to prove his identity, to take any short cuts or to misuse God’s Word. Thus, he rebuked the devil with God’s Word. Afterwards, Jesus returned in the power of the Holy Spirit.


Do the Gospels of Matthew and Luke give us the Christmas story within its total spiritual framework? Have you ever seen Revelation 12:1-9 on a Christmas Card? Have you ever seen those verses portrayed in a Christmas scene? I doubt it. Are their lines in Christmas hymns that carry this aspect of Christmas? Yes.


Christmas is the Great Invasion, as Philip Yancey calls it, “a daring raid by the ruler of the forces of good into the universe’s seat of evil!” Wow! Jesus’ birth was not just silent night with the sound of a few angels singing to some shepherds. Can we truly explain King Herod’s slaughter of the boys in Bethlehem just on the basis of his jealousy? No, Satan worked through Herod’s worldly position and the lust of his flesh for power to attempt to kill Christ.


Since the devil hated Christ’s birth so much, how has he treated those who follow Jesus since then? Yes, Luke, there is a dragon who is to blame for most of the casualties you see around you and most of the direct assaults trying to take you out (Rev. 12:17). Thus, our warfare is not against flesh and blood, but against the devil’s evil tricks (Eph. 6:10-20).


As our warfare is not of the flesh, neither are our weapons (II Cor. 10:3-5). Our most powerful weapon is the sword of the Spirit—the Word of God. Just having the sword of the Lord and being filled with the Holy Spirit is not enough to slay the dragon. First, we must allow the Holy Spirit to help us rightly handle the word of God in the face of spiritual attacks. Then, we will go forth wielding the Sword of the Spirit in the power of the Holy Spirit.


The only way to combine grace and truth in spiritual self-defense is through the power and authority of Jesus Christ. Matthew 11:12 does not say ‘The kingdom of heaven is open to passive, spiritual wimps who enter it by lying around, being a boring ‘nice’ duty bound person who never stands up for the truth or by being an exhausted super servant for God while waiting for Jesus to’ beam them up.’


Do we United Methodists really believe what we sing in the hymn Majesty? Why do we need what one the line says “Majesty, kingdom authority, flow from his throne unto his own”? We need Jesus’ majestic grace, kingdom life, and ultimate authority to serve the True King in conflict with the enemy’s evil empire. When we really take spiritual warfare seriously as Christian Soldiers, half-hearted attempts, academic approaches or fulfilling a legalistic “ought” will vanish from our practice of spiritual disciplines.


Are we ready stand firm as a Christian Soldier? Will we resist the enemy and see him flee (James 4:7)? Are we willing with God as your helper to become the best Christian soldier that we can be in the Lord’s army? Is the congregation, district, conference etc., that we either serve or are a member of willing with God as their helper to become the best unit of the Lord’s army that together you can be?


III. Maturity in Balance.

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As Jesus’ disciples, we go through a spiritual developmental process of being newborn babes in Christ, children, young persons, and seasoned older persons. For those very early in their spiritual growth, they are not a spiritual Jedi for Jesus yet.  While their gifts and graces may be impressive, very impressive, but without additional maturity they will too easily fall into various snares if placed in very challenging leadership and/or leadership roles. Remember that even the multitalented Luke Skywalker almost went over to the dark side himself in the movie Star Wars while he was fighting the evil empire.


Also, our spiritual freedom in Christ is neither impractical nor esoteric. It also involves practical boundaries for Christian living. The whole Bible establishes spiritual boundaries for the soul, behavioral boundaries for the body, doctrinal boundaries for the mind, and relational boundaries for the heart. The graceful power of such boundaries is for defending as well as liberating oneself, others, and the church as a whole from spiritual attacks in their multi-varied forms.


If the Enemy’s first tactic, I don’t really exist, does not work, the second tactic is not a subtle seduction. It is an open assault via fearful thoughts crashing into our minds, our life situations begins to fall apart in surprising ways, and our faith feels very thin. If we have resisted deception and intimidation, the Enemy simply tries to get us to cut a deal.


IV. A Path to Maturity in Balancing Grace and Truth.


To grasp the meaning of the power to exercise grace and truth, we begin with the martial artist's uniform. Not only is it to be clean and neat, but tying one's belt correctly is most important. Since, the belt represents the person's will that holds the whole person together. A poorly tied belt reflects an unfocused will. The fruit of an unfocused will is a martial artist who is unstable in all their ways.


Martial artists emphasize the unity of the person—physically, mentally, and spiritually. Over the years one begins to experience and mature in the strength needed to combine grace and truth. Such a focused person is enabled to demonstrate both greater strength and clearer perception for dealing with situations. Interestingly and to some almost contradictory, such power arises from a relaxed state instead of a tense state within the martial artist. Equally puzzling to some is the apostle Paul’s comments about not being anxious but through prayer knowing God’s surpassing peace and yet pressing on to the high calling of God (Philippians 4:6-7, 13-14).


At the heart of being a disciplined Christian Soldier is the will. As James points out, if we have a double mind, we will be unstable in all our ways. Hebrews calls us to turn our eyes upon Jesus. In, Phil., Paul calls us to leave the past behind and press on to the high calling of God in Christ. Jesus tells us to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness instead of being anxious. Jesus also tells us to live one day at a time.


How can we be of an undivided soul and thus truly focused if we are inwardly full of chatter? This happens whenever we live primarily in the psychological time of the past or the future in light of the past. Yes, we are encouraged to learn from the past, but then move on into the present. Even what the Bible says about our future in Christ and his return is always related to some aspect of Christian discipleship for us to live in today. We are to trustingly go forward and plan for the future, but live in the now of our Christian discipleship.


Martial artists who remain tense never really understand the balanced mixture of contentment and power. Very often they become bullies who know the techniques very well but are void of the real power thereof. They also tend to use their knowledge of martial arts out of a hot headed rage. A loose temper is greatly frowned upon and demonstrates a person’s lack of self-control. Humility is much preferred over arrogance. I once read a compliment that one church father gave to another saying: “His forbearance is more powerful than most people’s speech.”


There are many passages in the NT which point to the horrible arrogance of false teachers, legalists, Pharisees, the so called ‘super apostles,’ and those who bring division within churches. The apostle John’s third epistle condemns Diotrephes for rejecting apostolic leadership, dominating the congregation, and refusing to show hospitality. The OT is full of examples of arrogant people also as well as calls to live humbly. . I Peter 3:15 exhorts us to share why we have a living hope in Jesus Christ with humble gentleness and respect.


As we walk in the authority and power of Christ, remember not swagger forth in pride. Neither react hastily for human wrath does not accomplish the righteousness of God (James 1:19-20). In the OT, Moses lost his place to not only enter but also to lead the Israelites into the promise-land.


Maturity in grace and truth as a martial artist is developed through learning flowing, powerful but controlled moves. Controlled yet graceful TKD moves are development in two ways. First, through really knowing the length of your arms and legs. If you are laughing, do you know yourself this well? Second, through practice with someone. Your trust and respect for each other grows over time. Then one can punch or kick with full speed and power. Then one stops just short of hitting them. Imagine punching or kicking quickly and powerfully, yet stopping close enough that you can feel the warmth of their skin without touching them?


As one matures in such graceful yet powerful self-control, one's character grows. Practicing with other martial artists helps develop courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self-control and indomitable spirit develop. Over time, these qualities become more than words repeated in each class. Thus, remembering and defining these no longer serve as intellectual knowledge to put down on the written part of testing for another belt. They become part of one’s life. These five tenants of TKD lay the foundation for the ten articles of student commitment: 1. Be loyal to your country, 2. Honor your parents, 3. Be loving between husband and wife, 4. Be cooperative between brothers and sisters, 5. Be faithful to your friends, 6. Be respectful of your elders, 7. Establish trust between teachers and students, 8. Use good judgement before killing living things, 9. Never retreat in battle, and 10 always finish what you start.


Scripture calls Christian soldiers to continue maturing in sound character by God’s grace for long lasting effectiveness (II Peter 1:2-8). The epistle of James calls us to be doers of the Word and not hearers only. If not we deceive ourselves into thinking we are something that we are not. Also, we can use the Apostle Paul’s admonitions for Timothy about caring for his own well-being to take care of ours (1 Tim. 4:12-16; 6:11-16, 20; and 2 Tim. 2:3-7, 22-26; 3:14-15; 4:2, 5).


Hebrews describes the spiritually mature as those whose practice of the Word gives them the ability to discern both good and evil (Heb. 5:13,14). Galatians exhorts us to live in the Spirit, bear the fruit of the Spirit and crucify the deeds of the flesh (Gal. 5:19-26).


In the Gospels, Jesus spoke of those who persevere to the end will be saved. Near the end of his life, the apostle Paul exclaimed that he had fought the good fight of faith; and had run the race. In the book of Acts, Paul also said before a ruler that he had not been disobedient to the heavenly vision of his calling. Consider the use of the indomitable perseverance of Jesus in Hebrews chapter 12. The write uses it to challenge us to keep our focus on Jesus so that we can run with perseverance the race that is set before us. Otherwise, we will become wary and discouraged souls (Heb. 12:1-4).


V. Balancing Grace and Truth.


Grace is also displayed by a self-defense move first unlike the aggressiveness of Karate. I once heard it said that "Karate hits first and asks questions later." However, someone once said, "TKD asks questions first and then hits if it needs too."


Gracefulness is encouraged in the application of TKD according to the situation. If someone is just calling you names, you just walk away. If your best friend is just playing around and grabs you from behind. Then you can gracefully get out without hurting them and then seriously say that's enough. If someone threatens to punch you, you encourage them not to. However, if they do attempt to hit you, you can block it and get them under control. You handle an attacker differently. If the person just takes you by surprise and takes a swing at you, then it's time for a pain inflicting block and a strong punch to stop them hopefully. If the person threatens your life, then it’s time to inflict very painful blocks, punches and/or kicks along. You also add the appropriate strong control move that includes the option of dislocating the shoulder or breaking their elbow.


In other words, a mature martial artist first seeks to avoid fighting. If a fight cannot be avoided, then one only uses as much TKD as is really needed for the situation. If someone's life (one's own or another's) is threatened by an attacker, then the martial artist does not hold back. This does not mean the martial artist will, block, kick and/or punch in an out of control manner. Such control both makes one’s moves stronger and lessons one’s vulnerability to attacks.


If you learn to master yourself, then the chaos or the attack of the other person does not dominate you. With such self-mastery or balance you will the appropriate response to an attack and the attacker. Without it, and their attack will trigger you into an unhealthy reaction. I had such an experience one night in sparing class. On that night, I was sparing a man who was younger and much taller with much lower ranking belt. I was anxious over his height. I did become fearful of his roundhouse kick with a huge foot. However, my own lack of self-control to stay focused led me to react too soon and too far away from my body. This resulted in a broken hand. Had I been in more control of me, I would have seen more options or performed a better block. He did not defeat me. I defeated myself through underdeveloped self-control. Thus, I was blinded from using the knowledge of my advanced training. I learned an important lesson that night.


Anyone who uses more of a martial art than is really necessary is considered disrespectful, not humble, without self-control, lacking courtesy, devoid of integrity as well as a destructive bully. They do not yet know the biggest focus of self-defense, themselves!


VI. Balancing Grace and Truth in the New Testament.


The NT contains several examples of situations calling for a balanced application of grace and truth. For example, the moral problem within the church at Corinth. A man was shacked up with his dad’s wife. Paul rebuked the Corinthian church for their lack of love seen in tolerating sexual immorality among church members (1 Cor. 5). We must remember that Christian love does not contradict the holiness of Jesus Christ. It is that holiness to which he calls his body in every arena of life as outlined in the epistles. Doing so calls for a powerful balance of grace and truth. Then we can speak the truth in love and restore the fallen in a spirit of gentleness (Eph.4:15; Gal. 6:1)


Such breaking of moral boundaries within the church body damages the well-being of more than just those directly involved (1 Cor. 5; 6:12-20; Eph. 4:17-25; 5:3-20). Ben Witherington states that


certain types of deviant behavior threaten the health, if not the existence of the body of Christ, not just the moral health or well-being of the individual Christian. Therefore, Paul’s attempts to direct and regulate the head, mouth, hands, feet, and genitals of the Christians in Corinth arise not simply from concern for personal morality. He also seeks to protect the body of Christ from acts and attitudes that can harm it. (255)


Not only are attacks against moral boundaries deal with in the NT, but also those related to Christian teaching and leadership. As a preventative and as a statement of standards, I Timothy 3:1-11 and Titus 1:3-9 outlines selecting leaders on the basis of good character traits including self-control, and not being hot-headed. II Timothy 2:24-26 calls us to correcting the wayward with gentleness, patience and humility. These instructions also direct us to not place a very young Christian in a leadership position less they fall prey. This could also be wisely applied to people who are new transfers into a congregation. One never knows who will be a blessing and who has come as a Trojan horse to bring destruction.


Those through whom the attacks of the enemy come are like cancer cells with the human body. Like cancer, they live only for themselves (Acts 20:29-20). Those who cause divisions in Christ’s Church through immorality, false teaching, or domination need removing (1 Cor. 5; Rom. 16:17-18); III John. As Witherington puts it, “Discipline was one of the key tools for making clear the limits of acceptable behavior and so establishing the community’s moral boundaries and for unifying a community” (160-161). Today’s pluralistic society and church world urge us to ignore the biblical call for discipline and limits for acceptable biblical behaviors. Insofar as the Church ignores this call, it eludes healthy maturity.


Continuing the NT theme of maintaining the unity of the Spirit and maturing into the unity of the faith, Ephesians 4:17-6:9 exhorts the Church to be the body of Christ in daily living. Paul, in Ephesians 4:17-5:21, calls them to lay aside the old and live the new. In his book, Paul, the Spirit, and the People of God, Gordon Fee states,


Furthermore, all the sins listed in 4:25-31 are sins of discord. By giving in to sin, they grieve the Holy Spirit (v. 30), who has formed them into a body and whose continuing presence is intended to bring the body to full maturity. Hence they need to “keep being filled with the Spirit” (5:18), to ensure proper worship (vv.19-20) and proper relationships (5:21-6:9). (69-70)


The history of the church at Corinth after the writing of Paul’s epistles gives us a surprising and yet very important lesson. No church exists as an island. Divisions within a church not only damage its credibility in reaching out to new people but also how other churches are viewed. It does not matter if they are near of far away. Forty-five years after Paul wrote I and II Corinthians, Clement of Rome wrote to that congregation about its problems with divisions. Not only did he quote Paul at length, but he also shared the impact of their divisions upon Christian outreach in Rome. Their divisions within the church at Corinth, Greece was damaging the evangelistic outreach in Rome, Italy. Wow! What an important lesson to learn from a day when radio, tv, telephones, cell phones, and the internet were not even thought of.


The whole NT and the Bible as a whole is full of boundaries that apply to marriage, family, children, work, young people, older people, young widows, older widows, being a good citizen, and relating with those who are not disciples of Jesus Christ. There are also boundaries concerning emotions. For example, Eph. 4:26-27 says be angry but do not let the sun go down on one’s anger.


Churches today need to hear and heed what Joseph M. Stowell wrote in his book, Shepherding the Church,


When righteousness becomes the prevailing attitude of a body of believers, it establishes a peer pressure that stimulates all believers to the truly good life in Jesus Christ. A church full of persons who love the lost; of husbands who love their wives; of people who willingly serve; of lips that are slow to criticize, slander, and gossip, but rather are dedicated to healing, helping, and encouraging; of finances that are focused on glorifying God and of Christians who are passionately addicted to acts of compassion will produce an environment that stimulates others to make a similar contribution to the group. (68)


VII. Balancing Grace and Truth in the Church Today.


In 20 years of pastoral ministry, I’ve seen more marriages and churches hindered by one thing. In the case of damaged or failed marriages either one or the other spouse has not really left home emotionally. In the case of churches and clergy someone is not living with a clear and genuine focus as seen in Jesus’ earthly ministry and in Paul the Apostle.


From what I’ve seen, too many are not free to really be themselves or speak with their own voice. As a result such folks put on a false self at various church gatherings. They either keep quite or lash out in a defensive, chaotic, and controlling manner. 


Why do they not feel free to be themselves and thus feel a need to put on a false self? Very often while they are in emotional contact with others they experience difficulty in thinking, feeling, and acting as individuals. Sad to say but they often deceive themselves about being in better contact with the whole congregation than they are.


People who are church members or leaders who live out of a “pseudo self” often end up in the trap of a “double bind.” Others who are bombarded with this kind of communication style end up finding very hard to say what they mean, understand the meaning of what other say, and discern their own emotions from manipulated feelings.


Others are able to keep working effectively even under great stress without focusing on others. Thus, they are not easily “infected” by the anxiety of others. Such emotional neutrality gives them the ability to be in emotional contact with difficult, emotionally charged parish problems but not feel compelled to control others, to “fix” the problem, or to pretend neutrality by emotionally insulating themselves. People who are genuinely their real selves will realize as leaders the danger of trying to control, rescue, or “fix” the problems of poorly differentiated congregations who may murderously strike out against the person who encouraged the church’s dependency upon them. Such congregations do this when their anxiety level gets high enough.  While other like persons will appreciated this greatly, the more dependent leaders and church members will put forth much effort to triangulate non-dependent ones to being dependent.


Sometimes a pastor finds him or herself as the identified dysfunctional patient whenever a church concentrates on his or her pastoral performance. If pastors accept such displacement by addressing the content of the charges, they not only become the patient but also keep the church leadership and/or congregation from facing something in their own personal lives (Friedman 208). In the midst of such unbalanced times, a pastor’s best questions for the church are: “Why now?” and “What has gone out of balance?” (Friedman 203). In such unbalanced times, a pastor will never attain lasting harmony in a congregation by focusing on the various content issues directed at them or upon some other focus. Such leadership stays emotionally in touch with everyone involved without taking sides or assuming someone else’s responsibility.


By offering calm, connected pastoral leadership, the pastor helps reduce a church’s anxiety while maintaining a sense of direction. Such healthy and healing pastoral leadership encompasses far more than staying in the office and simply praying about things. Along with staying in touch with people, it means providing leadership in prayer with the whole church or with the anxious part of the church. It also means avoiding the pitfalls of cult-like dependency and congregational polarization. Such leadership helps reduces a church’s anxiety without enhancing it by absorption.


Pastors can defocus congregational henpecking by maintaining a non-anxious presence. Such a presence means that pastors develop the capacity “to contain their own anxiety regarding congregational matters, both those not related to them, as well as those where they become the identified focus” (Friedman 208). Otherwise, pastors multiply the emotional imbalance of a church by over-functioning. Pastors who finds themselves tempted to play church hero might consider addressing their personal and pastoral feelings of helplessness (Long 3).


Leaders lacking a clear sense of identity and the solid focus of their real self do not have boundaries. Since they lack such boundaries, they live out the expectations of others. Rather than being proactive, they become reactive. In addition, they tend to blame themselves and think that if they are good persons everything will improve. I once heard this called the battered church leader syndrome.


VIII. Input from others on balancing grace and truth in Christian leadership.


All in all without the freedom to really live with a clear identity not based on competition with others and a solid focus based on God’s genuine calling upon you, the following advice from others will help you little. The same can be said for all of the books listed below dealing with more specific boundary issues.


From Dr. Dale Galloway’s Courses on Christian Leadership


We have more dysfunctional people than ever before. Thus, be confident in who you are. Your self-esteem does not depend upon them. Don't allow yourself to overreact. Don't play their games. Set boundaries and limits. When you need to confront, do so immediately. Have realistic expectations of that person. Stop trying to change the difficult person in your lifetime. Don't take on responsibility for such sick people. Keep yourself from becoming the difficult person's slave. No is ok. If you allow such people to beat up on your emotional life, then let God lead you through your struggle with these difficult people so that you don't loose peace ("How to Handle").


Dr. Dale Galloway offered the following ideas in his lecture on “Winning Attitude & How to Handle Criticism.”


1. Try every way to win them over as a friend;


2. Understand your authority as a pastor and use it rightly;


3. Treat others as you would want to be treated. Be responsive but not reactionary. Be kind, but not stupid;


4. Do not go up against them in a public meeting, but deal with them one on one;


5. Isolate the negative and don't give them a platform in front of a group like putting them on a committee;


6. Consider what is best for the church;


7. Lead a church through preaching;


8. Never take anger out on a congregation;


9. Have a big say in the agenda for a meeting by asking for items in advance;


10. Pastor runs the staff meeting; and


11. Never surrender your leadership to negative people.


Tips on how to handle criticism in a positive way.


1. Understand the difference between constructive criticism and destructive criticism--censure.


2. Determine not to waste energy fighting destructive criticism.


3. Try to understand the source of the criticisms. Judge criticisms on who the person is.


4. Don't just see the critic, but see if there is a crowd. (negative people find each other in a crowd) [work on your various broken relationships]


5. Beware of perceptions becoming reality. You can do right, but not consider the perceptions of the people. Talk perceptions through with solid leaders.


6. Open yourself up to see if you can receive any benefit from the criticism.


7. Seek first to please God more than people.


8. When criticized, instead of being negative and defensive, go on the offensive by taking a positive action.


9. Pray for critics and with them.


10. Most criticisms are not aimed at us personally, but at our position and sometimes involves dumping their stuff on us.


11. You've got to get a sense of self-worth and value form somewhere else than in pleasing people. (Jonathan Edwards was fired for preaching "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God).


12. Don't dump on the family all of the bad church stuff. 


13. Cultivating the mind of Christ will empower you to handle criticism.


14. You have the power to choose your own attitude in the worst situation. This lifts you from being a victim to being a victor. 


From Dr. Steve Martyn’s course on the Spirituality of Leadership


"Angry People”


Somebody leaves mad, hurt, upset, and distraught.  They spread to 7 others that something’s wrong with “you”. (a good book on discernment, The Way by E. Stanely Jones)


You will hear them say, “They think you stink” We need to cut through the “they”. Then, ask, how do you feel instead of asking who the they are. When you ask you they are, you lose your posture of leadership.


Never respond


“If I can just sit down and talk it out. Therefore, reason, light, information will bring clarity and agreement. This is a very popular but deadly formula.


Angry people permeate our society today.


We are called to love angry people. Nevertheless, I can’t allow their wounds to take out a whole institution.  I can’t let those hurt folks to set my heart.


Kids in Danger by Ross Campbell has a good chapter on anger in the church.


Church people who are core leaders must put evil to rest or we will legitimize other people’s junk.


There is a place for boundaries in dealing with angry people.


“You know you are right over the target when you start getting flack.


Laziness amidst business by allowing your circumstances to set your agenda.


Obstacles serve to bring character and holiness into my life. Therefore seeing the hand of God in all things.


Don’t Let Satan Steal Your Vision


From William Gurnall


As part of Christ’s army, you march in the ranks of gallant spirits. Every one of your fellow soldiers is the child of a King. Some, like you, are in the midst of battle, besieged on every side by affliction and temptation. Other, after many assaults, repulses, and rallyings of their faith, are already standing upon the wall of heaven as conquerors. From there they look down and urge you, their comrades on earth, to march up the hill after them. This is their cry, “Fight to the death and the City is your own, as now it is ours.”


Works Cited


Campbell, Ross, and Carole Sanderson Streeter Kids in Danger. Victor Books, 1995.


Curtis, Brent, and John Eldredge. The Sacred Romance: Drawing Closer to the Heart of God. Nashville. Thomas Nelson, 1997.


Fee, Gordon. Paul, the Spirit, and the People of God. Peabody, MA:  Hendrickson, 1994.


Galloway, Dale. “Winning Attitude & How to Handle Criticism.” Lecture to DM 817. Asbury Theological Seminary. Wilmore, KY. 21 July 1999.


The Holy Bible: The New International Version. Grand Rapids:  Zondervan, 1978.


Lewis, C. S. The Screwtape Letters. HarperCollins Publishers, 2001.


Stowell, Joseph M. Shepherding the Church: Effective Spiritual Leadership in a Changing Culture. Chicago: Moody, 1994.  


Wesley, John. “Works Vol. 5.” The Master Christian Library Version 5. CD-ROM, Ages Software, 1997. 


Witherington, Ben, III. Conflict & Community in Corinth. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995. 



 

Various Books on Boundaries



Cloud, Henry. Changes That Heal: How to Understand Your Past to Ensure a Healthier Future. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1990.
 

This book and its workbook will lead the reader through the dynamics of maturing in healthy togetherness with others and healthy separation from others.
 

Cloud, Henry. Changes That Heal Workbook: How to Understand Your Past to Ensure a Healthier Future. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994.
 

Cloud, Henry, John Townsend. Boundaries In Marriage. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1999.
 

This book will give you specific guidance on what healthy boundaries in a marriage are and are not.
 

Cloud, Henry, John Townsend. Boundaries: When to Say Yes, When to Say No, To Take Control on Your Life. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992.
 

This is a basic introductory book to the whole idea of boundaries. This book has since been updated to address issues of the 21st century.
 

Cloud, Henry, John Townsend. Boundaries Workbook: When to Say Yes, When to Say No, To Take Control of Your Life. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1995.
 

Elgin, Susan H. The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense. Dorset House Publishing Co Inc; Reprint edition, 1985.
 

Forward, Susan. Emotional Blackmail: When the People in Your Life Use Fear, Obligation, and Guilt to Manipulate You. NY: Harper-Collins Publishers, 1997.
 

Hemfelt, Robert, Frank Minirth, Paul Meier. Love is a Choice. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989.
 

Hemfelt, Robert, Frank Minirth, Paul Meier, Deborah Newman, Brian Newman. Love Is A Choice Workbook. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers 1991.
 

These two books address the co-dependency that many family members and friends of the mentally ill struggle with.



Further reading about boundaries



1. Achieving Balance in Ministry. by A.J. Headley 

 
 

2. Adult Children of Abusive Parents: A Healing Program for Those Who Have Been Physically, Sexually, or Emotionally Abused. by Seven Farmer, M.A., M.F.C.C. 

 
 

3.Bold Love. by Dr. Dan B. Allender & Dr. Tremper Longman, III 

 
 

Have you ever asked yourself and of the following questions? How do you know the difference between loving an evil person, a fool, and a normal sinner? What does it mean to "honor" a dishonorable parent? Why does anger usually outlive forgiveness? How to you love an abusive person without opening yourself up to more damage? Then read this book! 

 
 

4. Clergy Killers. by Lloyd G. Rediger.

 
 

5. Do I Have to Give Up Me To Be Loved By You? for couples who want their love to last. by Drs. Jordan & Margaret Paul. 

 
 

6. Emotional Blackmail: When the People in Your Life Use Fear, Obligation, and Guilt to Manipulate You. by Susan Forward, Ph. D. with Donna Frazier. 

 
 

7. False Assumptions: Relief From 12 "Christian" Beliefs That Can Drive You Crazy. by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend 

 
 

8. Feed My Shepherds: Spiritual Healing and Renewal for Those in Christian Leadership. by Flora Slosson Wuellner 

 
 

Wuellner uses the stories surrounding Jesus' death and resurrection from the Gospels to address spiritual desolation, spiritual release or abuse, incarnational spirituality verses religion that denies our humanity, walking with Christ to deep wounded memories, depth renewal for spiritual exhaustion, spiritual protection in toxic relationships and Christian discipleship as a spiritual response to God's free grace vs a religious discipline. While she does not speak directly of boundaries, she does address healthy internal boundaries of the soul. 

 
 

9. Fit to Be a Pastor : A Call to Physical, Mental, and Spiritual Fitness. by Lloyd G. Rediger 

 
 

10. Hurt People Hurt People: Hope and Healing for Yourself & Your Relationships. by Sandra D. Wilson, PH.D. 

 
 

Sandra's appendix on "Shame Based vs Grace Based Churches" is worth the price of the whole book. (Those desiring even more help with this theme in the church must go to “Ministry Health” web site. My colleague, co-author and friend Rev. Tom Fischer has many excellent articles on the subject of boundaries and church life.) 

 
 

11. Imperfect Harmony. by Joshua Coleman 

 
 

“This book is about how to live a happy life regardless of the state of your marriage. Despite promises of therapists, clergy, and self-help authors, not every relationship can be made better.” This book has three stated aims: 1. To give people the tools to determine whether a marriage can be bettered; 2. To give people the tools to enjoy life if the marriage can’t be bettered: 3. To help people protect their children from whatever is unsatisfying or difficult in your life or marriage. Obviously, the tools referred to in the second and third aim of this book has to do with boundaries. 



12. Intimate & Unashamed. by Scott Farhart, M.D. 

 
 

This book addresses boundary issues concerning God's design for sexual fulfillment in marriage with creative and celebrative boldness as well as solid biblical truth. 

 
 

13. Necessary Losses: The Loves, Illusions, Dependencies, and Impossible Expectations That All of Us Have to Give Up In Order To Grow. by Judith Virost. 

 
 

14. Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership: The Paradox of Personal Dysfunction. by Gary L. McIntosh, and Sammuel D. Rima. 

 
 

15. Romancing Your Husband. by Debra White Smith 

 
 

Written as one married woman to another her advice is balanced by her personal confession of breaking a very crucial boundary in marriage. This boundary broken by some wives, yes even Christian wives. It is the boundary of ceasing to be your husband's wife-lover to attempting to be his mother-lover. She confesses to have participated in the very thing she uncovers about female chauvinism even within churches. 

 
 

16. Safe People: How to Find Relationships That Are Good for You and Avoid Those That Aren't. by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend 

 
 

17. Stress Power and Ministry. by John C. Harris 

 
 

18. Stop Walking on Eggshells. by Mason and Kreger 

 
 

(Although this book is focused on re-claiming your life in relationship with a specific mental illness, the concepts are rather universal.) 

 
 

19. Talk, Trust, and Feel: Keeping Codependency Out of Your Life. by Melody Beattie 

 
 

20. The Dilemma of Love: Healing Co-dependent Relationships at Different Stages of Life. by Susan Cooley Ricketson, Ph.D. 

 
 

21. The Emotional Incest Syndrome: What to Do When A Parent's Love Rules Your Life. by Dr. Patrica Love with Jo Robinson 

 
 

22. The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense. by Suzetter Haden Elgin 

 
 

23. The Other Side of Love: Handling Anger in a Godly Way. by Gary Chapman 

 
 

24. The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse. by David Johnson and Jeff VanVonderen 

 
 

While the book does not speak directly of boundaries, they do address the need for healthy boundaries in church life. 

 
 

25. Toxic Faith: Understanding and Overcoming Religious Addiction. by Stephen Arterburn and Jack Felton 

 
 

If you exhausted or bored with religion your faith might be toxic in some way instead of healthy in relationship with God and people. See also Wayne Oates' book listed below about sick religion. 

 
 

26. Toxic In-Laws: Loving Strategies for Protecting Your Marriage. by Susan Forward, Ph. D. with Donna Frazier. 

 
 

27. We Are Driven: The Compulsive Behaviors America Applauds. by Dr. Robert Hemfelt, Dr. Frank Minirth, and Dr. Paul Meier. 

 
 

28. When God's People Let You Down: How to Rise Above the Hurts That Often Occur Within the Church. by Jeff VanVonderen 

 
 

While he does not speak directly of boundaries, he does address the need for healthy boundaries in church life. 

 
 

29. When Religion Gets Sick. by Wayne Oates 

 

Oates covers some of the same ground as Toxic Faith. However, he goes beyond it in covering a pathology of religious leadership, religious factors in mental illness and answers a long list of questions related to "sick religion." He defines this problem as one that hinders the basic functions of life. Here again issues of grace and truth, love and boundaries, freedom and structure are addressed. 

 
 

30. Working the Angels: The Shape of Pastoral Integrity. by Eugene H Peterson.



31. When He’s Married to Mom: How to Help Mother-Enmeshed Men Open Their Hearts to True Love and Commitment by Kenneth M. Adams.

 
 

32. Silently Seduced: When Parents Make Their Children Partners by Kenneth M. Adams



Boundaries and Mental Illness


Kreger, Randi. The Essential Family Guide to Borderline Personality Disorder: New Tools and Techniques To Stop Walking on Eggshells.
 

Kreger, Randi, with James Paul Shirely. The Stop Walking on Eggshells Workbook.
 

Kreger, Randi, and Kim A. Willams-Justensen. Love and Loathing: Protecting Your Mental Health and Legal Rights When Your Partner Has Borderline Personality Disorder.
 

Lawson, Christine Ann, Ph.D. and Jason Aronson. Understanding the Borderline Mother: Helping Her Children Transcend the Intense, Unpredictable, and Volatile Relationship.
 

This book together with Stop Walking on Eggshells Workbook. makes an awesome pair.
 

I’ve used this book in counseling with adult children of a Mommy Dearest” type. It is not only descriptive of the four types of these mothers but also prescriptive in how to relate with each type within healthy boundaries. Some may find a surprising insight about fibromyalgia and other auto-immune deficiency diseases in this book.
 

Mason, Paul T., Randi Kreger, and Larry J. Siever. Stop Walking on Eggshells; Coping When Someone You Care about Has Borderline Personality Disorder.New Harbinger Pubs (July 1998).
 

Melville, Lynn. Breaking Free From Boomerang Love: Getting Unhooked From Borderline Personality Disorder Relationships
 

Roth, Kimberlee and Freda B. Friedman. Surviving a Borderline Parent: How to Heal Your Childhood Wounds & Build Trust, Boundaries, and Self Esteem. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publishers, Inc., 2003
 

Tinman, Ozzie. One Way Ticket to Kansas: Caring about Someone with Borderline Personality Disorder and Finding a Healthy You.



Forward, Susan. Emotional Blackmail: When the People in Your Life Use Fear, Obligation, and Guilt to Manipulate You. NY: Harper-Collins Publishers, 1997.
 

Hemfelt, Robert, Frank Minirth, Paul Meier. Love is a Choice. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989.
 

Hemfelt, Robert, Frank Minirth, Paul Meier, Deborah Newman, Brian Newman. Love Is A Choice Workbook.Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers 1991.
 

These two books address the co-dependency that many family members and friends of the mentally ill struggle with.


Clergy Appreciation

 

October is National Clergy Appreciation Month.

 

* Established in 1992. 


* Clergy Appreciation National Day of Honoring Pastors is always on the 2nd Sunday in October.



I. Clergy Appreciation Planning Guide from the Clergy Care Network


II. Pastor Appreciation Ideas and Resources by Chaplain Paul Slater


III. Pastor Appreciation Month.

Praying for clergy and their families.

 Praying for pastors and their families is an important part of a congregation's corporate spiritual life.

Unfortunately, these sites and a good quote from the past that I use at the top of the page are not inclusive, but I've not found any that were. I fully support women clergy. 


"Any Church may have a mighty man (woman) of God for its pastor, if it is willing to the price and that price is not a big salary but great praying."  R.A. Torrey, The Power of Prayer,  p.35.


A Plea to Pray for Pastors by Gardiner Spring




Praying for Christian Leaders: Pastors Need Prayer Too by Rev. Will Bruce


Praying for Preachers ​by Gary Bergel, President, Intercessors for America​


Prayer Shield: A Christ centered ministry dedicated to developing prayer for Pastors and Ministry Leaders


30 Scripture-based Prayers for Your Pastor  by Terry Teykl


31 Days of Praying for your Pastor's Wife


      Also on Facebook 

Healthy Pastoral Moves

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



 Acts chapter 20 contains the Apostle Paul's only farewell sermon. For three years, Paul worked hard to build up the church at Ephesus. In verse 25, Paul tells them that he is really leaving and they will not see him again.


I remember what the Bishop at my ordination as an Elder said, "the preachers should really leave when they move and churches should really let the preachers go when they left." The lack of practicing such good etiquette continues to trouble many pastors and churches.


Reading one chapter from the late Bishop Harmon's book, Ministerial Ethics and Etiquette might benefit every pastor. It will definitely help those who are moving as well as the health of our present and former appointments. I dare not assume that everyone has read this book or desires to buy it. So, I will share some of the Bishop's exhortations in chapter four concerning duties to one's predecessor and to one's successor.


Almost every year as we approach moving day, some clergy are heard sharing their stories. Much of this "shop talk" concerns how the health of their or someone else's appointment was damaged by poor clergy etiquette. I've heard many of these stories over these twenty years of pastoral ministry. If I remembered and wrote down every one of them, you would find a multi-volume work at the Cokesbury table during Annual Conference. I could throw in a few of my own stories for good measure. Then we could wallow as victims together.


However, I do not see anywhere in the Bible where we are permitted to adopt a victim mentality. So, let us consider what the dear Bishop says for us concerning this important matter of clergy etiquette. It is important and imperative for us as clergy to take some responsibility for the healthiness of our own appointment and ministry and for others within our connection by practicing good etiquette.


Duty to the Predecessor


* Recognize that at first your work will reap what others have sown.


* Endeavor to carry out ministries, methods, and plans already in place.


* It will do no good, but actual harm to inaugurate immediately sweeping changes in order to let the people know that the new pastor is at the helm. After one gets to know the lay of the land, the needed changes for the best will be much clearer.


* Deal gently with your predecessor's special friends. They are in a time of grieving.


* Remember that those who so freely discuss their dislikes of your predecessor will give a similar introduction to your successor.


* Do not let anyone hear you build yourself up by running your predecessor down.


* Nothing worries a pastor more than for a former pastor to meddle with the affairs of his pastorate. This is a breach of etiquette on the part of the predecessor. Bishop Harmon advises the current pastor to discern the former person's motives. If it is intentional meddling, then it may be necessary for the pastor to be perfectly frank with pastors who interfere and then let know in plain words that they are no longer in charge and their visits, phone calls, and/or letters are not welcomed.


Duty to the Successor


* According to Bishop Harmon, the unanimous voice of pastors asserts that it is a prime duty of every outgoing pastor to meet with and advise the new person of local conditions. Advising the new pastor is best done by a broad survey of the field and its work. If time permits, details may be discussed. At the same time, the outgoing pastor should be on guard less he or she seems to be directing the new pastor's future work.


Some pastors of the older school do not consider the advice above wise. However, if there are hidden rocks in the channel, the new pilot should be apprised of them. There are some things, though, which every pastor should be allowed to find out for himself or herself.


Give your successor a good "send off" with the people. The tone and the content of the comments you make about your successor will largely determine the welcome he or she receives. It will also have a powerful influence upon the entire history of the person's pastoral ministry there.


If fears or doubts about the successor are made even to discreet friends, the brother or sister comes with a mountain of prejudice to scale and silent opposition to conquer.


* Above all, when a pastor leaves a charge, let him or her leave it. No pastor should be constantly going back to gossip with the members or hear comments on the work of the new pastor. Great harm has been done in this way by some pastors. "Get out and stay out" is the injunction here.


* Handle the difficult question of requests from former parishioners to return and officiate at a wedding, or to conduct a funeral by requesting that such invitations be extended through the new pastor. On the other hand, it is considered "positively reprehensible for an ex-pastor to take advantage of his or her personal attachments to secure the honor of doing marriages or funerals in his former charges."


* The breaking of the pastoral ties is not light matter. Often pastors and their families make friends and form connections which transcend the pastoral tie and which only death may dissolve. It would give much pain and add nothing special to the glory of the church were such ties to be severed when the pastor moves. If he or she is tactful, a former pastor will know how to continue as a friend and yet cease to be pastor.


* It is considered unethical for a pastor on leaving a charge to leave the parsonage property in other than first-class condition, with all dirt, rubbish, etc., removed. Common courtesy to his successor demands the observance of the golden rule.


As with the Paul's ministry with the church at Ephesus, so it is with any pastor's ministry. You never know exactly what will happen after you leave. In my pastoral experience, I've found it best to follow Paul's example in Acts 20 by commending everyone to God and to the Word of God's grace-the Bible. In some charges I feel free to say, "after moving day I will always be your friend, but I will no longer be your pastor." In other charges, I've felt led to say that only to a few but only commend the entire congregation as Paul did. In a few, charges, the Holy Spirit has only led me to share Paul's word from Acts 20, shake the dust off my feet in private and leave.


May this outline of exhortations for preceding and succeeding pastors from Bishop Harmon's book give you wisdom that will benefit the health of our covenant relationship as clergy, the health of the congregations we share in pastoral ministry, and truly reflect our covenant relationship with Jesus Christ. 

Motivation, Meaning, and Ministry

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



I. Motivation.



Volumes abound concerning ministry techniques, practices, and styles. In the past century and a half, seminaries (both evangelical and liberal) developed more as academies. This took place as experienced pastors were replaced by professors in the seminaries.


Some schools of divinity focused almost exclusively on academics related to more current topics with some training in pastoral functions. Other seminaries aimed their student’s attention to practical pastoral practice and to classical Christian academic study. A rare handful not only did not divide the head and the hand, but also included training in the heart of ministry. Praise God, we do see more schools of divinity and seminaries including the spiritual life of the minister in their training.


Christian ministry is far more than well prepared hands and feet for the functions of ministry. It is far more than sharpened Christian minds able to address today’s world with God’s Word from our historic Christian faith. Christian ministry is first and foremost a spiritual journey. Christian ministry for both clergy and laity is a journey continually calling us to the Lord of the work. From a growing spirituality in Jesus, we are both called and empowered for the work of the Lord.


No one enters the Lord’s work with 100% pure motives. God uses our churches to work on us as well as through us. Each of us must sincerely ask God to show us our motives. What is driving the engine? Eventually whatever drives the engine of your heart will become obvious to all.


Churches without a passionate spirituality also have a weak prayer life. My friend and colleague Rev. Dr. Brewer wrote a very bleak description of such unhealthy congregations out of his own pastoral experience of building a new church in the Florida Conference.


When God’s healing is not a living reality through prayer, the church can become a back ward of chronically ill people waiting to die. This form of spiritual illness is subtle but deadly. People bring crippling fear and enormous control needs into the life of the church. In such a situation, the church may become more of a leper colony than a hospital. Without the power of God through prayer, ministry to the sick and dying may become little more than compassionate commiseration with their suffering. Instead of making the sick well, churches that do not pray condemn themselves to catching the illnesses they are commissioned to heal. (13)


Also, when the volume of activity becomes the measure of ministry, matters of interior transformation often go unnoticed and neglected. As Peterson states in his book, Working the Angels: The Shape of Pastoral Integrity, “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)”


Being clear and biblical about what drives us and sets our sense of value places both clergy and laity in a better position to lead churches. This happens when pastors and leaders find their own sense of identity, significance, and security in who they are in Christ and not in what they do. Those who desire to lead a group or congregation to the next level must first ask what needs to change in them first. So they examine what drives or motivates them. They ask themselves why do they want to please God. Also, do they want to please God or do they want God to please them by doing it their way. Is their daily walk with God based on works or on grace?


These questions may appear enough to examine one’s motives. However, one more question remains. Is God’s love and approval of you enough? A young seminary professor went to teach in the very seminary where his well known father and uncle taught. At first, he felt intimidated around other faculty. He got into a comparison and competition mode with people other than himself. One day in prayer, he perceived God saying to himself, “Is my love and approval of you enough? Or must you constantly seek the love and approval of others?” How about you?


      A. Unhealthy Motives. (adapted from Steve Martyn's “What’s Driving the Engine?” Lecture)


1. Some people are Need Driven. They need to be needed. The heart of the co-dependent person is hungry, angry, lonely and tired. Often they feel a need to atone for either real of illusionary guilt. Their screaming need to calm their hearts is to be in the center with control, significance, status, and security. Sometimes such anxious motives express themselves in the direct domination of others. Other times, it is seen in getting everyone to love them.


Clergy are in a yes mode by training. This makes it difficult for pastors to set boundaries for the sake of themselves, their families, and their ministry. Current studies reveal two unexpected contrasts among clergy. Unlike the previous generation of pastors as a whole, current pastors generally speaking are more concerned with ministry within healthy boundaries instead of sacrificing everything on the altar of the church and ministry. Although it may not appear obvious, but ministry without boundaries is a form or laziness. Also, as a whole, female pastors are better at setting and living within boundaries for ministry than many male pastors are.


For too many pastors a down Sunday =s a depressed Monday. Or one critique and we lose our self-worth because the one negative =s the whole. Then one’s family becomes second and it comes to hate the hate the church.


I witnessed a pastor with such an unhealthy motive as a teenager. Our youth group leaders took us to events like a movie about an ex-gang leader named Nicky Cruz, a crusade by Mr. Cruz, and a Billy Graham crusade. God changed many of our lives through these experiences. Some were more radically transformed than others. Sad to say but not every parent rejoiced. Their children’s excitement about Jesus, prayer and God’s Word confronted their parent’s alcoholism, addiction to tranquilizers, affairs, and dead faith. Those who were elders and deacons in the church push pressure on the pastor to work in the best interest of this large, downtown, prestigious church. In turn, the pastor closed down the youth group and got rid of the youth minister. He so wanted to keep the prominent leaders happy and the ‘important’ people loving him that he ignored their sins. His unhealthy motivations shaped his sick understanding of ministry. This led him to practice ministry by spiritually and emotionally abusing some very young Christians and their adult youth group workers. Today, most of them are still active practicing Christians in other churches of different denominations.


Others and sometime we can see the symptoms of such need driven motives. It is seen in the following ways: we can’t delegate; we need to about everything in the church; we fish or bate others for compliments. It also manifests itself when we try to get everybody to love us; we are perfectionists; we participate in addictive behaviors (of all kinds); we either run from confrontation or are always confronting; and we chase after people who are mad. It is also seen in working excessive hours, making compulsive calls, giving exaggerated commitments, never saying no, and being offended when we don’t get credit.


In order for our motivations to be healthy, we need to know ourselves, understand our own screaming needs, and allow Jesus to transform us.


2. Some are FEAR DRIVEN. They constantly think of coming undone or flying apart. To them life is not good. They often believe that God is not going to be good to them.


The symptoms include: fear of failure, anxiety, procrastination, fear of success so you shoot yourself in the foot, no risk taking, paranoid—they are out to get me, not spontaneous, isolation from people (not solitude with God), verbal abuse, abuse of authority, insulate ourselves from the Holy Spirit, not trusting, competition, very critical of others,


Your trust in and commitment to God is the key to peace and joy over the long haul of ministry. You are not responsible for others actions and attitudes.  You are only responsible for your own actions and attitudes.  Never surrender to negative feelings, events or people or you will be defeated. As God’s free grace increases you from the fear of people, you can give people permission not to have to like you.


3. Some are DEMAND DRIVEN. They selfishly enter the pastorate as anxious people pleasers who are driven by the latest demand. Too many pastors are doing visitation that is more selfishly than spiritually beneficial. These pastors lust after people’s approval.


A friend and retired Presbyterian pastor recently told me a story. He shared his experience of following a demand driven pastor. He told me that every week, this man got his orders from certain people in the church. He stayed there a very long time. My friend went there, but he did not go to certain people for his weekly orders. In visiting a member who was sick, the church member asked David a question. He said, “Pastor who told you to visit me?” Stunned, David asked the reason for such a question. The man replied, “Because in this church you only minister as a certain group tells you to minister.” The man thanked him for coming, but warned him about possibly moving. Sure enough, the session brought up some trumped up or exaggerated complaints before the presbytery and my friend was gone.


4. Some are GRANDIOUS DRIVEN. Those who want to make a name or seek to establish their worth to the world, excel at the criteria of “success” that the institutional Church gives. People can be in either the ministry of the clergy or the laity and not be serving God.  Those caught up in this drive must learn the difference between being in control to being in charge as well between power and leadership as stated below,


Leadership is power governed by principle, directed toward raising people to their highest levels of personal motive and social morality. Power is different. Power manipulates people as they are: leadership, as they could be. Power manages; leadership engages. Power tends to corrupt; leadership to create. Great leadership require great followership. Leaders mobilize the best in their followers, who in turn demand more from their leaders. (James MacGregor Burns, New York Times, Quoted from NET RESULTS, December 1993.)


5. Some are CARREER DRIVEN. They are greedy for $, job security or advancement. Each opportunity for ministry is but a stepping stone for increasing the four ‘Ps’. —stepping stones on the four “Ps”. The four “Ps” include the size of the paycheck; the quality of the parsonage; the prestige of the pulpit; and the security of the pension.


Your wellbeing can’t be dependent on the institution that you serve. Neither your local church, the conference nor the denomination is your mother. Symptoms of dependency include: competition, comparison, insecurity, measurable performance =s self-worth. It is a myth to think that if I get to one level of church, salary, etc. that I will have it made. Biblical success is offering your best to God, and not being in competition with others. 


The person surrendered to God can be comfortable, and feel good about himself or herself, and can be themselves. The comparison game is sin. If you don't love yourself, your neighbor is in trouble. If the pastor does not love himself or herself, the congregation is in trouble. The worst thing of the world is to work with an insecure senior pastor. All pastors, and particularly senior pastors need to have a sense of peace and joy in Christ. Selfishness and self-love are opposites.


If you get caught in the doing mode, you fall into the comparison trap. In the doing mode, you will never find peace. Biblically speaking you more than your functional position as a pastor.  Where is your source of value and worth? Is your answer, “I am what I do” or is it “My value and worth comes from who I am in Christ.” Living from the foundation of God’s grace instead of our works is tough in our performance culture.


6. Some are DRIVEN BY EMOTIONAL ILLNESS OR PERSONALITY DISORDERS. Of the factors that damage our motives for ministry, personal developmental or personality damage is perhaps the most common, the most often ignored or more accurately denied. Such denial is found not only in seminaries, boards of ordination, but also in the selection of local church leaders. We must use the tools available to us to both discern and offer transforming help to such EGN persons. The lives of these extra grace needed people are out of order. They may hide behind various religious masks as Wayne Oates and Marvin Pate describe in their books on this subject. Churches and/or denominations who adopt a corporate model for growth and ministry tend to glorify some and exploit others with various disorders. Such problems do sometimes exist in either clergy or laity given how broken people are today.


Dr. Conrad Weiser is a practicing Christian psychologist and author of Healers: Harmed & Harmful. He wonders if the declining quality of those entering seminaries for full time ministry in mainline churches is also related to the decline in the status of pastors in society.


We continue as we have to see people entering full time ministry who are narcissists, depressed/dependents or compulsive persons. However, Conrad and others expects an increase in high functioning borderline personalities seeking to enter full time mainline ministry through seminary. This is an alarming comment in light of the irrational rage, seductiveness of people and total lack of empathy of untreated persons with this sickness. Does this provide you with any insights concerning the recent abuse problems within the Roman Catholic Church?


B. Healthy Motives.  (adapted from Steve Martyn's “What’s Driving the Engine?” Lecture)


Healthy motives for ministry develops purposeful, enthusiastic, inwardly directed, authentic persons who are not driven by some personal chaos. Such motives include a healthy fear of the Lord arising from a growing knowledge of Christ’s love, grace, and holiness.


Jesus’ earthly ministry displayed the motive of playing to the audience of God the Father. He spoke what the Father spoke. He did the Father’s deeds. He sought the Father’s praise instead of the praise of people. He trusted his life into the Father’s hands instead of other persons for Jesus knew the human condition. Thus, Jesus was never suspicious, never bitter, never in despair about anyone for he put his trust in the Father first. He trusted absolutely in what God’s grace could do for any person. The ministry of the apostle Paul displayed many of the same motives for ministry. The whole Bible gives us examples and descriptions of persons as well as groups with healthy or unhealthy motives in serving God. 


II. Meaning.


Many are taking the path of least resistance. They seek to acquire the professional self-image of one who could satisfy the people instead of struggling with their call. Thus, pastors are abandoning their calling for a focus on how to keep the customers happy. No wonder clergy morale is low. Some pastors don’t know any other way to pastor nor do they see any other possible meaning for doing ministry. Seeking to please people and not God leads to bondage as stated below,


Pastors will regularly face the temptation to please people. You will often have to deal with displeased people because they hold unrealistic expectations about your role, or simply because they do not like the way you’re ministering. Yet living to please people makes you a slave to everyone, and makes it difficult to follow the direction of the Master lays out. Part of the price pastors pay will be dealing with unhappy people. (“The Price of Pastoral Leadership” by Rich Nathan. Leadership, Summer 1997 Vol. 18, No. 3)


Many mainline churches exist in an inflexible survival mode. Such systems are wide open for spiritual/emotional terrorist attacks by a clique in control or seeking to be in control. This group holds the rest of the congregation like a hostage until they get what they want. Such demanding persons count on others passively going along for the sake of being nice instead of applying biblical church discipline of such persons. No wonder laity morale is low. Some members and church officers don’t know any other way to function in a church.


A Story of real leadership


One day a man was confronted with evidence, concrete, hard, undeniable evidence of his misbehavior with some women in the church’s singles ministry and young girls in the church. What shocked them the most was not that this man denied anything. He did not deny a single thing that they had concrete evidence that he had done. What he did deny was that any of that was abuse. They told him, “There are all sorts of ways you can get help. We want to offer you all of these, but we can’t have this continue.” “Well, what if I just showed up again?” asked the guy. They replied, “We will have to make a very brief but honest report about your situation, our offer of help and your refusal of it. People will have to use this information to make the wisest decisions possible.”


The next Sunday, the guy is there. Somebody makes an announcement. Before the choir director could even get to the microphone, this fellow flies up, grabs the mike, and made his own announcement which is followed by four elders coming forward, apprehending him, and gently but firmly taking him out of the building, calling the police and having him restrained from their property.


The next week, the church phone rang off the hook. The basic summary of all the calls went something like this one, “We’ve been visiting your church for a while and wondered about joining here. After what we saw on Sunday, we think this is the church for us and we thank you for what you did. We’ve never felt so safe at a church. We’ve never been a part of a church where wrong doers are actually dealt with—a place where the young vulnerable are actually protected, where people whose lives are out of order are held accountable.”


Today, more than ever, we need a carefully thought out theology of ministry as clergy and laity. Either the path of least resistance or the path of faithfulness has pain. The first leads to burnout or anger and the other to redemptive pain.


Our motivation for ministry shapes our understanding of the meaning of ministry. Both our motivation and our view of ministry molds our practice of ministry. A congregation’s motivation and understanding of ministry is often a reflection of their pastoral leadership over the years. As Dr. Maxie Dunham is found of saying, “As the seminaries go, so go the pastors. As the pastors go, so go the local churches.


  A. Biblical Understanding of Ministry


1. It is rooted in Scripture. “What have you read in the last five years that made you think biblically about ministry?” (Oden,Pastoral Theology.)


2. A solid understanding of ministry must be informed by tradition.


However, paupers neglect tradition and Puppets are a slave to tradition Today’s traditionalists are like the Christian Jews of Acts 15.


3. A solid understanding of ministry is adapted to the context of ministry-incarnation of ministry is suited to one’s giftedness.


Authentic ministry begins with a person’s theology of ministry in light of their gifts and graces. We are called to come to Christ and abide in Christ before we are called to go for Christ. Out biggest temptation is wanting to do something for God each day before spending time with God. Oswald Chambers stresses the primacy of relationship over ministry. Our relationship with God is the main thing, not the work we do.


  B. Jesus’ Ministry as a Model for Understanding the "Meaning of Ministry”


We are not the principle actor in our ministry for we baptize too much self as being our ministry. Actually we participate in Jesus' ministry through us as clergy and laity. The key is not asking Jesus to bless our ministry, but finding out what Jesus is blessing and doing that ministry. Ministry does not belong to us or to the church, but to Jesus.


Implications


Pray less, “Lord help me in my ministry activities. ”Pray more “Lord help yourself to me so that I am not in your way or mess your thing up.”


Remember, you don't have to make it happen for the battle is the Lord's. Christ is to make it happen--not me.  Burnout in ministry comes from not seeing this.


This changes our approach to preparation from focus on self to God. When we prepare for or do ministry seeking to please someone other than God, we are seeking to meet some pride issue of self-acceptance.


The major movements in Jesus' life and ministry are to be in our ministry also.


          1. Incarnation. Advent. God affirms his creation and demonstrates his love for it.


          2. Crucifixion Lent. Word of Judgment on sin.


          3. Resurrection Easter and Pentecost. Word of recreation.


Much of our pastoral work is in the incarnational love and affirmation toward others and receiving their getting to know you.


We do II in actively calling their lives into question. Following II as we proclaim God's Word--some repent and III come into new life. Others will not repent in light of II and they will turn against us to crucify us. The cross tells me we hate God so much that we would kill him if we could.


We need a balance of I, II, and III instead of just a majority of only one. In all of these major movements of ministry, we surrender not only our gifts and selves to God, but also are pains and our struggles in Christ’s ministry.


Jesus spent most of His time with the three, the twelve, the seventy, and then the crowds. So should we.


The reality of the local church shocks us so that clergy and laity sometimes only want to maintain the status quo. When this happens, we replace passion for change to pursue a career, position, status, influence, and power. Such persons place their trust in an unwritten contract “If I do what the institutional church wants, I will be rewarded.”


Ministry not only means feeding sheep, but also taking up the cross. This can happen when you stand for the truth, the pain of growing pains or pastoring a church like Moses with a grumbling people. The cross of ministry sometimes involves $ sacrifices.


Our attitude toward the cross of ministry should be beyond the grin and bear it to glorify God. The place of suffering in service and passion in ministry needs to be taught more today. The cross of ministry may involve death to pride, material comfort, or popularity. I Thes. 5:24.


III. Ministry.


A. The Need for A Second Reformation


Transactional Leadership or the Standard Model of Ministry came to America with the cultural baggage of the Great Reformation in Europe. The American Church today is experiencing a Second Reformation. The first one raised up the biblical teaching about the priesthood or all believers. However, it did not thoroughly apply it concerning the ministry of all Christians.


Since the 1970’s various editions of The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church have emphasized more and more the ministry of all Christians. Four years ago, I wrote a resolution to General Conference. It said that while I rejoiced in more clearly defining the ministry of all Christians, our current model of pastoral ministry was contrary. I asked them to review pastor’s various roles within three major categories: Leadership, Ministry, and Management. My resolution was sent to the Board of Elders and Local Pastors for further reflection in preparation for General Conference in 2004. I pray that they come up with a list that truly moves us away from the standard model of ministry to the second reformation which sets all Christians free for ministry.


B. The Standard Model of Ministry. (Adapted from a handout in Dr. Steve Martyn's "Spirituality of Leadership" course. )


This model tends to build program based churches. This standard working model of the last millennium placed the pastor in the middle of the wheel. This co-dependent hub model is an equation for death. Why? Because it leads people to believe the pastor is here to meet my needs. This attitude sets up a very selfish center of personal needs. This is a parent-child model with self at the center. Thus, the pastor has very little time given to study and preparation. Also, the dependency of co-dependency leads pastors to act and look like abused spouses who thinks if they do more they will not get abused again.


Too often in program based churches, the pastor leads as the unspiritual CEO who tries to control everything. Such congregations and their pastors too often operate from a Pelagian view of salvation. Such a view focuses far more on human free will than on God’s free grace in Christ. This leads many church to choose and execute the latest prepackaged church renewal, stewardship, evangelism, mission, or growth program without any prayer or biblical/theological discernment of themselves, and God’s will.


These types of churches tend to 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).


We inherited the program-based church model from the Reformation. It once fit the European cultures in which everyone lived in or near villages, in which people experienced the intimate and supportive life. This form, understandably featured "a church building, a pastor, at a flock gathered from the parish area."


The inherited program based design way of doing church no longer satisfies either the people inside the church nor the people outside the church. Only 1/8 of the people who do the work to make program based churches function. Some of those people work long and hard at tasks, routines, traditions, an endless programs; they believe they are doing the work of the Lord, so they do not understand when they "burn out." (Some other people within the 1/8 merely fill positions, and experience even less fulfillment). The other 7/8 merely attend worship, programs, and meetings (or they stay away). 


The program based design church assembles peoples in large groups-- which prohibits people from experiencing any deep community or sense of belonging. Such a church confines most of the church activities to the church building, rather than encouraging the church penetration into the community. The program based design does consume much time and energy, making it improbable that the pastoral staff or active members will befriend and win many "gold plated, certified, Hell raising unbelievers. 


Indeed, the typical program based design churches has virtually no contact with the unreached community. The program-based concept does not build people. It only bills programs. Its leaders assume that programs build people, but it doesn't achieve this goal. The program based church does one thing well. It produces wimpy, nominal, in active members! It's inactive typically number. 40 % to 50 % of the churches membership. Of those, half may attend monthly, the other half don't come at all.


Worst of all the program based church does not provide the all-important fellowship, which is needed to create the kind of community in which people experience intimacy, love, and being "members of one another, in which people "build up one another."


"There is literally no time or place in a program based church for people to become close to one another. The programs isolate members from each other. When they meet, it's in the neutral setting of the church building. Each encounter is carefully programmed: there's choir music to be rehearsed, a Bible lesson to be studied, a budget to be prepared. Bonding together in love and commitment isn't possible. There's no community in the PBD church structure. Those who create it must do so in spite of the organization's schedule, and are subject to criticism for not being cooperative with the church program." (p 51 Ralph Neighbor. Where Do We Go From Here?).


C. The Flowing Model of Ministry. (Adapted from a handout in Dr. Steve Martyn's "Spirituality of Leadership" course. )


In place of the hub model of standard, transactional leadership, we need the “flowing together in a common direction” model of transformational leadership. Thus, instead of doing a majority of the ministry, pastors and laity are discovering the NT call of equipping and being equipped for ministry. Such an approach calls for both healthy motivations and a NT understanding of the meaning of ministry. Pastors who equip people for ministry enjoy better pastor-parish relationships. Where ministry is shared, the church thrives. In these churches, the pastor not only delegates ministry responsibilities but also the authority to carry them out. They lead like John Ed at Fraser Memorial who said, “If the pastor knows everything going on in a church, there is not enough going on.”


When I was in seminary in the early 1980’s, the “Intro to Pastoral Ministry” course emphasized avoiding leading churches with canned programs. We were encouraged to lead churches according to biblical principles as outlined in Alvin Lingrend’s classic, Foundations for Purposeful Church Administration.


D. The New Reformation in Practice.


Effective ministry in these post-modern times involves leaving our past European Cultural Roots of the First Reformation. It calls us to adopt the more biblical model of the Second Reformation which emerging already. The biblical ordering of a congregation’s life means majoring on bringing people to God more than on increasing attendance of programs. Thus, the major focus is on involving people in small groups instead of majoring on programs for people to attend.


Small groups address several needs. An important one is seeing the broken, bruised, inexperienced converts in church transformed into healthy, dedicated disciples. Then churches will have enough competent, qualified and willing leaders to begin and maintain needed ministries.


Contrary to the standard model for ministry, the flowing model the pastor time for to study and preparation. It emphasizes the pastor’s role more as a spiritual guide than as a C.E.O. Also, most of a pastor’s time can be spent according to one’s spiritual gifts and stewardship of time. Where a pastor is not gifted or the stewardship of time prohibits, others can be raised up with those spiritual gifts and available time. This is a new and shared responsibility for United Methodists between the Pastor Parish Relations Committee and the Leadership Development Committee.


This also means that pastors don’t need to spend their life feeling guilty about those 6 things they can’t do well. Only God can do all things well. God with the flow of your strengths.  Delegate for a flowing leadership instead of hub leadership. You will have enough time for both ministry and a balanced life when you prioritize what really counts in light of your own gifts and graces.


The flowing, transformational model moves pastor’s to a view of equipping and leading others with a focus on personal Christian discipleship. This model calls pastors to lead Pastor Parish Relations Committee’s in reviewing the meaning of ministry and evaluating ministry; leadership development committees in selecting, supporting and evaluating leaders; and Church Councils in planning ministry beyond just using Robert’s Rules of Order to a more biblical perspective. As this happens from church to church and from pastor to pastor, the unfinished work of the European Reformation will be completed.


For a detailed contrast of the standard model & the "flowing" model of pastoral leadership click here.


Works Cited


 

The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church 1996. Ed. Harriett Jane Olson.  Nashville:  The UM Publishing House, 1996. 


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


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


Lindgren, Alvin J., and Norman Shawchuck. Management for Your Church. Indianapolis:  Organization Resources P, 1984.


Martyn, Steve. “What’s Driving the Engine?” Lecture to DM 818. Asbury Theological Seminary. Wilmore, KY. 14 July 1998. 


Nathan , Rich. “The Price of Pastoral Leadership,” Leadership. Summer 1997 Vol. 18, No. 3


Neighbor, Ralph and Lorna Jenkins. Where Do We Go From Here : A Guidebook for the Cell Group Church. Torch Publications, Inc.; 1st edition, 1990.


Oden, Thomas C. Pastoral Theology: Essentials of Ministry. San Francisco: Harper, 1983.


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


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

The Pastor's Wife

 While crisis and support ministries often do include the pastor's spouse, these ministries are uniquely for the pastor's wife.



 31 Days of Praying for Your Pastor’s Wife


Also on Facebook


Aldersgate Renewal Ministries


Offers a three-day minister and spouse retreat, free retreat cottages for pastors and their families (based on availability), an annual conference on the Holy Spirit and multiple renewal events impacting individuals and their local churches.


This ministry provides--at little or no charge--small, personal retreats for the wives of pastors and ministers along with emotional, spiritual and ministry support by phone, e-mail or in person.


Care For The Pastor's Wife Too!--Those Unhealthy Expectations. by Sarah Jane Wessels


Coming Out Of The Dark: Two Pastors’ Wives Share In Their 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. 



 
Pastors' Wives Come Together Time Magazine Thursday, Mar. 29, 2007 by Lisa Takeuchi Cullen 


Pastors' Wives Thriving


Sarah's Tent for pastors' wives and ministry women



Role of a Pastor's Wife


Spouse Connect: Where Ministers' Spouses Can Find Community


Created by a small group of United Methodist pastors' spouses, SpouseConnectseeks to provide a safe space for the husbands and wives of pastors and others in congregational ministry to share frustrations, joys, concerns, and ideas with others who understand.


Psalm One Pastors' Wives Events


The Pastor's Wife


Encouragement and resources for women married to ministers.


The Pastor’s Wife: Beating The Ministry Blahs by Gabrielle Rienas


Whether she has a personal call to ministry or not, the minister’s wife is called to support her husband. But what should she do when the expectations of ministry seem overwhelming and her husband isn’t coping?


Find out how to navigate the storms of ministry and bring healing and hope to the parsonage 

Women in Ministry

 Heart of America Ministry Women


They host an annual fall conference which provides a safe place for pastors' wives and women in ministry to have personal renewal, challenge for spiritual growth and fellowship with peers. The driving distance, quarterly events which develop ministry skills and 24/7 availability for crisis care. 



Sarah's Tent for pastors' wives and ministry women

The Pastor's Husband

 
There are many women pastors who are married, but a lot of people still think in terms of a male pastor with a wife. I've started this page to give some balance to the situation. 

 


 The Role of the Pastor’s Husband


Anonymous Pastor’s Husband


Perspective of a Pastor’s Husband


What to Do When a Pastor Has a Husband?


Role of a Pastor's Husband 

Power in Leadership and Martial Arts

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


 As a Christian and as a martial artist, I see many parallels between the use of Power in Christian leadership and the martial arts. 


 I. Your Use of Power & Authority?


Contrary to one false assumption concerning martial arts, the first-degree black belt is more like graduating from college. The fourth degree black belt is similar to gaining a master’s degree. While it takes just a few years to earn the first black belt, it takes many years to gain the others. As a martial artist develops, the healthy use of power grows increasingly important to both them and others. The misuse of power and skills to either bully or to defend with excessiveness is considered very disrespectful to your martial arts master, your martial art, and to others.


The same is true of the training you receive as a leader within Christ’s Church.  No matter how much you lean or degrees you earn, it takes many years of experience and disciplined character development before you begin to master the art of Christian leadership. As the Christian leader develops, your use of power either builds up the body of Christ or builds up themselves by tearing down the church.


Your leadership as a clergy person (pastor, evangelist, District Superintendent, District President, Executive Presbyter, Bishop, Synod President, Arch Bishop) or as a lay person involves a healthy use of power. If you are not continuing on the master quest of Christian leadership by developing seasoned character and skills, you will misuse your power and authority in unhealthy ways. Such misuse is very disrespectful to your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the Great Commission, and to Christ’s Church. Much of the poor health in churches today is directly tied to this issue.


II. Healthy Use of Power


A growing martial artist is soon confronted with the question, “How do you as a clergy person (pastor, evangelist, District Superintendent, District President, Executive Presbyter, Bishop, Synod President, Arch Bishop) or church leader rightly use power? Where does "laying down your life" and defending yourself or others come together?


Real maturity in any martial art is never as much about belt rank as it is about self-control. You never know when the ability to maintain one's focus in the most anxious of situations will come in handy. I’ve seen too many very talented and highly educated clergy (pastor, evangelist, District Superintendent, District President, Executive Presbyter, Bishop, Synod President, Arch Bishop) as well as local church leaders fall prey when a church system or subsystem becomes anxious. Their lack of self-control leads them to lose focus and become controlled by the anxiety of others. They also loose an important opportunity to lead.


Such loss of focus helps no one and often leads to self-destruction of either or both the clergy person (pastor, evangelist, District Superintendent, District President, Executive Presbyter, Bishop, Synod President, Arch Bishop) and the congregation. At the heart of the spiritual master quest of Christian leadership and ministry is self-control, integrity, as well as courtesy.


Self-control or what others call self-differentiation is seen in serene, self-contained people, at peace with themselves and the world around them. God's sanctifying grace empowers a person to mature in spiritual self-differentiation where he or she lives in and operates from the peace of God which passes all understanding for it guards their heart and mind. The Epistle of James would consider such a person as having an undivided soul. A clergy person (pastor, evangelist, District Superintendent, District President, Executive Presbyter, Bishop, Synod President, Arch Bishop) or local church leader with great strength of soul is a spiritually powerful yet gentle individual and a true master of Christian leadership.


III. Biblical Examples of A Healthy Use of Power


We see such soul strength in Moses whom the Bible calls the meekest man on earth. We see such strength in Jesus Christ who could both chase the moneychangers out of the temple, and choose to lay down his life for the sin of the whole world like a lamb led to the slaughter.


We also see it in the Apostle Paul who would give himself freely to proclaiming the Gospel, yet rebuke the Apostle Peter, stand up for his rights as a Roman citizen, and defend his apostleship. We see it called for in the NT when sometimes the church is called to forgive and other times it is called to discipline the wayward and rebuke the heretic. We see it in the NT call to love one another and yet hold those in leadership in respect, which also includes paying them well, and not looking down on their youth if they are young like Timothy. While the NT calls us to lay down our lives for others, it also calls us to self-defense against the Devil with the full armor of God. While the NT calls people to submit to one another in love, it also calls for people not to Lord it over others or look down on others.


IV. Two Examples of the Healthy Use of Power in a Local Church.


   A. Wrong Hand in the Cookie Jar.


A pastor friend of mine could hardly believe what he heard in a phone call one day from the bank. The bank president informed the pastor that the FBI had arrested one of that church’s members for line crime at the bank. This person was also one of several treasurers within that church. As a banking person, they had available to them the ability to commit a line crime by going into all of the church’s accounts. A line crime is when you use an authorized name, that is not yours, to transfer money from one account to another. This is what this person had done. The FBI’s investigation uncovered $30,000 of stolen money.


To the pastor’s amazement the spouse of the arrested church member came to him with an interesting plea. He asked that no charges be brought against them as a couple and pledged to re-pay the $30,000 plus. Well the FBI caught them. The FBI was the one who was pressing charges. The FBI in that situation was not likely to drop anything. Likewise, the church folks let those two know that until the trial was over they were suspended from all offices in the church. No longer would the spouse be able to use their name to transact church funds.


They also began to remember a comment that person had made almost every month at board meetings. ‘Well them people up in the Conference Building, they’ve just forgotten what real Christianity is all about. They don’t need any money.’ They began to see such words in a new light. They also came to understand why they had struggled for money for years.



V. The Pain of Healthy Leadership


 A. Straying Youth Leader Released.


I once witnessed the downfall of a very talented and gifted youth worker. Her lack of a vision for ministry larger than herself was not seen until her husband was sent overseas for six months. Then, she changed her way of relating with the youth group. She stopped being their leader and started being their buddy. One of the parents who worked with her tried to warn her of the dangers of doing this, particularly with the boys. Well she did not hear the loving but firm warning. Other adult leaders in the church tried along with myself.


Very soon after those warnings, the SS superintendent called me up about some valid complaints from several parents. Thus, I called a meeting of the SS superintendent, several women of the church, the youth worker and myself. Finally, several in the church including some of the adult women met with this young talented person and myself.


We told her that we really appreciated her talents and gifts. We also said we didn’t know what was happening in her life with her husband gone for so long.  However, it is obvious that your life is out of order. While we would like to help you somehow, we also must to do something about our youth group. So, we welcome you to continue with us. We invite you to find some help, but we can’t have you leading the youth group anymore until whatever this is gets deal with. Well, she saved face by saying, “I was thinking about stepping down anyhow because my husband and I will be moving to a nearby town when he returns. Sure enough, they left.


This was a very painful experience for everyone involved and the youth group grieved over the good they had lost in her better months. However, what we did restored health to both the youth group and the church until the next disease came.


 B. Recovering from the Pain of Healthy Leadership and the Wisdom it Brings.


A rather healthy church went through a spiritual freedom workshop. They were in the part of the workshop where they forgive people who had hurt their church in the past. During this process there are many written prayers and spontaneous prayers.


During a quiet moment they heard a man crying. As he cries, he tells the story of a very gifted businessman who had come into that church. He rose to a prominent position of leadership. About as soon as he became a prominent leader, several of the volunteers started dropping out like flies. When they were asked why they dropped out, they said they could not handle this man’s crass and demanding behavior and way of relating with people.


About this same time, this guy entered into counseling with his pastor and was talking about how he could not get along with his sister. She could not understand why he took all the money from his daddy’s account when his daddy moved in with him to live and transferred it all to his account. When his daddy died, he never shared any of the money with his sister.


Well to make a long story short, the various pieces of the puzzle began to come together. This person had a problem. The church leaders had a real problem. They called the man in and shared that his obstinate, arrogant, rude way of relating with people and trying to demonstrate leadership in that church was just tearing folks up. Well, instead of humbling himself, he just became enraged. He and his family just left that church quickly. The pastor and other leaders of this church learned that this was not the first time that this man had done this. Nor was it the first time this man had been confronted for being the kind of harsh, cruel, demanding person that he was. Neither did he repent.


As that other man in that meeting cried, his tears were not of confession, but just releasing the pain of having to deal with people who were gifted but had overly domineering personalities. People like that who just had no brokenness before God at all. Following the time of prayer, the outside group facilitator encouraged the leadership to protect themselves in the future by following the Bible’s exhortations to consider the person’s whole life in selecting them into leadership and not merely their in church behavior.


VI. Healthy Use of Power for Christian Leaders


I see one more important but subtle parallelism between the Christian ministry of clergy and local church leaders and TKD. In each the focus is on power for mastery over oneself in competition with oneself. In neither is the focus on power for lordship over others nor in competition with others. In each this is a matter of the heart far more than in just the fulfilling the outward functions of Christian leadership. As with the apostles your authority and power in Christ is in earthen vessels so that the greatness of the glory may be of God and not of yourself.


Thus, your spiritual authority and power is for the building up of the church. It is not for building you up, (clergy or laity), or tearing others, (clergy or laity ), down in selfish spite and anger or some other impure motive. If you as a clergy person (pastor, evangelist, District Superintendent, District President, Executive Presbyter, Bishop, Synod President, Arch Bishop) or as a local church leader misuse power or functions from a competition mode in Christian ministry, you are far from mastering the art of Biblical leadership. Thus, you bring disrespect to their Master Jesus Christ, the mission and ministry of Christ’s Church, and to others.


The shepherd’s staff is both a means of comfort and confrontation. One end is used to pull up fallen sheep out of holes. The other end is an effective tool to fight off wolves attacking sheep. That end is also good for keeping the sheep in line. A good shepherd of the sheep uses power in a healthy and wise manner.


When the Chief Shepherd and Overseer of your soul returns, will you receive the crown of glory that does not fade away? One way to answer this question for yourself now is by answering another question. Healthy or unhealthy? That is the question! Therefore, honestly and prayerfully examining your use of power as a leader, (clergy or lay) in Christ’s Church.
 

Practical Spiritual Self-Defense for a Congregation

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


 As a Christian and as a martial artist, I see many parallels between the need of spiritual self-defense of a congregation and the martial arts. 



 Very often a  tae kwon do instructor will remind the students of the three basics goals of self-defense. If someone attacks you, the first basic goal calls for escaping. If they persist, then you seek to bring them under control. If they escape your attempts to control, then you block and strike just enough to stop them.


Not everyone trained in TKD lives with these basics solidly in place. If they are attacked or perceive an attack, they immediately respond with the third basic goal. That’s not all either. These bullies take number three beyond any reasonable boundary. Such people blindly crash the boundaries of others. Oftentimes their lives demonstrate the gracefulness of an octopus on four pair of roller skates.


The NT teaches us a balance of grace and truth for our Christian discipleship in interpersonal relations. Jesus taught us to first of all go to the offending person and talk with them. If they do not listen, we are to take someone with us. If they continue with their hardheartedness, we are to bring them before the church. If they still do not listen, they face the consequences.


Years ago, the elders of a church confronted a man with evidence. They had concrete, hard, undeniable evidence of his misbehavior with some women in the church’s singles ministry and young girls in the church. What shocked them the most was not that this man denied anything. He did not deny a single thing that they had concrete evidence that he had done. What he did deny was that any of that was abuse.


They told him, “There are all sorts of ways you can get help. We want to offer you all of these, but we can’t have this continue.” “Well, what if I just showed up again?” asked the guy. They replied, “We will have to make a very brief but honest report about your situation, our offer of help and your refusal of it. People will have to use this information to make the wisest decisions possible.”


The next Sunday, the guy was there. Somebody makes an announcement. Before the choir director could even get to the microphone, this fellow flies up, grabs the mike, and began telling people why he was let go from his ministry. Immediately, four elders came forward, apprehended him, and gently but firmly took him out of the building, calling the police and had him restrained from their property.


The next week, the church phone rang off the hook. The basic summary of all the calls went something like this one, “We’ve been visiting your church for awhile and wondered about joining here. After what we saw on Sunday, we think this is the church for us and we thank you for what you did. We’ve never felt so safe at a church. We’ve never been a part of a church where wrong doers are actually dealt with—a place where the young vulnerable are actually protected, where people whose lives are out of order are held accountable.”


Failing to combine both truth and grace with appropriate power opens us up a laundry list of epidemic problems in the North American Church. Much depression in ministry leaders and in their marriages leads them to quit church. The core issue is hardly ever too loose or too rigid of boundaries. Very often the core issue is traceable to unbalanced combinations of boundaries, love, truth and power with one’s own family, marriage, and sometimes the extended family.


Study the four gospels to see how Jesus combined both truth and grace with power. Read the epistles to find examples of the early church living or not living with disciplined and loving boundaries. Now, evaluate your own Christian discipleship, marriage, parenthood and ministry. As a spiritual martial artist for Jesus where are your growing edges concerning truth, grace and power? 

Dealing with "Trojan Horse" Transfers

 John M. Crowe, M.Div., D.Min.

and

Thomas F. Fischer, M.Div., M.S.A. 

Used with permission from our article in

Sharing The Practice: The International Quarterly Journal of the Academy of Parish Clergy.

1998 pg 12-16. 

Also published as an article in the

 "Ministry Health Newsletter" MH No. 168 

 An ancient story is told of the city of Troy being captured. One day the people of Troy saw a gigantic wooden horse outside their gates. Thinking that it was a gift, they brought it inside. That night, while everyone was sleeping, the soldiers hidden inside the wooden horse climbed out and defeated the city of Troy. 


Sometimes, but not always, people who transfer into a church can be a "Trojan Horse Transfer" ("THT's") who will bring defeat into a church. Paul's warning to the Ephesian Elders of "ravenous wolves" may very well apply to pastoral ministry to THTs. 


"Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them." (Acts 19:28-30 NIV). 


New Members: Not Always A Blessing


Often pastors and members expect new members to be helpful to their church. Rick Warren in The Purpose Driven Church (Zondervan, 1995) speaks to this expectation not always being fulfilled by those who join a church by transferring from another church or denomination: 


"New members, especially those transferring from other churches, often have personal agendas and preconceptions about the church." People who transfer their membership to [another] church carry cultural baggage from their previous church, and they may have certain expectations that [their new] church has no intention of fulfilling" (PDC, p. 92). 


To allow anyone to join any Christian congregation without understanding its purpose is only asking for problems and conflict. New members who transfer to a new congregation may possess a different vision for ministry. Oftentimes they may involve the church in a power struggle. This means, as Rick Warren observed, "the best time to discover anyone's conflict with this church's philosophy of ministry is before they join" (PDC, p. 93).


How to Spot Trojan Horse Transfers


Virtually every pastor has experienced THTs. A newly transferred member suddenly begins an effort to force the church and the pastor into his or her own selfish perception of what the ideal church and pastor should be. Beforehand, most church members and the pastor welcomes their leadership. 


Like most THTs, they have been helpful to the church in some regards. However, when the THTs unveils themselves, people begin to question whether their motives are pure and Christian. Some begin to wonder if the THT's motives are not rooted in ignorance of church history and church growth principles. Such a perception of the THT increases as the THT displays an arrogance that they--and they only--perceive God's will for the church. 


As time passes on, it becomes apparent that THTs involvement with the church comes primarily from the basis of their own personal unhappiness and unmet needs, as they project their frustrations onto the church.


Initials Signs of THTs


1. THTs are masters of disguise who present themselves as very dedicated, active church members who want to "help" this struggling church. 


2. They hide among their "allies of opportunity." Theses "allies" are the congregational powerbrokers and disgruntled past and future powerbrokers who become their friends and support the hidden agendas of the THTs. This will often lead to their unquestioned nomination to a leadership position. 


3. THTs spend much time "hanging around" the pastor, doing favors and ingratiating themselves to the pastor as if this behavior somehow validates them as important persons. 


4. THTs will request that the pastor push their favorite agenda or program. When the THTs request is either denied or put off, the THT's arrogant spirit rises to the surface. 


5. THTs overly involve themselves in the activities of the church. Such super church membership appears to be driven more out of personal pain than born out of love, joy and peace in the Holy Spirit. If they are married, there will be an obvious lack of marital intimacy.

 

6. THTs may make incessant contact with the pastor with an inexhaustible listing of "great" ideas from their previous church. In extreme cases, some may contact the pastor and other members as many as 3-4 times per day. 


7. THTs further reveal themselves by talking publicly and in church business meetings about their former church ad nauseum. 


8. Listen carefully for THTs not seeing any problem with unacceptable church procedures. It may something as harmless as having one's membership in two churches at the same time. Or it may be something more serious such as denying--and defying-- denominational guidelines and mandates. THTs don't mind bending, breaking or making rules up as they go along. as needed to suit their agenda! Of course, anyone else who does the same is severely chastised for such "outrageous" conduct. 


9. Watch for comments at church board meetings and other church functions that express a lack of respect for the pastor or appear to cast doubt upon the pastor being right for this church. This is a favorite tactic of THTs. 


10. Pay close attention to a suspected THT's personal history. An important signal is that THT's have had membership in several different churches the same or different denominations in the same locale over the years. Listen especially for any disparaging remarks about their previous pastor(s) or pastors in general. The most aggressive THTs may also have a record of being in trouble with denominational executives. 


11. Another favorite THT ploy includes disrespectfully ridiculing the denominational book of church order. THTs may call it that "clergy union book" or an "antiquated document". Denominational staff may also "enjoy" the same disrespectful treatment.


Advanced Signs of THTs


1. THTs demand private meetings with the pastor to share concerns that sound more like commands that the pastor do something about the "problem". 


2. Having made friends of the church's powerbrokers, THTs express exaggerated "grave" concerns over the struggling finances or some other hot issue in the life of the congregation. 


3. THTs use their elected office as platform to go beyond the boundaries of their office to instill fear in the church membership. It is a short step for the THTs to demand the removal of the pastor as the solution for that fear. 


4. THTs then convince some naive church members that raising the "plea of poverty" and the idea of changing pastors or some other solution are legitimate issues. THTs play well into a church's current pain and anxiety over some past and current expense or experience. 

]

5. Despite the best efforts of denominational executives and church development persons, THTs often lead a church on a continuing plunge into the business model of operation. Driven virtually exclusively by the "bottom line," they self-righteously sift through all means of reducing expenses to make the church run as cheaply as possible. Pastoral compensation, denominational support, and significant ministry items also fall under their budget axe. 


6. If the church has never viewed the pastor as anything but their employee, the actions of these THTs make things worse. Their disrupting influence, based upon a business model, may lead a church to request removing the pastor immediately or drastically reducing the pastor's income to effect the pastor's resignation. 


7. If the THTs fear-mongering influence is unsuccessful, they will personally share their anger with the pastor in a most explosive manner. When these threats don't work, they will raise the issue of lowering the pastor's salary again at the slightest hint of a decrease in the church's finances. This issue is often raised in the fall of the year after the summer slump in attendance produces low contributions. 


8. If the church has a sizable amount of money stored away, THTs will want the money hidden or stashed away. When denominational executives seek support, THT's will answer with pleas of poverty.


Dealing With Full-Blown THTs


1. Get to know well the members who recently joined the church by letter of transfer under the last pastor. These new members can be your greatest ministry assets or liabilities. Make your own assessment of the members who have transferred in regardless of your predecessor's recommendations. Each member has an unique personality chemistry with each of their pastors. The chemistry which your predecessor had with members may not be that you will experience with them. 


2. Keep your ears open. Generally, people are consistent in their behaviors in and outside the church even when covered with a veneer of hypocrisy. Without prying, you may be surprised how much information you can glean from other people's observations. Skillful use of interviewing techniques is extremely helpful. Remember, the best interviewers "play dumb" and don't do all the talking. They just listen. Don't fill the silence...as tempting as it may be. Let others (like the THTs) fill the silence and, in so doing, give what may be necessary information to uphold the ministry. 


3. Disciple a team that will resist such THTs and their allies from pushing the church all over the map. This happens by cultivating and deepening your strategic relationships with your staff, elected officers, and influencers. By continuing to grow in your relationship with each other, your church's team spirit can strengthen the bond of mutual respect and trust. 


Accomplish this goal by increasing your efforts to help each staff person be effective in both their personal discipleship and in their public ministry. Give your elected officers more affirmation and spiritual nurture. 


4. Listen more to the church's influencers, elected or not, who church members turn to for wisdom in making important decisions. Get them to talk about their vision for the church and how they want to work toward making it happen. Remind staff, elected officers and influencers of your common loyalty to Jesus Christ, His church, and the common core values and philosophy of ministry. Encourage them to continue to embrace those and adopt them for themselves and the church. 


By taking this higher leadership profile, members will start seeing you lead from the higher ground. They will know your real life testimony of Christ, who you are, and what you stand for. When--and only when--you are certain that this bond of mutual respect and trust is strong can you challenge the THT most effectively. 


5. Involve the church's staff, elected leadership and influencers in some leadership training such as dealing with antagonists, effective assimilation, communication, healing those who hurt, etc. Studies of Biblical encounters with difficult people and situations (e.g. Acts, I Corinthians, Galatians, Jesus' Ministry, Revelation, et al.) can be informative and spiritually enlightening. 


6. Judiciously share your observations of red flags with trusted members of your pastor-parish relations committee and administrative council's chairperson. Especially in the case of THTs with a track record, keep the District Superintendent or other helpful denominational executives informed as needed. 


7. It is very important to keep a personal, confidential file of letters and documentation of the THTs behavior over a period of time. Also, keep a record of your own behavior and the facts that pertain to events and issues related to THTs . This may include notations and journal entries. No one--repeat--no one except you and the Lord should know the existence of this. Keep it at home in an absolutely secure place. Guard it with your life. 


8. Don't leave a paper trail. Letters, notes, etc. should be avoided. If a response is required, avoid attacks and specifics. Instead, indicate things which will help your position in the eyes of those with whom the THTs share the letter. Such things include: "I appreciate your concern in these matters...," "I would welcome the opportunity to discuss these further with you...," etc. 


By all means, don't document your enmity or anything that can be used against you. Instead, document your pastoral approach. Be friendly, inviting and pastoral and in so doing you will heap coals on their head (Romans 12). 


9. When such people insist on their own way, then for the good of the flock, telling them they will be happier in another church where they fit in better may be necessary. Considering how "important" to the church they feel they are, they will not easily leave. After all, it's the pastor that's the problem not them. Be aware, however, that these words directed to a THT will almost always boomerang. If done too quickly and indiscriminately, they can boomerang on the pastor. 


The most common boomerang is the "victimization strategy." Common boomerangs include "Pastor is unfair," "The Pastor is kicking us out," "The pastor is a dictator who asks anyone to leave who disagrees with him," "The pastor is not Christian," "What kind of pastor is this who doesn't love the sheep," etc. are all typical THT responses. 


THTs are skilled and devious in spreading these responses among the church membership. The resulting perception is that the THTs are the victims and the pastor is the antagonist. This happens even when the pastor suggests changing churches is suggested in the most gentle, evangelical manner. Such words are the equivalent of a challenge to battle for most THTs. It's dangerous--even for the bravest and most competent and most experienced pastor. This strategy can alienate the undecided members among the silent majority. 


Being too impatient will work against you. Pastoral aggression, no matter how justified, is always risky and virtually never productive with a THT. Sometime confrontation, such as in clear-cut doctrinal errors, is unavoidable and necessary. In the majority of cases, however, it should be avoided. Such aggression may cost you valued support. It could mean termination of your ministry as well. 


Patiently enduring the painful attacks gives time for God working in lay supporters to rise up and defend the pastoral cause. Don't fight the "holy war" by yourself. It's a church struggle; let those in the church defend the Lord's church. It will be a source of unparalleled joy to watch God raise positive supportive leaders from the most barren conflict-burned congregations. 


10. Continually reinforce the church's mission. If the church lacks a clear vision and a sound identity, then develop one. The best means for doing this is to get an outside "prophet" or consultant. Don't unnecessarily make yourself the target. Denominational specialists and para-church consultants may add a legitimacy that the attacked pastor does not have. It also takes the pastor out of the limelight so that it won't be seen as just the "pastor's" program. 


Of course, the workshop won't convince the THTs. It's not their agenda. But it will do at least three things. 


* First, it will frustrate the THTs further as they are confronted with a truly biblical agenda contrary to their own. The more leaders they see taking hold of that biblical vision, the more frustrated--and desperate--they become. 


* Second, it will energize others in the leadership to support the mission and the pastor who represents it. In the midst of a very conflicted, negative environment, the vision will be a light of hope toward which the leaders can aspire. 


* Third, God may use it to teach the THTs the biblical vision. If they "take hold," it's a victory for the Kingdom. Unfortunately, such instances are rare. When THTs do take hold of the vision, often they do it for other more self-centered reasons. 


11. Require a new member orientation series for all new members including transfers. Often THTs will resist any such innovations with responses such as, "But I've been a member of the denomination all my life. Why should I have to do it?" "I've never been forced to do that in another church, why here?" etc. The net result is that those who have a power agenda will generally be repulsed by this "requirement." Those, however, who really want to grow and make a positive difference will welcome the opportunity to grow and, in humility, learn how they can build the church. In this series include topics such as: 


* The history of the church and its present vision for mission; 


* A review of key doctrines (e.g. prayer, giving, how to study the Bible, etc); 


* Overview of ministries and how to get involved; 


* Involvement methodologies (e.g. Spiritual Gifts, assimilation strategies, et al); 


* Introduction to key leaders (e.g. Chairpersons, Finance, Bible Study leaders, auxiliaries, etc.); 


* Information about various programs and procedures (e.g. how to give memorial gifts, how to put flowers on the altar, how to contact the pastor for ministry, etc.); 


* Whom to turn to if there are questions, concerns or disagreement; and 


* Other specific information helpful to promote the ministry of the church. 


These new member orientations may be most effective when led by a team of trusted lay leaders who can give feedback to the pastor each week and help identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and potential problems. Since the lay leaders are face to face with the new members, this begins building necessary long-term pastoral support and awareness of new member strengths and weaknesses. 


Explain in detail your and your church's vision of ministry with potential transfer members. Such pastoral teaching will not only reduce the probability of a Trojan transfer takeover attempt, but also help some people realize they will satisfy their personal taste and philosophy elsewhere. Of course, this strategy is not foolproof because they may comply since the THTs want initially to please the pastor and influence potential allies for their cause. 


12. Be careful of new members who want to be your "friends." People who seek power for themselves do so by associating with the pastor with immediate, abnormal and enmeshed attachments. They will offer you gifts (read "bribes") such as lunch, special favors, etc. and shower you with attention, compliments, etc. 


It is imperative that the pastor maintain healthy boundaries with all church members and especially with THTs. Avoid the dysfunctional enmeshment. Keep your principles. Don't reveal confidentialities even though they reveal them to you. It's a trap. Paul's advice to Timothy is excellent for this situation. "Guard your doctrine and life closely." 


13. Spread the credit around. Celebrate the ministry of a wide variety of members in the congregation--not just a select few. Resist the temptation to be overly gracious or trusting of such people because they could or are already doing so much good for the church. 


14. Pray daily for the THTs. Your heart needs to be "right before the Lord," empty of hostility toward that THT, and able to have a spiritual discernment about what is going on. THTs also need to learn what love and forgiveness are really about. Behind their controlling facade, they daily struggle with issues of inferiority, rejection, and self-esteem. They will, however, deny this and project these issues onto others, specifically pastors and any other leaders whom they target. 


The bottom line is that they need your prayers. Pray that God would strengthen you and give you insight and discernment to minister to them in a patient, proper and loving manner. 


15. Finally pray that through the pain that you may experience with THTs, God will transform the church into a healthier, more energetic Body of Christ which sees the great possibilities for ministry beyond the conflict. There is great opportunity for the church which is able to get beyond the THTs and experience the joy of a ministry vigorously aspiring in love and unity to the vision which Christ places before it. Pray daily for this blessing and watch God work through your church!