Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in burdens, Christ, church, church face, church leadership, church members, churches, community, conflict, culture, depression, forgiveness, isolation, leadership, ministry, pastoral care, pastoring, relationships | Posted on 28-02-2014
I’ve been writing about why so many pastors are in trouble. Pastors are leaving the ministry at an alarming rate. Some are committing adultery, some are just quitting, some leave over conflict, and shocking there seems to be a rise in pastor suicide. What’s going on?
This post is the second part of the discussion about one of the issues that needs to be addressed – our churches. Make sure you read the first part before you start here.
What does church look like today? A club. We go to churches that are bigger and have great programs for our kids (that is not a knock on large churches with dynamic youth programs, by the way). A place where we can sit in the back and not be noticed. We don’t want them to know who we really are.
Where did we go wrong? When did we stop being a community of faith and just another club to join?
I’m afraid one of the problems has something to do with the question I asked in the beginning of this series – “Are you loving people the way Christ intended for you to?”
If we are, then when people sin in the community of faith, we will act out Galatians 6:1, Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.
Or, if we are having a conflict or disagreement with another member of the community of faith, we won’t let it ride or have a grudge with them: Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift. Matthew 5:23-24
Guess how all of this affects a minister? Not good. One of the leading causes of the downfall of a pastor is isolation. Did you know that 70% of pastors do not have someone they consider a close friend? Pastors won’t find that statistic shocking at all.
Knowing that, it won’t surprise you that the majority of ministers will never, ever get close to a church member or a church leader. I’ll give you three reasons.
First, the pastor has probably been burned before when he got close to a church member. He told a deacon or elder something that was bothering him or a secret. And that person either betrayed his confidence or used that secret against the pastor.
Secondly, the pastor has been taught in seminary or by a mentor to never get close to church members. I was taught in seminary not to confide in church members or get too close. Why? We were told by a professor that if you did, that person might use your secrets or feelings against you.
Third, some pastors don’t want to make friends because they know that their job won’t keep them there long enough to make lasting relationships. (Dr. York had a great blog related to this topic and you should check it out.)
Of course, these reasons are good reasons, but they’re mostly based on mistrust. How can a pastor have a good relationship with his church if he never makes friends there? But I can see the other side. Why would he make friendships if he’s been burned in the past?
Here’s what I’ll say about all of it. We need to reform our churches so that we become communities of faith again. Where we all care about one another – like family. Pastors need to be able to trust their members enough to be friends with them. Yeah, it might not work out. Jesus was betrayed by one of his own. But he still loved.
Local churches need to be fervent about forgiveness. When someone falls in the church, they are your family. If they sin, go after them. Restore them to Christ. Guess what? The pastor is part of your community of faith too. If he does something awful, he needs the love of Christ displayed to him as well. I’m not talking about restoration to the pulpit – I’m talking about restoration to Christ.
When we start acting out the compassion and love of Christ to our fellow believers, we will begin to see changes in ourselves and our fellow Christians. When we begin to bear the emotional weight of one another, all of our burdens become lighter. And when we share our problems, victories, pain, depression, hurt, and joy together – that’s when we truly become a community of faith.
Ray Carroll is the author of “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World,” which answers many of the questions I get asked on a weekly basis.
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