I recently received an email from a friend who wrote that his church’s pastor – who came only a few years ago – recently submitted his resignation because he could not deal with conflicts he had with the church’s elders. My friend believed that only a few elders opposed the pastor and that most church members were supportive of him. He asked me how he could help him.
To learn more about the situation, I visited his church’s website. I found many posts there, both for and against the pastor. Some thought that the pastor was sincere, genuine, and an energetic person, and pointed out that many lives had changed under his leadership. His opponents argued that his theology was unorthodox, and that his small group ministry divided the church. They accused him of becoming an idol to his followers.
Based on what I read, I concluded that his opponents weren’t really against his personality, theology, or ministry, but rather didn’t want to give up their old, easy, church life.
The traditional church life is easy and pleasant for long-time Christians. All they have to do is to attend Sunday worship services, enjoy fellowship with church members and engage in fun church activities. When an active, purpose-driven pastor comes and asks the congregation for dedication and sacrifice, they resist.
Here’s a portion of the email response I sent to my friend:
“There is no way for new pastors to win church battles when one or two influential elders are adamantly against them. When pastors and members of the congregation try to win unwinnable battles, they end up destroying their churches. Non-believers will ridicule them, making soul-winning more difficult for those churches. If most church members support your pastor, I think the best solution may be to start a new church with the pastor. (I used to believe that pastors should move some distance from his former church, but I changed my mind after I saw many dedicated pastors forced to leave their churches by complacent church leaders.) Ideally, the opposing elders would even help start that new church or treat it as a sister church, but I’m not so naïve to think this is realistic.”
Leaders, pastors and laypeople alike should beware of complacency. It discourages able young pastors and prevents their churches from fulfilling their missions. In the Old Testament, the prophet Samuel said that he would not commit the sin of “not-praying” (1 Sam 12:23). Leaders today should beware of the sin of “taking-it-easy”.
As I get older, I tend to seek easier ways. I fight against this tendency by trying to do things I haven’t done before, go to places I haven’t been before, and experiment with methods I haven’t attempted before. My prayer is that I will not fall into the sin of complacency until the Lord calls me home.
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