There are times we are surprised. We usually do not like the content Thom Ranier produces because it fails to bring out good biblical teaching on how to handle church problems. His answers are more man generated than biblical. Yet he did surprise us wth one list about why Pastors lose their jobs when the church is growing. The link to the whole story is here:
All but one are really good reasons and they all demonstrate a spiritual problem in the church in general. There is no need to point fingers for the existence of those spiritual problems. They exist and should be dealt with properly. Here is the list in question:
- Members who can’t deal with significant change. Most of them are okay with gradual decline because it can be imperceptible day by day. But revitalization can bring major change, at least in the eyes of some church members. They would rather see the church slowly die than suddenly become healthy.
- Threats to power brokers and power groups. Growth brings new members. New members dilute the base of the power brokers. Most power brokers don’t like that, so they create lies and innuendos to force out the pastor.
- Relational disruption. One of my most memorable, and saddest, moments as a pastor took place when a woman told me God had told her I should be fired as pastor. I naturally asked her why. She responded that it was hard for her to get to know all the new people joining the church, and they were changing relationships in the church. She further said all the new Christians did not understand how we did church. Translation: she wanted her holy huddle and no more.
- Idolatry of the past. Many church members will say they really want revitalization, but their real desire is to move the church to 1988. When growth moves the church to the future, however, it’s time to get the pastor out.
- Empowered bullies. Church bullies take every opportunity to encourage complaining church members to vent and complain more. Those negative people become additions to the bully’s power base to force out a pastor who is leading change and growth.
- Staff who feel threatened. A pastor who leads a church to revitalization and growth can threaten a staff member who feels pulled out of his or her comfort zone. I know of an executive pastor who worked with a personnel committee and a church bully behind the scenes to force out a pastor who was leading the church to growth. Such acts of cowardice are too common in too many churches.
- Innuendo, gossip, and lies. The first six scenarios are often exacerbated by innuendo, gossip, and lies. The personnel committee noted above accepted the rumors and gossip conveyed by the executive pastor without ever asking the pastor his side of the story. Truth was just too inconvenient.
#4 is the one that we have trouble with as it is a stretch to call the desire to return to better times idolatry. That word is often misapplied and over-used to describe innocent attitudes. Regardless of what that desire is called, it still reflects a spiritual problem where church members are not dealing with the reality of the present. Each reason in that list are well thought out and pastors, church leaders, and congregants should do some reflecting on issues in their church and seek God’s help in diffusing the situation spiritually.
Yet, in his follow-up article where he tries to provide some answers to these issues, he did not disappoint and we were not surprised. We liked about 2 in this upcoming list as close to being a spiritual answer but in reality, the list does not address the real issues that exist in the above scenarios. They certainly do not stop the problems nor address the source of those problems. Here is his new list:
- Communicate exponentially. If you think you are communicating redundantly, you probably have just begun to communicate sufficiently. Keep the congregation informed. Say it. Write it. Repeat it.
- Remind the members of the purpose of the growth. It’s about the Great Commission. It’s about caring for and reaching the community. It’s about touching lives. It’s not about the numbers.
- Move potential objectors to the welcome team. They will see and greet the guests. It will give them an outward focus.
- Ask a long-term member to be your mentor. You will get an invaluable perspective from “the old guard.” You will likely gain an ally as well.
- Share healthy resources with members. At the risk of sounding self-serving, I’ve heard from countless church members that two of my books have been paradigm-altering: I Am a Church Member and Autopsy of a Deceased Church.
- Celebrate the past. Sometimes we leaders need to be reminded that our church’s past has much to celebrate. We often are so eager to move to the future that we forget or neglect the lessons of the past.
- Remind them of faith steps in the past. Though this point has similarities to the previous point, this one is a specific focus and reminder of major faith steps the church has made in the past. It a powerful lesson that the church made changes in the past and can do it again in the present.
#s 2 & 7 are the ones that come close to being a spiritual answer to spiritual problems. We will ignore his self-promotion as that is a minor issue and used as an example. But as you can see, not one of those supposed answers really address bullying, church politics, church power brokers, hesitant attitudes about growth, betrayal or staff bullying.
Each issue in list one is a heart issue as well as indicating a lack of courage, a lack of justice,fairness, and spiritual obedience to God. So why would Mr. Ranier promote answers that do not address the problems and get to the root of the issues? Why would he not bring out what God wants done to solve those issues? We do not know but his actions also demonstrate how any in the church are unwilling to go beyond the surface to get to the heart of the issues that plague the church today.
To handle spiritual problems, one needs to bring spiritual answers. Churches need to go to God for their answers. When a problem hampered the efforts of the Hebrews of the OT, you will notice that they did not go to the secular world for their solutions. When Joshua lost at Ai, he did not contact other military leaders in the surrounding nations. He went to God. So did many other Hebrew leaders.
That is what the church needs to do today. Instead of heading off to secular thinkers, experts and so on, the church needs to get to the heart of the issue by seeking God and finding the true source of the issue. That is how you solve spiritual problems in the church. You need spiritual answers for spiritual problems and only God has the correct answer that will solve the issue at the source.