Friday, October 3, 2014

Do not allow others to limit your ministry

As a judicatory leader I am sometimes called to resolve problems between pastors and churches. While none of these are simple to address, the ones that cause me the greatest difficulty are the ones where people simply will not allow the pastor to lead them.  I have seen pastors terminated for the smallest of mistakes by church controllers who seem to be out to get any pastor who accepts a call to serve their church.

To preserve anonymity I will not disclose the situation, but I once spent several meetings with a church board and pastor over a matter that was so minuscule I couldn't believe we were even discussing it.  After several meetings that went nowhere I finally asked the board if the pastor should leave or be allowed to stay. They barely decided that he could stay, and a few weeks later reversed that decision.

We are losing 50 percent of our seminary graduates within five years after completing their education partly due to such treatment.  That is a huge loss to the church, and I believe it is a mistake for a minister to turn away from God's call on his or her life due to the actions of a tiny minority of disgruntled church folk.

Fortunately, the pastor mentioned above didn't leave the ministry.  He continued in ministry, pursued a PhD from a well-known seminary, and is now teaching in another well-known seminary.  I've often chuckled to myself when I've thought about this small church of less than forty people that rejected a person for being unqualified to lead them and today that same individual is a well-respected biblical scholar who is helping prepare the next generation of ministers.

We in ministry cannot control the actions of small-minded people in our churches, but we can control how we respond to their actions.  Rather than walking away from God's call on our lives when treated unfairly we need to spend some time discerning how God's call might have changed.  God is never caught by surprise when his servants are poorly treated.  It may be that he has already opened another door or, in the case of the pastor mentioned above, he may be leading you into another field of ministry.  Sometimes we are so caught up in our current ministries that we cannot see those new opportunities until we find ourselves under attack in our current situation.

That does not minimize the pain associated with poor treatment.  I've never known a pastor who rejoiced when treated unfairly in his or her place of ministry.  It hurts, and sometimes it takes a period of time to work through the pain enough to begin a discernment process that will help us understand God's will for our lives.  But, that is what we must do.  Just because a small, vocal group does not want us to be their minister does not mean that God is through with us. Even as we were being formed in the womb God had a plan for our lives, and the actions of a few does not change that.

Do not allow others to limit your ministry.  Your calling comes from God.  Let him set the parameters for your ministry.

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