Friday, August 21, 2015

Controllers will kill your church

In yesterday's post I commented on churches that close and pointed out that when a church no longer has a vision for ministry it should consider closing. Some of the churches are already spiritually dead and remain alive thanks to endowments, denominational support, and the fact they don't need much to stay open.  Such churches might better serve their communities by becoming a legacy church and giving their resources to another ministry that is better ministering to the community. To learn more about legacy churches I recommend an excellent book, Legacy Churches.

There is another type of church that should consider closing its doors. This is the church that is led by controllers in the church. In some churches, the same controllers (or controlling family) has ran the church for decades. Such churches often have a revolving-door pastorate as the ministers soon recognize the dysfunction that exists in the church. New people may come but seldom stay long until eventually the congregation consists primarily of family members of the controllers. When this happens, no one is going to confront the controller, and the dysfunction only grows.

Sometimes pastors believe they can survive the controllers, but this often requires so much compromise that the pastor has to leave to maintain his or her integrity. Some pastors think they can challenge the controllers only to find themselves terminated as others who thought the same thing experienced. These churches are responsible for many pastors leaving the ministry disillusioned, hurt, and angry.

Jesus told his disciples that they would go to some places where they would not be received. In such places, they were to shake the dust from their feet and move on (Mt. 10:14). I believe there are churches when this advice still applies today.

I have seen such churches do great harm emotionally, physically, financially, and spiritually to the pastors and their families. I have seen some wonderful pastors beat down trying to turn-around a controller-led church. More than once I have told pastors that they were doing harm to themselves and their families and needed to leave before things became even worse.

Unless the congregation wants the controller stopped and is willing to confront him or her, nothing in the church will change. A new pastor will not successfully challenge a controller, and most pastors won't remain long enough to do so. It is my belief that such churches can only be turned-around by the congregation, and most congregations do not have the stomach for the fight that will be required to change things. After all, they've already lived with it for all these years so why would anyone think that they are going to challenge the controller now.

These churches do need to close. They give the church a bad name in the community and do great harm to the cause of Christ. Unfortunately, they are unlikely to close as long as the controller lives or other family members are willing to take up the cause and become the next generation of controllers. About the only thing we can do is to recognize their dysfunctions and stop supplying them with pastors. At the infrequent times they do ask for help denominational leaders need to offer them the help they really need and refuse to resource them further until they begin to take steps towards health.

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