Advice re:leaving/changing church

Discussion in 'General Baptist Discussions' started by AlexL, Oct 5, 2011.

  1. AlexL

    AlexL
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    Sorry this is so long.
    I am an unofficial ‘leader’ in our church (there are no deacons/elders).
    In the last two years our church has changed with many people leaving, discontinuing youth program and adult/youth Sunday school, preaching solely on grace (to the exclusion of anything else), pastor taking over 8 months off (in two lots) and new less committed people. We used to all attend every week, now we are lucky if anyone is there two Sundays in the month (including the pastor and myself!).

    There are no programs anymore all we have is kids Sunday school which I eventually ended up helping in (along with my wife) as there was simply no one else.

    The church is unique in that every one lives between 2 miles and 40 miles away – no one is local, which has always made fellowship very hard and I have no close friends even after five years.

    Our pastor is at the point of burnout, talking about resigning and going part time because the church can’t support him (which is true). We are also in financial dire straits – with $4k in the bank and $5k of expenses coming out soon. He has ‘burnt out’ a number of times in the last couple of years, and we have given him 3 months off, then 6 months off.

    He has always hated admin/finance and literally refuses to do it and because of his preaching (this is only my opinion), no one feels committed enough to volunteer. The bookkeeper quit and sending an email calling him arrogant and lazy (which I couldn’t even disagree with, despite her wrong tone). He wants to hire a bookkeeper (which we can’t afford) because he refuses to do it and no one wants to do it (even me – and I’m a CPA!)

    My pastor is insecure, arrogant and lacks discretion/prudence but is an excellent preacher. He is a poor leader and I have discussed all this with him, but he laughs it off. I have tolerated him because I have been brought up to respect my pastor and be committed.

    What makes things worse, he thinks of me as a close friend (which I have never considered him as he is incapable of listening, and besides he has over fifty ‘close friends’) and he considers me a key person in the church. He now wants me to be a formal leader in the church and take on defined ‘responsibility’.

    I don’t feel connected to the church anymore and think he should quit as pastor and let the church dissolve. I want to leave church and join another one and definitely not be part of the leadership team.

    I don’t know whether to go, stay and not be a leader or stay and be a leader.

    I am praying very hard about it.
    Thanks.. Alex
     
  2. Ruiz

    Ruiz
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    Alex,

    I find it difficult to advise on this situation, but I would probably try to find a Pastor in your area that you respect and perhaps one that your Pastor respects and talk to him about the situation. If you belong to an association, you may talk to a person at that association.

    The problem with our perspective is that we cannot help, we can only give advise on only part of the problem/issue. As well, a person on the front lines may be able to help this pastor where we cannot.

    Overall, I always recommend going through peacemaking principles from peacemakers.org. There seems to be several steps and directions your situation could take us, but I personally believe you need to talk to someone closer to help you get a better picture of things and to get this Pastor the help he needs.
     
  3. Don

    Don
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    Has the matter been brought before the church?
     
  4. Iconoclast

    Iconoclast
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  5. AlexL

    AlexL
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    which matter exactly?

    The finances have been brought to the church's attention and pleas made for more giving - but noone is obliged to give and the pleas have not resulted in more money.

    The pastor's intention to eventually cut down on his responsibilities and go part time has been communicated to the church and people have supported it.

    People think he is 'over worked' as he tells everyone he is, so they support his decision to cut down hours. But having spent some time with him, I know in reality he is not busy - he no longer gives counselling (unless he is paid per hour), he hasn't done visitation for two years, he doesn't do admin, no discipleship - he just says he is so 'busy busy' and people believe it. His busyness is having lunch/dinner with various people.

    The pastor's character is plain for all to see, he hides nothing and is very open. It is part of his charm and you forget about it when he preaches. People get frusrated with the somewhat lack of respect he shows his wife by flirting with others in front of her and when someone counsels him he laughs it off, saying 'this is who I am - I'm friendly, I'm not flirting'.

    Like anything, there are two sides to everything and he does have a good side to him and I still defend him to other people. Some people think he is the best thing since sliced bread, others don't mind him or tolerate him, and those who don't, leave.

    I am not sure what I am supposed to bring to whose attention. It is clear to the small (unofficial) leadership team that he just wants to have a structure of just leaders, with no pastor with other people running admin, finance, sunday school and allowing him only to focus on preaching every other sunday. The problem is noone wants to have any responsibility and we can't afford a third party. From my perspective we will run out of money before Christmas.

    His therapist has advised him to have an exit strategy from pastoring and that is what I think he is focusing on in the next year, by trying to develop his own corporate training business.

    Hope this clarifies..
     
    #5 AlexL, Oct 6, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 6, 2011
  6. AlexL

    AlexL
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    Thanks... its a shame the nearest one to me is over 100km away! Australia is a BIG place.
     
    #6 AlexL, Oct 6, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 6, 2011
  7. Amy.G

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    Hi Alex. I can't comment on your pastor's character, but he is correct that his job is to study scripture and preach. This is the biblical model. The fact that you don't have deacons is an unbiblical model. Their job is to be servants to the pastor and the church so that his time is freed to study and preach. The pastor cannot do all of the jobs and ministries in the church and still be an effective shepherd of the flock. It's no wonder he is burned out. It sounds like there is a problem with the membership thinking they don't have any responsibility in the function of the church. The church is made up of many members but which together make up the "body" of Christ. It sounds like your church has no body. If things don't change quickly, your church will die, if it hasn't already. I think if you can organize several prayer sessions with the members and encourage repentance and ask God for a fresh filling of the Holy Spirit, God will honor that and breath life back into your church.
     
  8. Don

    Don
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    To piggyback on what Amy is saying, and to further expound my question: You say everyone knows. Has anyone stood before the congregation, as a body, and said what you've stated here? You'll get one of three possible outcomes: Agreement that the church needs to dissolve; continued apathy, which will eventually end in church dissolution; or a shock to the system, with people sitting up and saying, "I didn't realize it was this bad."

    But based on what you've said here, and the implied tone (not really sure, because we're talking "print communications," where we can't see the communicator) -- I'd hazard a guess that you yourself don't really have any desire to continue with this church.

    Might be best if you start with yourself, and make it painfully, unquestionably known to the pastor and everyone else that you're not his best friend, that you're not interested in leading the church, and that you have a desire to go elsewhere.

    I apologize if this comes across as harsh; again, "print communications." I'm responding to what I read, and think maybe the first shock to the system needs to start with you.

    Praying.
     
  9. AlexL

    AlexL
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    Don't apologise for giving an honest opinion, harsh or otherwise. It is probably what I need and I thank you for it.

    Yes, I totally acknowledge I need to talk to him alone. I have said to him before that his personality is at odds with mine, but that I respect and love him as my pastor and brother in christ.

    I probably need to have a frank discussion about where 'I' am at and make it impersonal to him or the church.

    I would never disrespect him in front of others or gossip about him to others. That is why this forum is like a relief for me - it is anonymous.
     
  10. David Lamb

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    True, but here on the Baptist Board, you are seeking advice from the other members, most of whom live thousands of miles away from you. :) Even if the Australian churches listed are over 100km away, at least they would be able to give advice in Australian terms. By that, I mean that, although we all believe in the same Saviour, there are differences in culture and use of English that can make for confusing reading. I (in the UK) often have to check what our American friends, who form by far the majority on the Baptist Board, mean by words and phrases they use (e.g. "church bylaws", "sanctuary").

    So I would urge you to do as Iconoclast suggested.

    I pray that God will help you in (or out of!) your present situation.
     
  11. preacher4truth

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    Alex,

    Thanks for the candor. I'd say you seem frustrated, bitter, and perhaps a bit desperate. The things you've said about your pastor are revealing not only of him but of yourself.

    It can't be comfortable living in your skin with those thoughts, attitudes and emotions going on inside of you towards this church, self, and the pastor.

    No matter how you put it, these are plainly works of the flesh being manifested. It's the plain truth, and I believe until that is taken care of God won't reveal His will or leadership to any of you.

    Here's where I would start: Perhaps pray that God would change you.

    - Peace
     
  12. abcgrad94

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    Just some random thoughts:
    It is NOT a good idea for the pastor to be in charge of the books at church. Be thankful your pastor refuses to do this! Someone needs to step up to the plate or else hire this to be done.

    The pastor should be above reproach in character. If you cannot respect him, find one you can.
     
  13. matt wade

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    Here's the most telling sentence in this whole mess. If a pastor is listening to a therapist over God's calling, maybe he never had God's calling on his life to begin with.
     
  14. Crabtownboy

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    Perhaps God is using the therapist to communicate with him. Do you think this is possible?
     
  15. Tom Bryant

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    Praying for you and the church, Alex!

    You have received lots of good counsel, but spend some time with the pastor not so much talking but praying and reading God's Word together.
     
  16. annsni

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    My husband is a pastor and our church campus that we run is almost 30 miles away. Our home church is very close to us - 4 miles - so I'd say 2-40 miles is about what we cover regularly with our church and we get together with many of our friends from there with no troubles. I believe it's about desire.

    It's sounding like things are not going well there at all and I do think you need to be very prayerful about what to do next. I see a lot of issues that would greatly concern me and honestly, I'd most likely leave but I'd not do that without God's guidance. I'll be praying that you find clarity and that God does something there in that church!
     
  17. AlexL

    AlexL
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    Thanks for the wise counsel. Yes, I am shocked with myself with my frustration and poor attitude. I have already asked the Lord to change my heart towards the whole situation. I agree it is of the flesh and I even wondered if it is some little demon egging me on. I hadn't thought of it as bitterness, but maybe it is and perhaps it has built up over five or so years. I can't shake it off but I shall pray more about it.



    Every leadership meeting I suggest we all get together and pray properly, but noone seems into it. The prayer is 30 seconds long and we get onto 'business'. My pastor is not the type you can say 'can we get together and pray' - I tried it before and the prayer was out of the way very quickly and he wanted to chat about himself. There is always an unease in praying together. When I have mentioned people's lack of desire to have a prayer meeting, he says he finds those things 'old fashioned baptist ways of religion'.



    Lack of fellowship with the church is about desire and availability. When you see someone for an hour once a month - even across a few years, it is difficult to build a relationship. We live the furthest out (40 miles or so) and people rarely want to come over - everyone is busy and we are far. Our church is the type of church where people do not often fellowship together. There are no camps or special events. There is maybe a lunch once every three months. We used to do communion monthly but now thats changed to once or twice a year and even then less than half of members are present.



    When i think about it I guess I feel our church is dying a slow death and I want to jump from a sinking ship. I will give it until Christmas and not make any hasty decision. Though this week i am going to visit another church close to home as 'reconnaissance' to see what is out there.



    I know, prayer, prayer and more prayer to seek the Lord's guidance.
     

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