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Reflections: Facing a firing squad

He was a young pastor neither immoral nor heretical, but simply naïve and unskilled in human relations. He could conjugate Greek verbs but didn’t know how to take time to earn the trust of the congregation before he could lead them.

Additionally, he listened to some famous pulpiteers who taught pastors are vice-regents under God and “overseers” in a very real sense. One of these pastors called himself a “benevolent dictator.”

An older minister, sensing a collision about to happen, counseled humility.

“If you get into a threatening situation with your leadership,” he said, “tell them you’re young and made mistakes and need their partnership.”

The older pastor was a prophet. Indeed, the younger pastor found himself in that situation in a deacons meeting when a deacon suggested he resign. The pastor then said what his mentor suggested. He didn’t say this flippantly–his mentor had already chastised him for his foolishness. The other men rose to his defense, promising to help him and the situation improved.

In my denomination it’s frequently the case that a teen-ager commits to ministry and is asked to preach “next Sunday.”

A friend told me his first sermon had three points: read the Bible, go to church and be good.

“That’s all I knew!” he told me with a laugh.

Me, too.

Bible skills can be learned. Pastors can learn to “rightly interpret the word of God” (1 Timothy 2:15).

And people skills can be learned. Pastors can learn to be better administrators.

However, even with good people skills conflict can occur. The pastor may face criticism from the power structure in the church, whether the power structure be official or not. Often the real power is with non-elected “influencers,” as John Maxwell calls them.

The Ministering to Ministers Foundation conducted their Alabama wellness retreats on the campus of Judson College, and I was local coordinator for six years. I heard many stories from broken ministers. Some of them made foolish choices and paid dearly, while others encountered whirlwinds not of their making.

One minister told of his personnel committee who for some reason wanted to fire the church’s daycare director. She and her husband were members of the church, so it was a delicate situation. The committee asked the pastor to deliver this verdict. He agreed, and suffered the vengeance of the director, her husband and their friends. He accepted a task that ended his ministry while the cowardly personnel team ran for cover.

The “bottom line” is that pastors must work hard at working with others, and congregational leaders must work hard at working with their pastors.

Firing squads destroy the ministry of God-called leaders and diminish the influence of the church.

“Reflections” is a weekly faith column written by Michael J. Brooks, pastor of the Siluria Baptist Church in Alabaster. The church’s website is siluriabaptist.com.

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