The note to me was neither cynical nor critical. The pastor had a powerful point to make.
“Thom,” he said, “as you provide leadership toward church revitalization, please communicate one thing very clearly to pastors in these churches. Sometimes a pastor gets fired because the church does grow and is revitalized. I know. I just got fired.”
I could sense the pain in the pastor’s words. And he is right. Even in “successful” revitalizations, it does not always turn out well for the pastor. Why is that? My list is not exhaustive, but here are seven common reasons:
- 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.
Sadly, pastors can get fired when they lead their churches to growth and revitalization. In my post next Monday, I will share some ways other pastors have addressed these dangers successfully in their churches.
Posted on October 24, 2018
With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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I am not disputing your article, but sometimes the pastor should be fired (and often is not), because they have become corrupted. I have been exposed to many versions of “Christian Churches” over the past 40 years by playing in brass groups; and in my early years playing with a YFC music group. I research the web-sites of these churches. In recent years I have watched far to many of these churches gradually slide from strong Bible based organizations – to very left wing, liberal, anti-Semitic, and ultimately way out of line with the Bible. I often get to hear these pastor’s preach. And sure enough they have bought into Bill & Lynn Hybel-ism (who grew up in my town and played with YFC also), Tony Compolo-ism, Bill Warren-ism, social gospel, facets of eastern religions, new age philosophies and practices, and the list goes on and on. One interesting observation is that, some churches/denominations in our area that used to be considered liberal now seem conservative and are more Bible based, at least in comparison. Many Christians who stand against these horrible influences are ostracized, minimalized and sometimes humiliated. Pastors are not the only ones suffering out there
In agreement with you, I have seen and heard of several good Bible believing pastors poorly treated. And in some cases it was because these pastors did not buy into the massive and growing evil affecting the Church. But their Non-Berean type members had bought into the evil messages of many “Christian” celebrities and tainted superstars. Church Growth is wonderful if it is Biblically based. But, the pastor(s) and members should stay on top of the real reasons for the growth. Unfortunately, because the world consists of much evil, these types of tensions will continue. Many of us have suffered greatly in the secular world because of Christ centered stands, and many missionaries and third world Christians are dying gruesome deaths everyday.
I try to remember “Do not be anxious about ANYTHING.” God is in charge no matter what.
Wonder how many laity feel after giving their all to a church for many years they have been fired by the new pastor?
Never a good feeling, whichever foot the shoe is on.
njouI’m a new Pastor who is enjoying your books, trying to get ahead of the game before we have any problems! Last Youth Pastor position a younger more educated Pastor came in and hit me with several of these, after 11 and a half years I was surprised of some of the people who turned against me!! Really hurt my Wife and I!! But God brought us through and gave me a church to Shepard.