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Pastor Fired by Church

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Re-posted from 2011: Charles Stone introduces his book, ‘Five Ministry Killers and How to Kill Them‘ with a story of how a Church fired their Pastor. As I started the first paragraph, I thought it was a fictional parable used to kick off the main topic of the book.

I read a little further and started to feel a little awkward. Some of the issues were a little too close to home for me. Then, the surprise (for me anyway!). The pastor is a real person and Stone is talking about real struggles that defeat many men and women who are in Christian Ministry.

The pastor in question, faced difficulties with power struggles, salary controversies and questions about his leadership style. His visitation policy was considered questionable and he was accused of “not loving the people.” Why? Because he made a decision to concentrate on his strengths and gifts in preaching and teaching instead of following a routine visiting program.

After some time, one particular man lead a bullying campaign that would eventually see the pastor fired from his job. The pastor made a decision to introduce changes in the Church policy about the expectations of the character of those that wanted to become Church members. He was called to question for this stance. He was threatened with losing his job. He stood his ground and they fired him.

Stone closes off this account of the pastor, “Jonathan”, as follows:

Ten years later, because Jonathan had so graciously responded to his critics and his dismissal, one of his main detractors admitted that pride, self-sufficiency, ambition, and vanity had caused the contention. The pastor’s handling of his ministry crisis left such and impression that eventually the church publicly repented of their actions, exactly 150 years after they sent him packing.

Who was Jonathan? Jonathan Edwards, arguably America’s greatest theologian.

Dear Pastor friend, if it happened to Edwards, chances are you will face similar challenges. Are you ready to meet them with a godly, gospel oriented approach?

Dear Church Member friend, if you have a Pastor that has different ideas about leadership style and ministry emphasis are you able to model gospel oriented flexibility and serve alongside him for God’s glory?

Related Articles:

Ed Stetzer – Church Leadership Book Interview: Charles Stone on 5 Ministry Killers and How to Defeat Them

Check out this recent post by Don – a supplement to the comment he made on the original post from 2011.
Firing Your Pastor

 
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Posted by on 27/06/2015 in church, leadership, ministry, Reading

 

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Fair and unfair questions about the connection between religion and abuse

The Sydney siege has given rise to a lot of discussion in Australia about the role of the gunman’s religious beliefs in either inspiring or contributing to his actions which culminated in taking arming himself and taking hostages in the Lindt Cafe in Sydney this week. Precedents have been cited of others with allegedly similar professed beliefs committing heinous crimes throughout the world.

The overly simplified argument is that Islam was founded amidst violence and that many adherents believe they are justified and encouraged to pursue violence against those who disagree, reject or convert away from Islam. True enough, there are examples of this. Perhaps most notable are the recent actions of the Islam State cult and the Taliban or Al Qaeda. In other instances there are national governments lead by an Islamic ethos that display strong prejudice and discrimination against non-Islamic minorities in their countries.

Yet, making an inference, whether implied or explicit, that all adherents of Islam are on the same trajectory for the same reason as those that motivate the Taliban or the Lindt Cafe gunman is poor logic and hypocritical.

Questions ought to be asked about the contributing factors inspiring a decision to take hostages and murder two of them. What role, if any, did a perception or interpretation of religion play in that decision? But to assume that all other adherents of that religion, regardless of degree of traditional orthodoxy or intercultural expression, are no different to the gunman or the Taliban, creates some dangerous precedents.

Asking questions in general or debating the merits of an ideology or religion ought to be welcome in the public square. Such discussion ought to be able to take place without degenerating into ad hominem attacks and insults. These only serve to create animosity, fear, hatred and do nothing for the interests of truth and justice.

If, when considering Islam, you make a leap from one gunman or one criminal association or even the habitual practice of a particular government to extend to each individual without exception, then why don’t you do the same with other ideologies and intercultural religious expressions?

For instance, to cite the example made by Prime Minister Tony Abbott yesterday, when the IRA terrorists were bombing the UK and killing innocents, is every Roman Catholic a murderer?
Likewise, when an Atheist regime in North Korea oppresses an entire nation, is every non-theist an egomaniacal abusive dictator bent on destroying the world?
Or, when a Christian minister or Catholic priest abuses a child, is every Christian a pervert and a paedophile?

You can no more argue that Islam always attracts or inspires violence than you can that Christianity always attracts or inspires crimes against children. It goes beyond the absurd and becomes a deviance of it’s own.

Let’s ask the difficult questions, and lets make sure that all ideas and actions are held up to scrutiny. But let’s do it in fair play. I for one, am more than happy for my beliefs and practices to undergo the same. I’m confident you can do it and disagree passionately with my religious conclusions, regardless of how well I might make an argument, and still not malign me at the end. (If you do, well it’s no loss to me that you’re an incorrigible hard case.) Neither do you have to endorse or agree with me to ask those questions and seek understanding and clarification.

However, if, in the course of your examination you find some gross inconsistency in my character, I’m confident that you’ll attribute that to my personal flaws without condemning 2000 years of Christianity or every other professing Christian of being guilty of the same for the same reasons regardless of their background and context.

I hope my Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, Atheist and all other friends are equal to the task also. There’s no need for us to reach a consensus to have the discussion or to reap the benefits of civilised society.

 
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Posted by on 18/12/2014 in Culture, leadership

 

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A new blog Under The Water

I have started a new blog site called, Under the Water.

I will maintain both sites, but Under the Water will have a more specific and narrow subject as summarised on the About page:

Under the Water is a writing project that I plan to use to tease out some questions about whether a Baptist Church has a place in Australia. Along the way I will deal with practical and theological issues on Baptist beliefs and behaviours. I am writing from the perspective of both a Church Minister (or to use the common Baptist terminology, Pastor) and a potential research student working towards completing a post-graduate theological degree. At some point in the next few years I am planning to write a formal thesis dissertation and the articles on this blog are a way of thinking through that process in smaller, less academic, bite size pieces.

I have kicked things off with a small chat about defining ‘Church‘.

So, add the site to your feedreader or subscription and come along for the ride.

What topics or issues, related to Under the Water, would you like to see or discuss there?

 

 

 
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Posted by on 10/09/2013 in church, Culture, leadership, Theology

 

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I can’t wait to be patient!

169084857_bd43cb43dcMaybe it will happen one day. But when?! I want to be patient NOW!

During a chat on the fruit of the Spirit, some guys talked about which of the listed characteristics they felt most lacking in their experience. Patience seemed to the be popular choice. All of the men in the discussion were fathers, so all have had their share of frustrating waits.

It wasn’t until the day after, when I was out and needed to do some phone banking to pay for something. My data connection just wasn’t working. I moved about, turned the phone off and on again, took the cover off, tried holding it different ways. Nothing! After about 15 minutes of trying and getting the “unable to connect to the internet” message, I started to get quite cranky. With the phone, the carrier, with the shopping centre for obstructing the signal, even with the other shoppers walking past. Nonsense really. Then the discussion about patience came back. So, it seems a bit of patience would be handy at this point. But, I needed my phone to work immediately!

What is patience? What has it got to do with a Christian characteristic? The word (in Galatians 5:22) is translated from a term that pictures remaining calm even if provoked or in the event of misfortune. It has the idea of enduring without changing demeanour. i.e. getting cranky, or frustrated, taking things into your own hands to bring about a faster (better?) resolution. One dictionary I have says, “to keep your heart from jumping”. That sounds about right – because when I get impatient, my heart rate increases!

To be patient is to accept that the immediate situation or change isn’t going to be rectified by my outburst. That doesn’t mean to be passive. It means, that in the face of something that is out of your control, you are prepared to trust in either a different or a later result. e.g. You go to meet up with someone for lunch. They’re late. You try to call to check if they’re ok and there’s no answer. You check social media to see if they’ve posted something about bad traffic and there’s nothing. You now have a choice. You probably make it in less than a nano second, but you still have a choice. Start to fume, or be patient. Which of the two is going to make your friend arrive earlier? Neither. Which of the two will keep your friendship (and your blood pressure!). Hmm.

In the case of Christian patience. We’re not simply talking about keeping calm when a lunch appointment is 5 minutes behind schedule. Although, that’s probably a wise thing anyway. Patience has a far reaching view into the future promised to those who believe in Jesus. For instance in the ‘fruit of the Spirit’ passage. Paul is talking about how some people were going about trying to improve their relationship with God (and probably their standing before others in the Church community). They had adopted a ‘take charge’ concept of constructing behavioural codes (Including circumcision. Ouch!) to improve the way God accepted them.

Paul explains that nothing you construct on the outside is going to change what is happening on the inside. In fact it will end up being counter productive. Instead those who have trusted in Jesus to do what was promised (make them right before God – provide forgiveness, new life now and in eternity to come) can wait for the hope of righteousness. He uses an agricultural concept, fruit, to explain how this takes place. God says he’ll do it, slowly, the way fruit grows on a tree. It’s an act of his Spirit and it’s eventual outcome is an experience in the fully realised kingdom of God.

Patience, then, waits for God to complete his work and fulfil his promise. Our response is to “keep in step” with him – not run ahead, not fall behind, and not take things into our own hands to build an inferior form of righteousness. Inferior, because it is more concerned with one-upmanship than the love of God and neighbour. Instead be “imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”

Can you be patient? Now?

;)

 

 
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Posted by on 09/08/2013 in discipleship, Hermenutics

 

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How Christianity Differs from Both Liberalism and Conservatism

In broadly defining both these terms as:

liberal: “contemporary variety of government-driven social reformism.”

conservative: “opposes the contemporary government-driven variety of social reformism in the name of some cherished thing which he finds that it endangers.”

maybe helpful, maybe not. But it’s a starting point. Justin Taylor provides more detail in his summary of J. Budziszewski’s set of articles for First Thingson “The Problem with Liberalism” and “The Problem with Conservatism.”

The important point as a Christian is that I do not assume or co-opt one side or other automatically as my default. This runs afoul of the notion that evangelical Christians are always right-wing conservatives, but if I am true to my allegiance to Jesus then I will often find myself on the “left” side of the table.

How does classical Christianity differ from both? Here are Budziszewski’s comparisons.

Comparing liberalism with Christianity:

  1. Propitiationism: I should do unto others as they want. Christianity: I should do unto others as they need.
  2. Expropiationism: I may take from others to help the needy, giving nothing of my own. Christianity: I should give of my own to help the needy, taking from no one.
  3. Solipsism: Human beings make themselves, belong to themselves, and have value in and of themselves. Christianity: Human beings are made by God, belong to Him, and have value because they are loved by Him and made in His image.
  4. Absolutism: We cannot be blamed when we violate the moral law, either because we cannot help it, because we have no choice, or because it is our choice. Christianity: We must be blamed, because we are morally responsible beings.
  5. Perfectionism: Human effort is adequate to cure human evil. Christianity: Our sin, like our guilt, can be erased only by the grace of God through faith in Christ.
  6. Universalism: The human race forms a harmony whose divisions are ultimately either unreal or unimportant. Christianity: Human harmony has been shattered by sin and cannot be fully healed by any means short of conversion.
  7. Neutralism: The virtue of tolerance requires suspending judgments about good and evil. Christianity: The virtue of tolerance requires making judgments about good and evil.
  8. Collectivism: The state is more important to the child than the family. Christianity: The family is more important to the child than the state.
  9. The Fallacy of Desperate Gestures: “The perfectionist acts, at least in the beginning, from a desire to relieve someone else’s pain. The desperationist acts to relieve his own: the pain of pity, the pain of impotence, the pain of indignation. He is like a man who beats on a foggy television screen with a pipe wrench, not because the wrench will fix the picture but because it is handy and feels good to use.”

Comparing conservatism with Christianity:

  1. Civil Religionism: America is a chosen nation, and its projects are a proper focus of religious aspiration. Christianity: America is but one nation among many, no less loved by God, but no more.
  2. Instrumentalism: Faith should be used for the ends of the state. Christianity: Believers should be good citizens, but faith is not a tool.
  3. Moralism: God’s grace needs the help of the state. Christianity: Merely asks that the state get out of the way.
  4. Caesarism: The laws of man are higher than the laws of God. Christianity: The laws of God are higher than the laws of man.
  5. Traditionalism: What has been done is what should be done. Christianity: Any merely human custom may have to be repented.
  6. Neutralism: Everyone ought to mind his own business, therefore moral and religious judgments should be avoided. Christianity: While one ought to mind his own business, moral and religious judgments can never be avoided.
  7. Mammonism: Wealth is the object of commonwealth, and its continual increase even better. Christianity: Wealth is a snare, and its continual increase even worse.
  8. Meritism: I should do unto others as they deserve. Christianity: I should do unto others not as they deserve, but as they need.

The conclusion? Participate in the political process, remain objective and consider your opportunity to influence and persuade. Don’t bind yourself to one side of the table because that’s the “Christian thing to do” and compromise objectivity and lose relationships that you can nurture.

 

 

 
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Posted by on 02/05/2013 in Culture

 

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Reading the Bible? You must be out of your mind!

When responding to a proposal to distribute Bibles to school children in the UK as a way of marking the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible translation a couple of years ago, Professor Richard Dawkins, an evolutionary biologist at Oxford, said: “A native speaker of English who has never read a word of the King James Bible is verging on the barbarian.”

Reading the Bible is one thing. Obtaining something valuable as a result of the reading is another. In Dawkins opinion, reading it would “disabuse [the reader] of the pernicious falsehood” that the Bible is a moral book.

I agree with his statement. The Bible is not about morals, nor is it an polemic on how to be more moral. It simply is not so. However, if you have never read it before, it can baffle you considerably. Yet, so many who do read (some of) it, still insist it is a moral story. This ignores the authors intent because the Bible is not a moral book teaching a behavioural code. It is God revealing himself.

as it is written:

“No eye has seen,
no ear has heard,
no mind has conceived
what God has prepared for those who love him”—

but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit.

The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. ~ 1 Corinthians 2:9-11

Because he is revealing himself, he is the one that gets to decide the meaning of what he says. Without God setting the agenda for what the Bible means, you become a bit like a sighted person trying to tell a blind person what colour looks like. You have no frame of reference. God gives us his frame of reference in the Bible.

Related Article:

Why words are adequate

 
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Posted by on 18/02/2013 in Bible, Hermenutics, Reading

 

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The wasted virtue of self denial

self-denial

When Oscar Wilde said that “Selfdenial is the shining sore on the leprous body of Christianity” he could easily have observed almost any professing Christian in any age or place who mistakenly believe their abstinence was the key that unlocked all the blessings of heaven. In Matthew’s, “proof text” for Christian self-denial there is a preposition that is often overlooked in practice and lifestyle that is responsible for spiritual leprosy.

The preposition Wildes’ lepers have ignored is in Matthew 10:39, “whoever loses his life for my sake will find it“: or “because of me“.

There is no gain or merit in a life of self denial, strict discipline, adherence, stoicism, charitable works and the like outside of Christ. If the sacrifice in possession, place or relationship is done now to manipulate or bargain a greater inheritance in eternity, then it will fail. We cannot merit grace. We cannot earn God’s favor.

Rather, if, in the pursuit of Christ, to gain more of him, to know him, love him, serve him or to, in the John Edwards sense, deepen my affectation for him, by him and to him, I suffer some loss here and now in relationships, recognition or reward that will be to my eternal gain. For though I may have lost those things I gained Christ. He is my exceeding great reward; to know him and to experience the power that was at work in his resurrection in my life; that is a true and elegant sufficiency.

The call is not to suffer for sufferings sake as though by my suffering I repay part of an impossible debt. It is a rejoinder that as you suffer “because of me” you are, in fact, finding your life not losing it. Don’t seek to suffer, but when it comes receive it gladly “because of me” and rejoice in the eternal life that Christ has given. Self denial is a wasted virtue because so many think that through their efforts, they achieve or earn God’s gift. “I have suffered so I deserve better.” When that is your posture you are seeking your life on your terms and you only have loss waiting for you. Write it all off for the sake of Christ and gain everything.

 
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Posted by on 13/01/2013 in Bible, discipleship, Jesus

 

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