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Bedford, Texas, United States
Pastor of Woodland Heights Baptist Church in Bedford, Texas and former Professor of Old Testament. But mostly I am a husband of an amazing wife, father of gifted children, and servant of an AWESOME God.

Monday, August 19, 2013

When Did the Church Become a Business? Members are Guilty Too!

As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”(1 Peter 1:14-16, ESV)

Believers are supposed to be different (one of the basic meanings of the word holy is “different” or “other than”). We are supposed to be different in our worldview, our actions, and our responses. We are not this because we work harder at it or because of our own efforts, but because the God who lives within us is different, He makes us different, and He empowers us to walk differently. This simple truth is at the heart of what it means to be a disciple and, by extension, to be the Church.

Why then has it become so “normal” for churches to view their work and method through the business model? This happens when Pastors usurp or undermine the God given plan of every member a minister or when they design their church structures around a business model (something that has been discussed thoroughly in other blogs). But it also happens when church members seek to dismiss Pastors and leaders without following a biblical model for such actions.

Recently a friend of mine and a fellow minister was dismissed from his position. As is often the case, the dismissal was not the decision of the church body as a whole, but was the result of a Personnel Committee’s vote (more often than not, such actions are either taken by Personnel Committees or Deacon Boards). The committee worked up a conditional severance package which was given on the condition of a signed non-disclosure agreement and then proceeded to inform the church that he had been dismissed for reasons that, “If we told you, you wouldn’t believe it.” Of course, such statements leave the impression that my friend had done something immoral, depraved, or beyond redemption, when nothing remotely close to such actions was behind his dismissal.

This sort of maneuvering is not restricted to the church (I have seen it repeatedly at SWBTS where I taught), and truth be told, believers in any walk of life ought to avoid this type of dishonesty. But it is an especially egregious act coming from an institution that is supposed to be different and driven by godly principles of integrity rather than human motivations of self-preservation.

Not only do such actions violate clear instructions of how to deal with leadership, should problems be present (Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses. As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear. (1 Timothy 5:19-20, ESV)), but they also ultimately will undermine that church’s ability to function appropriately and to trust each other.

I have been in the unenviable position of having to dismiss staff before; once because of moral failure and once because the budget could no longer support the position that the person held. In both cases I was careful to fully inform the congregation of why the action was being proposed, to allow for full questions and in the case of the latter example to allow the full church to vote on the decision and to do everything we could to provide a generous, public severance package for the minister in question. I am not saying there is never a cause for dismissal – even on grounds that are more “administrative” than “spiritual” in nature. But what I am saying is that we have a mandate as a holy people to do things differently: to be open and transparent in all our decisions and dealings and to be honest in all our reasons and explanations…especially when Scripture gives us specific instructions of how to deal with a given situation.

Our calling is holiness. Our method is love. Our authority is Scripture. Our impetus is the Gospel. Our empowerment is God Himself. Let’s not sell our God or ourselves short in how we do things!

BTW – My knowledge of the actions surrounding the dismissal do not come from the minister himself, who has to my knowledge been faithful to his non-disclosure agreement, but from relationships I have with other people in the church connected to both the Personnel Committee and the greater church body.

1 comment:

JB said...

Amen! Good perspective Brother Tim.