We cannot lead anyone else further than we have been ourselves. John Maxwell
North America Nebula-NASA
The other day, TWW received a comment from “Casey” that our blog needs to be more “balanced.” We have asked him to clarify but to no avail. In the past couple of weeks, TWW has been doing a series of articles based on current events. The posts were based on issues that have been raised during the month of October. For example, last week, Al Mohler gave a lecture at the rather dubious “Creation” Museum. So, Deb researched what was said and shared it with our readers. Monday’s post, on fundamental evangelicals rejecting reason, was based on an NPR show and a New York Times article, both of which occurred in October, as well.
We both scour our newspapers and daily scan various news sites for items of interest. However, we are always open to suggestions for story ideas. We are currently reviewing a number of stories in order to continue to discuss psychology and the church. We are also gathering information on the neo-dominion movement (we think we may call them Domionistas). But, these involve extensive reading and research.
On Monday, I read a comment on FBC Jax Watchdog by “Thy Peace “ which led me to a post written by Wade Burleson in 2009 here. It was titled Lessons in Dealing With a Disgruntled Member.
In this post, Wade transparently explained how he dealt with a difficult situation involving some members of his church who were having secret meetings which revolved around their dissatisfaction with Wade. In other words, a rebellion was mounting. Can you imagine how Sovereign Grace Ministires would respond to such a thing? How about Mark Driscoll, Steve Gaines or Mac Brunson?
In fact, Burlseon contrasted his response to the response of Mac Brunson who poorly handled a similar situation in his church. TWW has extensively covered the First Baptist Church Jacksonville/Mac Brunson/Tom Rich debacle and our new readers can begin reading about the situation here. We declared this fiasco, The Story of the Year for 2010.
Although, I had read this post a couple of years ago, somehow it hit me right in my heart and I teared up. Since my initial reading in 2009, TWW has learned of many, many situations in which pastors have given the right boot of fellowship to any member who would dare ask questions about the pastor’s salary, his method of leadership, etc. One only has to look at the incredibly sad saga of Sovereign Grace Ministries to see what appears to be the heavy hand of retribution applied to members who raise concerns about a church.
So, in the interest of balance, we would like to present two pastors who we believe are doing it right.
Pete Briscoe: Bent Tree Bible Fellowship (BTBF), Carrollton, Texas
Pete ruined me, plain and simple. You see, he handled conflict so well that I was forever changed, believing that all pastors would be like him. I attended BTBF for about 7 years, ending in 2001 when I returned to my beloved North Carolina. In the ensuing years, I was involved in watching another church handle a conflict in such a poor manner that I felt I had entered the Twilight Zone. I was soon to learn that Pete was one of those rare pastors who truly “gets it.”
While at BTBF, we became aware of a situation, which involved a third party (not us) that was unresolved. In fact, we became so concerned about it because we believed it could have serious ramifications for the church. I am not at liberty to share the details but it did not involve any moral, legal or financial failing. In fact, the action itself was justified but was handled in such a way that outsiders could make assumptions that might be reasonable but were not true.
Yuck. So, after much prayer, my husband and I decided to approach both Pete and the elders in confidence. At first, their response was somewhat negative yet they decided to dialogue with us. We requested they meet with the involved party and us to discuss the matter.
What transpired at that meeting still brings tears to my eyes. Everyone was tense and there was obvious disagreement on all sides. Suddenly, Pete sat bolt upright in his chair, held both his hands up and said something to the effect of “I get it! You are right. This needs to be corrected immediately.” We were all stunned at his insistence on doing the right thing, even though, superficially, it did appear that the church leadership had responded appropriately.
And they went out of their way to do the right thing, over and above what was required. No one in the church, outside of our little group, ever knew what had transpired and unity was restored. All parties were able to continue to worship together. And, if I might add, everyone had a little spring in their step because all was well.
Pete went a step further, demonstrating, forever, his incredible humility. We were attending a large leadership meeting at the church. My husband and I were taking notes since Pete was speaking and his teaching is awesome. He stopped and pointed the two of us out. He said, “See those two taking notes. They did something for me that helped my ministry. They took a risk and did the right thing and I am thankful.”
Why mention this? Pete could have kept the whole incident quiet. We had been so grateful for his response but he wanted to admit it publicly. Why? He is a truly humble man. At that moment, I saw the beauty of an organic body, loving and supporting one another, through thick and thin. And this vision will give me strength until I rejoice in unity with the saints in glory.
So, our readers might be able to imagine my surprise that my next church did not respond in a similar fashion. Instead of humility, they decided to hide behind a façade of “authority” and have never fully dealt with the ramifications of their actions. However, I am grateful for this former church’s response. Had they not behaved in this manner, I would never have believed the many sad stories that have been shared with us at TWW. We can truly say that this former church may have responded shabbily but God used it for His purposes in this blog. Now, we, too, are part of the Fellowship of the Wounded and get it.
And until the day we lay down our computers, we will never stop writing about those abused by churches.
Wade Burleson Pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church, Enid, OK.
I am taking a chance that Wade will not mind me reprinting part of his post here. You can read the full post at the link previously provided. Once again, this post caused me to tear up in thanks that such a pastor is out there ministering, not merely preaching (which he also does extremely well).
“Secret Meetings and Secret Complaints
There was man at Emmanuel who was not happy with the hiring of a particular staff member. He felt that the staff member displayed personal qualities unbecoming of a pastor (i.e. "impatience," "sarcasm," etc . . .), and the disgruntled member and his wife began to meet with three or four other families to "pray" for this staff member and our church. During the meetings which were held at the home of the dissatisfied member, other issues began to be discussed, issues involving me personally. The leader of the group felt that the hiring of this staff member reflected poorly on my pastoral leadership. Others began to question my salary and ask if the Senior Pastor was making too much money. A couple of the church members had heard that I was a member of the local Country Club and wondered if the church gave me that benefit, etc . . . They decided that they would meet on a regular basis, invite others to join them, and pray for our church.
Eventually someone told me about the meetings. Immediately, there was a mental decision that I had to make. Were these disgruntled members who were questioning my decisions, salary and benefits, and other matters as important to the Lord's kingdom as those church members who express appreciation for my pastoral leadership? I gave an immediate "yes" to that question in my mind.
As a result, I had to ask myself a second question: How can I affirm the people who were secretly meeting and how can I encourage them spiritually, while at the same time not reacting defensively to either their attitude or their questions? The person who had told me about the meetings had been invited himself to attend, and he knew that the group was going to ask others to come and be a part the following Friday. There was obviously an intentional effort to make the dissident group larger. Yet, I had to settle in my mind and heart that my goal could never be to prevent, control or dominate these people in any form or fashion. Jesus came to set people free, and that means disgruntled church members should be free to dissent and disagree with their pastor – and tell others of it! And, I should be free to accept it as from the Lord. It's a little like King David when Shemei was cursing him and Abishai, David's servant said, "Shall I go cut that dead dog's head off?" King David said, "Let him alone. God has bidden him to speak." As pastor, I see every event, even the difficult ones, as God refining my character.
Compassion, not Confrontation
I decided the best way to approach the disgruntled member was to personally contact him and let him know that I knew of the meetings, and that I affirmed all the members' rights to participate. Further, I determined that I would volunteer to meet with them, if they desired, to try to answer all questions they felt important. I also wanted to express my appreciation for their prayers for our church.
And that is what I did. Nobody else was involved. Just me. I expressed to the disgruntled member all of the above and told him I would be more than happy to attend the next meeting and answer any and all questions if he would like, believing that it is always best to communicate directly when there are differences or disagreements.
The disgruntled church member was a little taken aback. Later he told me that he was most surprised at my affirmation that he and the group had every right to meet. He also was taken aback at my expressions of love for him, especially knowing that I knew he was attempting to lead a growing group of dissidents to question my leadership. He would later tell me that this knowledge did not diminish the love and grace I displayed for him personally, and that this was what most impressed him.
Transparency, not Terseness
During our conversation I sought to answer any and all questions he had. We talked about the hiring of the staff member and I explained the process under which he was hired and assured him that any concerns he might have about a pastor at Emmanuel not relating with church members in a gracious manner was an important concern. I shared with him how that particular issue had already been addressed with the staff member in question and how it would continue to be addressed if needed. We then discussed my salary. Our church places all salaries into one lump sum when the budget is presented, and Emmanuel's Finance Committee had made this a practice long before I came as pastor. My preference would be that all salaries be broken out individually within the annual budget, but I have been overruled by the Finance Committee members. However, it is church policy, and a wise one at that, that ANY member who desires to know the salaries of staff members, including the pastor, only has to ask. He demurred and said he really didn't wish to know, but I told him my salary and benefits anyway, believing it was an important question for him to have answered and he was just too embarrassed to ask me.
Then we talked about my membership at the Country Club. I told him that the church does pay the $300 monthly dues, but I pay all my expenses, including meals and guest fees. I also explained that I knew in Enid that some might view my membership at the Country Club as exclusive, but we had a very particular reason for the membership – the people there need Christ as much as the poor. I related how I had been able to build multiple relationships through meeting peole at Oakwood Country Club, and had been asked by many non-churched Enidites to perform funerals for family members, had been able to lead several to faith in Christ, and through my contacts, many Christian family members had become members of Emmanuel. I also told him I loved the golf course (a Perry Maxwell course, no less!).
He laughed a little with me and we discussed a few more issues, and I spent about an hour talking with him about any and all his concerns. I ended the conversation in this manner:
"I may have not been able to answer your questions completely, and even if I have, you still may not agree with my decision making. Please know that your disagreement with the pastor of Emmanuel is not only all right, it is healthy. The main thing you should know is that you have every right to question me, and even if you think I make too much money, shouldn't be a member of the Country Club, or shouldn't have led the Personnel Committee to hire a particular staff member, our disagreement will never be, in any form or fashion, an impediment to me loving you and being a pastor to you. Feel free to relay what we have discussed to those you are meeting with, and know that you have my complete support in continuing to meet. You can invite anyone and everyone you desire to join you, and if you have more questions, I will be happy to come meet with you. If, after evaluation, you feel you can't worship with us because of a disagreement, please know that you have our blessing and full support to join another sister church and we will recommend you with Christian love and grace. Bottom line, I'm never above questioning, nor are you are ever beyond my desire to see our mutual walk with Christ strengthened."
The man teared up a bit. Thanked me for visiting with him, and we parted.
When Leadership Cares About People
Two weeks later, in church, he stopped me. He thanked me for taking the time to contact him, expressing his sorrow he had not contacted me before he had talked with others. He thanked me for answering his questions and addressing his concerns and said that after listening to me preach for 15 years he should have known that I would have responded with grace and transparency to any questions he had. He then expressed his love for me and mentioned how much he respected me. He said the group was no longer meeting, and all of them voiced at their last meeting that they wanted their families to be a part of a church where leaders affirmed them, even when they disagreed.
To this day, this man and the three or four families that met with him those few times remain faithful members of Emmanuel.”
Why the Fellowship of the Wounded should continue to hope.
Sometime, in the last year, I made a comment on Wade’s blog in which I said that he reminds me of Pete Briscoe. I become more and more convinced of this every day.
Both of these men clearly:
- Exude love
- Show transparency
- Are courageous
- Exhibit humility
- Pursue peace
- Put others above themselves
- Demonstrate patience
- Model perseverance
Many of our readers have been so hurt by the church that they find it difficult to believe that there may actually be loving and Godly leaders out there. If Pete and Wade exist, there are bound to many more. And finding such men (and women) is worth the search. In fact, I know one or two others but their stories are for another time.
In the meantime, I would suggest that you tune into their websites and listen to their sermons online while you continue to search.
This is a shout out to these two men. Thank you for doing it well. We pray for both of you and know that one day you both will hear “Well done, good and faithful servants!”