Thursday, May 31, 2007

Announcing The Full Proof Ministry Blog

I am announcing a new blog that I am a part of. For a year or so, I have been working with Scott Phillips and Kevin Shindoll to put together a team-blog. It has finally gotten off the ground and it is called Full Proof Team Blog. It is primarily designed for those who are involved in ministry leadership. We are intentionally working with some hot-potatoes in our generation.

Take a look. . .

Monday, May 07, 2007

Church Trouble!!!??? -- Part Two

The Motivations of Church Antagonists/Clergy-Killers

I am picking back up with a stream of thought that has been on my mind for several days now. Church trouble is a very difficult and stressful time in a church leader’s life, especially if he loves God and the church. In a previous blog entry, I spent some time dealing with the characteristics of “clergy-killers.” I realize that this post and the last one are a bit sharp in its content and bite especially for those who have not had to endure some of the things I am writing about. However, you keep coming back to this blog and in a future series, I intend on writing about the power of loving your church (for those who are pastors and/or staff ministers).

Some years ago a good friend of mine took a small church somewhere between North, South, East, and West and it almost caused him to walk away from the ministry. He was like most young preachers (in his 30’s) who are in their first church. He was starry-eyed and full of dreams until the force of evil confronted him. He was doing what any young man would have done in the situation. He worked a part-time job to help support his income and the rest of his time was consumed by the church. He prayed, preached, taught, and reached out to several who were lost and was beginning to have some success. The problem began to develop when he was praying one day and God placed something in his spirit to preach. So following the leading of the Spirit, he put a good message together and got up on a Sunday night and preached it.

Before the night was over a small band of antagonists (2 or 3) had gotten together and contacted the district officials and put a spin on things. Two days later, the young man was confronted and basically had his ministry emasculated. He was instructed to “sanitize” his messages and to tip-toe carefully around the power-brokers who had lodged the complaints. The message that he had preached was basically a very generic message about secret sin and the necessity of dealing with it. Nothing specific was mentioned in the message but the Word had enough power that it begin to ferret out some discrepancies in the lives of the antagonists.

For the next six months, these antagonists literally made life hell for my friend and his wife. Needless to say this young man did not land on his feet and it took quite a number of years for him to recover from this blow. When he was forced out, it appeared that this young man was the villain and that he was nothing more than a trouble-maker at large. This was the difficult part for him because he carried around this baggage for a long time. However, time marches on and waits for no one. A few years later, the cover was finally blown off of his detractors and much sin and immorality was uncovered.

Lloyd Rediger writes in Clergy Killers (pp. 19-20):

It is the growing presence of incivility and abuse in the church that has become the greatest source of confusion, pain, and injustice for pastors. To dislike or criticize a pastor is not uncommon and might even be understandable. But abusing pastors mentally, spiritually, and physically is now a clergy nightmare come true. The growing abuse is also a significant commentary on the mental and spiritual health of the church, for how the church treats its leaders reveals even more about the church than about its leaders. Only a sick or dying church batters its pastors.

These antagonists are interested in disrupting the flowing of the Spirit in the Church. Their activities will destroy the liberty of worship, evangelism, and progress if they are left unchallenged. With this arrested growth and purpose, the Church finds herself sinking into spiritual oblivion or paralysis that often stays with it for years.

What motivates these ringleaders to oppose the spiritual authority that God has placed in their lives? There are a number of issues that lead these very misguided and perhaps people in their quest.

1. One of the motivating factors in their lives is anger. This anger can be stimulated by a variety of reasons. Hidden or secret sin produces much guilt and if this person can undertake a “righteous” cause to “fix” something in the church, they will chase it with reckless abandon. (This was the case with my friend whom I mentioned earlier in this post.)

When I was in nursing school, I ran across a term in one of the psychology classes that I had to take and it works readily to explain this process. It is called displacement and it is a psychological defense mechanism that frankly provides a smokescreen for the individual. Instead of dealing with the core root of the problem (hidden sin) the antagonist will go after another goal to relieve the mental anguish that their sin is creating for them.

This guilt drives their anger toward a spiritual authority figure in their life. More times than I would like to admit, I have observed situations that were exactly like this. Much anger and vitriol was spewed out as a smokescreen to cover the indiscretions in the antagonists’ life.

2. Another motivating factor in the life of the antagonist is an inability to let go of a past hurt/offense. The longer that this person holds on to the past, the more bitter that they become. This bitterness stilts their relationship with God and little spiritual growth occurs in their lives. Therefore, what spiritual growth that does occur is often stilted and they become spiritual pygmies.

Because their relationship with God is stunted, their activities within the church and with its leaders become very stilted. The hurts of the past consume them. Generally speaking it has to do with some unprofitable leader who has betrayed them in the past. Once this bitterness settles in then all leaders that they come into contact with are pushed into the mold of the one who hurt them in the past. Suddenly, God’s “mission” is for them to destroy every spiritual leader in their path.

Much patience and grace must be exercised on the part of the pastor who is working with this type of individual. However, at some point the person either has to deal with the hurt in a biblical fashion and “get over it” or they begin to backslide by degrees. Once this backward direction starts, the antagonist will look for every conceivable reason to find fault with the pastor and church leaders.

They will keep records of times when they were not spoken to in the halls (because of a simple mistake), when they showed up to work at the church alone (because no one was aware that they needed help), or why they were not asked to conclude a service with prayer (because the pastor sensed something amiss in their life), or why their family members were not visited when in the hospitals (probably because it was not known), as you can see the list could be endless.

3. A third motivating factor in the life of the antagonist is dealing with half-truth. A half-truth is a whole lie. One pastor related to me about having to deal with a firestorm in his church that was motivated by a small group who misquoted what the pastor had very clearly communicated. Frankly the pastor’s words had been used to their advantage to stir trouble among some very good people in that church. It took this pastor several months to recover these good people who had gotten caught up in the lies of the antagonist.

Two of the seven things that God hates (Proverbs 6:16-19) find their way into the troublemakers’ mode of operation. A lying tongue and sowing discord among the brothers are two things that God literally hates! This method of attack is bent on destruction and never construction.

The antagonist will generally resort to half-truths to attack a minister’s reputation, ability, or character. To the unsuspecting, honest members of the church, all of this “information” can create doubt in their minds which leads to further instability in the church. For those who are not in leadership, I am urging you to be very discerning about what you open your ears up to in this generation.

The words of the antagonist can often sound very sincere and even “spiritual” in tone and concept. However, the serpent was more subtle than any beast in the field and its words convinced Eve to give up her state of innocence. Their words can be smothered in piety and their actions can even cover what they are ultimately about.

I am for full accountability for every pastor (which I have much accountability in my life and ministry through Joe Patterson, my father-in-law, and Roger Lewis, my district superintendent). What I am totally opposed to (and by the way God is too) is the spirit of an Elymas or Simon the Sorcerer who both presented to the early Church in an attempt to control and conquer what God was doing.

4. Another thing that motivates the antagonist is control issues. They have an overwhelming desire to be “in charge” and little interest in really building the Kingdom of God. Furthermore, they will never be satisfied with what is finally conceded to them. Attempts at trying to appease them will simply be met with heightened demands. A trait that is indigenous to those who have control issues is persistence and a stubborn refusal to give up.

How do these antagonists manage to hold their power over congregations? We shall use another blog to answer this particular question.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Church Trouble!!!??? -- Part One

Characteristics of Clergy-Killers

Some have recently mentioned to me about my sore neglect of the Barnabas Blog. Admittedly, it has been neglected over the past month because I have been distracted with the antics of the inane (that is a place somewhere between North, South, East, and West). I am going to try to resolve to do better here in the next several weeks and put some things on this blog that might (or might not) be beneficial to you. My philosophy for all that I preach, teach, or write: Use what you can and delete what you can’t. In other words, if the shoe fits. . . wear it!

After you read this blog and discover its theme perhaps you will return again to read other portions in this grain. I intend on writing on this particular trend of thought for several days as the thoughts come to me.

I have just returned from spending a couple of days working at the Alabama District UPC campground. Every year there is a work week that is designated for a number of projects to be completed prior to the summer youth and family camps. I ended up moving some heavy earth (with a shovel) for a concrete sidewalk to be poured. I was in charge of a gopher committee for some serious electricians who knew what they were doing. I spent a morning with the famous pastor, Hugh Twyman, who is always full of laughter and is good for my spirit. We worked together on some other minor maintenance projects to help get things ready for the camps.

While I was there I spent a significant amount of time with several other pastors and ministers from around the state. There are many positive things that are occurring in our state in the way of revival and church growth. By the same token, I am coming to understand that our day is one of the most difficult times to try to shepherd a church. The bottom line is that there is much spiritual warfare that is opposing the work of God.

As I pondered some of these situations that pastors are struggling with these days, I am coming to understand that unless there is a constant state of revival, our churches will not be able to withstand the onslaught of wickedness and evil. The necessity of a revival atmosphere demands a constant walk in the Spirit. Furthermore, it places a huge premium on prayer, fasting, and true ministry of the Word by those who are involved in ministry.

The “spirit of the age” has infected many good people who have become nothing more than pawns in the hands of the enemy. Some are aware of this position they have come to rest in and seem to revel in keeping congregations in a state of unrest and disharmony. Seeds of discord are sown, authority is challenged, rebellion is fostered, and innuendo is left to run its course from half-truths that are left hanging in the minds of the innocent listeners. Questions that encourage strife are asked. I might add that there is a reward that will come to those who are constantly involving themselves in the things that God hates (Proverbs 6:16-19). Curiously those who are working this angle have been doing so for years and most likely will never change.

On a side note, you owe it to yourself to spend some time and listen entirely to this message by J. T. Pugh on Authority. It is quite eye opening if your spirit is receptive to it. Over and over, Brother Pugh states that one can be standing in unity with God in doctrine and be standing in principle with Satan. Stated in another way: You can love God and be working for the devil.

There are others who have no idea that they are being used by the enemy to destroy the spiritual atmosphere of a church. The majority of pastors in these days find themselves in situations where a constant challenge faces them from pews of the churches where they are trying to serve. Every minister understands the gravity of his calling and knows that the attack from the enemy will come from the outside.

However, when the talons of evil places it grip on the minds of those within the church, these people become just as susceptible as did Saul to the evil spirit that will troubled his minds. When this spirit came over Saul, he did his best to destroy everything within reach. Only David’s harp could calm this raging beast. What comfort came was only temporary in measure because the problem was not external, it was internal. An external song could not remedy an internal problem of the soul. A good service, a moving song, or a challenging (even comforting) sermon is only a temporary measure to change some things. The only real change that will come to a person’s life is when the internal portion of the soul is changed. That is something that only God can change.

As I contemplated some of the horror stories that I had heard in the last couple of days and even some that have accumulated over the last few months, I remembered a book that I had read some months ago about churches in conflict. The conflict billowed up to the point that it destroyed the pastors who were trying to navigate through it.

Satan is quite aware that if he can cause a pastor to give up, it compromises the whole direction and vision of the church. Generally, he uses these “clergy-killers” to upend the church.

Guy Greenfield in his book, The Wounded Minister, gives the following eight points about “clergy-killers” (pp. 27-30):

1. They are destructive. The damage they want to inflict is intentional and deliberate. Their tactics include sabotage, subverting worthy causes, inciting others to do their dirty work, and causing victims to self-destruct.”

2. Clergy killers are determined. They are headstrong and willing to stop at nothing. They may pause for a time, change strategies, even go underground to reconnoiter, but they will come back with a vengeance to continue their intimidation, networking, and breaking all rules of decency to accomplish their destructive objectives.

3. These persons are deceitful. Clergy killers are masters of manipulation, camouflage, misrepresentation, and accusing others of their atrocious deeds. Their comments and promises are not trustworthy. They are experts at twisting the facts. (I have also found that in some of these cases that they are living in outright sin and open rebellion toward God.)

4. Clergy killers are demonic. Apparently clergy killers carry around a lot of internal pain, confusion, anger, and even rage. Spiritual leaders, especially employed parish ministers, become available scapegoats for this pain and confusion, which is unidentified and untreated. Unusual, reactive, and destructive motivations emerge in these disturbed minds. A serious mistake is made when the church and popular culture reject the concept of evil and label clergy-killer behavior as mental illness or human failure. A loss of spiritual understanding of intentional meanness and destruction leaves the church unable to avail itself of the powerful spiritual gifts of discernment, grace, discipline, and courage to confront evil with God’s power. (This is why that a pastor must be filled with the Holy Ghost and open to hear the voice of God. The gifts of the Spirit can be very active in the life of a Spirit-filled pastor who is fasting and praying and willing to confront the evil with the Spirit of God as his ally. We accomplish far more in praying against these evil spirits than trying to reason with the individual. Prayer Works!!!!)

5. Denial on the part of the church leaves clergy-killers unrestrained, so that the whole church in general and ministers in particular are left extremely vulnerable to their wiles. The church tends to deny the seriousness of what clergy killers are about and thus unknowingly cooperates in their agenda of destruction.

6. Clergy-killers are masters of intimidation, using it to violate the rules of decency and caring that most Christians try to follow. Intimidation is a powerful weapon at a subconscious level, so much so that clergy killers are willing to step up the fight and use tactics that most Christians forbid themselves to use. Actually most clergy are naïve when it comes to survival fighting, or what might be called “ecclesiastical street fighting.” They do not have the required resources and knowledge of networks in the church for such confrontations. Therefore ministers and their supporters are easily intimidated by these persuasive and charming religious assailants.

7. Clergy-killers are experts of disguise when they see it would be to their advantage. They are able to present themselves as pious, devout, and spiritual church members who are doing their destructive work “for the good of the church, to advance God’s kingdom.” They can convince naïve church members that they are raising legitimate issues. These religious monsters often hide among their “allies of opportunity,” those members whom they have charmed into friendship—who are also congregational power brokers—and others who are disgruntled with the church for one reason or another.

8. Some clergy-killers may not choose the strategy of disguising themselves. Rather, they choose to find power in fighting openly. Using bluster, threats, and accusations, they forge ahead with their attacks as if they are unstoppable giants. They openly intimidate any opposition by making it clear they will fight dirty and use any tactic to accomplish their goals. Gentle and peace at-any-price church members are quickly sidelined by such threats, leaving the ministers and those who support them to cope with the problem the best way they can. Denominational officials can easily fall into this latter category of appeasement, influenced by their desire not to lose the financial support of the congregation whose minister is under fire.

Some concluding thoughts for this entry:

  • Today I sincerely prayed for all of those of you that I know personally who are involved in the fight of your life—trying to get a church ready for heaven. Some names I called out individually and some I called out by the group you are in (i.e. UPCPastors_helper or Wordshare). I prayed that God would encourage you in the fight and bring peace to your situation.
  • For those who are members of a church, I prayed that God would give you the gift of discernment and that you would be able to see through the half-truths and innuendo of those destructive voices.
  • I also prayed that the power of conviction would sweep over those who are involved in the tearing down of a church and that they would have a change in their heart. But having been around the Church my entire life, I prayed that those who refused to change their stubborn ways that God would deal with them in measure to remove them from hindering the progress of the Kingdom.

I will pick up with some further thoughts on this matter in the near future. . . .

A Prayer Pouring Out of Psalm 119

--> I am presently preaching through the stanzas of Psalm 119 and it has been a spiritually enriching exercise.   Toda...