Feb 3, 2007

a confession

Some friends of mine were recently asked to resign their roles at a church they are both on staff with.

There is no sin on their part, nor any scandal. In fact, each has had a tremendous ministry that has deepened the church in many ways.

They're just different... different from the style of leadership the church is running with.

Just... different.

And so they "must leave."

This will no doubt happen quickly to avoid any dips in the church's momentum and no one will think much of it because the church is doing well numerically. "Why rock the boat?" the local network might think, "because this is a flagship church." Perhaps a congregation member will wonder, "This is wrong but who am I to step up and say so?" Then there are the other staff members who live in fear of their own jobs and will think, "I should be quiet about this... I don't want to appear as if I'm taking sides so I'll stay in my own space."

I know all of this because I've been in each of those roles in the past.

Nevermind this is yet another house cleaning done in the name of ministry while we act very much unlike the name of Jesus. Instead of saying, "You're different than I am which makes you valuable" we run with questions like, "So when will you be clearing out your desk?"



And now... a confession.

There is this small part of me that wants to have a church that is bursting at the seams with people. Not because I value any of that on a numerical level but so that I can get invited to some big conference and tell everyone all these absurd ideas behind how it all happened...

  • like assisting my staff in their passions instead of demanding they follow mine alone - choosing the risk of being friends so that we can return to the kind of community where we love each other enough to speak the truth in love when needed because the culture is such where we long for eac other to become all that od longs for them to be...

  • like taking a sabbath a day a week, and every seventh week not teaching - modeling that the church doesn't run on human energy but on God's...

  • like creating layers of space away from people to stay healthy while simultaneously providing open doors of contact for people in the church to have access to me...

  • like asking that we remove the numerical information from our weekly reports so that when people ask me "How big is your church?" I can answer "Healthy." And then when they say, "No really, how big is it?" I can say "As big as God is, since our church is a part of His Church." And then when they press me and say, "Seriously, what's the number? 100? 200? You have five people on staff so it has to be over a certain size, right?" I can say, "Honestly, I don't know... on purpose. Is that okay? Why are you asking? Because I'd really like to tell you some stories about life change instead."
I'd really enjoy the chance to follow John Maxwell or one of those other simply strategic guys and clap my hands to celebrate their contribution, but then to make one of my own that is backwards and upside-down in it's own freakshow way. I'd say things like, "Stop treating your staff like staff and start loving them like people" or "Be sure to not worry about technical problems in your service because people will need to know when a service is messy you can still celebrate God... because life is messy and imperfect and so a video is not working gives you the chance to model proper priorties and is the best thing you could ever pray for."

And when people raise their eyebrows and wait for Sandman Sims to come out to chase me off the stage of what they perceive to be Amateur Night at the Apollo, I'd say, "Yes, yes... but we've proven this works because look at our numbers."

And then everyone would applaud and buy my books and ask for my autograph or want to sit with me at the cool table during lunch because I'd be a minor Christian celebrity.

And then I'd catch myself in the mirror...

and then I'd slap myself.


Thank you for hearing my confession of temptation... now back to what really matters again.



Royal said...

"Nevermind this is yet another house cleaning done in the name of ministry while we act very much unlike the name of Jesus. Instead of saying, "You're different than I am which makes you valuable" we run with questions like, "So when will you be clearing out your desk?"

One of the hardest parts of pastoring is letting someone go....Only the pastor knows the whole story and since they don't make the problems public, people only here the side of the one let go...you will find that out the hard way Tony...

Royal said...

sorry for spelling....Hear....

Tony Myles said...

I hear you Royal, and I trust your experience, but I don't buy into the conclusion.

I hope that's okay to state here... we've spoken enough in the past that I hope you will give me space to stand on a hill I will die on for the next few moments.

One, I do know the situation and the pastoral team quite intimately.

Two, you know well that we are often more transactional with those we do business with than the congregation members we serve. I think staff members often get put into that former category versus the latter - and I honestly don't think getting a paycheck negates a staff member from being treated as a person and not a commodity.

Three, you're right - I don't know all the details. I would argue that even the parties involved don't either. Yet I do know the track record of both the lead team and can assure you this isn't a one-time incident.

Four, I have in the past had to let someone go in ministry - both paid and unpaid. Even though I'm a first-time lead pastor, I have been around the block and know what you mean - it is painful. In those situations it was either an issue of sin or a mutually agreed upon situation (versus "I want you to resign and sign this so it looks like we agree") where we had exhausted several efforts and realized that person was either in the wrong role or the finances for their position were no longer available. In both situations I didn't cut them loose but helped them into their next step... which happened to be out of the role they were in.

The way I see it is that we need to leave those times of firing for (1) issues of unrepentent sin, (2) issues of hard-heartedness where someone will refuse to work together for the greater health of the body. When it's just an issue of style or lack of skills it would seem our role is to prepare those people for acts of service so that the Body of Christ is built up, deepened, and expanded. Most of the time we throw around the "boss" care when we are challenged to be servants... servants of the Body, yes... which includes (not excludes) that person.

Again, though, I know you have experience in these matters, too. I'm sure you've had to walk down that road and have regrets as to things you said or things you heard. I don't mean to squelch the seasoning behind your comment, but it felt like it kind of boxed mine into the assumption that I'm both ignorant and a rookie in this matter.

Maybe I am.

Wouldn't be interesting, though, to create a leadership culture that resembled a healthy marriage? You know, the kind where "divorce" wasn't an option or a word we tossed around but instead we were fully committed to each other for the long-haul?

I mean, that would almost require Jesus Christ for it to actually work.

Imagine that.

I mean, really... imagine that. Can you see it?

When my wife and I were married and googly eyed about what our marriage could and should look like, people told us, "Enjoy that naive ideal, but after a few years you'll lose that." We didn't buy it.

Then they said, "You know, after you have kids and 'really' have some experience about life, you'll lose the fire." We didn't buy it.

Almost 13 years later we fall in love with each other more each day... solely by the grace of God and our mutual commitment to him and each other. Today I love her like it's tomorrow already, even though there have been real hoops we've had to jump through together.


It took work, commitment, lots of transparent conversations, confession of insecurities, and an agreement that this was the goal, these were the hoops, and we were committed to do whatever it took. In short, "divorce wasn't an option."

Then again, maybe I'm just naive and will learn the way things end up working in a broken world. "Divorce happens, so just accept it," some might say. "Why even fight it?"

Perhaps because God models the pursuit of the unfaithful and labors to build bridges when there is justifiable separation. Shouldn't our staff teams grasp this, embody it, and model it? I mean, is it any wonder that so many marriages even in the church jump to the step of divorce when we keep cutting loose anyone who say "toe-Maaa-to" instead of "to-Mae-to?"

In a broken world with broken methods, I want to err on the side of being the ignorant rookie who has faith in a well-seasoned God. Hopefully tomorrow I'll be there, too.

Thanks for letting me die on this hill. Wanna die with me?

Royal said...

"The way I see it is that we need to leave those times of firing for (1) issues of unrepentent sin, (2) issues of hard-heartedness where someone will refuse to work together for the greater health of the body."

I agree with your points so I don't believe you need to defend your comments...We are on the same track...Most of the time, people who are not involved in the decision making do not know these points exist because the one being let go does not agree or will tell a story that slants another way...Example... I recently let someone go for these exact reasons...My reponse to anyone on the outside was that it just did not work out...To protect the individual...

I did not make the comment with the "assumption that I'm both ignorant and a rookie in this matter". I don't believe that you are ignorant. I just believe that people should know there is always two sides to the story and most of the time people only hear one side...

I also believe there are plenty of church leaders who do not lead staff as Christ would...I know I fall into that category more often than I would like to admit...

God bless....May your ministry be fruitful and stress free..LOL (most the time)

Tony Myles said...


I felt myself kneelng on a soapbox and was hoping you were there, too. Sorry I didn't see you right away... thanks, bro.

Wounded Warrior said...

There are a number of emotions flowing through me as I read this blog and I will do my best not to explode them all here.

Royal...what you don't know is the integrity of the individuals involved in this situation. Not only Tony, but the couple he is referring to. They don't come any better and they, like so many others at this church will walk this transition in a manner that amazes me. There will be no bashing, although all of the previous staff members KNOW that wrong is being done. BUT like so many others before them, they will walk away holding many hurtful things close to them. You are assuming that they will "slant" their side. Let me share that could not be farther from the truth. This couple will remain silent and support the body of Christ that they have served so faithfully. That is who they are to their core.

You speak of two sides of the story, but what I have witnessed is one side speaking untruth and the other side choosing to remain quiet for the better good of everyone involved. And it is amazing to me that it has been the individuals who have been released who have remained quiet. So I find it interesting that you think that the stories are slanted.

I, like Tony, know the lead team intimately and I have had a knife put in my back by them too. And then the story continues....BUT I have been asking myself for several months now...is staying quiet really for the best? Where is the truth in that? I am starting to wander if just speaking the TRUTH (not bashing), but not trying to navigate around the hard questions would be more honoring. I have personally cut myself off from people that I love to spare them more hurt in some of these situations and to be honest, I am tired of it. Who wins in this? I know for myself the pain of loneliness that I have had to experience. And even the pain of knowing that I could and am being misunderstood in this. It could look like I'm guilty of something, but the only thing I'm guilty of is loving. And then there are the lies. I am so tired of the lies! Those half-truths that are nothing but lies. Things said like, "it was done in love". I don't know about your Bible, but mine doesn't define "love" like that.

Obviously, this is a sensitive subject for me and even after two years the pain runs deep. This is a matter that is very close to my heart for a lot of unspoken reasons. I just want it all to end. All of the hurting, unspoken truths, and tears cried in the dark alone. I want people to stop talking about "doing life together" and start doing it! I want to see and be a part of a church that is not only talking about Acts 2, but is living it out! When someone locates it, let me know!

If I have offended anyone with this blog, forgive me...it was not my intention. As I'm sure you can tell...I'm just another wounded warrior out here on the battle field of life.

Anonymous said...

I don't pretend to understand all of the implications of this discussion but I can't accept the picture of the "sheep" being driven from the church. Jesus never did that did He? I have been seeing some people (elderly people) who have different ideas(about music) from the younger leaders being driven from the church and the leaders sighing a collective sigh of relief when they are out of sight.

Unfortunately the church leaders get caught up in the "politics" of the job that happens in many professions. Don't you think?

Recently I saw a fallen pastor (wounded soldier that Satan targeted and defeated morally) walking the streets alone. Where is the leadership ? Shouldn't we continue to try to restore this wounded leader to Jesus? Should we walk by a soldier who fought in Iraq and has suffered a terrible injury because He was fighting an ungodly enemy? Our leaders are fighting against principalities and powers and things unseen.
Maybe I am being too idealistic but let's stick together!

I am just one of the puzzled sheep.

Just wondering?

Wounded Warrior said...

Anonymous....your points are valid and I agree with you. I hear your heart and I too am sad for the hurt that happens. Please know that in the circumstances being shared here...many...and I repeat many efforts were made by the "released individuals" to as you say "stick together". However, choices were made to cut the relationships off. The greiving is deep not only for the personal loss, but for the Kingdom damage that takes place.

I just didn't want you to be hanging out there thinking that nobody heard your heart. I have.

Tony Myles said...

WW... I know this is an open wound for you, but I think the conversation on this post is trying to go in other places than what you're seeing.

Shane said...


To concentrate on your post, I am reaffirmed in what I said here. I know that I never emailed, but consider this the follow up a year or so late. :) So, drop me a line at shanemullin@gmail.com.

I, for one, would love to be on a staff like that, and would share your struggle - the bad one, and the good one. I know how you feel because, I don't want to write books just because I have some things to say (I really do). I want people to know my name, which is stupid in comparison with the other name I want everyone to know. You dig? Yeah. I thought you might. Hence, the need for a formal introduction.

Shane said...

I'd need a good editor for that book. Usually, I'm the grammar/punctuation police, but can you say "misplaced comma"? Ugh.