Is your past restricting your future?

Relationships ALWAYS require work! This is true of marriage, friendships, family, co-workers, etc. Sometimes a situation occurs that tosses a grenade into the middle of a relationship leaving only pain & destruction remaining.

So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God. Matthew 5:23-24 (NLT)

Referencing Barclay on this passage, we cannot be made right with God until we are made right with the people in our lives. There really are no exceptions!

What do you do when reconciliation is NOT possible?

This is a question I’ve personally been wrestling with this week. Recently, I attended a leadership conference with my wife and 3 team members from our church. Now, the church we had served at prior to where we are at now endured a painful church split a few years ago. This was a result of the Senior Pastor resigning due to some integrity issues that caused there to be a complete lack of trust between he and the rest of the church leadership. I’ll spare you the ugly details. In over 20 years of church ministry, this was the first time I seriously doubted that I would ever serve in the church again. But God (how He does) had other plans for me.

Back to the conference.

My wife and I came to know that our former Pastor had relocated and is currently pastoring another church…..which just happened to be a 20-minute drive from our conference. Coincidence? I think not! God’s ways are not our ways, and I honestly think He gets a kick out of watching us react to His spiritual orchestrations from time to time. Don’t you? Well, to make a very complicated story short…we took action on the above verse. My wife and I (while basking in prayer) took time from the conference schedule and drove to his church, only to discover that he was not there. We were able to eventually make indirect contact with him via his wife…but he refused to meet with us to hear our apology and requested email communication. We emailed our short and honest apology, to which we received a 300-word reply that clearly indicated he had not dealt with any level of healing or repentance in his own life since then. Initially, the anger and resentment began to resurface inside me. But within moments God spoke to me, “Pray for him. He’s not benefited from the healthy church family that you have the last 2 years.” Boom! That’s what I call a God-smack.

I leave you with 3 spiritual truths:

1. We are not allowed to use the ‘what if’ factor as an excuse to not attempt reconciliation.

2. Our obedience, regardless of the outcome, will always lead to health.

3. Being at odds with another believer is never God’s best for us.

Do you need to forgive or apologize to someone in your life? Get prayed-up…take a breath…and move forward. God’s best life is just waiting around the corner for you!

Church Health – an Oxymoron?

More than 2000 pastors are leaving the ministry each month (Marble Retreat Center 2001)

80% of pastors believe the pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families (Life Enrichment Ministries – 1998)

40% reported serious conflict with a parishioner at least once a month (Fuller Institute of Church Growth – 1991)

Shocking!  And even more shocking that the above statistics are 14-24 years old.  The situation is worse to day.  I recall a seminary professor recently claiming that for every new minister beginning ministry, five step out of ministry permanently every year!  Are you kidding me?  This is absurd.  Something has to change….and soon!

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I have been in vocational ministry for almost 20 years.  And I am saddened to say that I have witnessed dysfunction in every church I’ve served in.  Now, we’ve all experienced hurts in the church at one time or another.  There is a huge difference, however, between a church member leaving and a pastor leaving.  The difference is this: partnering with and supporting the church one attends vs. having a God-ordained call to grow and lead a particular church body.  Below are what I believe to be some of the leading reasons pastors leave churches…and eventually the ministry altogether.

1. The church (unintentionally) places its pastors on pedestals.  Now, I’m not saying that we should not express gratitude and appreciation.  Our ministers absolutely need the hugs, thank you cards, occasional gifts, and praises.  They also need Godly accountability, correction, and guidance from individuals who truly love them.  Thinking that your pastor can do no wrong is the catalyst toward the death of a church!  Pray for your pastor….don’t idolize them.

2. Conflict is either never dealt with, or it is not handled biblically.  My wife and I once made and appointment with our Pastor to discuss some concerns we had with gossip growing in many of the church’s small groups.  After we had talked, he leaned across his desk and whispered, “If I don’t know about these things going on, I don’t have to deal with it. This meeting is over.”  Let me say something very bold and clear.  If Jesus had avoided every ounce of conflict that came his way, you and I would not have a Savior!

3. The pastor is expected (this is non-verbal) to attend every wedding, birthday, memorial, church potluck, graduation, etc. at the expense of his marriage and time with kids.  I’m speaking to the pastors on this one.  The single loudest ‘sermon’ you can communicate to your church body will not occur on Sunday morning within a 30 minute window.  It is embedded in how you set your priorities regarding your wife and kids.  Think about it.  In which environments do church members see you the most?  Do they physically see you hug and kiss your spouse on Sundays, or Facebook about doing something fun with your kids?  And let me make another clarification here.  Attending a worship service with your family is NOT family-time if you (or they) have anything to do with the leadership of that service.

The Conclusion

The church (lower-case ‘c’) is made up of brick, steel, paint, broken and hurting people, and a million opinions of what worship style is ‘godly’ and what the pastor should preach on next week.   Imperfection shouldn’t be a surprise.

The Church (upper-case ‘C’) is the bride of Christ.  It is the spiritual, Holy, and blessed life partner of Jesus.  You and I………we’re a part of it!

So pray for the church leadership.  Pray for your ministry calling.  Most of all, do what is right above what is popular or non-abrasive.

What are some things that you think would help retain pastors in the ministry?   Comment below.