A Conference I Must Go To… And Really Don’t Want To

I’m registered for this conference. I’ve signed Ann up to attend with me. The reservations are in at one of the conference hotels. I’ve watched all the latest promo videos. And I don’t want to go.

I got a little beat up last evening. Not literally, but mentally and pastorally.

It was one of those phone calls you really dread getting. If you’re a pastor, you know the kind: angry, frustrated parishioner calls, maintains a good semblance of control, but still lets you have it with both barrels. Several things made it quite painful: I was one week back from a really great, restful two-week family vacation; just prior to leaving, we had a leadership meeting that I hoped would put us on a good track to move forward from where we’re at as a church; my first Sunday morning back went well; and, much of what this person had to say was true (maybe it could have done with a great deal of explanation of reasons/motives on my part, but that wasn’t the time). There will need to be some measures taken on my part toward reconciliation. There will need to be some serious matters addressed elsewhere. However, when the words "we may well need to leave this church" are uttered, all the air goes out of my sails.

If those words are the real sentiment of the heart and the expression of a heart’s discernment of the Lord’s will, I can’t and won’t stand in the way; that would be sin on my part. If the words were uttered as a means to manipulate and force me into doing things that person’s way, then that is sin on their part. At this time, I can’t say where this is going.

I do know this: re-watching the DGM videos promoting the Fall Conference, hearing the words to challenge & exhort toward persevering are not the words I wanted to hear. I wanted to hear, "Go ahead. Pack up and leave. That would serve them right. It would be the easiest thing to do. Pick up your things and find some place else where they’ll really appreciate you." What I need to hear is: "Set aside your sinful pride. Confess your sins and seek His forgiveness. And above all things, seek His grace to stand firm, to endure to the end, even if it hurts (and it will hurt a lot)."

So, for the masses that read this (all three of you at this time, I think), I’d encourage you to consider this conference with me. And above all, to stand firm.

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2 Responses

  1. I don’t want to go either but my wife asked if I were insane. Sounds like we’re going. 🙂

    I love your response in this post. The humility to admit you may be wrong is a huge thing. God will bless you and your ministry. I’m walking in to a potentially explosive pastoral situation myself and I’m just an intern at this point! I’ll add you to my prayer list. To a smaller degree, I feel your pain.

  2. I’ve gone through this very thing in spades, except that “my” people did their gossiping and murmuring secretly, only to people who already agreed with them, then tried to publicly ambush me.

    What I decided was:

    All I can do is to apologize for anything I might have actually done wrong, or failed to do, and sincerely work to be a better man or do my work better. Some of the complaints I endured had a degree of validity. The district superintendent and I worked studiously on those 2-3 weak areas over a two year period, and the more fair minded people in the congregation saw that.

    Not everyone’s criticisms deserve to have you invest a lot of caring. Several of the people who attacked me left the church, and now their lives are in moral shambles. But it turned out they were in sad shape before, but had been hiding it (or blaming me for either their own choices or the choices of their loved ones). As one of my elders said to me, “Doesn’t lend much credence to their complaints, now, does it?” I told my wife a couple of days ago, “I’ve decided I’m indifferent to what Mr. and Mrs. ‘X’ think of me. Look at how they’ve conducted themselves. If someone I know has a solid walk with Christ has something to say, I’ll pay much more attention to that.”

    We serve at the pleasure of the congregation. People will attack you privately because they know they would never be able to convince the congregation to fire you. They make an end-run around the congregational process, and knowingly try to discourage you without anyone else in the church knowing they’re doing it. If we pastors have supposedly done something so awful that it deserves being yelled at over the phone, then let’s see them man up and bring it before the whole church. You know 99% of the time they’ll never do that. It’s a conscious strategy, the goal of which is to get you to quit.

    But why should the majority, who want you to be there, be robbed by these deceitful thieves of whatever it is God is doing in and through you?

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