Pastors


Later this week I will be participating in an event where I may cross paths with my old pastor. I know he is connected with others who will be attending the event. The fact our paths may cross is really weighing on my heart.

Near the end of April I had communicated with the pastor and elders that I could not remain in silence any longer about the situation because I knew that God was calling me to step up, to share my story, and to proclaim to others about the amazing healing the Lord had done in my life. They have been unwilling to work through and resolve issues. The response I received was that I was unstable and irrational, did not understand the Gospel, again was showing I was unrepentant, and that if I spoke I would actually damage God’s kingdom.

I have continued to try to respond in love and patience to these leaders, and have offered over and over again to resolve the issues with no progress. It took until the beginning of July for those leaders and my current pastor to agree to meet. My pastor has not wanted me to meet with these leaders because he does not believe they are willing to reconcile, and he believes it would be unhealthy for me to share with them. So far, even after meeting with him, they have not shown any openness or willingness to reconcile. I also know some others that were key in my story are no longer at the church. They also have been hurt and are dealing with a difficult road of healing.

I am not sure how to respond if I see my pastor. The last face-to-face interaction I had with him was last December when he had an uncontrolled outburst and made a public scene. I do not want to cause any disruption at the event, and I have concerns that the pastor will try to speak to me. His elders told me not to speak to him, and after the run in last December I clearly defined that he was not to speak to me again without witnesses (on my side) due to his outburst. If he tries to speak to me the only thing I know to do is to calmly remind him that we are not allowed to speak, and then to involve others if he tries to communicate further.

My heart is heavy with concerns for all involved. I am walking in faith, still knowing that God is capable of healing and restoring everything if we would surrender, so he is definitely capable of taking care of much smaller pieces of this, such as this even.  I am going to the event with a very open and hope-filled heart, trusting that the Lord will use it mightily to change things, and believing that He can be glorified in all situations.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)

We studied Galatians 4 last week at my home group. That lead to a discussion about false teachers and how their methods can be contrasted to how Paul responded. I have seen many reports over the last few years about who false teachers are, and how to identify them, but being able to see it more clearly through scripture is very important to me. I don’t want to trust man’s description about false teachers, but I do believe scripture because I consider it to be truth, absolute truth.

Galatians 4:8-20 …. 8Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. 9But now that you know God—or rather are known by God—how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? 10You are observing special days and months and seasons and years! 11I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you.  12I plead with you, brothers, become like me, for I became like you. You have done me no wrong. 13As you know, it was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you. 14Even though my illness was a trial to you, you did not treat me with contempt or scorn. Instead, you welcomed me as if I were an angel of God, as if I were Christ Jesus himself. 15What has happened to all your joy? I can testify that, if you could have done so, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me. 16Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth? 17Those people are zealous to win you over, but for no good. What they want is to alienate you from us, so that you may be zealous for them. 18It is fine to be zealous, provided the purpose is good, and to be so always and not just when I am with you. 19My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you, 20how I wish I could be with you now and change my tone, because I am perplexed about you!

In verse 17, Paul talks about “those people”. These are the false teachers. Through this section you can see how Paul pleads with them to return to the Gospel, the ways of God and the truth they have known in the past. Not only do they know God, but they are known by Him. He had captured their hearts and become the Lord of it, but over time other things and the deception from these false believers was capturing their hearts again and getting in the way of the Lord.

 False Teachers  Paul
 Desire
  • followers of their teachings
  • observance of rituals and practices
  • conformity
  • zealous living
  • followers of Christ
  • maturity in faith
  • freedom
  • zealous pursuit of God
Means
  • Teaching of their practices
  • Enslavement to incorrect principles
  • Teaching of the Gospel
  • Life through living God’s principles

This helps me to clearly see that if I am being guided to follow leaders instead of God, and am being lead to conformity instead of freedom by living God’s principles then I am being misled. It is a truth I need to implant in my heart and use as a test for every book I read, sermon I listen to, and leader I consider following.

What other scriptural truths teach you about false teachers?

I read an article this morning at Out of Ur, the online blog of Christianity Today International.

A friend told me that Eugene Peterson’s Under the Unpredictable Plant should be required reading for every pastor who has served for at least five years. That was how long it had been since my ordination. I picked up a copy.

Peterson claims that there are two common types of unhealthy clergy. The first is the messiah. Messiahs seek out wounded, broken people, to make them healthy again. It is a noble task, except for its motivation: messiahs need to feel needed. They consider healed people to be numbers, accumulated to suggest pastoral effectiveness.

Then there are managers, who seek not the unhealthy but the healthy: talented, faithful, and prepared people. Managers plug them in, finding the right places for them to serve in an ever-expanding congregational machine. The bigger the church gets, the better managers feel effective and useful. Once again, people become numbers.

I have both messianic and managerial tendencies. It is too easy for congregants to become statistics, which I can use to inflate my sense of clergy effectiveness.

That realization prompted me to search for a new pastoral identity….. (The full article by Magrey deVega is available at http://www.outofur.com/archives/2010/04/the_pastor_as_d.html)

Are there other common types of unhealthy clergy?

If leaders that are guiding as messiah’s or managers are both unhealthy, then what is a healthy role for leaders?

What attitudes, convictions, and examples can people look for in leaders that show signs of a good heart and strong healthy leadership?

I received information today about the “charges” from my last church. The information still is not concrete with specific actions that I did and how that was sinful, but instead are vague generalities about the pastors’ struggle to communicate with me and how he had heard from others in the church that I was sharing that there were communication difficulties between us. So I have been charged with 1) lack of submission 2) spreading discord.

The counselor who communicated this to me has again asked for specifics from the elders about who I spoke to and what discord I spread but as it took eight months to reach this point I doubt we will get anything more. They have stated that I am not repentant and that my communication to others about what has occurred is clear evidence of that. They are very upset that I have expressed to them that others who I have turned to for counsel feel I have been abused, and that there are unhealthy and inappropriate things in how the church is lead and how I have been treated. Those are not my statements, but have come from others. The leaders will not communicate with me directly, but they do not want me communicating to others to process through things, seek input about what I have done and how I can change, or even share my story and glorify God.

I again struggle to know where that line is between sharing openly and transparently about our journey and story, and not spreading discord. It seems like it comes down to the heart that it is shared with. If we are sharing with a heart to hurt others or slanders their name then that is wrong, but if we are seeking to be open and transparent it seems like that is honest and can be used to help others grow and heal. I recently heard someone express that we are called to be open and vulnerable, but we don’t need to be naked (share everything).

Does anyone have thoughts about what is appropriate to share and in what settings?

I don’t want to hurt anyone or cause disunity but it doesn’t seem right that I never am able to share about my story either. I want to glorify God and be obedient to him in all I do, and I feel like my story could bring hope and healing to some others who have walked through similar paths of pain and disillusionment.

When I was in college I, like most students, took classes in different subject areas (departments) at the same time. I was a double major, but also had to meet all the prerequisites to graduate, so often I was taking four classes and was studying from 3 or 4 different subject areas at one time.

In the later part of my freshman year I learned a very valuable lesson that I have revisited several times in life. I had papers that were due in two different classes at about the same time. I was writing for both my English class and my Sociology class. Being a fairly good and very dedicated student I put my best effort into both papers and turned them in on time. A few days later I received both papers back.

Paper #1 the teacher gave me a moderate grade, told me that he felt my writing style needed work, said that I was not writing to an audience, and reflected that I did not cover my subject completely.

Paper #2 the teacher gave me a high grade, told me that my writing style was very easy to read and that I had done a great job on the paper.

Two different papers, two different subject matters. Two different answers.

The lesson I learned that day had to do with perspective. While there were different papers and different subject matters, there were also two different readers (my professors). One reader liked my style and connected with me, the other did not.

As we go through life we will find people who we connect with and others we do not, or others that we do not connect as well with/it is harder to connect with. I am learning that again as I am getting connected into a new church. At my last church I loved the people, I tried to make relationships work, and I was very committed. Just like with my paper I put forth the best effort I could at that time (which was somewhat limited since I was in a difficult season), but things didn’t click. Even today the leaders of that church speak negatively about me. Yesterday I received a message from my new pastor. In just a few words he expressed more care and acceptance to me than I have received in a very long time, “I’m grateful for your heart more than anything. It’s beautiful how he brought you into our presence. So grateful you’re with us.”

Two different churches, two different viewpoints toward God’s word. Two different answers.

At times on the recovery journey things happen or days occur when our hearts are heavy, things seem out of sorts, or circumstances lead to difficult steps. How we choose to handle those times makes a big difference in where we go and how we move forward in the bigger picture. They may seem like small things but they do affect the bigger picture of where we are trying to go.

One thing I have been learning about is perception. Someone who is in the midst of the last stages of marriage expressed deep sorrow to me when they shared their spouse has a perception of injustices that were done in the past that they can not move past. This person has set their mind on a certain belief and even though others don’t agree with it they continue to stand firm in their convictions. Due to that the other spouse has found there is no further room for communication, compromise, reconciliation, or restoration.

If you have experienced relational struggle, abuse, injustice, rejection, or abandonment then what is your perception? Do you believe the others were completely in the wrong? Have you taken responsibility for your part? Are you willing to accept that your perceptions may in some ways be incorrect? Can you see ways others are holding incorrect perceptions? Could the perceptions you have be the cause of the problems in the first place? How do you respond when others have incorrect perceptions about you?

The elders and pastor of my last church hold a perception of me that is incorrect. I have tried to correct it but they continue to believe that I desire to hurt the pastor and the church. It actually is the exact opposite of my heart. I have protected them and spoken highly of them so many times. I love the pastor very, very deeply. They are Christians who are part of the family of God and as such there is no need for division, hostility, brokenness, or separation, and I do not have any intention or heart to divide or disunify God’s family. I keep trying to see the situation through their eyes, through their perception, but so far I can’t find that point. I want to take responsibility for my parts, to repent of all sin, and to rectify things. Recently I was told that the elders still are open to see my repentance and to reconciliation but the pastor will no longer be involved in any communication with me. There are perceptions held on both sides that keep us from finding common ground. I wish it was different. I wish our hearts were not hardened against God’s ways, and that we could choose love, forgiveness, grace, healing, and unity. I miss my friends and “family” that I am separated from at that church, and I am really concerned about the future impacts of this brokenness on the Christian community in Portland. May God continue to redeem this and bring repentance, truth, and life where other things exist.

Today is such a mixture and it is only 10:45 AM.

  1. Today is the anniversary of my abuse five years ago. It has been a day of dread for the last three years, but I approached it with joy, hope, and promise today knowing that God has changed my heart and life. I have been so excited for this anniversary because I knew that if it passed without dread that it was proof of Christ’s changes in my life. I was greeted by an amazing full arch rainbow that brought me such joy of God’s promises to us.
  2. I started with a quiet time today where I found a level of understanding and surrender of my heart, soul, mind, and strength unlike anything I have known before. It was an amazing time with the Lord and I came away feeling completely different.
  3. I went to coffee shop to work and my old pastor came in and approached me. Through a very tense conversation he told me it is clear I have not changed, that I have a divisive heart that is causing disunity in his church because I have refused to stop trying to resolve issues after he has told me to have no further contact with anyone at his church. I have tried to resolve things for seven months and he claims I keep twisting things and cutting off communication. We finally ended up with a counselor on the phone speaking to each of us separately (although the pastor overheard my entire part of the conversation).
  4. Now I stand before God again asking him to show me how my heart is not submitted, how I am divisive and disunifying. If there is sin in my life I want it out now! I am done walking this path and I want to change, no matter the cost. If these are things in my life I am blind to them and desperately need help to see them. I have already contacted my new pastor for accountability and support because I do not want to repeat any of these actions. I know I am a sinner and need the Lord’s transformation in my life.

I don’t know what the rest of the day will hold, but even through the difficulty this morning I am still able to stand with confidence that I have changed, that the Lord has transformed my life, and I know I still have work to do in my life but I know that I am on the right path to making that happen. My immediate reaction was to turn to Him in repentance and to ask for him to change me. I desire His truth, His perspective of my life, and obedience to His standards above all else. I wouldn’t have done that in the past and I am so joyful to know that I am making new choices, choices of  hope, redemption, and love.

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