The Most Consequential Decision A Ministry Can Make!

3D white people. Stopping a chain reaction of dominoes fallingOne of the most consequential decisions or far-reaching actions a Christian ministry or local church can engage in is the . . . .

– firing of an employee

– dismissal of one of its members

If you don’t believe that, then you have not gone through that experience yourself.

If you don’t believe that, then you have not watched one of your children navigate those converging white-waters.

If you don’t believe that, then you have never experienced or watched the spiritual, emotional, psychological, and social turmoil these white-waters set into motion.

These two experiences will spiritually and emotionally strain and test every part of the “raft’s” integrity, AND . . . there are usually others in the “raft” along with them . . . also struggling!

whitwaters raftingThat is precisely why both the exclusive exercise of administrative power in the firing of ministry staff-employees, and the exercise of church discipline against a member of a church fellowship is so consequential and weighty! 

That is precisely why “the church,” in God’s wisdom, must be involved in any such process and/or action.  

There are few, if any, other church decisions with more far-reaching impact on the individual(s) involved, along with its impact on . . . .

  • other family members
  • friends & friendships
  • church relationships
  • a pastor’s personal integrity
  • the church’s officials & leadership
  • a local church’s reputation

That is why when “the church” body is excluded from or denied a meaningful involvement in these decisions, “the church” experiences considerable disruption!

Obviously, one can point to “outliers” when it comes to allowing for a meaningful involvement by “the church.”  Those “outliers” or extreme cases are typically and disingenuously cited to argue for unwarranted secrecy.  That is the repeated pattern for how ministries explain the obscuring of their decisions and actions.

The “outliers” should never be justification
for denying what ought to be
the usual and commonplace practice of
transparency, equity, and honesty! 

When “the church” is excluded from or denied some level of meaningful involvement, it is a blatant violation of the words and spirit of both the covenant relationship between the membership, and the many passages regarding handling people in the body of Christ.

When “the church” is excluded from or denied some level of meaningful involvement, it also violates the words, spirit, and purpose of all the steps laid out in Matthew 18.  What you will find in example after example of “power gone awry” in ministries and churches is the abuse and misuse of Matthew 18.

Allowing these kinds decisions to be made by a pastor(s), or by a select group of individuals is to potentially and/or administratively sow disunity.  It should be pointed out that when such decisions attempt to provide cover from congregational awareness, the disunity is sown by those who purposefully and unnecessary conceal “the story” behind such actions.

Excluding “the church” body in these decisions creates an atmosphere where members of the church refuse to buy-in to actions of those who have bypassed them.  Failing to allowing for a meaningful time of questions and answers during an all-church business meeting, before such actions are taken, and only upon the majority vote supporting such actions, is to potentially stir up the waters of confusion and/or discontent.

The wake left behind can be devastating – both unfairly, as well as deservedly.

Unfairly criticized when the action is correctly based, has scrupulously followed the biblical steps, and the participants and their actions are willing to stand up to examination.

Deservedly criticized, when there is an indecent basis for even starting such action, a sloppy and/or unbiblical process, and participants who will not or cannot respond to fair scrutiny.

All too typical is the charge of “sowing disunity” against those who legitimately seek answers and expect leadership to be honest and accountable.  The charge is leveled against those who have been ill-served, uninformed, and denied the opportunity to genuinely and meaningfully hear and ask questions.

When there is an appropriate basis for a staff member’s firing, or the exercise of “church” discipline against a brother or sister in Christ, there must be carefully followed biblical process, that can stand up to the fair scrutiny by both the person fired or disciplined. The process must be clear and seen as legitimate, not marked by confusion, murkiness, and/or  unanswered questions. [1]

Anything short of working through a honest and open process when firing employees or exercising church discipline in a fair, consistent, transparent, and biblical way reveals leadership’s woeful lack of grasping the gravity of these actions.  It reveals that they have never navigating a “raft” in such relational “white-waters” — personally, or alongside one of their loved ones.

Without such a process, leaders may decry the unrest, dissatisfaction, and discord, but the leaders who denounce the discord have created it.  They ought to be held to account for their failure to grasp and demonstrate the weighty and consequential nature of their unbiblical process and their inappropriate concealment and actions.

♦♦♦♦♦ ♦♦♦♦♦ ♦♦♦♦♦

Pastors & Other Church Leaders Invite Discord!

Pastoral Staff: It is “the church” which has called a pastor to serve in their ministry, regardless of any recommendation of a selected search committee, a deacon board, or a lead pastor.  It is the church that has taken on the financial responsibility of its pastors.

It is NOT the lead pastor or officials of the local church who call an “assistant-youth-associate pastor” to that ministry.  Nor is it the lead pastor and/or selected officials who financially support them. It is “the church” who recognizes a pastor’s call to their ministry and provides the financial wherewithal to fulfill that calling! [2]

And rightfully, it is the ultimate and sole responsibility of the church to dismiss-fire them — based on its operational needs or for just ethical cause.

To by-pass the congregation in dismissing or “firing” of a member of the pastoral staff is to potentially invite and even provoke bitterness and division into the church!

When doing otherwise . . . .

Pastors & Leaders
are potentially inviting and even provoking
bitterness and division into the church
.

♦♦♦♦♦ ♦♦♦♦♦ ♦♦♦♦♦

Church Members: When pastors and/or church leaders have the authority have taken the authority to dismiss members of the church, they are the individuals who are sowing and scattering the seeds of discord in the local church!  They bear the responsibility for church division — and all of its effects! The covenant relationship of any and all members is with the other members of their church.  Their covenant far exceeds any individual(s) or select groups of individuals!  Their covenant relationship is far beyond a pastor or any select group of individuals within the church body.  It clearly is not within the biblical purview of the role and responsibilty of deacons — Acts 6.

When doing otherwise . . . .

Pastors & Leaders
are potentially inviting and even provoking
bitterness and division into the church
.

♦♦♦♦♦ ♦♦♦♦♦ ♦♦♦♦♦

Whether it be employees or staff members of a ministry, or the people who have joined a fellowship of believers, none have given up the right to be treated appropriately, rightfully, transparently, and fairly by a ministry.

When doing otherwise . . . .

Pastors & Leaders
are potentially inviting and even provoking
bitterness and division into the church
.

Over the years of teaching, pastoring, and ministering, I have been taken back, saddened, and yes — provoked by the way faculty, staff, volunteers, and members of a church ministry are handled and mishandled! It reflects a defective or wanton unawareness of the impact on people. “People” in the plural!– Not only the one(s) being disciplined, but the family, his-her friends, fellow-workers, and other members of the church body or ministry.

Calling up “outliers” to excuse, justify or exempt pastors and leaders from an open, honest, fair, and transparent process carries the same odor found in the world of politics.  Decrying what happens in the political world, while engaging in the same unfair and secretive methods, which equally deny equity and accountability is taking hypocrisy to the most egregious levels — “Egregious levels” because it is in the church and by its very leadership!

♦♦♦♦♦ ♦♦♦♦♦ ♦♦♦♦♦ ♦♦♦♦♦ ♦♦♦♦♦

That Is Why
It Is & Must Be “The Church?”


Because Firing & Dismissing People
Is One Of
The Most Consequential Decisions
A Church Body Can Make!



[1] The Possibilities:

1. Legitimate & Clear:  At times, that process is uncomplicated because the reason for firing, or the discipline “trespass” is legitimate and clear. The wrong-doing is uncontested – For instance, the individual has been in involved in sexual immorality. Typically, he/she is not disputing the general “facts” of the situation.

An opportunity for clarity, any needed explanation, expressions of repentance, expressions of understanding as to the actions being taken, disagreement with such a decision, corrections to the record as to what did and did not occur, etc. still need to be offered and provided.

Guage Agenda biblicallyWhen a member of “the church” cannot even state the reason behind the firing or the dismissal of a brother or sister in Christ, no less with any clarity, that is an obvious indicator that the process has been agenda-driven, not biblically handled.

More On “Legitimate:” The distinction is to its opposite = “fabricated. “Fabricated” can include an accusation that has no basis in fact, or an attempt to make something a Matthew 18 issue which has no Scriptural basis for resulting in ex-communication. Rather, Matthew 18 has been weaponized to control legitimate dissent or calling-out the sinful decisions or conduct of another.

Misguided and persona-driven church leaders too often cite an ethical violation as justification for firing, while having allowed far more serious ethical misbehavior to go unaddressed.  Or it happens by misguided and/or ego -driven pastors and leaders who call up Matthew 18 as a way to control the speech and criticism of the membership. The implementation of Matthew 18 then becomes a means for controlling any legitimate criticism by the membership.  It can be used and has been used to put other members on alert that if you disagree, seek explanations, ask questions, challenge decision, and/or call-out wrong-doing, you too may be threatened with such actions.

Dissent or disagreement is viewed and spoken of as disloyalty or “sowing discord.” An underlying fear of questioning or disagreeing is generated. Members may be formally removed from church life, or “God will visit His judgment on this-or-that person or group if you ‘touch the Lord’s anointed.’”

2. Unfounded Or Disputed: At other times, the “truth” and/or “facts” of what happened are disputed or perhaps even unfounded. The two parties have different “stories” – and I mean “stories” in a good sense. The stories are divergent enough that “the church” is called together to hear the “facts.”

NOTE: When the person who is fired, or in the case of church discipline the offended and the offender are at loggerheads, and one of the parties is unwilling to “tell it to the church,” there still should be the opportunity to hear the party which is willing to or interested in laying out his account and his-her perception of what has taken place.

To deny a willing party to “tell it to the church” is to misunderstand or purposefully discount the gravity of the process thus far, and into the future, on that person and others.

3. Fabricated: At other times, the so-claimed reason for firing, or the “trespass” is fabricated – bogus – biblically unfounded as a basis for firing or ex-communication.

It is the real possibility of such a potential meeting with “the church” that keeps everyone honest. When a meeting with “the church” is circumvented, short-circuited, or denied, all kinds of so-deemed causes for firing, or charges of “a trespass” can be unfairly hidden and/or fabricated.

[2]. Another discussion can be had regarding those who are hired internally — church office staff, professional Christian school teachers,  and the like.

I would still maintain that when doing other than providing an open, honest, and transparent process  . . . .

Pastors & Leaders
are potentially inviting and even provoking
bitterness and division into the church
.

///////

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