Does anyone have knowledge/experience
of a divisive pastor / minister?
Our church is currently embroiled in a messy situation with a polarising minister who joined us 3 years ago. A significant number of members have left the church after unpleasant experiences, and others have simply stopped attending. Membership is declining - and at a much more rapid pace than normal attrition.
Of course, he is not all bad - there are redeeming qualities, and he does have a group of supporters within the congregation.
But we seem to be at an impasse, and the health/future of the church is at stake.
Can anyone offer advice or share experiences? We need to find a way forward.
I have avoided these issues at churches but seen a lot of friends/ relatives encounter them. Sorry to hear you are going through this.
Questions you might ask (don't have to reply here): Who is the minister employed by and accountable to? Who pays their wages? What is their job description? A single leader who can do what they like with no accountablility is a dangerous situation for anyone. Is there a group of elders/deacons/ or any forum in church for airing issues? Has your church a constitution and is anything being contravened?
Are you an independent church or part of a denomination? The next level up of the denomination (eg local Baptist Association or whatever is relevant) even if they don't have full jurisdiction may be able to offer some assistance/mediation.
Unfortunately church leaders are human like everyone else and can have their own agenda, or simply a "vision" which clashes with people in the church. And everyone's perspective of divisive issues is different - from clash of the flower arrangers, to much more nasty like people being ostracised and frozen out of the church for not toeing the line.
I would suggest remember there are 2 sides to every story, and be as objective and professional as possible, pray for wisdom and truthfulness in any dealings. Divisive people thrive on isolating so try to deal with it in a small group of 2 or 3, so people have witnessed what is being said and can make a joint opinion. Just like you would with a grievance or HR issue at work.
It does depend a lot on your church set-up, some denominations are very autocratic and the minister's word is what goes, others give more authority to the church members or diaconate. Hope you can find a way forward but IME these situations often end in a church split, very sadly.
sorry if that was a pessimistic note to end on! Should have said, in serious situations you can end up in a church split but of course not a foregone conclusion.
Thanks for your thoughts.
TBH, I think the best/most positive way forward would be for the minister to step down. If he stays, we'll lose members. If he is forced out, we'll lose members.
He has got to be deeply unhappy with the situation - and it certainly has been, overall, a very negative experience for the church as a whole. If we all could say that it was simply a 'bad marriage' that should end (no one's fault, simply a bad union), it would be best for all concerned. IMO.
But he doesn't seem interested in that route. And i honestly don't know that this situation can be resolved.
Oh well an internet forum probably not the best way, but hope you can get somewhere, or find some experienced assistance elsewhere in your church network. Really it is for your church leadership team to address these things but often churches do lack the skills to deal with conflict situations so it is difficult.
I'd say it's really important for some "official" person/people with a role in the church, who are representing a body of people, to talk to someone higher up the hierarchy of whatever church it is you belong to: your minister's immediate superior. Depending on your church body, there might well be structures about how to deal with conflict in individual churches - paths for conflict resolution, or mediation, or at least someone senior who can begin to oversee a possibly troubling situation.
If at all possible, it would be recommended to do this openly and with the knowledge of the minister concerned: ie that the differing parts of the community agree that there is some kind of break-down in relations, and outside help is needed to help the congregation (incl. the minister) through it. This, rather than going to the minister's superior 'behind his back' so to speak, which might only inflame a difficult situation.
And try to be objective. Division in a church is a serious matter, but sometimes it relates to opinions and personalities not being accepted, and sometimes it comes down to the flower-arrangers all walking out because the new minister won't allow flowers on the altar.
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