A Tragic Reality: A Wave of Pastors Being Washed Out of Their Positions in the Church

Pulpit (photo released to public domain)“It’s on account of people like you that I send prophets and wise guides and scholars generation after generation – and generation after generation you treat them like dirt, greeting them with lynch mobs, hounding them with abuse” (Matt. 23:34, The Message).

The Barna Institute estimates that a pastor in the United States is forced out of his or her ministry every six minutes; another study estimates that 1,600 ministers leave the ministry every month. An article on the American Association of Christian Counselors website estimates that, on the day you read this, 43 pastors and their families will leave the ministry here in America. Whichever of these statistical estimates hits closest to the reality, we are seeing, as Ron and Rodetta Cook note, “a wave of pastors being washed out of their God-called positions in the church.”

Christianity Today has reported that nearly one-third of all churches in America have experienced a conflict within the last two years that resulted in the pastor leaving, by choice or by force. Nearly half of these men and women will never return to pastoral ministry. This is a tragic and heartbreaking reality that should alarm all of us who identify ourselves as Christians.

In an online article, Charles H. Chandler notes that, after facilitating a session of participants’ stories at a Healthy Transitions Wellness Retreat where the same pattern emerged again and again, he was asked, “Is there a rulebook on forced termination?”

His conclusion? “I have worked with hundreds of ministers who have experienced forced termination. At this point, I have decided a rulebook is floating around out there somewhere and it does suggest that a few disgruntled church members can follow the above listed rules and ‘kick the preacher out”; I’ve never seen it in writing, but its effectiveness can be seen in case after case.”

The pattern he observed being repeated in church after church looked like this:

“First, each minister had been ‘blind-sided.’ A group of two or three persons, usually self-appointed, approached the minister without warning and said he/she should resign because of loss of effectiveness. They convinced the minister that the whole church shared their feeling. The ‘group’ presented themselves as merely ‘messengers’ and insisted there was nothing personal about the request. The messengers told the minister they loved him/her and really hated to deliver the resignation request.

“Second, while the minister was in a state of shock after being ‘blindsided,’ the ‘group’ dumped guilt on the minister. They said the pastor should resign and the related conversation must be kept very quiet. If word got out, it could split the church. And, the minister would not want to be known as one who caused a split church! Any negative effect from the minister’s leaving was dumped directly on him/her as though a minister could just slip away and never be missed.

“Third, while the minister was still in no condition to make a decision of any kind, the group pressed for a decision. In most cases, a few weeks or a few months of severance was offered – provided the resignation was given immediately and the entire conversation kept quiet. The ‘messengers’ added, ‘We have to know what you plan to do, because if you refuse to resign or if you talk to other church members, we will take away the severance and call a church business meeting to fire you. Then you will get nothing.’”

Though the messengers may tell the pastor they represent the vast majority of the membership, quite often they are a self-appointed faction who acts behind closed doors. And, according to a survey conducted by Leadership magazine, 80 percent of forced out ministers report that the real reason for their leaving was not made known to their congregations.

Ken Sande, who has developed “The Peacemaker” church resource set, has summarized the cost of conflict between pastors and churches:

“Pastors are not being adequately trained in conflict resolution; conflict brings down thousands of them every year; churches engage in spiritual battle without proper leadership, and then churches wonder why they have so little fruit and suffer so much. No secular business would accept such high leadership losses. Executive turnover in businesses typically cost employers from 12-18 months of the executive’s annual salary. If this figure were applied to the pastoral turnovers, we would see that they are costing the church over $684 million a year! If you measured the cost in terms of seminary or Bible experiences that go down the drain whenever a pastor leaves the ministry, you would come up with a similar appalling number. But the cost to the kingdom cannot be measured in terms of money. How precious is the gift of preaching the gospel, and what is the cost when a pastor loses his pulpit and his gift is silenced? Whatever the measure, the cost of losing thousands of pastors each year is astronomical. The church cannot afford to let these losses continue.”

A Seared Conscience. A Heart of Stone: “So What if Abortion Ends a Life?”

Heroic image of babyYOU LOSE TRUE NORTH IF YOU CAN’T DEFEND INNOCENT HUMAN LIFE

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place.” (Psalm 139:13-16)

Last year, on the 39th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion in the United States, I posted the following commentary:

Tens of thousands of people descended on the nation’s capital to participate in the solemn March for Life. They made their way to the Supreme Court building where the decision was handed down January 22, 1973.

As was noted that day – for 39 long years – young people have been exposed to a law that says they are not human persons for the first nine months of their lives. One full generation has lived under the cloud of the abortion holocaust. Now many believe that this same generation will waken to the horrors visited upon them and will move – in great numbers – to provide a voice for those who have not been heard, to provide protections for the littlest among us who so desperately need protection.

It is estimated that 54 million babies have been killed in the womb since this grievous Supreme Court decision. A few months ago the story of Joanne Schieble began to circulate on line. In 1954, she was a young unmarried college student who discovered that she was pregnant. She could have had an abortion (though illegal at the time) but opted, instead, to give birth to the baby and put him for adoption. And so it was, that in 1955, a California couple named Paul and Clara Jobs adopted a baby boy, born out of wedlock, that they named Steven. Folks, upon hearing this revelation, began to speculate how many persons of vision like Steve Jobs might have been found in the 54 million who were put to death.

I recall a day, when I was pastoring a church in New Hampshire, when my husband Gene, our daughter Brooke and I stood “pro-life” in a human chain that reached across the United States. Immediately next to us was a young couple with a baby boy whom they had just adopted. The signs they held read: “Adoption, the loving option.” That baby spent his first night with his new parents in our home in Ipswich, Massachusetts. The family is still precious to us – we’ve remained friends over the years – and that boy (whose name means “Beloved of God”) is now a brilliant young man and a Chemical Engineering student at Columbia University who is studying abroad in London. I also have dear ones in my life whom I love very much who made the decision to abort and I know the pain they suffered is great. Today’s young women who become pregnant and the fathers of those babies need to make decisions that recognize and honor the reality of the lives in their charge and grandparents need to stand for what is right and good for their grandchildren.

A dear and much respected friend, Charmaine Yoest, heads Americans United for Life. Scripted in large lettering on one wall of her office at her direction are the words of Thomas Jefferson: “The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only legitimate object of good government.” Charmaine frames the pro-life argument similarly and succinctly and her words ring true to me: “You either believe it’s a life or you don’t,” she says. “The intellectual underpinnings really do matter. And they matter for our culture. If you can’t draw the lines, you lose your bearings. You lose true north if you can’t defend innocent human life.”

Visit http://www.aul.org/ to learn more about Charmaine and AUL.

*****

Now forty years and 55 million deaths after Roe v. Wade . . .

Comes an article filled with the most monstrous ideas delivered in the most casually cavalier manner. The title: “So what if abortion ends a life?” In this piece, Mary Elizabeth Williams shares her belief that “life starts at conception” but she adds, “that hasn’t stopped me one iota from being pro-choice . . . Here’s the complicated reality in which we live: All life is not equal. That’s a difficult thing for liberals like me to talk about, lest we wind up looking like death-panel-loving, kill-your-grandma-and-your-precious-baby storm troopers. Yet a fetus can be a human life without having the same rights as the woman in whose body it resides. She’s the boss. Her life and what is right for her circumstances and her health should automatically trump the rights of the non-autonomous entity inside of her. Always…the fetus is indeed a life. A life worth sacrificing.”

A seared conscience. A heart of stone. First Timothy 4:2 speaks of those whose consciences have been “seared as with a hot iron,” those who feel no guilt over their sin. Isaiah 6:9-10 addresses people who are ever hearing but never understanding; ever seeing but never perceiving, people whose hearts have calloused over and become like stone. The only One who can remove granite-hard hearts and replace them with hearts of flesh is God. I am reminded of the lyrics from Dan Schutte’s song, “Here I Am, Lord,” which uses the two verses just prior to 9 and 10 as its inspiration:

“I, the Lord of sea and sky,
I have heard my people cry.
All who dwell in dark and sin,
My hand will save.

I who made the stars and night,
I will make the darkness bright.
Who will bear my light to them
Whom shall I send?

Here I am Lord;
Is it I Lord?
I have heard you calling in the night.
I will go, Lord,
If you lead me.
I will hold your people in my heart.

I the Lord of snow and rain,
I have borne my people’s pain.
I have wept for love of them.
They turn away.

I will break their hearts of stone.
Fill their hearts with love alone.
I will speak my word to them.
Whom shall I send?

Here I am Lord;
Is it I Lord?
I have heard you calling in the night.
I will go Lord,
If you lead me.
I will hold your people in my heart.

My fervent prayer is that God might transform the hearts and minds of individuals like Mary Elizabeth Williams, those whose hearts – on the matter of abortion – have calloused over to become like stone, those whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. I pray that these individuals might be healed so they may hear, understand, see and perceive the great evil that has been visited upon us through the horror of the abortion holocaust. My prayer is that God might renew their minds and replace their granite-hard hearts with hearts of flesh and love. I pray that they might turn and become advocates – not for death, but for life.

*****

From the Pro-Life Action League website (http://prolifeaction.org/faq/unborn.php) comes the following information answering the question: When does life begin?

Biology is crystal clear that at the moment of conception (also known as fertilization), a unique organism comes into existence. Since this new life possesses human DNA and is the offspring of human parents, it can legitimately only be described as human life.
Since there can be no question that human zygotes, embryos and fetuses are alive, some have attempted to claim that human beings are not “persons,” until some threshold is crossed, such as viability, the capacity to feel pain, birth, or even the first year after birth. The merits of such notions can be debated, but it should be clear that they are not based on science but rather on ideology, philosophy or belief.
As far as observable science is concerned, human life begins at conception.

What happens at the moment of conception?

At the moment of conception, a male sperm unites with a female ovum. The single-celled entity formed by the sperm and oocyte (egg) is known as a zygote.
At conception, the zygote has 23 pairs of chromosomes and approximately 50,000 genes from each parent, which combine to determine all of one’s physical characteristics, including sex, facial features, body type, and color of hair, eyes, and skin.

What’s the difference between “fertilization” and “implantation”?

Fertilization, also known as conception, is described above. Fertilization occurs in the Fallopian tube.
After fertilization, the tiny human being travels down the fallopian tube. Implantation, which occurs 8 to 10 days after fertilization, refers to the point at which the baby (now scientifically referred to as an “embryo”), implants in the mother’s uterus and begins to draw nourishment.

What are the various stages of development in the womb?

Many stages of prenatal development can be identified, especially in the early days and weeks of life when change takes place at an extremely rapid pace. The following are the primary stages:
Zygote—A single-celled human being from the moment of conception until the first cell division
Blastocyst—A human being possessing 40 to 150 cells in the shape of a tiny ball; the placenta will develop from the outer cells, while the body develops from the inner cells.
Embryo—A human being from the time of the first cell division up until approximately the eighth week of life
Fetus—A human being from about the eighth week of life up until birth
To this list of stages of human development we might also add newborn, infant, toddler, child, adolescent, adult and senior—the continuum of human life which begins with conception.

Trimesters of pregnancy

Prenatal development and pregnancy can also be divided into trimesters:
First Trimester—From conception to 12 weeks gestation
Second Trimester—From 13 through 27 weeks gestation
Third Trimester—From 28 weeks gestation to birth
Abortion is legal at all stages of pregnancy, from conception until the unborn baby’s body is completely born, at which moment the child may no longer be legally killed.

When does the unborn child’s heart begin to beat?

A baby’s heart begins to beat 18 days from conception, and by 21 days the heart is pumping blood through a closed circulatory system.

When can the unborn child’s brain waves be detected?
A baby’s brainwaves can be detected at 6 weeks from conception.

When do fingerprints appear on the unborn child’s hands?
Fingerprints have formed on an unborn child’s hands by 14 weeks from conception.

When can the unborn child feel pain?
By 9 weeks from conception, all the structures necessary for pain sensation are functioning.

What are some of the other milestones of fetal development?
In addition to the unborn child’s heartbeat, brainwaves, fingerprints and capacity to feel pain, other important milestones include:
• At 4 weeks from conception, a baby’s eye, ear, and respiratory systems begin to form.
• Thumbsucking has been documented at 7 weeks from conception.
• At 8 weeks from conception, a baby’s heartbeat can be detected by ultrasonic stethoscope.
• By 9 weeks from conception, a baby is able to bend her fingers around an object in her hand.
• By 11 to 12 weeks from conception, the baby is breathing fluid steadily and continues to do so until birth.
• By 11 weeks from conception, a baby can swallow.
• Between 13 and 15 weeks from conception, a baby’s taste buds are present and functioning.
• At 20 weeks, and perhaps as early as 16 weeks from conception, a baby is capable of hearing his mother’s heartbeat and external noises like music.
• At 23 weeks from conception, babies have been shown to demonstrate rapid eye movements (REM), which are characteristic of active dream states.
• At six months from conception, a baby’s oil and sweat glands are functioning.
• At seven months from conception, a baby frequently “exercises” in preparation for birth by stretching and kicking.
• At eight months from conception, a baby’s skin begins to thicken, and swallows a gallon of amniotic fluid each day and often hiccups.

During the ninth month from conception, a baby gains half a pound per week. Of the 45 generations of cell divisions before adulthood, 41 have already taken place.

*****

Visit the following website to read about the March for Life Irony: The ‘disarming’ and disassociating of America by Paul E. Rondeau.

http://communities.washingtontimes.com/neighborhood/common-sense/2013/jan/18/march-life-irony-disarming-and-disassociating-amer/#.UQFwjbrOHUw.facebook