Time to Move on, Pastor John

24 May

Church Meeting Minutes

Thank you all for coming along to our latest church family meeting. We know it’s been all too long since our last meeting, and we sincerely apologize for that, but as many of you know we’ve been having some issues with Pastor John that we have had to work out.

You know, on strictly a leadership level…but it seems that the word of our decision has unfortunately begun to leak out, and so we the leadership council decided to call a more formal meeting, so that we can get everything out in the open—once and for all. You know, in the name of accountability and transparency; these are truly biblical values.

Let me take this opportunity, before we get into the meat of the issue here, first of all to bring everybody up to speed. Those of you who came to the last emergency meeting we held last year will recall that at that time, we took the drastic decision of calling for an emergency vote about Pastor John and his rebellious, unbiblical attitude. It was clear that we had a couple of issues, and we as your leaders were determined to confront the problems head-on.

Problems with Pastor John

First, about six months before we held that emergency meeting last year, you’ll no doubt recall that we’d already faced him down over the fact that Pastor John was apparently trying to get out of the work he was paid to do. A dangerous tendency had come to light: he’d tried to shirk his responsibilities as a pastor, and work it out so that other people in the church would do his job for him. If you don’t remember all the circumstances, what happened was this: he’d gone to a leadership conference (which most of us advised against), and there he’d gotten hold of some new-fangled ideas on church leadership. Unbeknownst to us on the leadership council, of course, and without asking our permission, because of these new ideas, the man was clearly trying to get out of his responsibilities as our senior pastor.

Even though we were paying him a decent salary to oversee the ministries here, and grow the church as God intended, if you can believe it, he tried to put together what he called “ministry teams.” Although he claimed it was a biblical concept, we weren’t buying it. The fact is that it was nothing more than an attempt on his part to be lazy, and get out of work. Now, that was bad enough, but then he had the nerve to take it to another level: he even went so far as to suggest that perhaps some other people in the church preach a sermon from time to time.

We might have worked with him on the whole “ministry team” thing, but that suggestion was just a step too far! We immediately confronted him over these issues, and reminded him that he’d been hired, from the beginning—as his job description makes clear—to preach every Sunday, and for the Wednesday night services too. The Bible teaches us that the pastor is the one who should bring the Word of God to the flock. And yet here he was, trying to duck his responsibilities.

I won’t go into more detail, but suffice it to say that we on the council were significantly concerned enough that we decided to call an emergency meeting to sort out these issues once and for all. We demanded that he repent of his rebellious and unbiblical attitude, but Pastor John had the gall to complain that his seventy-hour work week was too much! We’re not monsters, or slave drivers; we tried to compromise, and generously offered that he should cut back to a reasonable sixty-five hours a week, with the promise of an unpaid sabbatical in a year or two—and even maybe a second vacation! We finally gave in, paid for a week’s vacation, and thankfully things went back to normal. Or so we thought.

Pastor John’s “Progressive Theology”

Just when it looked as if the situation had returned back to its ordinary, even-keeled ways, it turned out we weren’t out of the woods, not by a long shot. You’ll all remember the emergency meeting we had to call, just six short months later. I refer you to the Meeting Minutes if you want to go back and refresh your memories as to what the issues were. Suffice it to say, Pastor John was caught reading some fairly questionable books having to do with so-called “progressive theology.” We dealt with that issue in a God-honoring, Bible-believing way, and nipped it right in the bud.

If you remember, then, at the close of that meeting—after we had brought everybody up to speed about the problems we were having with Pastor John—we held an emergency vote. We gave you all two choices as to what we should do about Pastor John: one, to let him stay (with a reprimand and a demand that he stopped all his rebellious behaviour); or two, to let him go immediately, without severance pay. Of course, as you all know, because of that vote we all decided to go with option one: to keep Pastor John on board, but with a reprimand.

I’ll tell you right now, that wasn’t a pretty meeting that we on the Leadership Team had with Pastor John after that vote. But we leaders were merely being consistent with what Scripture teaches us about handling conflict resolution in Matthew 18! You simply cannot afford to sweep issues like these under the rug.

At that very difficult meeting, we had to sit Pastor John down and directly confront every single one of his bad attitudes and behaviours. It wasn’t fun, but it’s the way God would have wanted us to handle the situation. We told him (in no uncertain terms) he had to give up reading those questionable books, or he’d find himself looking for another church. As you will no doubt recall, he was told he had to repent publicly the next Sunday, and admit what he’d done wrong from the pulpit—which he did, to his credit.

We told him that all he needed to know about God and leading a church could be found within the Bible. It’s the rule-book for life, after all. We reminded him of what he already knew: the Bible is the infallible, inspired and authoritative Word of God—it contains everything needed for the victorious Christian life. We also suggested that perhaps he needed to spend more time reading the Word of God, than taking the word of some of these spiritual whackos. Just because somebody writes a book, doesn’t make him or her an expert, after all. There’s a lot of dangerous ideas out there, and as Christians, we need to be constantly on our guard.

The upshot of the meeting was this: we informed him that what this church needed was a real leader—somebody who’ll do exactly what he’s told!

Now of course, as you all are aware, ever since that little rocky patch we had back then, Pastor John saw the error of his ways, and knuckled right under. The man is nothing if not humble and teachable, as a true servant leader should be. In fact, we’d even go so far as to say that ever since that meeting, these last few years have been a real “golden age” for our church. Pastor John repented, squared away his attitude, and put his nose to the grindstone. He went right back to the important work of trying to grow the church and be a loving shepherd for his flock—just like the Bible says a pastor should be. Talk about a good shepherd!

Pastor John: You’re Fired!

But as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end. After four years of faithful leadership and good work, it appears that the old problems with Pastor John have resurfaced once again. We thought that we’d put all those old issues to bed following that emergency vote, and that meeting with him, and it sure looked like everything was fixed. Everything was coming up roses, and the future looked nothing but bright. And this is why it’s so difficult to have to say this to all of you, but to cut to the chase—we on the council have made the drastic decision that it’s time to let Pastor John go.

Yes, we’re aware that it seems to be a sudden and quite shocking announcement, given the fact that the last few years have gone so well for our church. Why, thanks to God’s blessing, and Pastor John’s godly leadership, we even picked up a few families. Our budget also improved to the point where we even entertained the idea of giving Pastor John a pay raise, a second vacation, or even that unpaid sabbatical we had talked about giving him all those years ago! But now it looks as if all that effort we put in was for nothing.

Now, we’re not here to bad-mouth poor Pastor John—as that wouldn’t be what Scripture wants of us—so we won’t go into all the gory details. Besides, we need to take into consideration all the years of faithful service the man has put in at our beloved church. Suffice it to say, however, that Pastor John has apparently gone back to his “crazy” ideas that we supposedly drummed out of him all those years ago about church leadership and ministry teams—yes, all that nonsense once again.

You’ll remember that he went to a pastor’s conference a few months back (luckily, it was on his day off so he wouldn’t miss out on his normal weekly routine). And of course, they brought in some so-called “expert speaker” who had some hare-brained ideas about “new paradigms of church leadership.” Apparently, Pastor John thought he’d bring these nutty concepts back to our church. You’d think that after his failed attempt after that leadership conference several years ago, he’d have learned his lesson. Obviously, the man learned nothing from that experience.

Well, after a few months of him trying to introduce that nonsense, we decided to nip it right in the bud. Since we’d already had this problem once before, we knew there was no point in going back over old ground and rehashing all those issues once again.

Somewhat naively on our part, we sadly assumed that all this had been put to bed, but it obviously hadn’t. Positively, though, at least this time around we knew what to expect, and so that clearly explains the reason behind our seemingly drastic decision. We’re certain that every one of you will agree: we’ve done the right thing to let Pastor John go. Now, it’s true that not everybody on the Leadership Team voted to fire him, but we ended up resorting to the church by-laws to settle that dispute. It says that a majority vote wins, and as it turned out, there was just enough of us who wanted him gone to carry the day.

So, to sum up: we believe that in the end, our decision is best for him, and clearly best for this church. This way, we’re simply freeing him up to move on, and to try out his new ideas somewhere else. We wish him all the best. We’re also aware that many of you have quite a close personal relationship with Pastor John and his lovely wife, and we want you to know that you’re free to move on with him, should he end up as the pastor of a church somewhere else. You’ll be sorely missed, if you do decide to leave our church family.

The Severance Package

On a final note, just to let you all know, we’ve decided to be generous with Pastor John as he leaves, mainly because of the recognition of his many years of faithful service. He’s already packed his things and moved out of his office as of yesterday. We’ll give him two weeks’ severance pay, in addition to his final months’ salary, and he’ll have until the end of the month to move his family out of the parsonage.

We encourage anyone who wants to help he and his family pack up to go ahead and offer their services. We’d have liked to let him use the church van for the move, but unfortunately the insurance company won’t allow it.

Pastor John’s final service will be held this Sunday, and we encourage everybody to come and say your farewells. It’ll be your last chance to see Pastor John, and you can say your goodbyes afterwards. We’ll see if Pastor John’s wife can put together a nice little meal for everybody after church, too. That’d be a nice touch.

Just as a final reminder: there’s no need to give Pastor John any financial gifts, of course, since we’ve already taken care of him so generously. Also, just as a side note—since he’s no longer the official pastor, he won’t be preaching on Sunday or Wednesday services any more, but I’m sure one of us on the Leadership Team can be persuaded to bring the Word this week.

As we conclude our meeting, let me say once again: thanks for coming out tonight. Oh, yes: as an aside, before I forget, let me just assure you that we will be putting together a Steering Committee very soon. We’re not letting any grass grow under our feet! We’ll need to get that search underway for a new senior pastor, right away. And this time, we’ll know what to look for.

Won’t you join me in prayer now? Let’s all agree together that this time around, God will help us make the right choice for a new senior pastor–a real godly man and his wife.

We have every confidence that he will indeed provide.

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