by N. Jason Austin
(Burbank, IL. USA)
I grew up in a pastors home. I saw my father go through good times and bad. Now I'm 44 and pastoring my 3rd church. My first experience pastoring was a good one.... Mostly. We had our ups and downs, but the church grew and my wife and I were respected and loved. The church was small- only 40-50 on Sunday. They paid me what they could and God provided for my family.
After 5 years, and much prayer, I accepted a position as pastor of a church in Kentucky. It was larger and financially stable so I thought it would be a good place for my family. God was directing me to this church. I really felt that. The pastor before me had been there for a long time and was retiring. I was accepted by 100% of the members. Just after moving in the trouble started. No matter what I did or who I talked to I was wrong or seen as trying to destroy the church. I prayed and preached as hard as I knew how, but nothing seemed to help. People began to say "well that's not how Pastor M did it." Then after 10 months the former pastor started his own church across town and the exodus started. People who claimed they loved me called all the members of the church to tell them they were all going to Hell if they stayed. So.... They left. Attendance dropped to 45. I really don't know what I did to them except challenge them to do more for Christ. Someone told me that they had talked to one who left and she said it was because she didn't want to hurt the former pastor. Seeing the church tear itself apart like that hurt me. I talked to the man that was the former pastor and told him how much hurt the church and I were going through, but he didn't care. I asked if we could come together and stop the hurt- no. I asked if he would stop trying to take every member of my church- no. He said God was telling him to do what he was doing. I pointed out that it was destroying all the work he had ever done at the church I was pastoring. Nothing helped. After struggling along for 2 years I left as pastor and moved to pastor a church near Chicago.
Now it seems that all the stress and hurt my family and I have been through is still haunting us. I don't know what to do. This church is deeply divided. We have a homeless shelter during the colder months. Many in the church want to stop the program. After a few months of pastoring here I decided to let the church vote to keep the shelter or close it. The decision was made to keep it open but since the vote I have noticed some of the ones that were close to us have pulled away. Why is it always my fault? I feel I have been so hurt by what happened at the last church that I have lost something. I know God is in control. But... Are more problems coming?
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