by Bob Martin
(Fort Wayne, Indiana, USA)
I have worked 3 years to turn around the flagship church of our denomination. At 108 years old, the leaders wanted the change, but many of the people, and the denomination leaders fought it. It used to be 1200 members (1980); now it is 200. It was 325 when I came in 2007. When half the people left by mid-2009 (cf. we want the good old days; his leadership isn't bringing it, so we'll leave), and they complained to the district leaders, with lies and half truths, we were sorely and unjustly "disciplined," for the leaders listened to the lies. It didn't help that the key leader was in fact the former pastor. This last year has more than eaten my lunch, it has caused burnout, a struggling marriage, a growing disgust for God's people, and a profound sense of disappointment in God (who doesn't seem to care). As the church dies in America, pastors get the bulk of the blame, unjustly. Why shoot your leaders, who are trying to save it? The unsaved looks on and marvels at the sight. I never thought that a lifetime of faithful ministry (mostly to this denomination) would be so discarded by the denominational and district leaders who are to support (and not back stab) its shepherds. How can we be "Missionary" in a world that needs God's love so much, and always be looking back over our shoulders, waiting for the next dictum (Like the words of the president about me, "Take him out, he's not working out")? Where is the love, acceptance, support, communication and help we NEED from our leaders? NOT! God's people better wake up. The church is dying rapidly in this country, and God's shepherds AREN'T to blame (in most cases). Wake up!!!!!