Pastor Bob

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!!!!!

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For Pastor Bob
by: Anonymous

Wow! I have been there brother. It is ugly and not fun. I was the pastor of a church that wanted to grow, the people were nice to me, but got zero help from district leaders or the home office. That hurt. I was also disappointed in God for not growing the church. I left 7 years ago and now do a different type of ministry. There is too much pressure in our country to make "big" churches. All our denominational conferences were geard toward making big churches, planting churches, big, big, big...and if the church which you happen to pastor is not growing there is something wrong with you. I'd find another church before you completely burn out.

by: Anonymous

I'm at a crossroads as a pastor now with a church that may have to close - a church with a semi-glorious 140+ year history. We've spent the investments, running on offerings not meeting the budget - and leaders who have been in those positions over the last 25+ years and who cannot grasp the thought of any sort of new vision or direction for the ministry. In fact, when I polled them with a survey and asked what they would like the church to like in 5 years (I did this the first year I was there) - 100% of them said something like, "I'd like to see us do..... like we used to!"

All of their vision was backward and not forward thinking. I began to see that they really believed that if we simply did today what the church did 50 years ago, the church would be as full as it was 50 years ago... completely ignoring the fact the the city in which we sit has changed entirely since then.

We are by no means out of the woods - but let me tell you what I've done to this point - I share this as much as a solicitation for prayer as I do any advice.

We took a year for any who wanted to to join a "Reading Club" and we read the book "Comeback Churches" by Stetzler and met more than 18 times to discuss the book and how to apply it. Did the "old guard" leaders come to the groups? NO - but we did it anyway - and while I didn't have the key leaders there I did have the majority of the congregation. I realized half way through that I was discipling as much as guiding people through a book. Now we are in a season of disciplined fasting and prayer together for the future of the church. Have these leaders joined us in this prayer? NOPE (how sad, huh?) But we're praying anyway and have one rule - NO MENTIONING THE NAMES OF THOSE WHO HAVE NOT BEEN ATTENDING - AND NO COMPLAINING ABOUT THEM OR WHINING THAT WE HOPED MORE PEOPLE WOULD BE WITH US TO PRAY. I am convinced God is going to win because He loves the lost in our city - and no other church is doing the job. So, fight the urge to wallow in the negative my brothers and sisters in the ministry - lead those who are willing to be lead - and pray, pray, pray.

Don't leave your church, pastor, unless you are absolutely certain God wants you to move on.

Been There and Done That
by: Anonymous

Hi Pastor Bob,

Been in exactly that same congregational situation. My husband and I called in to turn around a church with an aging congregation in decline. When we started to grow the church the older people, who had all the money, power, influence, committee positions, didn't like all the new people. So, they did everything to tank us. We left after a year. They had a house they could have rented us with our three little kids for a fraction of what we were paying in nearby rent but they wouldn't help us. They did everything to cause us to fail. They sold that house and invested the $180,000 and lost it all in their investment. Reaping and sowing. Eventually all the new members left and their congregation has continued to decline. They also forced out the pastor as well as us. These are seriously mean congregations. They "say" they want growth but they really don't. They want the status quo. Beware! The congregation that hires you to grow their numbers. If it doesn't happen exactly as they want you are going to be the sacrificial lamb. Which it sounds has been your situation. These congregations are vicious and not worth it. The bullying and abuse is beyond the pale. You sound like a nice man. You deserve a nice congregation. My advice: go get one. but make sure they don't hire you to grow them. Elizabeth+

Tough One!
by: Paddy Venner

Hey Bob. What a messy situation. Sounds like God has used you to prune out the dead wood, so that in due season fresh growth can start. Sad that it is not recognised - your denom leaders should be the apostolic and prophetic voice to your ministry, not the discouragement. Their job is to put tools in your hand. We grew our church by only allowing contemporary music, by sticking to our vision and God-given style and suffering the departures and seeing them as "blessed subtractions" - people who long for the good old days are a playback from wayback and they need to be reminded that Jesus says in Luke that whoever looks back is not fit for the kingdom. Paul tells us to forget the former things. Your church is a hospital for sinners, not a hotel for saints, and you need to teach on that. Don't focus on who leaves and draw no attention to departures - celebrate new members - have new members dinners and start to work with them. We also grew our church on prayer - me and my leaders meet every second Wednesday night for 30 minutes focussed prayer for church growth and we are seeing the fruit of it - it comes in due season. Decide that your church is going to surprise people. Tell your people from the pulpit that your church is going to surprise people, then start working the vision, preaching it and reinforcing it with a positive outlook - you're accountable to Him, because He called you. Feel free to chat back.

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