I am now senior pastor of Kingman Christian Church. Though that may sound like a great thing (and it is) I am not able to express the joy over it as I would like because of the events that led up to me assuming the position. Needless to say, I, and the KCC elders, have learned a lot from this experience.
It is not an easy thing to let a pastor go, and I will admit that some mistakes were made in how it was done. Inexperience, fear to speak up, trying hard to follow without questioning are all factors that have lead to letting our senior pastor go in the manner we have. Though I am in agreement that it needed to be done, I do believe it was done in the wrong manner. I personally feel like I bear partial responsibility for what has happened. As a result of all of this I have taken time to sit down and reflect.
What have I learned from this situation? I've learned at least four things. Create an environment of complete openness. Develop close relationships with those who are leading with me. Conduct periodical evaluations of every leader (pastor and elder). Develop measures to accurately check the pulse of the church.
Every church needs to foster an environment of complete openness and it begins with the pastor and elders of the church. There are several things we can do to foster such an environment. Be open to constructive criticism. Don't get defensive when people criticize. Listen carefully to what is being said. Affirm that what is being said is being heard. Weigh it carefully. Act when it is appropriate. Always show love.
Relationships are key. The church is not just an organization. It is easy to treat it as such, but in reality it is an organism. Every part of an organism relates in some way. Though a person may not be able to have a close relationship with everyone they must form a close relationship with those who they serve the closest with. Church leaders cannot operate under just a working relationship. This may be fine for organizations but not organisms. Church leaders must know each other and trust each other. This only comes through awareness that such relationships need to undergo constant maintenance and development.
Leaders of the church need to undergo evaluation. Honestly, this should be just another Christian discipline. In general, Christians should undergo constant self evaluation. It reminds us of what needs to be changed in our lives and gives pause to consider if we really are following Jesus. Paul reminds us to be in a constant state of transformation by the renewing of our mind (Romans 12:2). Leaders need to self evaluate and be evaluated. This is something we are going to be working on.
The last thing we need to do as a leadership team is to develop some system that helps us to keep our finger on the pulse of the church. We need to be aware of what people are thinking and how they are feeling. Why? Is it so we can do everything that everyone wants us to do? No, it is to know where we need to work. As leaders are ultimate concern is disciple living. Are people in the church being challenged to the commitment of disciple living? If not, we need to find the problem. When there is murmuring, complaining and dissatisfied feelings among a majority of people there is a problem.
I ran across this verse today while preparing for my sermon. Hebrews 13:7 says "Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you."
It would be easy for me to just focus on the first part of this verse and say to everyone at KCC "Obey and submit to your leaders!!" If I were to do that I would miss on a very serious and sobering thought. As a leader I am responsible for watching over the souls of my church family and with an incredible soberness "as those who will give an account." It is for this reason that God calls for church members to listen because when tough decisions are made they are not made lightly. They are made with no joy and groans. There are periods of agony when trying to decide what is best for the church family.
I guess I not only want to convey the fact that the elders and I have learned important lessons from this experience, but we are in a period of little joy and much groaning. I would ask all from KCC who may read this. Please give our leaders the benefit of the doubt. I personally know how much they have struggled with making the decision they have. I also know how sorry they are for how this decision was carried out. Our leaders are godly men seeking God, but allow me to make one excuse for them. They are still human. We are all human prone to mistakes. What really shows the true character of a man, and his heart, is how he responds when he makes a mistake. I believe our elders are responding properly.