Issues and Answers

What Pastors Fight About With Churches

Three Angels Broadcasting Network

Program transcript

Participants: Shelley Quinn (Host), Martin Weber


Series Code: IAA

Program Code: IAA000322

00:31 Hello, I'm Shelley Quinn and I just want to welcome all
00:34 of you from all around the world wherever you're tuning in from.
00:37 We're so glad that you could join us today. If you are a
00:41 member of a church then you need to hear this program.
00:44 We're going to be talking today about the struggles, the issues
00:49 that pastors have to face with church members and the top five
00:53 problems that pastors have with their churches. You know, it
00:57 shouldn't be this way. Let me read a scripture to you that
01:01 comes from Ephesians chapter 4 and I'm going to actually begin
01:06 with verse 2. Here's what Paul writes to the church at Ephesus:
01:10 Live as becomes you with complete humility and
01:15 unselfishness, with patience bearing with one another making
01:20 allowances because you love one another. Be eager and strive
01:26 earnestly to guard and keep the oneness of the Spirit in the
01:31 binding power of peace. You know God is not the author of
01:36 confusion. He's the author of order and peace. He is the God
01:42 of peace. Here to talk to us today about this topic is a
01:47 returning guest and his name is Martin Weber. Martin, we're so
01:51 gland that you could join us again. Oh thanks.
01:53 Now we established before that you have been a pastor, you have
01:59 been a chaplain for law enforcement. You just finished
02:03 your doctoral studies in divinity and you also are the
02:07 editor for Outlook magazine. Tell me about Outlook.
02:11 Yeah. Outlook goes to 60,000 Seventh-day Adventists in the
02:15 Mid-America region and some people not of our church as well
02:18 So we communicate news and inspiration and it's a lot of
02:22 fun. That's interesting because also
02:25 you've got a lot of titles, Martin. You're also the
02:29 communications director for the Mid-American Region of Seventh-
02:32 day Adventist churches. Yeah. I enjoy that all so much.
02:36 That's wonderful. Well, you've had a life of good service to
02:39 the Lord. Now it's interesting. Today is an interesting topic
02:43 because we are going to be talking about the top five
02:46 problems that pastors have with their churches. Now is this
02:50 going to be the voice of experience talking?
02:53 Yeah, I'm afraid so. Lots of experience, lots of pain. But
02:58 actually the five problems were raised by the software I used.
03:02 So if anybody doesn't like what these problems are, they can
03:06 blame my software. So this is a survey that you did
03:10 and you were gathering this statistical data and so you
03:13 identified how many factors that really churches get upset with
03:17 their pastors and churches and pastors fight about.
03:20 Yeah. Well from these 113 clergy active and retired, with their
03:26 21,000 data points in the soft ware, there are 39 problems
03:31 that churches fight about, 39.
03:33 All right, and the top five are? Just give us the list and then
03:37 we'll go in and break them down.
03:38 Number one: Power struggles among members. Number two:
03:43 Pastors' problems with lay leaders, elders, deacons and
03:48 such. Number three: Worship music debates. Number four:
03:53 Would be life style issues. Number five: General church
03:58 gossip. And that's something that oh
04:01 Lord deliver us all. Put a guard at the doorpost of our mouth.
04:04 Exactly. So that's numbers one through five in order.
04:08 Okay. Let's look at each one of those because these are things
04:12 that we like to address these problems and expose these
04:14 problems so it's something that we can pray about and it's
04:18 something that we can see if we will surrender to the Lord,
04:22 yield to him and let him change. So let's look then at what the
04:27 number one is and that's power struggles with members.
04:29 Yeah. Nothing new of course. Now Jesus had a major issues with
04:34 his disciples on power struggles and of course in the church is
04:38 in a way kind of like a zoo with all kinds of different
04:41 personalities and different people from all different
04:44 backgrounds. I've heard it called a hospital
04:47 for sinners, I've heard it called all things but a zoo,
04:51 I've never really heard. No, now that word is not in the
04:55 Bible but you know it kind of is a picture that comes up and
04:59 same Lord that had the audacity to call Simon the
05:03 Zealot as a disciple, to keep company with Matthew the tax
05:08 collector and expect those two guys to get along with the
05:12 others. He calls us together, not because we all like the same
05:17 football team or we all have the same hobby or personality,
05:21 but people of all different ages and backgrounds get together
05:26 and love each other as he has loved us. But power struggles;
05:30 its' kind of like the picture I get going back to the animal
05:34 metaphor. You know, a kennel; put another dog in a kennel and
05:39 there's the alpha. Territorial fights. Yes, yes, that's right.
05:43 So what are some common power struggles among members?
05:46 Well you know, who's the alpha character. Often it's the person
05:52 with the money. Now in the book of Acts the people took the
05:56 money and they laid it at the apostles feet for the church
06:02 leaders to discuss and talk about. But so often people with
06:06 money think that they own the church, they pull the strings
06:10 and they vote with their dollars and yeah.
06:13 What are some other common struggles. I've seen at church,
06:20 for example, like who's going to be on the platform, who's going
06:25 to maybe lead in worship, who's going to play the piano.
06:30 You see people, and especially when you see someone new and
06:35 talented move into the church and it's like wait, I've always
06:40 been the women's ministry leader; what do you mean, you
06:43 know, I've got to give this up. So there's always these little
06:46 things that are going on that are just purely human isn't it?
06:49 Yes, yeah, yeah. There's the extrinsic desire to have a
06:52 position versus the intrinsic, the service for its own sake.
06:58 And just the alpha stuff that goes one; these constant power
07:03 struggles. Now Jesus back then solved the problem the night
07:08 before he died by washing the feet of the disciples and of
07:12 course a number of Christians, Seventh-day Adventists among
07:17 them, still do foot washing, a few Christians, and that is
07:21 supposed to... if you've got issues with somebody in the
07:25 church, every time there's a communion service with the foot
07:30 washing, you can go to that person and just have that foot
07:34 washing service and humble one's self. Of course, at a prayer
07:38 meeting as well. But too many times people skip the prayer
07:42 meeting to go to the board meeting. They'll fight at the
07:46 board meeting. I have seen people wait outside in the
07:51 hallway during an agape love feast and come in for a business
07:58 meeting, I've seen that happen, where they've got their
08:02 statistics and facts and figures and while the rest of the church
08:07 is having this love feast and communion service they're out
08:12 there and then when they transition into the business
08:14 meeting then they come in and start a fight.
08:18 You know, when you mentioned about Jesus washing the
08:22 disciples' feet, there were two things as you were talking about
08:26 this alpha struggle, if you will. Number one what came to
08:31 my mind is when we are instructed to humble ourselves
08:37 before God and in due time he will exalt us. But the second
08:41 thing was the washing of the feet. That was an attitude of
08:45 servitude. I mean, this was showing our creator, our
08:50 Messiah, who would stoop so low as to wash dirty feet and this
08:56 is something that... I think what we're describing here, the
09:00 people who are these problem makers that have this power
09:05 struggle, church is for them a community of, how do I want to
09:12 say this? Church is for them a cultural thing and so it's not
09:18 really about a relationship with the Lord and they're not walking
09:23 in surrender to God. So that's the problem.
09:27 You know, we all have our insecurities, but in Christ
09:32 we're healed of these things. But so often we're not thinking
09:38 in Christ and so we feel we have turf to defend and such. But
09:42 that is a major, in fact the number one issues that pastors
09:47 report, power struggles among members.
09:49 How does the pastor deal with that?
09:52 I think a pastor prays a lot, cries a lot, talks it over with
09:57 the kids, talks it over with the members and ironically the more
10:02 money there is floating around often the more... I've traveled
10:06 in parts of the world, I'm sure you have as well, where there's
10:10 not so much to fight about and so they pray a lot more.
10:14 And it is true and sad. Not all wealthy people are like this
10:19 but it is true that there are wealthy members who think
10:24 because their tithe or their offerings are covering a big
10:30 portion of the church budget or because they have dedicated the
10:33 money to build the church or whatever
10:35 that they should have more influence
10:36 and that's a sad thing. Yeah and every pastor is so
10:40 grateful for the people who have some means, that are humble
10:44 about it that don't flaunt it and, God bless, I've had a
10:47 number of those wonderful people there that are just there.
10:50 They're ready for the phone call to come and say we've got a
10:54 special need here, could you help with that? But they don't
10:57 try to push their way around. They realize that this is a
11:01 spiritual give, the ability to make these funds, the gift of
11:04 giving is a spiritual gift like any other gift and they see
11:08 it as something from God rather than something to fight about.
11:11 Amen. Okay. So the second problem you reported, your
11:16 statistical data showed, was the problems with lay leaders.
11:21 Now explain that. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Often the
11:26 pastor is told, you know pastors come and go, we were here
11:30 before you, we'll be here after you leave and so the lack of...
11:36 It's actually kind of from the 60s, questioning authority.
11:42 Pastors have huge issues with members who are not willing to
11:47 look to them for leadership.
11:49 When we say the lay leaders are we talking about the elders of
11:53 the church, the deacons and deaconesses. So these are the
11:56 people who feel an ownership in the church. Maybe they've
12:00 been in the church for 20 or 30 years and here you have a brand
12:04 new pastor coming in and they are challenging his authority.
12:09 Yeah. Way down the list is pastors having problems with
12:13 other members of the church who are not leaders, but the leaders
12:17 in the church, that's where the problems are. I'm not blaming.
12:21 With a pastoral background it sounds like I'm blaming the
12:26 lay leaders. No, God bless the lay leaders, but the pastor/
12:32 lay leader relationship causes a lot of conflict in local
12:39 churches. Okay, and how does a pastor deal
12:42 with this? I think a pastor has to have a
12:45 combination, just like Jesus. Jesus didn't get pushed around
12:49 until the last night of his life. A lot of people have this
12:55 picture that Jesus was this kind of like a loose, namby
13:00 pamby, just kind of got pushed around. No, no, Jesus stood up
13:04 for his purpose. He was here on this earth for a purpose.
13:07 God put him there for a purpose and he stood up for that and he
13:11 dialogued with those who challenged him. I think pastors
13:14 need to do the same thing. They need to stand up and dialogue
13:18 but at the same time realize that God
13:20 has give us all two ears and
13:23 one mouth to be willing to listen as well as speak, not
13:28 get pushed around but neither push other people around.
13:34 Now in my particular faith community the personality
13:39 profile of the pastors, they are not generally the pushy type of
13:45 person. They are more the introverted more meek type,
13:50 servant oriented people. So most Adventist pastors are not by
13:57 personality bullies; they're not. They have much more of a
14:05 problem being bullied than being bullies themselves. Of course,
14:07 there are exceptions to that but by and large that's how it is.
14:10 Well, as you said though, a pastor has to remember that...
14:14 I've believed that authority follows responsibility and if
14:20 the church is his responsibility then ultimately he has that
14:25 authority and accountability. Accountability follows authority
14:29 If you've got authority, you're accountable to God. But I guess
14:33 a wise pastor if you're coming in you see there are some
14:36 changes that would be beneficial to the church, you can't just
14:40 come in and change it overnight though. You have to do things
14:43 in steps and stages and let people get used to you.
14:47 There has to be a respect for the heritage of the church;
14:50 there has to be that. Otherwise it's just arrogance coming in
14:55 and change is always rooted in the mission of the church which
15:01 doesn't change with time. Vision does. Vision changes with
15:06 technology, with opportunities, with demographics. Vision
15:11 changes. The vision is how we see ourselves fulfilling our
15:15 purpose which is our mission. Our mission was established
15:18 2000 years ago when the Lord said go into all the world and
15:22 make disciples. That mission hasn't changed.
15:27 Amen. Now one of the things that I've run into with a number
15:30 of pastors that I've had this conversation with, and it's
15:33 interesting because you said this was number three that
15:36 showed up in your statistical data, that pastors are having
15:40 problems and conflicts with their church congregation and
15:45 that is music debate, the worship style. A lot of pastors
15:50 have told me that this is a very difficult situation and
15:54 when they move into a church, I've talked with some pastors
15:59 who are trying to bring them into a little more open style
16:03 and I've talked with pastors who are saying whoa these people
16:07 have gone outside the boundaries of reverence and now they're
16:11 trying to bring them down. So how big is this musical issue?
16:16 Yes. It's huge and it so paradoxical because music is to
16:21 soothe us and music is to help us experience peace and
16:25 experience God and worship and they fight about it worship?
16:32 You know that's so paradoxical. Studies show that the worship
16:37 music wars are actually about deeper issues. It's kind of like
16:42 when a married couple fights about sex. There are deeper
16:46 issues there. It's a barometer of deeper problems in the
16:50 relationship and so worship wars are as a barometer of deeper
16:56 issues. How is it that a church cannot sit together and discuss
17:04 what kind of music inspires us? Am I willing to let music that
17:10 inspires you, it may not touch my heart, but it touches your
17:14 heart, can we make room for that? Or is it because I'm the
17:19 worship leader or I'm the organist or the guitarist or
17:24 whatever, it's got to be my way.
17:26 You know, in my mind I've got what I would think is a great
17:31 model and that would be if we look to the sanctuary where we
17:36 you know... If I were going to run the perfect church service
17:39 in my mind, I'd get all of the announcement out in the front
17:44 so that once you started the worship in music you'd be ready
17:48 to move into the worship in the word without any break but I
17:51 would have it where you're entering the gates with praise,
17:55 praise songs that you're singing about the Lord and then move
17:59 right into what I think of as worship songs are those songs
18:03 that are set to music like Amazing Grace or How Great Thou
18:07 Art is a good one. Because you're singing that directly to
18:11 the Lord and it's supposed to transition you from the outer
18:15 court to the inner court to the Holy Place and then into the
18:19 Holy of Holies as we let the Lord open the Word and let the
18:24 Lord speak to our hearts. So that would be my preference.
18:28 And I think it would be scriptural.
18:31 Yeah definitely. God has made us people of emotion. Jesus said to
18:38 worship his without minds and we do that of course when we
18:42 study the word, but also with our hearts and music touches to
18:47 the heart and to have music that is unabashedly joyous. You know,
18:51 whether it's contemporary or traditional there are joyous
18:54 songs. But then to have the more quiet as well. Now I personally
19:02 define reverence as both. Reverence is respect for the
19:06 presence of God and sometimes that's expressed joyously and
19:10 sometimes more quietly, but it's all reverence.
19:13 Now that's an excellent point. Getting back to your research,
19:18 you found as you analyzed the statistical data that lifestyle
19:23 standards was the fourth greatest problem that pastors
19:26 have with their churches. Now what do you mean by that?
19:30 That's where people are trying to police each other.
19:33 You know, what you eat, what you dress like and everything else.
19:40 Instead of realizing that there isn't a rule for everything you
19:46 do, there are basic principles and church teachings. Every
19:51 church has its own teaching from the Bible that they go to.
19:55 But to try to inflict that upon others and to do it in kind of a
19:59 heartless way where you care more about what people are
20:02 eating than whether they have enough food to eat and what
20:05 they're wearing than whether they have enough to keep them
20:08 warm in the winter. Isn't that a sad situation?
20:12 I tell people that Jesus called us to be fishers of men not to
20:16 be cleaners of the fish. So when they're coming to church, if
20:20 you think that there's something... Of course, we are
20:23 to instruct and according to his teachings show them in the
20:27 word of God in this gentle, loving way in an instructive
20:31 teaching way, but not to single someone out and come and point
20:34 them and say "Here's what the Bible says and you're doing this
20:37 wrong. " We just have got to pray for them and let the Holy
20:41 Spirit lead them into these things, right?
20:42 Yeah, I realize that what is important to us as individuals
20:47 may be a lot because of our own perspective of what the Bible
20:52 is saying. There is some room for interpretation. Take the
20:55 principle of modesty. Obviously there are some nonnegotiables
20:59 around the world, but Godly people in different cultures
21:03 interpret modesty in different ways. You know, some will even
21:07 cover up their ankles all the time while leaving their midriff
21:11 exposed or whatever, different things like that. But to realize
21:16 that one can love the Lord just as much but see life just a
21:21 little bit differently and instead of just trying to police
21:24 the church so that everybody does exactly what I believe
21:30 God wants me to do, just step back in humility and love and
21:36 let other people including our own kids have some freedom
21:42 in some of these lifestyle issues.
21:44 That's an interesting point. All right, let's move on because
21:47 we're running out of time. General church gossip.
21:50 Oh yeah. Have you heard about what sister so and so said?
21:53 Let's pray. Yeah she needs prayer and here's what she needs
21:57 prayer about, you know, she doesn't agree with me. Yeah.
21:59 Oh that is huge. Society now... It used to be back in the 50s
22:06 that people got very upset about someone doing the wrong thing.
22:12 Now society is much more in the younger generation much more
22:16 concerned about whether or not they're honest about what
22:20 they're doing. There's a little more tolerance in there. Now we
22:24 can argue whether I think there's too much tolerance, but
22:30 I think it's swung too far the other direction, but these days
22:34 and with our kids it's much more important to be honest than to
22:39 be perfect. Okay. So when you're talking
22:42 about gossip though how does that tie in?
22:45 Gossip is in the church when people see somebody and they
22:51 put their own interpretation. Okay, let's make it childish
22:55 because it is childish, okay. I saw Sammy hit Johnny on
23:00 purpose, okay. Now I saw Sammy hit Johnny; okay, that's a fact.
23:04 You can video tape that, it's a fact. But on purpose, that's
23:09 a judgment of motive and that's gossip when we're trying to
23:14 assess other people's motives and announcing it and putting
23:18 their own value judgment on what we think they're meaning or
23:22 saying or doing. That's a form of gossip because
23:24 that's judgmental gossip. But there's also the talebearers who
23:29 may be repeating something that's true but they're just
23:32 talebearers. They're going and whispering about everybody's
23:36 problems as well. I know this is something that we all... I think
23:43 that's breaking the ninth commandment personally and
23:45 that's something that I think we're probably more guilty of
23:48 in the church than any other commandment being broken is
23:50 breaking that ninth one.
23:52 Sure in my low moments I mean I can enjoy gossip as much as
23:54 anything else. I think it's a very human thing.
23:58 I hope the Lord catches me on that point very quickly. But to
24:04 be... it's kind of a self righteousness where I have moral
24:09 high ground on you or on somebody else but I can shoot
24:16 down at you. Kids hate this. It ravages a church and it
24:22 destroys the kids. Because like I say, this generation, this
24:27 younger generation has no tolerance for intolerance.
24:31 And you know, this is something that we really haven't made
24:33 clear in this program is that all these issues that we're
24:35 discussing right now have to do when there's these problems in
24:40 the church these are issues that actually drive our children away
24:45 from church as they grow older. If they grow up in a church that
24:50 has this type of bickering and arguing going on this is
24:53 something that affects children, particularly PKs, pastor's kids.
24:58 And of these problems, we talked about 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 in
25:03 terms of attrition affecting the kids. Criticism of mom,
25:08 criticism of spouse and the kids that is the most devastating
25:12 type of gossip for attrition.
25:17 Then what are some of the other issues beyond the top five?
25:22 Well my data didn't ask for that so I would just be speculating,
25:27 but from my own history just well I saw somebody doing so and
25:32 such on the Lord's day. I saw them doing that and I saw so and
25:36 so with another person.
25:38 Oh I meant what are some of the other, the thirty-three factors?
25:42 Oh, oh, oh. Something that surprised me is church finances
25:46 which is a huge issue in any church that I've ever been a
25:51 part of or led. It was number 14 which is a measure of how
25:55 huge these other things are. As important as finances are,
26:00 it's number 14. All these other things are bigger.
26:03 So these are problems that the pastor has with the church but
26:07 it's also problems that affect the children staying in the
26:11 church. Yes, and you understand, of
26:13 course, I'm not blaming the churches. Many times the pastor
26:17 is more to blame than anybody else, but these are the issues.
26:21 Okay, here's one on the list that was interesting to me,
26:25 reluctance to discipline immoral members. This had a very
26:29 negative affect, I mean this is one of the problems that
26:33 pastors have in their church but if they are reluctant to
26:37 discipline immoral members, this had a big effect on the children
26:41 You've got to practice what you preach and kids know that there
26:45 is such a thing as discipline. They experience it and when
26:48 there is no discipline in the church, that's an issue that
26:52 comes up. Okay. Well we are already out of
26:56 time but I want to thank you so much. You know Martin has
27:00 just finished his doctoral studies and so this is some
27:03 very interesting research and some things that we should
27:07 think about. Martin, thank you so much for coming again.
27:10 For those of you at home, let's purpose in our hearts to do what
27:16 Ephesians chapter 4 verse 3 says to be eager to strive with
27:21 one another and to live at peace with one another and to
27:26 have that unity of the Spirit so that we don't have power
27:31 struggles among members, conflict with lay leaders,
27:34 worship music debates, lifestyle standards that we're trying to
27:39 inflict upon one another, general church gossip and just
27:43 these other problems that so many churches have. We need to
27:47 one in Jesus Christ. May the Lord richly bless you
27:50 till we meet again.


Revised 2014-12-17