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“...and, when I get to Heaven, ain’t nobody There goin’ to turn me out...”
January 2000

Recently, I received a call from a pastor friend that he was resigning the ministry for good, moving out of state and taking up real estate. He was tired of the fight. He had had a good ministry all these years, countless people came to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ through this man and his wife, and he always had an authoritative word from God for every occasion. For funerals, he could be compassionate. For a church board meeting, he could be Vlad the Impaler. But he did have God-given authority. He just didn’t have the stamina to keep on fighting. I’ve known him for the past 35 years. I can’t blame him for doing this. His wife’s disease could be aggravated by stress and, had they chosen to stay, they would have stressed out under the constant barrage sent by a small handful of people that wanted him out of their pulpit, their parsonage and their province.

What grieved me in particular was the mental picture of this man and his wife, in the 50s, (remember, only 15% of us pastors and priests are still in the pastoral ministry after age 50), having just put up their Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving, and literally tossing the freshly decorated tree on the snow covered lawn in front of their parsonage for a pickup that wouldn’t happen ‘til well into January by the town. When a neighbor asked why, the pastor, now ex-, responded, “well, we won’t be needing this now.” They were packed up and gone after a three day-coup had determined their fate and their future. As I told trusted pastoral colleagues at the time, “another lion has gone to the Christians.”

A small group of malcontents prevailed and this pastor and his wife were disconnected from the church and community where they were greatly loved by the majority of the people. This ought not to be, brethren, but it happens because of the unBiblical cockeyed political structure in a church government that has little to nothing to do with the plan of God. He had done nothing immoral, imprudent or insensitive; some people just didn’t like him.

I think the thing that annoys me the most about this is that this pastoral couple had made that town their home and had planned to die there. They had moved to that town and, like Ruth, said that those people would be their people. They adopted each other for the most part.

The Body of Christ is about adoption. It is an adoptive process that ushers us into God’s Forever Family and it is not our place to tell someone that they can’t be a part of that. It is as though some sibling says that they’re cutting off a brother or sister because of a personal issue and somehow has the power to remove them from the actual family. This, in effect, is what happens every time a pastor is let go unjustly.

Folks who perpetrate this tend to forget that, unless he has been untoward, immoral, or in plain American English, an all-around jerk, he cannot just be tossed. It is his home, his family, too! Where is the sense of commitment? If they don’t have the sense of commitment to one another, then they are making a mockery of taking the Lord’s Body & Blood (Communion) together and/or singing songs like, We are One in the Spirit. (I have personally been betrayed enough times by people with whom I shared Communion and even sang that song that I am very wary of strangers who say “I love you, brother,” soon after we’ve met).

The Body of our Lord is such that people have to understand that it is others’ Family as well. We’ve all arrived there because God adopted us. Now, I am not talking about Disfellowshiping, but I shall, for clarification.

In some situations, you have people that are false brothers. It becomes evident by their fruit. If a guy comes to your church and spends most of his time scamming on the chicks, you’ve got a problem. If he scams on the other guys, you’ve got a bigger problem. And if a clergyman comes and does either, you’ve got an enormous problem. These people are clearly not part of the family of God because the fruit and/or the example of their lives is reprobate. We are compelled to love even the false brother, but those we love from a distance and with the kind of tough love that either brings them to repentance, or sends them away toward their final reward.

The disfellowshiping I’ve had to enact over the years I do with great caution, knowing what it is like to feel on the outs in the past myself. If a person is refusing the conviction of God and continuing to mess around with stuff that is either self-destructive and/or damaging to the people of God around them, they need to be isolated for a period until they get it worked out. I’m talking about someone who is a professed believer now. My custom is to ask them to sit it out for awhile, at least as far as receiving Communion is concerned, because these folks need a “time-out” in order to get shut in with God. During that time of being alone with God, One-on-one, hopefully they can get to the root of their addiction, their drives or their flesh that causes them to continually reject His direction, repent of it and then begin to live a Godly life in Christ Jesus. The happiest moment for me comes when I see them restored not just to the Table of the Lord, but also to the Body of Christ at large. That’s why I don’t use the term, “excommunicated.” Rather, they are temporarily disfellowshiped, but I intend to keep contact with them because it doesn’t change the fact that they’re going to need their pastor or spiritual mentor with whom to stay in touch until such time as they can be restored. So, I’m not as heartless as you may think.

But when a person has done nothing that would merit being set apart then we have no right to disenfranchise that brother or sister. In the case of removing them from the pastoral ministry, it shows that our views of a pastor are that of a hireling and not as a true shepherd.

I am pretty adamant about how I view pastors. A lot of them are using the title “pastor” because that’s the only term their denomination affords them when their actual function, gift, calling or anointing may be something entirely different. It may not be their fault that as pastors they stinketh. That was the only title available for them. By the same token, it may not be their fault that they got trounced out of a church, as in the case of my friend of 35 years. I have some serious guidelines for them before I ever hand them ordination papers from Church of the Risen Christ. What others do for their criterion for ordaining pastors is their business, though I feel a lot of it is unBiblical.

For example, handing a man a piece of ordination paper just because he completed Courses X, Y and Z at their seminary doth not a pastor make. I’m sure you’ve met those guys but they’re often not as bad as the clowns who “ordained” them in the first place.

No, I’m talking about people who clearly are gifted in the ministry. When you call that man or woman to your church to be your pastor, worship leader, youth leader, etc., it should be understood that you are adopting each other for the mutual blessing of them and the local assembly. It is as though you are saying, “this is your home until the Lord separates us through circumstance, illness or death.” To take a man or woman of God into your church family only to discard them a short while later over a personality conflict, a power struggle, or the color of the church carpet is not just bad decorum, it is sinful. And woe unto the people who caused it! After all, do you think that when the Lord Jesus Christ said, “woe unto them who cause one of these little ones to stumble!” He was talking merely about children? No! He’s talking about any child, and in God, we’re all His children, through adoption. Woe unto you if you have divided that family up. Do you remember that Proverbs tells us that God hates those who put divisions between brethren?

If you can’t get along with someone in leadership and get it reconciled, it would be better that you go elsewhere if it is clearly your problem. It is wrong to deprive a pastor, who has come from afar with the express purpose of being a servant and been received in the local church life, who was adopted into this church family, for him to be denied access to this family of believers later because someone has a personality conflict with him. What right does anyone have to say, “this is our church, our town and you can’t stay here”?

For some sick reason, it is always the pastor/priest/minister who is expected to leave, as though the opposition owns the church family. But why not? After all, the attitude prevails, “he came here from somewhere else. He was never a part of us until he came and even then, we didn’t want him to be a part of us after he did this, failed to say that, didn’t show up at the other.”

How easily we can let him go, as though it has no lasting, woundful consequence on him! Has he no feelings? Doesn’t he need a home too? Do you want to be found guilty before God of having participated in such a purge? It had become his home too? What gave you the right to deny him that after a point? What you forget is that those consequences I mentioned don’t just last until he finds (maybe) another church to go to. Those consequences last for Eternity and will be on your permanent record card with God. You don’t want that transferred to God’s Big Book in the Sky (that’s the thing Marie Roberts always warned me about when I was being, well, ...bad).

We have made wandering Jews out of Gentile pastors and ministers because we never treat them as though they now have a permanent home when they come to our church assembly. There’s a Negro Spiritual that says that “...when I get to Heaven, ain’t nobody There goin’ to turn me out...” Oh! that the Body of Christ could learn that now before God turns us out because we did never really did receive the stranger that we hired to fill the pulpit!

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