Amidst the euphoria of the finding and calling a new pastor this week, the question ‘Supposing it doesn’t work out? How do we end a pastorate?’ was lobbed at me like a damp squib. I was about to dismiss it as an inappropriate question, but realised it was a hidden reference to the experience of the church before I had arrived on the scene, when things had gone wrong with their previous pastor. It was a painful time for them and resulted in a lot of upheaval and damage to their witness in the community.
What should a church do if it’s obvious that the pastor, their under shepherd sent by God, no longer has the support or backing of the sheep? If the love bond that should exist between pastor and people has broken down.
Because, as in a marriage, sadly love does sometimes run out in churches.
Every attempt to repair and renew the relationship should be made; but sometimes it’s too difficult to talk calmly , accusations fly, hurtful things are said, feelings are raw.
‘Wisely, church constitutions have in them the procedure to follow if it’s clearly not working’, said the longest standing church member who’d obviously seen a few ups and downs in her time.
We reminded the church that they are not powerless to do anything and what the procedure would be if the pastor no longer had the love and support and confidence of the church. They should:
- Bring in an older, well respected mature pastor to bring both parties together and seek repentance and reconciliation.
- If that didn’t solve the problem then according to church constitutions, twelve members could put in a written request to the Deacons or Elders asking for a special members meeting to be convened as soon as possible to consider the dismissal of the pastor
- At that meeting it would be helpful to have a neutral outside person in the chair agreeable to both parties.
- The pastor would be allowed to hear what was said as to why the members felt he should no longer remain in post and given the right to reply and give any reasons for his conduct and explanations for what had apparently gone wrong
- He would then be asked to leave the room and the members left would then prayerfully and carefully consider whether the pastor’s appointment should be terminated.
The church members felt reassured knowing they wouldn’t be trapped if things didn’t work out, and we went on to have an amazing time resulting in 100% agreement over the choice of their next pastor.
When I was a pastor I used to pray that Gods anointing would never be removed from me, and used to personally encourage and appreciate my prayer partners to keep bringing me before the Chief Shepherd of the sheep to guard and help me.
I will be encouraging our new incoming pastor here to do the same. There is too much at stake for things to go wrong.