Another one bites the dust. If I had a dollar for every pastor who started the transformation process and ended up leaving the church and/or ministry, I could have retired long ago. But here we go again. Earlier in the month I wrote about a church that was embroiled in battle over transformation and the ethics charges rained down. Charges about monetary mishandling (dismissed), charges about using a bully-pulpit (dismissed), and charges of clergy misconduct (also dismissed). With all those dismissals, you’d think that everything was rosy. That’s not the case.
Before I work with a church that’s about to embark on the transformation process, I counsel both the pastor and the congregation that 80 percent of transformations fail … and honestly, I think that number is charitable. The primary reason these efforts come to naught is because either those who are pulling for the change surrender and leave when the distractors get wound up or because the pastor leaves (voluntarily or not). When I offer this counsel, the response is almost always like the Israelites who repeatedly recounted their vow to remain faithful. “Oh, we’re stronger than that! We’re in it for the long haul.” Turns out the long haul can be effectively translated “Until the going gets uncomfortable for us.” Sadly, in many, if not most, church transformation efforts, there will be a couple of individuals or families who have a small following who will not just speak against the necessary changes for transformation, they’ll build factions, threaten, and get ugly … sometime really ugly … in order to get their way. Like in the church I’ve written about earlier. You read about the ugliness there. Ugly.
All the charges got dismissed. That’s the good news. You’d think that the pastor and the faithful would raise a cheer that the battle was over. But it wasn’t. It isn’t. The ugliness continued and I’ve received word that the pastor has resigned and isn’t sure whether to remain in minstry or not. Too young to retire, but frankly too theologically educated to find a decent paying job in this economy. The costs of transformation are high.
So, here’s my final thoughts on this … at least for awhile. Why would anyone in their right mind want to take on a transformation? Aubrey Malphurs once wrote that there’s no one young enough in ministry to effectively turn around a church. I’d add, there are very few who have the stomach and the commitment to see a transformation through. So why do so many men and women try? What’s in it for them? It’s not glory. It’s not big money. It’s not a multi-book deal with Doubleday.
I can’t think of a single thing that’s “in it” for them. Except for that quiet voice and not-so gentle urgings from the Spirit that calls them to the task. So, if you’re one called to the task … or you’re one trying to support your pastor who’s called to the transformation path … don’t quit on them. Don’t give up. Remember that Jesus faced this exact issue and look what it cost him for facing down those who would not engage the transformation. Following Jesus in the path of transformation isn’t easy … but in the end, if you can endure the pain, it will be worth it. He promised.