June 20, 2014

Feeling Sad and Unwell Today

I am not sure if I am sad or angry today. I think it might be a combination of both emotions, swelling up together, and creating this sense of unwellness inside of me. I don't like the way I feel, that is for certain, but I also understand the mixed emotions that seem to coincide with crisis. I have been in personal crisis before -- very deep and dark -- personal crisis. I know that feeling, that sense of utter loneliness and hopelessness. I haven't been in that place for a very long time, and in truth, I am not even near there now. I just feel similar to how I felt when I was in the midst of my separation, and I don't like feeling this way.

I found this graphic online this morning while I was googling for something about sadness. I think it is funny (curious/interesting) that almost all the graphics about sadness stem from a loss of "love." You know, I miss you "love" and I cannot live without you "love." I thought it was curious that most people, er, the people who make graphics for the web, equate sadness with being out of love. I was trying to find the perfect graphic to match my mood, and I was not finding anything but sad pictures of people crying over lost loves. Now don't get me wrong, I did my fair share of crying about lost love, I just thought it was odd that the only pictures I could find were about love.

After digging a little deeper, I found this picture above and I chose it because it represents what I think is the crux of my feelings this morning. I am not lamenting a lost love or even a love that will never come to pass. No, I am expecting something to happen that in all likelihood will never happen. Let me explain...

I am very sad/angry over what has happened with my church. I blogged yesterday about the crisis, the history leading up to the current crisis, and the situation we face now in that crisis. Today, I spent about an hour and half updating the church website. I have been working as part of the Communication's team since January, and while I am happy to help out (I don't have a lot of time now), I feel that the progress we made on increasing our communicative reach has been for naught. I  mean, we redesigned the website, upped our communication blasts through email and social media, and generally improved the overall access to communication materials in a very short amount of time. We have received good reviews on our efforts, and we are working hard to continue to get the word out there that Paradise Church is an active and functional ministry organization.

But --

This is only a lie. The church is not a functional ministry organization at all. It is a sinking ship -- the commander has jumped ship, and the rest of the crew are following suit. The ship is sinking with all passengers aboard, and somehow, this act is sticking in my craw, so to speak. Yes, I do believe that the Pastors need to support their families, and I do understand the need to move to a more stable place of employment. This is practical, pragmatic thinking, and it is OK to take this view. However, part of me thinks that this move of jumping over board has been in the works since January, and that no transparency has been made to let the members know this was going to happen. I mean, you just don't get another job as a Pastor overnight. It can take months for these kinds of appointments to come through, to work out. So -- no one has bothered to be up front about the planned exodus and this makes me really angry.

This type of miscommunication or noncommunication is not a new thing in Crisis circles. It happens all the time -- it is called the MUM effect and organizations use it to downplay the negative impact of decisions during a crisis. Christian organizations are prone to using the MUM effect a lot. They cloud decisions in Biblical precedent, choosing to look honorable when blessing Pastors for leaving congregations because they need stable jobs with good pay. Its like "Bless you Pastor -- go and find better fruit elsewhere!" All the while the congregation they are leaving is in shambles and poised to go under. I know it is a hard decision to stay during crisis, hence my research project, but part of me thinks this is just wrong. This is the wrong kind of behavior to have in a church during crisis. I am not saying that the Pastors need to hang around, but what I am saying is that mistakes made a year ago have now been compounded to the point of causing a church to collapse. Had warning signs been noticed and decisions made to thwart crisis -- yeah -- we would probably not be in this situation now.

I am sad to see a church go under. I am angry at the Pastors and staff who did nothing but hide under cover and allow so many warning signs to go unchecked. I am angry that the members are left holding the ship afloat while the Pastors skip town and head to greener pastures. It shouldn't be this way. It is wrong, and I don't think this behavior is God-honoring at all.

Yes, so my righteous indignation has risen to the forefront, and I am angry at what I believe is a mishandling of the stewardship of God. Yes, this is why I am both sad (that it has happened), and angry (at those who were responsible). I may not like what has happened and the crisis we are currently in, but one this is for certain: God is our fortress and refuge in times of trouble.

I do not wish anything bad on the Pastors who have chosen to abandon our church, and yes, I consider their actions, abandonment. I pray they are seeking the Lord's will for their lives, and that they will learn from this experience so that they never willingly do this again. Pastors are held to a higher standard and they are called to shepherd not only the sheep, but also the financial resources of the flock. These men and women are human, and as such, they are prone to the same sin as I am. I get this, and I grant them grace. I know how difficult it can be to handle crisis -- however -- if you choose to serve in ministry, then you are choosing this path fraught with crisis, with difficulty, and with consequences. It is a choice, and in ministry, you cannot just walk away from your obligations and responsibilities -- just because the going gets tough. You have to be faithful and you have to hang in there. If the circumstances are dire, as in "there is not enough money to pay you," then the ENTIRE CONGREGATION has to have a part in the decision making process. The church as a whole needs to be involved, not just in "pony up so we can keep staff," but in considering the next best steps.

In business, you can walk away. You don't like your job, change it. You need more money, ask for a raise or go elsewhere. In ministry, people's lives are at stake, they hang in the balance, and the Lord's work is placed in jeopardy when you (pastors and leaders) walk away. Think carefully before you jump ship. Consider the collateral damage of your actions. Walk away if you must, but do it only after being 100% transparent with the congregation and explaining WHY you are doing it. Just saying "God is calling me to pastor a new church" doesn't cut it or "I am being called to start a new church" falls flat. You are leaving a church in crisis to go lead another church or start a new one? Really? Really? No, you are leaving because you need money, and the current church is so messed up (in part because of your actions or lack of actions) and you see no way out. You damaged a God-thing, and are leaving to take lead in another God-thing. I pray your actions do not repeat themselves. You have done enough damage as is...

Dear Lord,

I am angry at this situation, and I am angry at the leaders who got us into this mess. What angers me most is that all of these people will leave our church and move into new places of ministry. They will survive and continue to do the Lord's work. Yet, lives have been damaged and crushed, and ministry has been thwarted because of decisions, bad decisions, that were made in your Name. Now what is left over is fragments of what was at one time a thriving ministry. What do we do? How do we survive? What are our next steps? I believe that your will is perfect, and I trust you to see us through this -- to whatever conclusion you choose, you desire, for us. May your will be done in the lives of the Pastors and leaders as well as in the lives of each and every member who called Paradise Church home. May God be praised today and forever more. Amen, so be it, thy will be done! Selah!


Ken said...

I experienced something very similar at my last church; I know your pain. The good news is, if you all fall on your knees, God will hear your prayers and respond. He may send a new pastor that will lead you all in a new direction and bless you all in ways you could never dream or He may choose to send you all in other directions (other churches). Whatever He chooses to do, it will be the best possible choice. Do not allow satan to use this for his benefit but allow God use it to show His greatness. May God richly bless you all during this time of pain.

Carol Hepburn said...

Thanks, Ken. I appreciate your response. It is difficult at times to understand why certain things happen, especially in church, but I agree with you on trusting God for His provision and direction. I know that the Lord will guide those in leadership, and he will help the pastors and leaders who felt the call to leave. It will work out according to his way and his will. Thanks again for your kind encouragement today!

Ken said...

You're welcome. Thanks for following my blog. I wish I had more time to keep it current. I am a student at Liberty and between school and work, I don't have the time needed. I will pray for you and the ministry God has given you. God bless~

"Be strong and courageous"

Carol Hepburn said...

Thanks again! Best wishes on your schooling. I know that it can be a challenge to do school and work. Hang in there and you will see great reward from your efforts.