Posted by: Botolff | June 30, 2009

“They don’t care about you…or maybe even themselves.”

Disclaimer- This post is referring to the adults in the congregations we have been a part of.  Students and children should not be held responsible for the same level of culpability as the adults.  For most of them, they were victims of the fallout of adult decisions.

Before I left for Africa I had a conversation with another wrestling pastor.  He was thrown out of his church in the same deceptive manner as many of us were, and then forced to sign documents of silence in order to receive his severance package.

Why was this pastor wrestling?  Because he cared so much about a group of people that didn’t care about him…or maybe even themselves.  In essence, he told me, “They (meaning “friends” he had in the congregation) are still there with people who are willing to sacrifice any or all of them in order to get what they want.  I care about them and I’m worried about them.”  You see, he couldn’t let go.  He was still trying to be a true shepherd with sheep who decided to turn him and themselves over to the “wolves in sheep’s clothing.”  The problem is, in so doing, they sacrificed a man who was truly worried about them and willing to fight for them. 

The most painful thing I said to him in that conversation was…”I know you care about them.  That’s what makes you a good pastor.  The problem is, they don’t care about you…or maybe even themselves.”  Why was that statement so painful?  Because I was speaking from experience, and it hurts like hell to realize that you’ve sacrificed your heart and life to fight for people that you ended up trusting would do the same for you, only to find out you were duped.  On top of that you realize some of them have been duped, and many aren’t even willing to fight for themselves.  If you’re a real caring pastor, you still want to do something to protect them.  Friends, that’s a real bind.

In my situation, it was six total days from the time the leadership lied to the congregation in a letter saying that we had decided it was best for me to move on and no one was at fault, to the day of my living funeral.  Six days!  My exit strategy?  Follow through with the earthquake just like the elders set it up, even though I told them they were lying and they shouldn’t do it that way.  Why?  To see if the earthquake the elders caused was enough to prompt people to come looking for some answers as to why the ground was shaking at the church.  As painful as it was to let things go down that way, I knew there would be no chance of the truth coming out if I played the elder’s game and stuck around trying to make things look better.  Instead, I was hoping the tremors would cause people to come looking for the truth; and if they did, I was interested to see what they would do with it.  95% of the church never came looking past their own deceptive leadership.  Maybe 3% just wanted to have someone to blame and I became the target for that, and the other 1% or 2% left weren’t willing to do anything with the truth they heard.  By the way, those percentages aren’t figurative.

You see, I am committed to fighting for the truth and the people who want to pursue it, but if you try to fight for people who would rather remain in their abusive system and pretend like everything is ok, you will die and not be helpful to anyone.  I’m willing to die, but I’d much prefer to do it fighting for people who will at least fight for themselves, if not me too; which is ironic in this situation, since many of them signed a Covenant four months prior to do just that.  I guess the Covenant didn’t mean that much to them.  Maybe they’ll repent and we can fight together again some day. 

Have you ever tried to “protect” a battered wife who, although she has a black eye and flinches when anyone raises their voice, is still convinced that everything is o.k. and her husband loves her?  Impossible to do.  Why?  Because she either hasn’t come to grips with how bad the situation is yet, or she still thinks it’s less lonely and frightening to stay in that abusive home than it is to try and escape.  Sometimes she will even watch her children be abused right before her very eyes, and rationalize it away.  If you’re a caring person, you want to run in there and try to help her get out.  But if she’s not ready, you can actually chase her deeper into the abuse. 

If you’re a wounded minister and your heart still goes out to people in the ministry that got rid of you…good.  It’s one way to tell you are still a compassionate man or woman.  But if you still want to bleed for people that won’t bleed for you or themselves, be careful you don’t bleed out in vain.  If they’re asking for forgiveness and help, maybe that’s the time to step in.  But if not, there are plenty of people who would truly be grateful for and benefit more from your donation.

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