Posted by: Botolff | July 22, 2009

We’ll call her Kim.

I was recently given permission to share parts of another wounded minister’s story on the blog.  For anonymity’s sake, we’ll call her Kim.  Kim was hired on as a director of a particular ministry branch at a church.  She was there for 6 months before they threw her out.  Here are some of her words…

“I almost made it 6 months before I was fired. I hear the pastor’s wife stuff and can totally relate to that. The assistant pastor actually called me into his office to admit to me that I was set up – that they hired me because they thought I would fail big enough to help people make the transition between a great __________director and a good one (their assessment, not mine). I was manipulated, confused, badgered and hurt.”

“Manipulated, confused, badgered and hurt.”  Those don’t seem like the results of people reflecting the Gospel to me. 

She later went on to say that, “They wanted me to quit of my own accord, and that made me feel sick like you described- in the end I stayed until they forced me to resign (with the option of being fired) and hushed it up. I should have made them fire me. It would have been the right thing to do for the church, but I chickened out.”

The question I find myself asking is “What levels of fear must exist within an institution in order to silence someone, or an entire group of people?”  When we have been cornered by “manipulation, confusion, badgering and hurt”, the circumstances have been set up to instill fear.  So, to withdraw is natural, and frankly sometimes vital, in order to protect ourselves.  Why in the world would or should we ever need to go to that level of protection from the Church?  Because sometimes people in the church don’t want to be the Church, they want to use the church to hide from themselves, others, God. 

Take into consideration these last few words from Kim…   

“Honestly, we live in a place where the primary danger doesn’t come from non-believers. It comes from people who ought to know better. Satan has a good time at church. I guess that makes sense, in a weird sort of way. The Samaritans didn’t crucify Jesus. His own religious leaders did. The elders. The church. The people who were suppose to be redeemed under the law. The ones who should have known better…It IS evil, it DOES happen over and over again.”

I wonder if we will risk opening our eyes to the possibility that there’s something moving in our churches that doesn’t have the Church’s best interest in mind.  And if we can’t allow ourselves to be open to that possibility, then I wonder what fear has gripped our minds and hearts so tightly that we refuse to look.  Ultimately I believe the only way to break the fear is to speak the truth of our experience, but the truth always comes at a price.  There are times we would all rather just have someone else pay that price.  Thank God in those times that Jesus already did that for us.

Kim, if you read this post, I just want you to know that, although I think I may know how you feel, I don’t believe you “chickened out.”  Like a good friend told me, “I’m just glad you got out of there, whatever it took.”  You are a courageous woman to even share part of your story with me, and give me permission to share that with others.  Thank you!

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Responses

  1. In these hostile situations, is everyone in these churches okay one day and then they flip a switch? There seems to be a consistancy to these stories I hear(and not just here): That there is unhealthy behavior going on well before the hammer drops.

    If the body of that church acts unBiblically before a person comes, why would we think that they would act in any different manner after? Very seldom do congregations go from fleshing out the Great Comission to wlaking around liek Stepford Wives…

  2. To some extent that is true, Jay. I think many ministers walk around with rose colored glasses. We are sick. We see potential in people and allow scripture to shape our expectations.

    In my previous call and my current, I was very much aware of the problems going in. In fact, both times by bosses asked me to work on the problems. People don’t act nasty until you threaten them in some way. Then, they get defensive and difficult. Confronting issues can bring out the best and worst in people.

    So, in essence, what happens is a church tells a minister “I have problems, fix me.” Then, when the minister gets out his scalpel, the church goes crazy and fires the minister who was only doing what the church asked of him/her.

    Here is a good example – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xHKTE75dgE4

  3. Great questions Jay. And I think you’re right on Corey. I’m just going to add a little bit more to your train of thought.

    When I “candidated” for the position that I was thrown out of, I made it very clear to the search committee that I was not a programmatic youth pastor. That if they wanted light shows and entertainment for the kids they could send them to their X-Boxes or the movies. Those things would do a much better job. I told them very straightforwardly that I am a relational youth worker, which means that within 1 1/2 to 2 years, if we carry out the ministry well, we will find out stories in families lives that we will have to face and work through. That’s when the real work will begin. They assured me they wanted a relational youth pastor. I told them ooo.k.. I think one of the problems is that I knew what I meant…I don’t think they did. It was about two years later that stories of heartache from multiple students and families came to the surface. We had our hands full. We could hardly keep up with that. But then when it came to facing challenges within leadership, I think they had had enough.

    One of my professors in my master’s program told us, in order to work on the real cancer that we have stewing within us, we will have to be willing to undergo open heart surgery with no anesthetic when all the doctor has is a butter knife. Frankly we will all change if it’s easy. The rest we will often fight with everything we have in us, because we think we’re dying in the process. But in order to live, we have to risk dying, and we’re not really willing to do that most of the time.

    I go into all my relationships with people knowing that they are messed up, because I know I’m messed up. I also often hope for people well beyond what they are visibly capable of, because I do the same for myself. I think the problem for some ministers is that we hope so far down the road for people sometimes, that we set ourselves up to be crucified, because they won’t hope that far down the road for themselves. So we end up, like Corey said, with people who say “fix me,” but when you get close to their open wound they say “Don’t touch that!” Don’t we all do that to a certain extent?


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