Sunday, June 6, 2010

Candor w/o Cruelty . . . is it Possible? Part II

Okay, sitting in church this morning I quickly realized that I had an example of a real life dilemma and example of this issue of candor without or with cruelty. Now while this is a very practical example, I’m not looking for any advice for my personal situation but I’m raising the question of how does this apply to the whole of church experience everywhere. I think what I will share is very common.

Our pastor has had a problem getting elders for our church. He preached on eldership from Titus this morning and he announced that in two weeks we will have a special Sunday evening discussion and dinner about the role of eldership.

I will be candid (as usual) and say that our pastor is gifted in teaching and studying scripture and a lot of leadership qualities. I’ve heard he is excellent in dealing with major life events, marriage, divorce, diagnoses with cancer, death and etc. However, in my (and others) opinion he has some significant handicaps. Primarily—and I think it is part of his personality nature—he is an extreme micro-manager, authoritarian and not approachable. I am the proverbial pot calling the kettle black. I would make a horrible pastor for a long list of reasons.

With that said, I have strong mixed feelings about going to this meeting in two weeks. I already know how it will play out.

The pastor will do an excellent job and exposé on the Biblical description of the elder role. He will then do an organizational chart of our denomination and how we use elders. Then he will challenge men to step up to the plate and be an elder (or suffer the guilt of not obeying God). So we will all sit and smile. Some, overwhelmed with guilt, may cave in and join in.

So all of that looks pretty on the 30th floor level where most church issues work themselves out.

Now, let’s go down to the tenth floor.

I’m speaking from experience as I was an elder for two years. During those two years every elder meeting was preceded by a letter from the pastor listing the agenda items that would be discussed. Once we arrive and endure a 30 minute devotional, the pastor would go through each agenda item, do a lecture on it and include his decision on that agenda. It could be getting a sign, a new roof, giving himself a pay raise (which he deserved but still . . . giving yourself a raise is quite odd and unethical in my book) and, two hours later, open for any discussion and have us sign off on the decision that he has already made. It was extremely difficult to raise any question about his decision.

Once, some guest church members came in and voiced a disagreement with one of the decisions that the “board had made” and left. He exploded in a moment of rage and attacked us for allowing them to speak against the pastor. I knew then that it was hopeless and that was the night I decided to resign.

I told him the reason I was leaving the next morning via e-mail. We were only a token board of elders who were castrated of power. He never responded to me and our friendship has been shaken since.

So, if I go to this meeting do I sit and smile and play the church game? My wife certainly hopes so. If I have a voice of candor and share the reality of what I just said, the shit will, indeed, hit the fan (okay, we are talking about church here so the dung will hit the windmill).

I’ve talked to a couple of other elders, back when I resigned, and they strongly opposed me making an issue of this problem. The Dutch (at least those transplanted here to America) do not believe in causing trouble. They prefer to “wait the pastor out.” He has been here for 10 years and they think that it would just be best to wait for the next pastor.

So, if I’m honest, I will stand alone. I will be seen as a trouble maker and cruel. This is where my wife says that I shouldn’t be honest at the expense of being cruel. This is also the reason why several families have left our church.

Years ago I would be willing to start such a war, but now, it is not important enough. If other elders felt like I did, then maybe. But if I stand a lone, it would be a declaration of war . . . a war I can not win.

So we all sit and smile and no one volunteers to be elder. We let the pastor rebuke us of no being the Christian men we should be.


NOTAL said...

The practical solution I've always taken (not to say it's the best), is to remain silent. I tend to avoid speaking, and especially giving my opinion in a situation where candidness may lead to conflict.

In general (as you know) I do enjoy being controversial, but not in situations where I will have to continue to interact with the people but am not very close to them. (e.g. work and church)

In those situations I tend to just shut up and be rather closed off. I don't believe that is being dishonest, but it's sure not being candid.

I think it does hinder me when it comes to making new relationships, which is why I've always been slow to make new friends. But I guess I have decided that this price is worth it to avoid either causing conflict or "playing the game".

MJ said...

I agree, silence is the most peaceful way out of these situations . . . unless you are pot in corner, for example:

"You are coming aren't you?"


"We need you to come and support the church programs. This video will be really good."

"No, I . . . can't come?"

"You can't or you won't?"

"Hmm.I guess I won't."

"That's why this church can't get any ministries off the ground because the members aren't faithful."

Then,what do you say? "You're right, I'm not very faithful." Or do you say, "I just don't believe in what you are doing."

MJ said...

I agree. I just did this long response about what to do when you are put in a corner, and then the blog failed and crashed. So, that's all I'll say right now.

MJ said...

Oh . . . my previous comment just popped up.