Our pastor says he was called to this congregation and will leave only when he senses release from that calling by God. Many of our church members want him to leave, though. What do we do?
You, your church and your pastor are caught in one of the difficult dilemmas of Baptist polity. The pastor-search committee that recommended your pastor probably said that, after diligent prayer and a series of events, God “led us to this pastor.” The church listened, sensed the involvement of God and voted to extend a “call.” The pastor expressed his belief that God was leading him to accept the “call.”
In the beginning, the relationship between pastor and congregation has a sense of divine providence about it. But when the serious practice of doing church begins, issues arise. Historic systems are at work. Some of these systems are healthy, and others are not. These systems may involve how decisions are made, budgets are formed, the building is managed or community needs are addressed. The pastor discovers the church is not perfect.
To the surprise of the congregation, the new pastor is not perfect. Perhaps the pastor is not as friendly as the church expected. Or the pastor’s views are too conservative or too liberal. The pastor is too autocratic or too indecisive, etc.
At this point in the relationship, it might be helpful if the leadership of the congregation, perhaps the search committee, spent time discussing needs, expectations and history with the pastor. A little graceful clarification can be helpful in avoiding conflict.
However, your question suggests you currently are experiencing conflict. The word “many” implies that a significant number or a perceived majority would like the pastor to move on. “We called him; we can un-call him” is being expressed.
Few pastors are willing to allow a “few” disgruntled people to overrule the will of God. But the pastor can be caught in the reality that a person may carry the title “pastor,” but the people may refuse for the individual to be their pastor.
Perhaps you need to seek the advice and counsel of a third party who is trusted by all. This might be a local pastor, a respected deacon in another congregation, a university or seminary professor, your director of missions or someone else. Allow this person to listen, sort out the issues and misunderstandings, and offer suggestions that could lead to resolution.
If the situation has reached a point where relationships cannot be repaired, then the church and the pastor need to look at the hard reality of seeking other opportunities. These circumstances are difficult, and they should be the very last resort.
During all of these discussions, pray fervently. Beyond trying to hold onto personal territory or an agenda that reflects “the way I see things,” pray for the good of the church, and that the gospel might be found among you and from you.
Stacy Conner, pastor
First Baptist Church, Muleshoe
Right or Wrong? is sponsored by the T.B. Maston Chair of Christian Ethics at Hardin-Simmons University’s Logsdon School of Theology. Send your questions about how to apply your faith to email@example.com.