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Monday, July 07, 2008

Pastors and People #1

I talked with a friend recently who is a pastor. He recently received a letter from someone in his congregation asking that they be removed from the church mailing list.

Apparently, the woman and her husband attended the church for a couple of years and the husband died in a tragic accident. According to her letter, though they were “faithful tithers” and “supported the mission of the church” no one called her when her husband died. This angered her and she left the church. She had been gone for over a year and no one noticed she was gone until her letter.

Quite frankly, no one ever knew she came.

Her letter was full of anger and hurt. In the letter, which he read to me, she mentioned her “faithful tithing” as leverage for her right to be angry. She also said some hurtful backhanded remarks about how his church must be getting too big for the staff to shepherd the flock properly. She belittled him for not knowing about the accident since it was apparently in all the newspapers and on the news.

While the story is extremely sad and my heart goes out to the woman, my heart goes out to my pastor friend as well.

Her anger is obviously coming from deep inside and the loss of her husband weighs heavy on her. There is no way he could ever respond to her and defend himself. She wouldn’t hear him out and it would be tacky.

My poor friend never met her. Can’t recall her face. Never saw her at functions. She isn’t in the directory and never gave her mailing address. He doesn’t check the tithing records so he never knew she gave. She never introduced herself to him. She never invited him out for lunch.

Her letter raises a few issues that have been weighing heavy on me lately in regard to the relationship of pastors and congregations.

Over the next few blog posts, in true Vertizontal fashion, I will be tossing out my thoughts, frustrations, insights, questions, concerns, and biblical introspection on the “issues.”

Here is what you can expect : : :

  • First, what is the “role” of the pastor?
  • Second, what is up with “pastoral care” expectations?
  • Third, do members have rights or entitlement?
  • Fourth, what about this tithing thing?
  • Fifth, whose job is it to get you “connected?”
In regard to my friend, let me just say this and tip my hat for anyone in a similar situation : : : Pastor, you can’t possibly know everyone in your church—no matter the size. You can not possibly know each individual's hurts--especially if they don't tell you. If the only way you can know who is in your church and who is committed is by tithing records, it is not your fault if they fall through the cracks. We are a “kingdom of priests” and biblically you are not the only caregiver. The kingdom is plural. If you are carrying the weight of the church world on your personal shoulders and are responsible for the caregiving, shepherding, loving, teaching, nurturing, and ins-and-outs of everyone’s life in your church . . . Jesus has an issue to discuss with you in regard to trying to take his job.

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