Category Archives: fear

Broken trust

It never struck me until now.  I had missed it and only recently realized what was happening.  Now, six years later, I realize that one thing that was lost when our pastor fell was trust.  Trust was broken and only now do we see the effects of broken trust in the lives of the people in our church.  It shows up now because a new idea is being introduced to our church family.  What we discover happening is that our people who aren’t sure this is a good thing are going to the Internet for information about it instead of talking to us.

Why?  As I watched this and prayed about it I suddenly realized that this is the result of something that happened six years ago and has yet to be resolved.  The people who stayed lost trust in our pastor when he fell and have never dealt with this breach of trust in their lives.  Now, when something new is talked about in our church family, they don’t trust us to care for them.  They don’t trust us to have their best interest in mind.

Broken trust was nothing I expected to still be a problem all these years later, but what it reveals is how pervasive one sin is as it ripples through a church family.  Now, six years after the fall of our pastor, trust is still an issue.  My visits with members of our church family begin with this question, “So why are you afraid?  What do you think we are going to do?”  And from that beginning it becomes clear that at the core of all of this is a trust issue.  They don’t trust us!  If they couldn’t trust the pastor who fell why should they trust us?

The fear we are seeing over a small and insignificant issue has its roots in trust.  Now we must deal with this broken trust and the fear that has resulted  in the lives of each one we visit with.  We are still in the middle of this so I’m sure there are other nuances we must confront, but honestly I have been surprised to see that something we took for granted had been lost six years ago.  Now, we must go back to foundational issues and reestablish a trust in the shepherds of our flock.

Broken trust is another ripple in the tidal wave of a pastor’s fall.  If you are a member of a church where a pastor has fallen realize you have a trust issue that you will have to resolve if you are to grow in faith in your life.  If you are a pastor of a church where this is part of the history realize you have some work to do.

Right now I’m in prayer for our church family that they will each be able to deal with the fear that has come because of broken trust.  I pray that we will once more become a place where the sheep feel safe with the shepherd taking care of them.  There is much yet to do….even six years later.

We are going through the same thing — is it OK to feel this way?

(I’ve received a number of notes over the last few years from those of you going through this same thing.  I would like to share the stories of others going through the fall of a pastor.  I will remove the names, dates and locations to protect their privacy, but their stories from the pews are so important that I wanted to share them with you.  Here is the first one.  -Mike)

I am writing this on behalf of my husband and I.

I’ve found your site to be very helpful, and beneficial.

I write to you because our church underwent a similar situation. In 200-  our pastor had been unfaithful to his wife, which he admitted to us in a letter of resignation. The incident had occurred months prior, but he felt it was right to resign, even though they were in the middle of reconciliation. I worked for the church at the time and the shockwave of the sin and resignation hit all of us staff. It shocked the rest of the congregation as well. At the time I was ready to forgive, completely understanding that he’d chosen to resign for the better of the congregation.

But giving began going down after his resignation, although much of it probably related more to the economy, and I was among those staff members laid off as a result. The pastor completed reconciliation/recommission and then started another church in our area, which resulted in a church split. Individual congregants, including my husband and I, have endured some pretty hard, heavy-duty financial and physical trials, which we continue to this day.  When I lost my job that was when I became angry with the pastor and the situation. I knew people who were my mentors or friends who left our church to go to his and it was like a pain going through my heart. I am still hurt because his sin ultimately caused my job loss and helped contribute to our financial struggles. I’ve struggled with feelings of betrayal, feeling as if he abandoned our church after so many years invested in it.  I feel hurt because he apologized in a letter instead telling us face-to-face.  I have not been able to visit the pastor’s new church. Now I don’t want to harbor unforgiveness, and I have asked the Lord to help me to forgive, but the situation is still painful. Is this OK? Will I get to place of forgiveness? How do I really get over this and truly forgive? Is there any support groups that address this situation?

After the earthquake, part 2

In my last post I talked about what we do in the aftermath of our earthquakes.  In this post I want to talk about how to deal with the “aftershocks.”

What do I do after the earthquake?

How do I deal with what I’m going through?

Earthquakes have some interesting characteristics:

1. universality (It affects everybody in the geographical area, in our case everyone in our church family.)

2. spontaneity (It cannot be foreseen, we talked about that last week.)

3. irreversibility (it has forever touched us and our community. This is now part of our life experience as a church family.)

Most earthquake damage comes in the aftershocks- falling glass, bricks from chimneys, falling walls….Every earthquake has aftershocks. They are the results of the earthquake, and affect the area of the earthquake for weeks, and even months.  Those in an earthquake may be affected for years to follow.

All of us remember “earthquakes” in our lives- Where we were when we experienced them or heard about them. And the aftershocks from our earthquakes have become part of our lives-

The aftershocks of losing a child, a divorce, a parent’s death, an unwanted move.  Each of these earthquakes have aftershocks that affect us.  

What are the aftershocks we have seen and heard from our earthquake?

-in some, initial shock that has turned to anger (very common)

-feelings of betrayal

-disbelief

-leaving the church- “this was the last straw!”

-loss of faith, or a struggle of faith

-reopening of scars from things that have happened in our own lives (bringing up bad memories in our own lives)

-disappointment

-discouragement

-desire to run away

-desire to blame someone, anyone!!

-worry about how leadership will deal with everything

-concern for our fallen pastor and his wife

-regret, I wish I would have…

-uncertainty about a new senior pastor

-fear

-there might be another earthquake

-there’s no place safe

-there’s no place to hide

-feeling vulnerable

-future, what will happen?

-tired! Expressions of exhaustion are common. This IS tiring! (I have heard that a lot!)

 We each will deal with our feelings, and our aftershocks.  All of these kinds of feelings are normal, they are real, and they are important.  Our challenge is to deal with them in a Godly way.

Let me suggest some choices for each of us-

I have chosen these from the writings of an earthquake maker, Paul. Paul, before faith, was an earthquake  maker. He created earthquakes.  Saul of Tarsus, went into homes, arresting Christians, forcing them to recant and even killing some, and now, as Paul he comes back into the lives of those people and gives us direction to deal with our aftershocks.  The very lives he tried to destroy, and in many cases did. There may have been women, listening to Paul’s teaching, knowing he was the one who made them a widow. There surely were survivors of his torture, now under his ministry.  

There is no one better than Paul to tell us how to deal with earthquake aftershocks than a man who created earthquakes in the lives of others.

First, here is how the earthquake maker dealt with his own earthquake making days-  Phil. 3:13-14,  (also Heb. 12:1-2- heading for the finish line.)  Here are the choices Paul made.  (These are the choices we need to make as well.)

Paul’s choices- (observations on Phil. 3:13-14)

1. to stay in the race

2. to not let those who quit the race discourage him

3. to keep his eyes on Christ

4. deal with sin and the past properly

I would like to take a quick look at a few of Paul’s instructions for us “earthquake survivors”-

Paul uses, what I call, “exhortations and invitations” to teach.  (Exhortation followed by an invitation- LET…)

 1. Romans 6:11-12- In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires.  (2 Cor. 7:1- Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.)

 Exhortation- Christ has taken care of sin

Invitation- don’t let sin reign in your life

 2. Romans 13:10-12-Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. (1 Thessalonians 5:8- But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet.) (Note also Eph 6-put on the full armor of God.)

Exhortation- The days demand an action

Invitation- Get dressed! (He’s provided the clothes!)

 3. Romans 14:16-19- Do not allow what you consider good to be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men.  Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.

Exhortation- There are ways to please God

Invitation- Do them

 4.  Galatians 5:25- Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. (Read this whole chapter)

Exhortation- We live by the Spirit

Invitation- Walk with Him  (he will walk at your pace.)

 5. Gal 6:7-10-  Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.  For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

Exhortation- You are planting crops that bear fruit

Invitation- plant good crops

 6. Col. 3:12-16- Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. (Note also Phil. 4:6-7)

Exhortation- You are God’s people

Invitation- Use His resources for your walk

 7.  Col. 4:5-6- Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

Exhortation- You are God’s representatives

Invitation- talk like one, people are listening

We all know that these days at our church are hard days, but as you have heard from many in these weeks…

This is God’s church,  And you are God’s children.  

In the days ahead the aftershocks will die down, and we will continue to grow together, pray together, and reach our world together.

Paul, the earthquake maker, has provided us with the exhortations and the invitations. 

Take a moment, take your fears and aftershocks to the Lord, and let Him take care of them.  He will, he has promised to do it….he will.