So I sent messengers to them, saying, “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down. Why should the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?” Nehemiah 6:3. Every pastor no doubt begins the ministry with the ideal in mind. He will spend his life doing what God called him to do. His days will be spent reading his Bible, praying, telling people about Jesus, and ministering to his church and community. He will go off to the office in the morning and spend peaceful nights at home with his family. Everybody will love him and look up to him. Then, he’s called to his first church, calls to order his first business meeting, or hears of meetings held in the homes of the power brokers in the church. And he realizes his dream has turned into a nightmare: conflict in the church.
Like so many young preacher boys, I began my first church with such naive notions. I was so excited about how God was moving. People were being saved, baptized and joining the church. We were beginning to make a difference in our community. The church had voted to build a new building to prepare for the current and coming growth. It was a dream come true.
Then, I began to pick up on comments and put together developing alliances within the church. The Chairman of the Personnel Committee stopped me one day to ask a few odd questions about my schooling and leadership. I noticed two Sunday school teachers huddled up after service one morning, whispering in a back corner. I remember standing on the stage with the Music Minister and commenting that something was wrong. Their actions were out of place, and it smelled like trouble. I’ll never forget him asking with a shocked tone, “How did you notice that?” I said, “It’s my job to notice that.”
Sadly, I noticed it too late to try to avert the coming conflict.
I was informed of a meeting with the Personnel Committee the next Saturday morning. During that eight-hour meeting, I became aware of their months of meeting with another local pastor, their quest for control and the division that they had sown in our growing, young church. I was devastated.
After a fender-bender on the way home, and some tear-soaked minutes with my young wife telling her what was going on, I called my dad. He’d been a pastor for decades. Surely, he would have just the word, a plan, for what to do to help heal the hurt in my young pastor’s heart and the division that was our young church.