Internal Politics: Good or Bad

A lot of people thoughtlessly hate the politics in church. When I question the person on what theImagey mean, I never get a clear answer from them. I think it is just a derision people like to throughout. I’ll leave it to the reader to surmise the reason.

Never have they thought of the real world dynamics in the church that require these ”politics” for good or bad. The church has various forces in affect: the membership, the elders, hiring and firing pastors, directing the institutions facilities and programs, inter-church relations, negotiating conflicts, the community, trying to achieve their goals, and staying Biblical in the process.

Generally those in the pew and sometimes eldership, have little understanding in dealing with tough issues. Often there are judgments made that aren’t based in experiences or deep understanding of the issues. Yet, with only a Bible in hand and a rudimentary understanding of its implementation, lines are drawn. Add to this the utopian view so easily gained from a superficial view of the church.

They read in Acts an early church formed on the heels of the life and resurrection of Jesus, Pentecost and the hostile environment the church was born in.  With an undeveloped perspective they wonder why we can’t all get along yet do not see life’s conflicts. This surround them personally in their family and work yet accept it. Conflict and trouble is normal. With the complexities of personal life and work you would suspect a deeper grasp of the difficulties of the church. However with a neophyte’s perspective an unrealistic expectation, their perspective of “perfection”  is demanded of the church and it’s leaders.

There are politics in the negative sense in the church. By negative politics I mean, doing things for the more expedient, less painful and more pragmatic reason, rather than doing what is right and judicious and receiving what may come.

It is difficult to train someone in this. Mentorship is required to emphasize the principles. They need to be around and see how decisions are made. They need to be asked questions and taught; educated on the process.

Recently I heard of a church merger. The preliminary decision was made by pastor and elders then there was a vote by the congregation. I do not think a merger is a big deal; neither good nor bad assuming the churches did their homework checking each other out. Of course the vote will be covered with spiritual language like unity or a move of the Spirit determined by a majority vote. But the real reason for the vote is that they need the congregation to “feel” part of the process. It is very American to vote and we are accustomed to going along with a vote. We all have submitted to presidents we didn’t vote for. This was all to subvert a possible split by disgruntled parishioners: very pragmatic and highly political; smooth! It saved a mess I suspect. When someone is to complain about the decision, they can always say we voted on it. This shuts down the descent!

Another example was a guy who was getting married to a lady off the internet. It was an online dating thing and he was sure it was led by the Spirit. They knew each other about 6-8 weeks. The minister advised him it was good. They were married. Yet in another scenario this minister advised a young lady not to be involved with a certain young man.

Well here is the twist, the first man he had no control over and needed the relationship. The Second was a young woman who he thought he had control over and needed her for ministry and didn’t want to lose her. Well the minister miscalculated on both. The man’s new wife is gone after a few months and the young girl left the ministry to chase the boy. A failure on both accounts measured by the ministered desired result.

Now the outcomes are revealing but that really isn’t my focus. I’ve married couples who broke their vows and mishandled individuals in the church to all of our detriments. No, I do not walk on water! But I’ve learned a lot.

It is easy to see how these events should have been handled. This isn’t Monday morning quarterbacking but based on the principles. The man in love with the internet gal should have been encouraged to take more time. And the young lady should have been advised on how to approach the relationship the young man with care and that if the basic elements of a marriage were in place to get married. They should have invited the young man to help in the ministry instead of treating him like he was a kidnapper. In each case the minister could have left the chips fall where they may. He is only to advise without thinking of personal consequences to himself and his ministry.

Here are some principles:

1)      Individuals are the decision makers in their lives and we are loving coaches.

2)      Do what is right even if it hurts.

3)      Be willing to let people come and go to church freely.

4)      Tell the truth to individuals and do not worry about outcomes. Yes, they may leave the church.

5)      Do this with prominent and less prominent people equally.

6)      Let leaders lead, trust them.

With inter-church relations it is interesting. I often hear people complain for unity. They think joint events would be really cool. They do not understand why churches are territorial and are suspect of involvement with other churches. Those who want this unity feel high and mighty and enlightened.

I know exactly why church administrators are leery of inter-church involvement. They work hard to build and strengthen a church. They know people are fickle and uncommitted to the church and may go to more charismatic pastor or a church with cooler programs and the like.

We are starting an outreach to high school students. We are having the meetings at a store front church on the main strip of town. This church will be open 3 days a week for a youth to drop-in. Our church isn’t part of the community so I do not think we are perceived as a threat. I met with a youth pastor from another church in the community the other day, not part of our church or the church we will be working at. He was understandably territorial and recognized he should not help us because he is in the same community as the other church; a perception of conflict of interest. It is hairy!

Now for you or others looking at this you could say “Why the fear?” But to those working hard to help and minister to a congregation it is heart breaking and discouraging to work hard and have a net loss. Face it the only thing pastors and elders can measure their success by is the number of people in their programs. Many won’t admit this because it seems carnal.

I get it and respect it! And I think most pastors and elders do also. But many others think them as unspiritual!

In my case I do not care! I’m little different and work at church from a different approach. Most regular Christians would not like my church so I’m not a real threat. Second the people that go to my church would hate going to theirs. As you may suspect we have a small, tight and hard working church. We want the lost so we train them” right!” Yeah, it sounds a little heady…what can I say!

It is nearly impossible to work with other churches in the same community because of these previously mentioned realities. But this is because people are generally fickle and unfaithful in the church. The pastor can’t just get up and leave a congregation or trade two good congregants to a church for one greatly talented Christian like in the NFL. But people in the church can leave at whim, rejecting pastor and ministry, often using spiritual language to sanctify their action. Weird!

I have to back tract a little. Pastors do leave congregations at times. They do it many times for self-promotion and advancement. Often they use the “funny” language to enshrine their act in holiness also. Weird!

Learning these things is growing thing. But I would enlighten people that are quick to judge the church. I would teach those complaining at the church to see more clearly.

This is with a caveat…just because the church does it doesn’t make it good. Each event and church is judged judiciously with all the information. But generally people do this assessment without all the info.


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