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Conflict Resolution In Church

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CONFLICT

In 1996, I was called to serve as pastor of Pryorsburg Baptist Church, located near Mayfield,

Kentucky. The Pastor Search Committee had informed me that the church was currently

experiencing a time of great unity, harmony, and growth. They further told me that my call was

unanimous. They said that the church had grown to the point that the last pastor had resigned, a

after a three-year tenure, because he had been promoted to Dean of Students at a nearby Baptist

college and could no longer serve as pastor of a church of this size.

I arrived at the church ministry field on a Saturday and preached the morning and evening

services on the next day. On Monday evening, a member came to my home and informed me

that the Pastor Search Committee had lied to me on several accounts. He said that my call was

not unanimous, and that he had voted against me because he "did not like it that that Pastor

Search Committee had rammed me down the throats of the church, and not given them time to

ask questions or pray about the matter." He then stated that the last pastor had not resigned - he

had been forced out by "them," (a group of people who had taken over the church). He further

informed me that I was the third pastor in less than two years. He finished by telling me that my

call had been very strong, and that if I would preach the Word of God faithfully, and if I would

serve as pastor of all the people of the church, I would not find him behind me when the going

got rough - I would find him at my side helping to hold up my arms.

I prayed to ask God to direct me to those who would be honest with me concerning the church

and its past. He led me to our oldest deacon and his wife. They told me that I had been told the

truth by the brother who had come by our home, and that the Pastor Search Committee had lied

to me several times. They also informed me that they had wanted to tell me the truth before I

accepted the call, but never had the opportunity. As we talked, it became clear that the church

was in a horrific spiritual warfare.

The deacon and his wife told me that the church had been doing very well and had been

slowly growing, when a nearby church split and its disenfranchised members came to

Peyorsburg. Almost immediately upon coming to Pryorsburg, these new members began to take

control of the church. The old members did not do anything, because of a suddenly they were

outnumbered in the business meetings by these newer members. These newer members had also

voted to throw out the Church Constitution and Bylaws in order that they might do as they please

regarding the operations of the church.

So, there were three basic groups in the church: those in control, those who had been forced

from office, and the largest group - those who had no idea that anything was wrong. When I

arrived, three of the deacons told me that they felt that they were being wrongly accused of

"running the church," but they had no idea why anyone would have such conceptions.

Thereupon, I requested the deacons to provide me with a list of church officers. They said that

they would get me a copy. It was three months later, with me constantly badgering them, that

they finally provided me with a copy of the officer listing. When I finished studying the list of

officers, I discovered that these three aforementioned "controlling" deacons and their family

members controlled approximately ninety-three percent of the offices in the church. I also

discovered that the Chairman of Deacons was also the Chairman of Trustees, Chairman of the

Steering Committee, Chairman of the Family Life Center, and the Church Clerk. The other two

deacons held similar amounts of church offices.

I shared with these three controlling deacons my discovery. They then asked, "Well, which

hat should I remove? My deacon hat? My trustee hat? My music leader hat? My steering

committee hat?" among other positions mentioned. I told them that I would advise that each of

them seek the Lord and ask Him as to what jobs they should give up in order that other church

members might become involved in church leadership. They informed me later that they felt that

they must keep all their jobs "in order to be the ministers God wanted them to be."

Matters became very strained in the church when people from the control group and people

from the "forced-out crowd" began telling me to not fellowship with members of the other

group. Finally, after

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