Thursday, 29 September 2016

7 Reasons for disconnect between the Pastor and his church members

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7 Reasons for disconnect between the Pastor and his church members
What is the essence of pastoring when there is a sense of disconnection between the Pastor and his church members? What is the essence of shepherding when both the shepherd and the sheep feel both alone and world apart from each other? What are the things that can cause both the Pastor and the church members to begin to live in disagreement and suspicion of each other to the extent that it will affect their productivity?

Here are 7 reasons that can make a Pastor to suddenly become a stranger to the flock he is sent to care for, the reasons why some of us fail in our congregations:

  1. When church members are looked at as statistics, commodities, or means of achieving what the Pastor wants and not a people to relate with. As a Pastor, you will have a vision of what God has called you to do. Because God’s vision is always bigger than you, you will need people to help you get it accomplished. The truth is that God will not give you angels as partners; He will give you human beings. God did not give even Jesus angels during His ministry on earth. He gave Him ordinary people like you and me, fallen people with their problems. The apostles were not exceptional people. They were ordinary people that Jesus’ vision and calling transformed at the end. Your well-being and the well-being, growth and blessings of the people God brings around you are all packaged together in the vision that God gives you. However, if in the course of pursuing the vision the people around you perceive that it is all about you, what you want and what you want done while they are involved as numbers and tools, they will feel used at the long run. The mistake that some of us make as pastors is that we think that the vision God gives us, our calling, is all about us. The truth is that it is all about everybody that God brings into the vision including you. It is all about your church members no matter whom the person is in that church. Everybody wants to get involved in something that will give meaning to their lives. People want relationships, beneficial relationships that will impact their lives in a positive way and ministry is all about relationships. 
  2. When the church has no personal touch in the lives of the members. By this I mean the welfare of the people God brings around you as members in your church. The church is supposed to be a place where welfare of individual members is taken very seriously. Unfortunately, in most cases, in our pursuit for numbers, the members of our churches have got lost in the crowd. Most of our churches are filled with “visitors” who just identify with the church but not really members who are there as part of the family. They all come with their masks and bulletproof vests. The church is a place that makes you vulnerable, just as in the family, because it is bound together by love, and love makes you vulnerable. This vulnerability is what makes us care for each other, show empathy and support. But these days, because the environment we create is such that encourages “visitors” who just strongly identify with our church, even though they are still masked and self-protected, we bash and hurt each other; we are good as long as we are unscathed. When people have troubles, they leave the church to sort themselves out. If they survive and return, church gathering continues. If their troubles take them away, they are not missed; the church goes on as if nobody was lost. Somebody watching knows intuitively that that is the way he will be treated in his own time of trouble; except you are wealthy.  Hence as a pastor, if what I call welfare in my church is superficial and the needs that matter are my needs, even my wants and that of my family while the needs of the church members do not matter, then over time, my church will suffer a disconnect.
  3. When a pastor allows some dirty battles between himself and the major church stakeholders. Church stakeholders include your Pastoral Colleagues, Assistants, and Ministers in different capacities as per Units, Arms and Departments. When the Senior Pastor allows in-fighting among these stakeholders, especially when it concerns his person, there will be disconnect. We do not want to hear that anybody under us also bears influence on the people we are leading down the line. But whether we like it or not as pastors, every stakeholder has a following even under us. The earlier we discard our insecurities and accept this truth, the better for us. They have people that look up to them even unconsciously, no matter how weak or strong they look. These people have soft spot for them. When we begin to fight and hurt in the cause of “clearing the way for our vision”, we will only succeed in separating ourselves from the people. This is even worse for some of us in denominations where we are posted from place to place. We need wisdom to manage the people God gives us. For example, there are some stakeholders we will push out of a service position, especially when there is manipulation of the system and lack of due process, you may end up hurting dozens of people unknowingly to you. Never look at stakeholders as individuals, look at them based on their level of influence. Even in dealing with the issue of sin, if we are not seen as just and fair, we create problems for ourselves. Where the authority of the pastor is more important to him than people’s lives, it will lead to clashes that will cause disconnect between him and the people.
  4. When we start dismantling the cultures, processes, procedures and relationships that knit the people together. People join churches that fit their shape. Over time, the members will develop relationships that build them together as a people. Some even put together policy guides, missions and vision statements that drive their activities. In fact, some churches believe that God has given them some specific mandates to accomplish. All these make the churches unique in so many ways. Worthy to mention here that even when the churches belong to the same denomination, bound by the same constitution with administration and apex leadership, this uniqueness still exists in every church.  For every pastor, every church is a new field, new people with their unique strengths and challenges and a new culture. You will require time to learn and discover ways to penetrate the relationships, adapt to the cultures and processes and communicate effectively in order to persuade the people towards what you think God wants them to do. If a new pastor has a careless attitude towards what has been going on before he came and the issues the people care about; worse still if he comes to the church with a mindset and agenda to pursue, he will not be able to take the people from where they are to where he thinks God wants them to be. He will see these relationships, processes and cultures as cliques, obstacles to fight and dismantle, and in the course, he will scatter the church and cause a serious disconnect between him and the members. If he is going to stay for a very long time in the church, he may only succeed in developing new relationships, cultures and processes to replace the ones he has dismantled, of course, at the expense of wounded lives.
  5. When there is no financial accountability and transparency, it causes a serious disconnect between the pastor and the church members.  Money is such a powerful instrument that every pastor that handles it must be very careful. The same instrument can be used to build, yet can also scatter a church. When set financial procedures are circumvented, questions are ignored or given vague explanations, reports are not given as at when due, the pastor sets himself up for problems. Some even make the mistake of taking over the financial expenditure processes, making sure that nobody asks them any questions. This is the worst thing a pastor can do to himself. One of the most irresponsible statements I have heard from some of my colleagues in the ministry is “just give your offerings, tithes and donations, and do not bother to ask the pastor how he uses the money. If he misuses church money, leave him to God to judge. Your own is just to give”. This statement is not only strange to reason and accountability, it also grossly ignores the power of mammon and the vulnerability of the fallen man.  We all need help, a “second eye” and laid down financial processes if we are to maintain integrity in the organizations where we serve. When there is no effective feedback to the church in the area of money, there is bound to be a disconnect.
  6. When you have no “fault” at all in your life, there will be a serious disconnect between you and your church members. As mentioned earlier, the church is made up of human beings, including the pastor. We are to care for each other as we continue to fight the flesh, sin and Satan. However, when we separate ourselves very far away from the people we are to serve, we lose our power to influence. We only become performers that they watch. There are pastors that will never accept responsibility for their own mistakes; they are never wrong and everything they do is “right”. They do not know how to say “I’m sorry”. If we display this ego for a while in a church, we will end up being alone. Those that remain around us will only tolerate us while it lasts except they are men-pleasers who are there for one gain or the other. It is terrible to float among a people whose hearts are far from you.
  7. Finally, when there is a disconnect between the pastor and God, there will be a disconnect between him and the church. This is probably the main reason for all the other points explained above. To lead the church, we must remain connected to the God who called us and gave us His people to care for. He is the Good Shepherd who has everything needed for the upkeep and growth of the church. When we cut off from Him, we miss the road that leads to good pasture and subsequently, the sheep will disconnect from us because they will tend to fend for themselves.

I wish every pastor a good and fruitful ministry as we labour to equip the saints for works of service and building up of the body of Christ.

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