The church that my wife and I have been attending for more than a decade now, has a very real problem.
Some years ago, when I still identified myself as a Christian, the church appointed a new Paster. I remember well the meeting that voted him in, 100% of the membership who voted that day voted for the new boy, it was very exciting.
Now, the church has many unhappy members. The new pastor has shown himself to be manipulative in getting his own way on things and his very black and white theology is proving divisive.
Conversations that my wife and I have had with others reveals that pretty much every one of our friends in the church are as unhappy and concerned as we are. People we trust and respect have stopped attending services when the pastor is preaching, capable people have stopped volunteering to do things in the church. There is a very obvious slide into something unpleasant, but not everyone see’s it yet.
As an atheist, why should I care?
I care because I have many friends in the church, I care because my wife still cares for those in the church and I care because people are getting hurt by the man at the front because he’s so focused on his vision of what he wants from the church that he’s forgotten about caring for the people who make that church.
All this has come at a convenient time as I can now say to my wife, in all honesty, that I really do not want to go to this church any more. I can state reasons that she agrees with and I don’t need to face questions on lack of faith.
However, it doesn’t solve the bigger problem of what to do about a pastor who has lost the respect of half his congregation.
My wife and I had a long discussion about it last night.
I’m of the feeling that there are people getting hurt and upset right now, there is disunity in the congregation and that it is likely to increase as time goes on. Its best to try doing something about it now.
My wife, while agreeing with all my points and concerns, would prefer to ride it out, taking the long term view that in another 5 years the current pastor will likely have moved on and the church family will still be here and they will all still be caring for each other. I know she’s not alone in taking that view.
While I sympathise with this standpoint, it sits very uncomfortably with me. I worry that the very good care structure within the church will be undermined.
I know that some individuals have approached the pastor to express their concerns. The result was that it reinforced to the pastor that he was right in what he was doing; taking the view that opposition comes from the devil and that only happens when what you are doing is good. The pastor has gone further and invited those who oppose him to leave the church. I consider such blinkered theology to be downright dangerous.
My wife asked me if I would initiate steps to have the pastor removed; in a Baptist church its possible to have the membership vote to remove the pastor. This is something I have considered and voiced casually a few times already. I don’t consider it something to be taken lightly, as the result will be immense pain, not just for the pastor and his family, but also for the congregation. It could split the church. A close friend of my wife and I has been a pastor who was removed from his church in such a way and he cautions against this action unless absolutely necessary. It was a very painful experience for him and his family.
It may be true that the church is not yet in a situation where this course of action is a serious option.
However, if the church is heading in that direction anyway, why wait until the situation demands it? Why not just get the awful thing over and done with sooner rather than later?
I’m not decided on what I want to, other than stop attending. At least it means I have a very good reason to stop attending and it means I can hold out from coming clean to my wife on my atheism. One day she’ll have to know, but I’m not ready for that one yet.