Resolving conflict with a PastorDr. Chuck Betters
What are appropriate steps to take when the pastor does not provide his congregation with an annual operating budget or church financial reports nor financial reports after events such as church anniversary, etc.? This is a Baptist church. Thank you.
Pastor Betters responds:
The key word in your question is the word “appropriate.” The appropriate steps in any conflict resolution are spelled out for us in Matthew 18:15-18. There we read…
"If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that 'every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.' If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector. "I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
Sadly, this is one of the most neglected scriptures in many churches and, in many churches where it is applied and practiced, one of the most misused and abused mandates. Christ could not have been clearer in directing us to very specific steps to follow when we have a conflict with another brother.
Having said this however, there is one other passage that applies to your specific question before I can answer it fully.
1 Timothy 5:19
Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses.
Whenever we have a conflict with another brother or sister in the Lord the objective must always be to reconcile and not to condemn. It must not be our goal to win the argument or to prove the other person wrong. It must always be to see our brother or sister restored into a right relationship with all. Therefore our mindset must be that of Galatians 6:1ff. Read this passage very carefully for it spells out how we must prepare ourselves for restorative confrontation.
Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, 5for each one should carry his own load. 6Anyone who receives instruction in the word must share all good things with his instructor.
The process is simple yet profound. First, we must check out our motivation. If it is anything other than the good of the offending brother we must wait and pray until our hearts are right before God. If you are angry, bitter, or bent on exposure then you should not go until you possess the spirit of Galatians 6.
But assuming a right heart attitude you should approach your pastor privately (go and show him his fault, just between the two of you) and say something like this: “Pastor, I always want to give a good report about you to everyone who might ask. There is something I do not understand and I wish you would explain it to me. What is the process by which our church is informed of our financial information? And, why is no financial account given to the congregation?” Then allow him to answer. Respond with any clarification or follow up questions to get to the core of his heart (If he listens to you, you have won your brother over).
If his answer does not satisfy then you should ask two others to go with you at another time and repeat the same process (But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses). Do not tell the other persons why they are going. Simply inform them that you have a conflict with the pastor and wish to have a neutral pair of ears to ascertain if you are correct or in error in your assessment.
If the three of you then agree the pastor is in error and he will not reconcile his behavior then you should request a meeting with the pastor and the deacons or governing board (If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector). At that meeting you should inform them of the process you followed and ask for their counsel as to what you should do in light of the fact that reconciliation has not taken place.
If the pastor at any point along the way proves in this process that he is well within his rights to act as you have accused him then you have a choice to make. Either stay in that church and maintain your silence by submitting to the spiritual leaders of the church or find another Bible believing church where there is greater fiscal accountability. Personally, I would find it hard to be a member of a church where there is so much power centered in the pastor. But that is for another question of the week.
In His Grip,
Dr. Chuck Betters
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