A Bridge Across – February 14

Schemes and conspiracies are wonderful fodder for entertainment, but they wreak havoc in congregations.  Even the whiff of such deviousness begins cutting into the delicately woven patterns of trust that make church possible.

While serving as an Associate Pastor in my first posting out of seminary, a couple began asserting that I was orchestrating a finely crafted plan to usurp their lay ministry in our church.  I was incredulous when that word finally made its way to me!  To begin with, I was not nearly so clever as they seemed to think I was; it was a weird kind of compliment, I suppose, to be thought of as such a mastermind.

Through open committee discussions in which this couple had participated over a period of months, lay leaders had agreed to modify how things got done in the committee’s ministry.  These committee changes happened despite the couple’s misgivings.  I must have been manipulating people, they concluded.  Nope.  Didn’t really happen that way; no secret conversations were held outside of the committee’s regular meetings.

In a later pastorate, though, I really did encounter a case of congregational skullduggery.  The congregation had voted to remain in its old, downtown location and to modestly renovate the building.  Two established leaders strongly opposed the decision, so they secretly sought out a buyer for our building.  After nailing down an offer, they would quietly lobby other church leaders to sign-on to their plan before going public in a church business meeting.  Now, that, my friends, is scheming!

The potential buyer soon realized he was about to be sucked into a church brouhaha of which he wanted no part.  He alerted me to what the two men were up to, and I convinced them to quit their attempts to circumvent the congregation’s decision.

Interim ministry always encounters genuine misgivings among members for their church’s welfare.  We travel together over uncertain waters…how could we not be perplexed and anxious?  The Israelites were the only people for whom God parted the waters so the folks could walk the distance on dry ground.  For the rest of us, it’s the old metaphor again:  We’re building a bridge across the waters from one shore to the other.

Your elected leaders—your Deacons, your Church Council, your Senior Minister Search Committee, your Leadership Transition Team—and your ministry staff are offering their best, above-board efforts for UBC.  They have no other agenda in their minds and hearts than to assist UBC to be the Gospel-people whom the Lord calls us to be, now and in the years ahead.

Please don’t let misgivings steep and stew into mistrust.  Please don’t disparage motives in anyone as did that couple whom I described earlier, and please don’t accept that someone is trying “to take your church out from under you” the way those two men actually tried to do.

Speak with your elected leaders and with us, your church staff.  We’ll do our best to address your questions or concerns.  Honestly!

Your Senior Minister in the Interim,

         ~ Gary