Posts Tagged 'ADM'

One of the reasons I am convinced that the ADM’s of the blogosphere are not, have not, and cannot be ministers in any useful sense (such as located, local church ministry) is because of the very nature of the ‘work’ they do. So at the Boar’s Head Tavern, Paul McCain wrote:

But it got me to thinking. Where is the line between pathological negativity and the necessary identification of error? And it got me to thinking, when am I so caught up in finding wrong that I miss what is right [my emphasis]

People who are ‘in’ ministry simply cannot engage in the nefarious ‘work’ of unbridled criticism. Why? Because those who are ‘in’ ministry know all too well the rigors of the ministry. Why? Because those ‘in’ ministry understand all too well how much the criticism hurts and, to be sure, how much of it is nonsense and simply untrue. Why? Because those called to ministry had better have a profound working theology of grace.

I think it is tremendously important to keep ministry in perspective because ministry done by ‘ministers.’ Ministers, those who are of that un-hallowed club of so-called professional clergy, are necessarily weak, fragile, broken, and nervous people. Did you catch that? People. I think it is this ‘person’ aspect that is altogether forgotten when it comes to preachers of the Gospel. Preachers, or ‘ministers’, are simply forbidden, however subtly, to be human.

Ministers are not allowed to make mistakes, lose their temper, have bad days, or sin. Ministers are called upon by congregations to be the most legalistic bunch of Christians there is. Preachers are expected to live by the rules and die by the rules; preach the rules; expound the rules. (Sadly, most preachers are not allowed to actually enforce the rules and when they do, well…use your imagination.) When preachers start talking about grace, asking for grace, or offering grace that’s when congregations, and ADM’s, start getting really antsy.

Ministers are the leaders, so we’re told, and if they fail somehow, preach a bad sermon, be at all emotional, or discouraged…well, we can’t have that because ‘we’ might lose those folks who visited the church on Sunday. It’s much better for the preacher to be fake and have those visitors think everything is alright than for the preacher to be real and risk that they might go to the church down the road. Personally speaking, the dehumanizing of humans who preach is one of the most insidious of all the services provided by the ADM’s of the church, both those in the blogosphere and those in the pew.

A blog friend of mine, Jason Goroncy, posted an absolutely brilliant post at his blog the other day titled: The Scandal of Weak Leadership: A Sermon on 2 Corinthians 11:16-12:10. I think you should read it and be encouraged, especially if you stand week after week in any kind of pulpit. In the post, Jason wrote:

This is the sort of ad that I can imagine the church in Corinth writing. How disappointed they must have been when they got Paul! He was not the eloquent speaker for which they had hoped. Instead of providing the ’strong’ leadership they wanted, he treated them with gentleness. And while he was prepared to teach about spiritual gifts, he hardly ever talked about his own ’spiritual’ experiences, even less gloat about them. And rather than mixing with the influential, he insulted them. Even worse – he would not take their money!

Instead of getting Arnold Schwarzenegger or Napoleon or Takaroa, in Paul the Corinthians were given a weak, sick, persecuted, afflicted and bruised human being. And then to add insult to injury, Paul had the audacity to tell them that his weakness was actually proof that he was genuine!  [Are you kidding me?--jerry]

[...]

And as for that mysterious ‘thorn in the flesh’, who knows? The commentators have a field day here: Paul had a theological opponent; Paul had an unbelieving wife; Paul had poor eyesight; Paul had homosexual urges; Paul had malaria – all of which are possibilities, but must remain speculations. Whatever it was, and however much Paul at times wished it removed, it served as a constant reminder to him that the integrity and effectiveness of his ministry would rest not on his worthiness or credentials but on God’s grace.

There’s that word again: Grace! Jason’s paragraph that follows the above quote is simply beyond words in its brilliance. Here’s a snippet: “Here is grace’s way – that God has a deliberate policy of positive discrimination towards nobodies, that the kingdom of God belongs to the poor and that the earth will be inherited by the meek.”  Yet the ADM’s of the blogosphere and pew continue to believe that weakness is just that: weakness. They refuse to see weakness for what it is: God’s grace.

I love God’s grace. It is no mystery to me any longer why last year I was able to take one seminary class and it was Doctrine of Grace. It is one thing to know grace. It is something else entirely to experience it, believe it, and conduct oneself in accordance with what one has believed and experienced. In my estimation, there are some people in the world of blogs who simply have not experienced or believed God’s grace. I’m convinced of it. Furthermore, they simply do not understand that in their fervor to protect God’s orthodoxy, they are destroying the ones called to proclaim it.

I wonder who is really held captive?

The coup de grace, where power-criticism is finally silenced, comes at the end when Jason quotes from Henri Nouwen, (*sarcasm* alert) which I know automatically disqualifies the sermon as orthodox and legitimate. Still, it is worth repeating and perhaps committing to memory:

The way of the Christian leader is not the way of upward mobility in which our world has invested so much, but the way of downward mobility ending on the cross … Here we touch the most important quality of Christian leadership in the future. It is not a leadership of power and control, but a leadership of powerlessness and humility in which the suffering servant of God, Jesus Christ, is made manifest … To come to Christ is to come to the crucified and risen One. The life-giving apostle embodies in himself the crucifixion of Jesus in the sufferings and struggles he endures as he is faithful and obedient to his Lord. So Paul preaches the crucified and risen Jesus, and he embodies the dying of Jesus in his struggles to further point to the Savior. His message is about the cross and his life is cruciform, shaped to look like the cross … I leave you with the image of the leader with outstretched hands, who chooses a life of downward mobility. It is the image of the praying leader, the vulnerable leader, and the trusting leader. May that image fill your hearts with hope, courage, and confidence. [Henri J.M. Nouwen, In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership (New York: Crossroad, 1989), 62-3, 70, 73.]

So be encouraged you who preach or you who find yourself at the barrel end of an ADM AK-47. You are in good company. I send this blog post out to all those who have found themselves the subject of negative or critical or downright hateful blog posts this week. I send it out to all those who have no voice of their own or who cannot defend themselves or choose not to. I also thank Jason for writing this sermon and preaching it.

And finally, a word to the ADM’s of the church, both in blogs and pews, learn about God’s grace. I promise it will free you from that nagging, persistent feeling you have that your ‘ministry’ is to stand guard at the door of God’s throne room in order to prevent any weak, sinful, decrepit loser from finding God’s grace time and time again. It will free you to be so caught up beholding what is right that you won’t even have time to look for what is wrong.

Soli Deo Gloria!!

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Being a preacher in a local church has given me insight that, frankly, I would rather not have when it comes to the church. I have met people in the church who are, I’m sad to say (and not that I am perfect mind you) who are among the meanest, most ungracious people I have ever met. That is a sad, sad, sad, thing to say; may God forgive me.

This is not to say, again, that I am perfect nor that I have never invited the wrath of some folks. There are plenty of times when my own weak personality, quick judgmentalism, forked tongue, and short temper have contributed much ammunition to the weapons used by these angry folks. I say with much regret that there are times when, as a preacher, I am as dumb as a sack of potatoes.

Grace is God’s on-going exertion of resurrection energy in the life of a justified individual to perfect in them the image of Christ (Colossians 3:9-10). It’s called sanctification. It is not an easy project by any stretch of the imagination. In some ways, I suspect that it is just as ‘painful’ for God as it is for the child. If God disciplines his children as a Father, and I believe he does, I don’t suppose it is any less hurtful for God, as Father, than it is for me when I discipline my sons. But what I have noticed, all too frequently, is that ministers are not afforded that grace. Congregants are; preachers are not. Preachers are not afforded the reality of being human thus when they are scrutinized they are scrutinized as a little above humans. And when they fail, they fail worse than the satan.

Shouldn’t preachers, I have a special place in my heart for them, be afforded the same courtesy of allowing that God’s isn’t quite finished with them yet?

Thus an entire genre of literature had to be invented in order to help preachers not only survive such massive assaults, but also to prevent them from going bonkers and winding up in the Psych ward of a local hospital. I just finished reading Well Intentioned Dragons which was a mind-boggling look at the stories of some preachers who had to endure such devastating pressure in their ministries. I highly recommend this book. Currently, I am reading The Wounded Minister by Guy Greenfield. I’m only just starting it, but Greenfield’s approach is nothing short of ‘in your face’. He takes a no-holds-barred, no-prisoners approach to writing about the insidious nature of those who have made it their ‘ministry’ to destroy those who serve in some ministry type position in the church or para-church.

I’d like to share a paragraph or three from this book with you. After listing seven characteristics of ‘clergy killers’ Greenfield writes:

Clinically speaking, who are clergy killers? What has made them this way? Several possibilities may exist. They may possess distinct personality disorders (for example, they may be antisocial, borderline paranoid, narcissistic). These conditions will be discussed in more detail later. It is also possible that clergy killers have been victims of abuse, either in the past or the present. Inadequate socialization (the process of becoming human), arrested adolescence, or violent role models may be behind their behavior. Some may have a perverse, voyeuristic, and vindictive taste for the suffering of their victims. Others have learned to throw tantrums to get their selfish way. They have learned how to distract, confuse, lie, and seduce to do harm to the vulnerable.

Clergy killers would or destroy either by direct attacks or by inciting others to inflict the wounds. Sometimes they induce victims to self-destruct by harassing them to the point of frustration and anger. This is the minister who counterattacks angrily from the pulpit. Most congregations will not tolerate for long a minister who expresses angry outbursts during his sermons, however justified he may feel.

Understanding how any person can become a clergy killer is complex and difficult. Most Christians in most churches have never known one, but it takes only one or two in a church to create havoc and bedlam. Because these people live in denial as to their true nature, they would not see themselves in this chapter if they were to read it. Clergy killers have surrounded and insulated themselves with a whole array of defense mechanisms and justifications for their actions. They firmly believe that what they are doing in harming and terminating a minister is the right thing to do. For them, it is the will of God. Nevertheless, they are sick and mean people. (30-31)

In my own experience, I can say that this is exactly the truth. What Greenfield is talking about is the local church (of which I am a big fan). Take these thoughts and extrapolate them just a bit. Imagine that the church also included an online community of several millions of people. Imagine that ‘local church preachers’ also happen to be ‘global church preachers’ because they write books or podcast sermons or pray at inaugurations. Online Clergy killers are no different than local church clergy killers. They may have a bigger audience, perhaps a little more clout, but they are no less sick; no less mean.

I can tell you that such activity in the local church has ramifications for the church’s witness and ministry in the community where it is located. I believe it keeps people away from the church. I can testify that in one church I served, a clergy killer went so far as to sit in a local restaurant and talk badly about the church, and the preacher (me), and do his best to persuade people not to worship with us. Now, extrapolate that thought and apply it to the internet and it becomes apparent what the problem is. Far from saving people to the glorious Gospel of Christ, online clergy killers are destroying the church–the body for which Christ Jesus gave up his life.

I believe in my heart that something is going to have to give sooner or later. At some point, online clergy killers are going to have to realize that they are not helping the cause of Christ because they are not promoting peace, not displaying the fruit of the Spirit, not putting their good deeds on display so that people might give praise to the Father in Heaven. Maybe it is time for peace.

Lord, help us. How, O Lord, how can there be peace?

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Here’s an article/essay a friend of mine sent to me.  I’m publishing it with his permission:

There’s an essay that was brought to my attention that I think has a lot of relevance to the church in general and to the world of ADM blogging in particular. You can find the essay here at Frontline Fellowship. There is a lot of truth to what the author is saying here about the way in which pastors are treated both in their local congregations and by those who do not belong to their congregations.

The author of the essay is reviewing a book, The Wounded Minister (Dr Guy Greenfield). I’ll excerpt these two sections and let them speak for themselves. The essay (review) is helpful. The men and women who serve in pulpit positions really do struggle with this and with the proliferation of internet web pages and blogs upping the ante, it’s no wonder more and more men and women leave the ministry each year.

Who are these clergy killers? “These are not normal people, average complainers, critics and typical dissidents who are generally unhappy about life itself … they are deadly and have a knack for gathering a following of ordinary folk with common complaints and disagreements in the church. They can easily create the illusion that there are hordes of people against the pastor. They are masters at using the tyrannical they in their comments: ‘They are very unhappy about …’ or the illusive people: ‘people are saying that ….’ These are verbal instruments in the arsenal that they use to destroy a minister.”

Dr.Greenfield describes pathological antagonists/clergy killers, as persons with “a very mean spirited disposition … they are destructive. The damage that they want to inflict is intentional and deliberate. They are not out simply to disagree … they want to inflict pain and damage persons.… clergy killers are determined. They are headstrong and will stop at nothing. They may pause for a time, change strategies, even go underground to reconnoitre, but they will come back with a vengeance to continue the intimidation, networking and breaking all rules of decency to accomplish their destructive objectives. For them, their plans have priority over all other programmes of the church. These persons are deceitful … masters of manipulation, camouflage, misrepresentation and accusing others of their own atrocious deeds … experts at twisting facts. … maybe mentally disordered, but they do not yield to patience or love, nor do they honour human decency. Apparently clergy killers carry around a lot of internal pain, confusion, anger, and even rage. Spiritual leaders … become available scapegoats for this pain and confusion, which is unidentified and untreated.”

“Clergy killers are masters of intimidation, using it to violate the rules of decency and caring that most Christians try to follow. Intimidation is a powerful weapon … therefore, ministers and their supporters are easily intimidated by these persuasive and charming religious assailants. Clergy killers are experts of disguise when they see it would be to their advantage. They are able to present themselves as pious, devout and spiritual church members, who are doing their destructive work ‘for the good of the church to advance God’s Kingdom.’ They can convince naïve church members that they are raising legitimate issues. These religious monsters often hide among their allies of opportunity … they openly intimidate any opposition by making it clear that they will fight dirty and use any tactic to accomplish their goals. Gentle and peace-at- any-price church members are quickly sidelined by such threats, leaving ministers and those who support them to cope with the problem the best way they can.”

“Clinically speaking, … they may possess distinct personality disorders… anti-social, borderline paranoid, narcissistic … others have learnt to throw tantrums to get their selfish ways. They’ve learnt how to distract, confuse, lie and seduce to do harm to the vulnerable.”

“Clergy killers wound or destroy either by direct attacks or by inciting others to inflict the wounds. Sometimes they induce victims to self-destruct, by harassing them to the point of frustration and anger. … it only takes one or two in the church to create havoc and bedlam. Because these people live in denial as to their true nature, they would not see themselves in this chapter, even if they were to read it. Clergy killers have surrounded and insulated themselves with a whole array of defense mechanisms and justifications for their actions. They firmly believe that what they are doing in harming and terminating a minister is the right thing to do. For them, it is the will of God. Nevertheless, they are sick and mean people.”

What is a Pathological Antagonist?

A pathological antagonist is an intransigent person of antagonistic disposition.

1. “The arguments of a pathological antagonist are usually found in little or terribly misrepresented evidence … quibbling over petty details, offering strong proof of irrelevant points … exaggerating the position of one’s opponent … making an accusation that cannot be disproved and then claiming that this makes it true … outright lying or falsification. An antagonist, in his attempt to make the kill, will take certain facts and so twist them that they are blatantly false when presented. In time he convinces himself that his twisted facts are true.”

2. Pathological antagonists are ‘”hyper-sensitive to any word or action, even trivial oversights, so that he takes these things as a personal attack and responds aggressively.”

3. “The pathological antagonist is never satisfied. His demands are insatiable. No amount of accommodation on the ministers part will ever suffice. Attempts at appeasement will not calm him down, but will encourage him to make more demands. … he is persistent and unstoppable.”

4. “The pathological antagonist will lead a campaign of attack on the minister … not trying to give constructive criticism … his goal is nothing short of control, no matter what it may cost the minister or the church. The antagonist is so full of rage that he feels compelled to attack the enemy (the minister) until he is destroyed (terminated and eliminated from the scene).”

5. “This person probably has a God problem. He feels some deep-seated anger towards God for some reason out of his past experiences. Because it is difficult to show anger directly towards God, the pathological antagonist chooses the minister, the ‘man of God’, as his target. Sometimes this anger is guilt-driven (possibly due to some hidden sin) … a smokescreen to cover his own moral indiscretions.”

6. “The attacking behaviour of a pathological antagonist is selfish in nature … this person is rarely interested in authentic spiritual goals. If one rationale no longer works to his advantage, he will devise another … his stated reasons for opposition are a ruse for his own hidden agenda. What he really wants is power, control, status and authority.”

7. “The attacks … are for destruction rather than construction. The antagonists’ actions divide the church; they do not pull the people together.

In the Pulpit and Pew Project at Duke University, Hoge and Wenger did some research and wrote a paper detailing the reasons why ‘numerous pastors’ are leaving church ministry. The paper, from 2003, is insightful and contains wonderful tables at the end. They write,

The most commonly mentioned motivation was “an opportunity came for new ministry.” This factor was not always the only one in pushing the decision, since a highly satisfied local church pastor may not be likely to leave even if an opportunity came for new ministry. We need to see it as often acting in combination with other factors, making the task of discerning its importance a difficult one. In any event, it is lower as a motivation for the Methodists and Assemblies of God than for the others, and it is highest for the Missouri Synod pastors.

The second most common comment was that the denomination was not supportive, or that there was conflict with denominational officials. It is similar across denominations. The third most common was that the minister was burned out, discouraged, stressed, or overworked, a feeling voiced by ministers in all the denominations. The fourth–needs of children and family–was slightly higher for the Presbyterians than for others. The fifth–conflicts with church members—and the sixth–doctrinal conflicts over specific issues –occurred similarly in all denominations.

(This work was later published in book form and titled Pastors in TransitionHere.)

It seems to me that armchair discernment, then, is not limited to the online types. They are everywhere in the church. John the apostle did warn that a certain type of malicious person would come from within the church and Paul makes warnings to Timothy for how to deal with such rebels. I am not saying that all preachers are innocent, nor am I saying that all accusations are false. All I am saying is that if this type of ‘ministry’ is so damaging in the local church, to local pastors, (and the repercussions and collateral damage are massive), then how much more damaging is it when you have an online audience? If I am reading the author of the paper correctly, nothing good comes out of this type of ‘work.’ It damages too many people, not to mention the pastor, his family, his children, his wife. It is an insidious evil that is not meant to build up the church, but to destroy it, sidetrack it, and utterly ruin it’s effective witness in a community.

What I have learned personally about such people is that normally the issue is one of control. That’s all. Pure and simple. Being in the public eye is hard enough as it is. Being a local church pastor, in a small or large church, is terribly difficult. It’s downright terrifying when the worst critics of the pastor are not those outside the church, but those inside it.

Seeking justice, mercy, and faithfulness amidst persecution from within.

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