The Day

Fun fun.  Tomorrow at 9:00 I meet with T and the elders to figure out where this thing is going.

Here is what I know for sure, unless something unexpected happens, we are on a terrible trajectory.  We seem absolutely determined to settle for the most distasteful kind of mediocrity.

We have baptized our mediocrity and now we think it spiritual.  It is not.

We shall see.

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A S’s wife asked me Sunday, “You know you were the only one to do any compromise in that proposal, right?”

I know.  It was disheartening to her, to S and to W, my wife.  Honestly, it is disheartening to me as well.  It is a tragic game of chicken.

The elders know–or at least they should know–the proposal we put forth was pure garbage.  It is me calling their bluff.  It is me giving them exactly what they asked for–like children who ask for candy for breakfast.  But like children destined for cavities, this is not at all good for the church.

It was, the only way to actually make T happy and play well with others.  Ever since I arrived, he has moped around wanting to preach.  Any time he agrees to something less than that, he manages to weasel out of it and do whatever he wants anyway.  I figure we will just make it a little easier.

It is a game of chicken.  The players will meet on Thursday morning to see what happens. Inside, I am screaming, weeping and screaming more.  I don’t know what else to do.

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Absurd, Meet Absurder…

So it has been almost two weeks since I received the letter from the elders and the next day sent my response.  I have yet to hear back from them answering any of my questions.

I wrote R to ask if they were going to respond to my quesions before I met with T, and then we could talk about it all together.  Great.  So, what I learned is that we are not even on speaking terms.  They are playing a stupid power game.  Their power is their silence.

I have to be honest, it doesn’t intimidate me, but it does tick me off.  I am so incredibly insulted they think so low of me.  What makes them think this is how you treat anyone–much less the pastor of your church??  I guess because they are the powerful ones.  The leaders.  The ones who lord their power over me.

I met with T today as was the plan.

T’s gripe is two fold.  First, he wants to preach.  Second, he doesn’t think I care enough about the congregation.  He perceives (and apparently a lot of people do) my introverted personality as lack of caring.  Because I don’t glad hand everyone like some desperate politician, I don’t care about them.

I decided my plan was to let T air his gripes and then let him talk about what he wants.  I suspect it is his and his wife’s political activities which brought us to this point, so I guess I will play by their rules.

I listened, and asked him what he thought needed to be done.  Then we cobbled it together into a proposal for the elders.  Here is the long and sort of it…

We propose one of two plans…

First, I suggest we just switch jobs.  I would do the small group ministry and he could preach and lead and glad hand until his heart was content.

Second, I could let him preach 1/4 of the time and spend time going calling with him.  He would, of course, do what he hasn’t done yet–work on small groups.

Both of these proposals are absurd.  T is a horrible preacher and all of the elders know it, but preaching is the main thing he needs to be happy, so we proposed it.

It is, of course, all about making T and T’s wife happy.  :)

We shall see what happens.

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Stress Cracks

You know, stress cracks are not just for buildings.  I guess we will keep stressing and see when it all comes tumbling down.

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Apology Post

So I take a couple months off and come back to gripe….

Not the most courteous thing to do, I know.  I am sorry about that.  This is kind of the place where I come to vent.  It is my public therapy.

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So Here is the Story…

First of all, this would have been much easier had I kept up with the story throughout the last six months.  I didn’t, so this will likely be a long post.

Occasionally I see television attorneys ask the judge to allow them to treat the witness as hostile.  I suppose they mean that they might have to provoke them a little and in provoking them, their answers might get a little edgy.  Let me warn you, I am probably a hostile witness.

The last six months have been a blur of surgeries, recovery and work.  I have missed a number of days of work, but have cranked out all of the work expected of me.  I preached all but two Sundays which I skipped because W was still in ICU.  The church has been great through it all.

The church, however, is having a significant money crisis.

I am certain I blogged about this, but for the past few years, the church has budgeted $40,000+ per year more than they bring in.  A math genius might be quick to point out the foolishness of such a plan, but such foolishness eluded the wisest of church leaders.

When we came to the beginning of this latest budget cycle, I was a lone and loud voice crying in the wilderness saying, “This is nuts!  We must revise our budget.”  We had no money in the bank, so after a long and difficult meeting, we brought the budget down to a reasonable $15K more than we brought in the previous year.

No surprise, we are completely out of money and it looks to get worse.

Part of the reason we are in this mess is that we are overstaffed.  We are a church of 300 and have 3.5 full-time staff.  That is down half a staff member from when I began.  I have said this since I arrived–even before I knew the staff.

A couple months ago, our elders went on a fact finding mission to determine how they were going to correct our staffing and, hopefully, right our financial ship.  They interviewed all of the staff and had a number of closed door sessions.

During my interview, they asked me for a frank review of the staff.  I did.  The staff person who does not pull his weight and who is least cohesive on staff is the one we have called T.

T is an old-school minister who glad-hands everyone who comes in the door with a big smile and a pat on the back.  People are courted into the baptistry and then are dropped to move on to new territory.  (Note the hostility creeping in…)  His area of ministry is small groups.  He does almost nothing for small groups, but instead works the politics of the church. (T and T’s wife are constantly working behind the scenes to get their pet projects through…you’ve seen this before).

Working with T has been a challenge because he doesn’t do what he is tasked with doing.  I don’t have any real authority over him and so life goes on in the office.  There is no hostility; there are no arguments.  He does what he wants and I get to occasionally sign off on some expenses.  T avoids contact with most of the staff–he double schedules every week so he doesn’t have to go to our weekly staff lunches….I digress…

Anyway, when the elders asked for my frank evaluation, I gave it to them.  I stressed that I don’t have any “problem” with T, but that T is simply unsuited to the job he is in.  They nodded their heads.  They wrung their hands for their inability to do something with this sooner because they all knew the issue.

Over the next month, the elders had secret meetings to figure out what to do.  Sunday they revealed the oracle.  Their solution?  In the words of the late, great Rodney King, “Can’t we all just get along?”

They called a meeting after church with the elders, T and me.  One of the elders prayed a lofty prayer about the Kingdom and our church and our wonderful staff, then we were each given an envelope with our name on it.  With that, the elders said, “We expect a response within 48 hours.”  They said their quick goodbyes and they all walked out of the room.  T and I opened our envelopes.

For posterity sake, I will scan it in and post it here…probably sometime later this week.  Some of it won’t make much sense, but you can see it anyway…

The gist of the letter was that T’s and my division was causing problems in the church and was causing us to have a “mutual” lack of productivity.  We were to agree within 48 hours to their terms of working through the situation and then in 2 weeks come back to them with a document with a plan for how to work in brotherly love.

Oh.  Love.  They tossed in a couple Scriptures for good measure and said we were acting unlovingly and were akin to a dead branch in the church.

If we don’t agree to their plan, they expect both of our resignations.  Either we will continue with both of us working together or we will continue with neither of us.

Honestly, it ticked me off.  I am telling the truth when I say there is no hostility between T and me.  There is also very little collaboration, and I do not find him a good match as an associate pastor on my staff.  But we don’t argue.  We don’t trade barbs.  We are professional in our relationship.  We are not friends, but we are far from enemies.

We told the elders we would follow their plan.  I also sent them an email with a direct push back on their plan.  A copy of it is HERE.

This, “Solution” is no solution at all.  It fails to address the very issue they began with–a budget crisis that requires we dismiss one staff person.  Now they have either committed to NOT reducing the staff or shooting themselves in the foot and getting rid of both T (who is not pulling his weight) and me (who, I believe, is pulling his weight).

The whole idea of getting rid of the senior pastor because of an incompatible associate is foolish.  This church searched for 2.5 years to find a senior pastor.  T was here all the time and if they had thought he was the man for the job, they would have hired him.  Now they plan to send the church into another pastoral search simply because they are unwilling to make a difficult decision?  STUPID.

I have yet to hear back from my email to them.  It has been 36 hours.  I wonder if they will feel bound to the 48 hour deadline.  I doubt it.

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Same Song Keeps Playing.

I know I don’t have many…or any readers any more.  I guess I have been kind of busy lately.

A quick update on W–Three surgeries later, she is doing pretty well.  We are fighting memory issues that are a nagging problem.  We hope they will improve over the coming years.

Church???  Hmmm.  Today the elders decided that they will give T and me an ultimatum.  Get along or we are both gone.  (we do, actually, we are just in two vastly different camps when it comes to church leadership, theology, and philosophy…)

I’ll take some time to write up what brought all of this along later.  W says we should just tell them what they can do with their job.  I am thinking that somehow we have to eat.

I wish I had gone to school to be something else.  Anything else.  Now I have a doctorate in something with no market.  Genius.

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