Well, it happened again this weekend. A pastor here in Nashville was immediately and unbiblically removed from his ministry. David Foster, who started Bellevue Community Church in 1989, was fired on the spot by the elders of his church. Before this Sunday arrived, Foster's e-mail was shut down, his name was off the internet staff directory, his key card to the building was disabled, and Metro police officers contacted Foster on Saturday to let him know he would not be allowed in the church building.
What was the elders' explanation to the congregation on Sunday morning? It was all put under the banner of "personal, relationship, and leadership issues." No details given, no explanation given. Just this vague phrase. To be honest, I don't know what the problem was...maybe he was an intolerable tyrant of a leader, maybe he was having an affair with the secretary, maybe he was looking at pornography on his computer in the office. What if he was just a charismatic preacher with an introvert personality, that closed himself off during the week? What if he could have unknowingly hurt a couple of elders and never apologized? What if he was going through a mid-life crisis and it affected his ministry? Weirder things have happened! The point is...the church will never know. I'm not part of the church, so I wouldn't expect to know.
However, what we have here is another classic case of the avoidance of Matthew 18 being carried all the way through. I was part of a church that made a similar vague announcement because of the actions of our pastor, and it ended up very ugly. The pastor had been confronted one on one, a group had gone to him, and instead of bringing it to the church for their discipline, it was simply announced that he was leaving because of "moral failure." No explanation given. I was on staff at that church, and with my 20/20 hindsight, I can see that it was handled wrong...not intentionally, but still wrong. None of my brothers on staff were trying to avoid doing what was biblical, but in the heat of the moment and the confusion of all the information we were getting, that's what happened. I pray God's grace on my ministry that I would never have to be part of dismissing another brother from ministry like that again. However, if I do, I know that my hindsight will help me.
Another one bites the dust here in Nashville...it made the front page of today's paper because it was a mega-church. Now, as thousands of unbelievers and backslidden believers are reading that column, what are they thinking about the church? "Who needs it? They're all just a bunch of hypocrites and power-hungry people who want their way. I'll just watch church on TV this weekend...all I need is the preaching."
The good news is that in all of this, God still works together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. God's grace can still heal this situation, if the pride of both the pastor and his elders can be put aside long enough to pick up a Bible, hear what God says, and be doers of the Word.