And, no, I'm not talking about the culture of America, though that could definitely use an overhaul. I'm talking about the culture of The Church. First, the background.
I have a friend--I'll call him Chris--who has been at a particular church for four years: 2 1/2 years as a very involved lay-person, and 1 1/2 years as the youth minister. Over the past 3-4 months he has been praying about, and discussing with me, his feeling that God was calling him from that church. On July 31st he gave his pastor his letter of resignation. He would finish out the month of August, his ministry culminating with a Back-to-School bash he had planned with another local youth minister. He he would be able to break the news gradually to his youth group and allow for a time of grieving and a warm send-off. This would also give the pastor plenty of time to begin looking for a new youth minister. This was very gracious of Chris, and was more than most people would have done in most secular situations.
Unfortunately, the pastor was not as gracious, nor did he have the same heart to allow the process to unfold. He told Chris on Wednesday afternoon, August 1st, that that evening would be his last at the church. Chris had not yet even told his children, who are youth, and he was being forced to tell the youth group that he was leaving immediately. When he protested that he was not prepared to do it that way, the pastor told him that was "the way it was done. It is good business to end it immediately."
Bull! That may be the way it is done sometimes (it was done that way to us), but it is not the way it should be done. THE CHURCH IS NOT A BUSINESS!!! Was that loud enough? It's time for these executive, CEO pastors to understand that the church does not work like the world. The church is supposed to be different. The church is supposed to set the example, not follow it. The church (read: CEO pastor) should not fire a minister with no warning, no chance to change, no severance, and no concern. The church (read: CEO pastor) should not fire a minister that has resigned with graciousness and character the day after he submits his resignation letter.
The church is a place of love, truth, forgiveness, and grace. For lay people and staff. That can never be forgotten, though it appears many have. I'm not saying anything goes, that there are no reasons to fire someone; but it can always be done with grace. I know of staff members fired for moral reasons, but they were still given severance and opportunities for counseling and help. That is the love of Jesus. Kicking people to the curb or throwing them away when they have served their "perceived" usefulness is not the love of Jesus.
The culture has to change and it begins with those of us who have had it done to us. We must change the culture by first making sure the culture of the churches we pastor is different. We then change the culture by taking every opportunity to tell CEO pastors, who we know are doing things the world's way, how ungodly that way is.
Jesus said that the world will know we are His by the love that we have for each other. When the world hears of the wretched way pastors (and committees, for that matter) are treating staff, they don't see Jesus, they don't see love, and many of them wonder if we are His to begin with.
I must say, I don't see Jesus or love in it either. And sometimes I wonder too.