UNREASONABLE REMOVAL FROM OFFICE AND CHURCH:
AN OBSTACLE TO CHURCH GROWTH
Text: 2 Sam. 23: 2-3 [New King James Version]
The Spirit of the Lord spoke by me And His word was on my tongue.
The God of Israel said, The Rock of Israel spoke to me; He who rules over men must be just. Ruling in the fear of God.
Several Speakers have defined church growth. I am not going to dwell much on the technicality of its definition. I will simply put it this way.
“Church growth is the effort the church makes to grow numerically, spiritually, financially and infrastructurally. This is done through the process of evangelism, discipleship deliberate mentorship” and training.
When all of these happen, the church will be healthy and growth will be evidence.
Healthy people grow, healthy animals grow, healthy trees grow, healthy plants grow.
Growth is a characteristic that God supernaturally breathed into living things. And the body of Christ – the Church is a living thing.
When the Church is not growing normally or healthily, there are several factors that may be responsible. One of such factors is the topic before us Unreasonable Removal from Office and Church – An Obstacle to Church Growth.
Definition of key words
• Acting at variance with or contrary to reason; not guided by reason or sound judgment. An action not guided or based on good sense. Beyond the limit of acceptability of
• Not in accordance with practical realities, as attitude or behaviour
>>Synonyms: arbitrary, irrational, thoughtless, biased, etc.
2. Removal: This is from the act of removing, meaning:
• Change of residence, position, etc.
• Dismissal, as from office
>>Synonyms: depose, dethrone, transfer, withdraw, etc.
3. Office: A position of duty, trust, or authority.
4. Obstacle: Something that obstructs or hinders progress. Barrier, impediment hindrances or stumbling block.
5. Growth: Progress; an increase by natural development; a gradual increase in size, amount, etc.
Thus unreasonable removal has to do with transferring or moving a pastor from one church to another, or moving an officer, via election, from one position to another or completely out of office, in a manner that is not guided by sound reasoning or on reasons that are baseless and not in accordance with practical realities, which at the end will work against the progress of the Church and hinders the fulfilment of its purpose of being.
Church growth, as we know, is not a one-ingredient soup. So many factors come into play for church growth to happen. Outside what God alone can do, human resource management is among the key factors responsible for Church growth. Just like any other worthy organization, the QUALITY OF INDIVIDUALS placed in churches and other ministry leadership positions and the LEVEL OF STABILITY they have in order to carry out the required pastoral roles and accomplish the necessary ministry expectations have a way of ensuring the growth, sustainability, and continuity of the church.
However, there are potential problems that these placements, which are done by transfers, appointments, and elections, can create, especially when the reasons for doing them are not genuine. There are also potential problems that these placements can create when the attitudes of the persons affected do not reflect that of the servant of Christ.
And in all fairness, some of the reasons behind some of these placements have not always been genuine and worthy. Equally, the attitudes of some of the people involved have not always been worthy. Consequently, the outcomes in both cases have not always been favourable to the growth of the church. Instead, they have constituted terrible obstacles to the growth of the church; and they do not give a “genuine” sense of fulfilment to the individuals involved.
Hence this issue, which focuses on unreasonable removal from church and office and its impact on the church, is very practical and highly vital to the growth of the Church as a living organic yet hierarchical and democratically ordered body.
To approach this issue (or problem), we will begin with affirming the necessity of transfers, appointments, and elections generally, analysing the need for the right placement of people for ministry purposes.
Then we will move on and look at some of the roles stability plays in the delivery of ministry expectations and fulfilment of leadership goals; and also x-ray some of the problems created by the instability caused by unreasonable removal from Church and office.
Finally, we will conclude by advancing few suggestions that might help to correct the imbalance that emerged between the power of our institutional authorities to move pastors from place to place, the power of the constituency to vote in or vote out of office, and the Church’s need for stability in the pastoral and leadership offices in order to ensure Church growth.
PUTTING ROUND PEG IN A ROUND HOLE
Appointments or transfers or elections are inevitably necessary because new Churches or units are established and already existing Churches or units may require a fresh hand. Besides, pastors die, pastors retire, pastors abandon the ministry, and some pastors may even be out of touch with their churches or units (i.e., they can’t “move” the people any more, or there is growing opposition, or the whole thing lies flat and unexciting). In some other cases, some pastors need to be transferred because another ministry task demands their particular ministerial abilities in another pastoral situation.
Hence, from the days of our founding fathers, evidence abounds of how pastors and those occupying different offices were moved from one station to another, from one office to the other, and from one position to another. Through that process, the Church has seen some “hidden” but gifted persons elected or appointed into exalted positions or posted to churches they perfectly fitted. Some persons also have been posted out or voted out, which turned out to be for the good of the church or department or the entire constituency. Some, too, have been removed entirely; while some others yet, had, on their own will, either declined to stand for election or stepped down from “high positions” and picked up supposedly “lower positions” – like Pa Gabriel Oyakhilome, who, on his own accord, resigned from being a District Superintendent and took up pasturing a church.
Though often “greeted” with mixed feelings (good and bad, sadness and joy, certainty and uncertainty, etc.) these movements (especially those ones carried out by the leadership of the Church at all strata and the one done by the constituency via election) were originally designed to be done as a response to a need or as a response to an explicit instruction or “move” of the Holy Spirit.
In all, when the reasons are genuine and backed up by the Holy Spirit, the results that follow usually bring joy and a “worthy” sense of fulfilment. The entire process ultimately works for the growth of the Church and for the blessing of the individuals involved – both the ministers and the membership.
Also the reasons mentioned above – especially loss of zeal or personal stagnation – coupled with a difficult or incorrigible attitude and situations – can equally cause a pastor or a leader to be transferred from a church or be voted out of office. Though the affected pastor or leader may not be happy with such movement, the church or the constituency, nevertheless, will experience both relief and growth; the exercise ultimately works for the greater good of the church and the constituency.
These and more make the movements of pastors by transfers, appointments, and elections to be a worthy exercise. Simply put, transfers and elections are ultimately meant for the good and the growth of the Church. It is designed as a part of the human resource management process the church uses to put “round pegs in round holes” – i.e., to put the right persons in the right places for ministry purposes. It is meant to help ensure the growth, sustainability, and continuity of the Church.
Unfortunately, in our Church (Assemblies of God Nigeria), when it comes to transfers or elections or appointments, there now seem to exist varied interpretations on what constitutes “a round peg in a round hole” or putting the right person in the right place for ministry purposes. In some quarters, it is interpreted to mean “I, myself, and me – no one else.” In some other quarters it is interpreted to mean “somebody from my place” or “my personal person” or “my boy” or “my classmate” and such likes.
Since most pastors perceive that God’s will for them must be to move to a church of a larger size than the last church or to a higher position than the one they held last, these varied interpretations have given birth to a mercantile approach to ministry, which lends itself to a unguided personal ambitions, social climbing, and careerism. As such, there is among us today a high competitiveness and the “using” of churches and offices to form “ungodly alliances” and to promote and perpetuate oneself in ministry.
Sadly, some pastors now apply for transfer with a hireling mentality (John 10:12-13). They’re always on the run when the going gets tough; and yet they’re always eyeing pastorate other pastors had made greener. Some other pastors, whether qualified or unqualified, now want the number one church and the number one position. While some presbyteries carryout transfers based on some unbiblical sentiments. In some cases, transfers have been done so frequent that some pastors and members hardly get to know themselves before they’re “torn apart” – not giving room for the spiritual bond between the pastors and the membership to deepen enough, thus hindering great impact from taking place.
These unreasonable movements have brought about terrible confusions and complete backwardness to the churches and the constituencies affected. In some cases, the situation could be so worse and messy that even the perpetrators deeply regret ever getting themselves involved in such a thing.
Little wonder, the wrangling and the campaigns we hear about. Little wonder, the council meetings that last late into the night – imagine “brethren in the Lord” casting ballots TEN times, TWENTY times, and even more, just to elect one officer. Without a doubt, all these cannot be all about the ministry or all about service to God and His people or all about the growth of the Church, rather, they all about self.
While all these go on in our midst, the saddest part is that many ministers just want to have it their way. They seem to be completely careless about the state of the souls and that of the Church they have been called to shepherd. The ministry is now viewed to be, not a service to God and His people, but a personal career quest; and material rewards and prominent positions are now the standard measure.
This is bad! It needs to be checked – urgently!! The call to the ministry should not be considered a career with a number of steps, moving from one church to another and from one seat to another. Careerism can undermine all that the ministry represents, and even destroy the quality relationship that ought to exist among us as brethren. Ministry is rather a very humble service to God and His people. We all must be willing to move as the Spirit of God leads, and not as driven by our personal ambitions.
2. The Place of Stability
Nobody excels in what He or she does once in a while. Constancy remains the secret of success! Thus, it is necessary for the pastor to have the benefit of stability for Church growth and other ministry expectations to happen. This stability is very necessary because it is connected with the ability, or perhaps the availability, of the pastor to fulfil his pastoral role adequately and properly.
That is why the frequent movement of pastors, from one church to another, and the frequent voting in and out of office of institutional authorities are unreasonable exercises. They only lead to terrible instability. Such instability will neither allow quality pastoral care, nor quality leadership to take place. Instead, it will ultimately work against the growth of the church.
1. UNREASONABLE REMOVAL OF PASTORS
a. When the Church is on the path of progress, showing every indices of growth and has a resourceful Pastor or leader driving it but suddenly for no justifiable reason, that pastor is transferred or voted out of office. It will have adverse effect on the church.
When leaders who have authority to transfer, suddenly transfer a pastor whose church is growing without any serious reason. It brings retrogression.
Reasons for their Unreasonable practise
1. The pastor has stayed long
2. He is not “loyal to me”
3. He is not part of the Winning Team
4. To settle boys
5. He is a stranger
6. He is perceived as a treat to the leader [if not checked he may become popular].
7. To show power
8. Unhealthy tradition
THE IMPLICATION OF THE UNREASONABLE REMOVAL FROM CHURCH/OFFICE
1. It retards growth
2. It affects membership
3. It is capable of scattering members
4. It reduces finances of the church
5. It places unnecessary burden on the church or district
6. It kills morale, zeal, creativities and productive spirit.
7. It reduces the future and prospect of the church/district
8. It promotes mediocre.
THE WAY OUT
1. Emphasis on deeper personal relationship with God
2. Continue emphasis on Ministry than position.
3. Sustaining Constitutional Provision
4. Making necessary reforms to guarantee stability and welfare of the members.
Being a Paper Presented by Rev Dr Vincent Alaje the General Treasurer of Assemblies Of God Nigeria at Strategic Church Growth Summit for South West Zone One and Two April 26th 2018.