Wednesday, February 11, 2009

When a Church Leader Betrays a Confidence

Proverbs 25:19 (KJV) Confidence in an unfaithful man in time of trouble is like a broken tooth, and a foot out of joint.

Enough time has elapsed that there are some things I now have liberty to divulge that I haven’t been able to say in the past.

One of the biggest problems I have had (in the past) with people on PCC’s leadership teams was the inability (of some) to keep a confidence. This is a very serious offence. To be a staff member, church trustee, or board member, requires the highest level of integrity and ability to maintain confidentiality. The things we talk about are often of a sensitive nature – trouble in families, church business, church members slipping into sin, a church worker who needs to be removed, things like that. This subject matter is not for dinner conversation and it’s not for public knowledge. What is said in the meeting stays in the meeting. In other words, a church leader has to compartmentalize and keep his mouth shut when he leaves the meeting. Tale bearers and those with loose lips make poor leaders and simply cannot fill those positions because too much is at stake.

Let me give you a for-instance:

Before we built our church building we were in negotiations with a local bank to arrange financing. These negotiations had been on-going for about nine months. Against the assurance we would secure the loan our church launched into a three year giving campaign (Time To Build) in which people pledged to give X-amount of dollars over a three year period. We were juggling both of these events at once. Then the bomb shell dropped. I’ll never forget the day it happened. The bank VP dropped by the church offices (which, at the time, were located on Chumuckla Hwy) to give me the bad news. Only Renae and I were there as he sat down and told us, “Your church’s loan has been denied.” We almost cried. Nine months of negotiations for nothing. Nine months of providing the bank with documents. Nine months of hearing the bank VP say, “it’s a done deal.” Nine months of assuring our church family that “everything is a go.” Nine months of work came to an end in sixty seconds. This was on a Wednesday.

I called an emergency meeting with our trustees and broke the news. I asked, “What should we do? Should we tell the church or wait? If we break the news now we risk demoralization and panic among our small congregation. On the other hand, we could simply wait and attempt to arrange financing with another bank.” One trustee (a good and wise man) suggested that we should wait two weeks before we told the church so we would have time to shop around for alternate financing. If we were successful with another bank our current anxiety would be moot. The end-result is all that really matters – having financing. But if we couldn’t arrange financing within two weeks, we would present our dilemma to the church in a specially called meeting.

Four people were present at this meeting – me and three trustees. We agreed together that we would wait two weeks. We covenanted together on this. It was recorded in the minutes. We held each other to confidentiality. It was a matter of business. We agreed to tell no one until after two weeks. This was a Thursday.

Would you believe that on Friday, the very next day, this confidence was betrayed? Yea. Someone from our church was at Wal Mart when he was approached by another church member who said, “I heard something bad is going wrong with the bank.” Are you kidding me? It hasn’t even been 24 hours and it’s already becoming public knowledge - and in a Wal Mart of all places! Then on Sunday, (just two days later) at least two people walked up to me in the middle of the church service and said, “I hear you’re having some troubles with the bank loan.” All I could think was, OMG! Here I was walking around on the verge of tears and about to fall apart. My nerves were on edge, I wasn’t even sure if our church would hold together if word got out, and now it is confirmed – some blabber mouth has let word leak out! All this within 48 hours. This was bad. Real bad.

Now I have two problems on my hand – the business of arranging new financing with another bank, while trying to calm the fear and panic that is beginning to set in our congregation. Hey man, I was about to fall apart myself but now I have a church that is about to fall apart too….. all because of one man.

I knew who did it.

Have you ever experienced a tooth ache? Have you ever suffered a broken ankle? Well that’s what it is like to put your confidence in an unfaithful person in a time of trouble – very grievous and painful. Here we were in the most critical time of our church’s short history and some tale bearer can’t keep quiet! His loose lips threatened the very existence of our church! Church business became church gossip. Confidential discussions became dinner conversation. He was as unfit and unqualified for leadership as a human being could be, yet I was saddled with the burden of working with this man because of the system we had in place at the time.

This man betrayed confidences at least a dozen times, hurting a lot of people. I kept a journal of what he did. I could never reveal to you all his other offences because they involve people. But this instance of church business I can reveal.

He doesn’t work for us any more.

Of course he went out very loudly taking some people with him. Someone with loose lips would. On his way out he lied, fabricated stories, and did a great deal of damage to me personally and to our church. This man turned into such a son of perdition that he blasphemed all that was good and decent. And he used the small group he was part of to do his nasty work.

Even in the days before this incident occurred, loose lips were a problem with others. I had one lady who served on our management team who was such a blabber-mouth that any business we discussed in private meetings became church fodder the next day. At first I couldn’t figure out where all this trouble and tension was coming from. Then I found out. She doesn’t work for us any more either. She went out very loudly too. People with loose lips are always loud.

You wouldn’t believe how many times this has happened. It is a pure miracle that Pace Community Church has survived. It’s a miracle that I survived.

I fixed the system that was putting people like this in place. Now, the people who currently serve on staff and on our corporate board have tight lips, the highest integrity, and a genuine call of God on their life…. because they are hand picked by others who meet the same criteria. Birds of a feather flock together.

Matthew 18:17 (KJV)17And if he shall neglect to hear them, TELL IT TO THE CHURCH: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.

This is no longer a secret. Just ask.


Milltownstorage said...

Pastor Ron, Thanks for being a true Leader! Leaders are like Eagles. Then have great vision, never eat dead meat, look for and flies into storms and very gentle & attentive to their young! Thanks again for your leadership! James Wheelus

Anonymous said...

The goal of trouble makers in any church is to destroy the Pastor. If they can succeed in this endeavor then they have gained a foot hold.

Thank you for standing up for what is right according to God's standards & not man's. You are a strong & dedicated leader that will never allow the Judas' to side track you in fulfilling the vision God has set before you. Because of your impeccable reputation & Godly character PCC has been blessed.

God called Moses to lead the Children of Israel. He did not call the children of Israel to lead Moses.

Jesus said, "Upon this rock I will build my church & the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." Matthew 16:18 KJV

More churches need Pastors like you who have a back bone & will stand up agianst those who seek to destroy God's work.

Jewel K. Christian

Ron said...

Thanks for the encouragement. But I can’t really take much of the credit for myself. At the end of the day it is God’s church and I’m one of many servants who attend and lead at PCC. These things fall my lot because it’s the role I’ve been called to fill. If I was a Sunday School teacher I would do that with my best effort too.