LifeWay executive addresses churches' 'dirty little secret'

by Charles Willis, posted Wednesday, May 05, 1999 (19 years ago)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--Mike Miller's heart message to churches springs from what he feels is a "dirty little secret" shared by many congregations today: a lack of harmony between the pastor and the church, ranging in intensity from nagging frustration to outright hostility.

Miller, director of the church leadership group at LifeWay Christian Resources, writes in a LifeWay Press volume, "Honoring the Ministry," of the biblical principles of honor in an effort to encourage appropriate honor for all the ministers and leaders God has given churches.

To avoid the awkwardness a minister may naturally feel in discussing the topic in his church, Miller has addressed his message to deacons, the ones he believes to be the most influential lay leaders in churches.

As a minister, Miller said he has become increasingly alarmed about the relationships among pastors, church staff, lay leaders and church members.

Today, he said 23 ministers and their families are affected by forced terminations each week within the Southern Baptist Convention.

"It isn't right," Miller lamented. "How do we get to this problem? When the leadership and the church are not together, everything goes into the ditch."

Miller said he went to the Bible for answers and concluded, "What must be restored in every church are the principles of biblical honor -- honoring God, one another, and the focal point of double-honor to the minister."

The two-year study, he said, "had a personal, spiritual affect on my life. The urgency came back to me about the issue of forced terminations."

And while the most recent figures from LifeWay's LeaderCare ministry indicated instances of forced termination have declined, Miller declared, "We have a commitment at LifeWay to see forced terminations reduced to zero."

Miller believes deacons can do more to impact the stability of a church than any other group. One area in which he wants to see deacons assume leadership is that of annual service anniversary recognition.

LifeWay research indicates that among 1,400 ministers, fewer than 20 percent receive any kind of annual recognition.

"This can't be right," Miller said. "How can God honor a church if it doesn't have a proper relationship with the pastor?"

Miller wants deacons and other lay leaders to take a look at the relational love and respect in the church.

"We don't say 'thank you' to people. We don't recognize people," he said. "If church people don't honor one another and their ministers, they are not honoring God.

"Most churches have more policies for weddings, flowers and custodial needs than they do for dealing with conflict between the minister and the church," he continued. "Failure to talk about this issue has made it worse."

Honoring the Ministry offers deacons, personnel committees, pastor-search committees and other church members ideas for improving the practice of honor for ministers.

Among topics Miller addresses are the need for honor in the church; honoring God, others and God's ministers; dealing with ministers and church problems; and selection of new staff members.

"Honoring the Ministry" may be obtained by calling LifeWay Christian Resources at 1-800-458-2772, in local LifeWay Christian Stores or on-line at www.lifewaystores.com .

Conferences based on Miller's book will be offered during National Conference for Church Leadership at LifeWay Conference Center Glorieta (N.M.), July 2-5 and July 5-9 and at LifeWay Conference Center Ridgecrest (N.C.), July 12-16 and July 16-19. Registration may be made by calling Glorieta at 1-800-797-4222 or Ridgecrest at 1-800-588-7222. Additional information on National Conference for Church Leadership may be obtained by calling (615) 251-2055.

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