How Christian is my ministry?

Cross and shadow

Used with permission.

I’ve just delivered a seminar called Ministry Employment Practices across Canada, and many people shared stories from their workplaces. The ones that stood out involved a few pastors who were fired with no notice and no pay in lieu of notice. I don’t want to identify the people, so I’ll just say that the worst case by far had these words associated with it: medical condition, reprehensible action by the employer, forced resignation, denial of responsibility, and absolute callousness. Stories such as these cause me to ask, “I’m sure your ministry has a Christian mission, but is it a Christian ministry?”

If you believe that action speaks louder than words, and that we should preach the gospel at all times (using words if necessary), then what are you preaching through your ministry’s actions? This is a really important issue because Jesus said in Mat 5:16, “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” If that’s what happens when they see our good deeds, what will happen when they see our bad deeds?

In my next post I’ll discuss how this idea applies to how you engage people outside of your ministry, but in this post I am focused on how you work with your own staff.

Casting off secular restraints

In Ontario, holders of religious office are entirely exempt from the Employment Standards Act (which provides minimum standards for notice of termination). Some churches think that because the legislation doesn’t apply to pastors, they can treat them any way they want! But they forget that Common Law still applies and the result in court will be what is fair and reasonable, not the minimum set by the Act.

In another province I was told the church counted on the pastor not going to the courts to sue fellow believers. But the bigger issue is, churches that terminate pastors without notice are showing that when secular restraints are cast off, this is how Christians choose to treat fellow Christians!!! What a terrible witness.

HR practices are our Christian witness

If you say you are a Christian ministry, then the way you work together as a team better be an excellent witness to what life is like in the kingdom of God. This is not only your responsibility before God, but it is also your responsibility to every other ministry that works in the name of Christ. Everything we do should reflect the righteous ways that God wants us to have with him and with each other.

How can we transform society if we can’t get our own Christian societies right? People should look at our churches and agencies and say, “I want a society that looks like that!”  All of our communities, whether a family, a church, a social network, or a work team, should bear witness to the kingdom that is coming and that has already broken in to our world. After all, this is the Good News and I don’t want anybody to look at us and say, “Thanks, but no thanks!” Job 31:13-14 says it all:

If I have denied justice to my menservants and maidservants when they had a grievance against me, what will I do when God confronts me? What will I answer when called to account?

Tough decisions do have to be made

There are times when employees need correction and development, and these should be done in the spirit of helping them better use their gifts and pursue their call, rather than punishing them. After all, what employer doesn’t want all of their employees to be highly successful?

There are times when ending the employment relationship is the right thing to do, but this should be done in the spirit of helping them find a place that better fits what they have to offer. I don’t know, but I expect that the cases that justify immediate dismissal for cause are far fewer than what many employers think.

My approach to difficult situations (of any kind) is to try to understand how God could redeem the situation for all parties. As hard as it may be, especially when people are emotional, I have found that in difficult situations there has always been a way that leaves all parties feeling better about the situation. I wish I could give examples, but for obvious reasons, I can’t. All I can say is, it is worth the time praying about and reflecting on what would be a good outcome for the other party.

In A passion for your mission, I said you need passion for the work of your ministry. Well folks, this is my passion for CCCC’s mission: that all ministries should operate in a manner that is worthy of Jesus Christ, in whose name we serve. May what I do in leadership never, ever bring reproach to the name of Christ! Amen.

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