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Books for After Pastor Ministry

When a Congregation Is Betrayed: Responding to Clergy Misconduct

Healing the Heart of Your Church

Toxic Churches: Restoration from Spiritual Abuse

When Bad Christians Happen to Good People

When a Congregation Is Betrayed: Responding to Clergy Misconduct
Edited by Beth Anne Gaede
The Alban Institute, 2006 - 227 pages, paperback
Rating: 5 stars

This densely written volume contains all the basics anyone may need when ministering to a church which has suffered Ministerial Misconduct. While it focuses most specifically on sexual miscunduct, the information will be helpful for all varieties of misconduct.

The most helpful sections (given my brief involvement in After Pastor Ministry) seem to be section 3, "Roles and Responsibilities". However, even the more theoretical parts show insight by noting the weaknesses as well as the strengths of various approaches.

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Healing the Heart of Your Church:
How Church Leaders can break the pattern of historic corporate dysfunction
Dr. Kenneth Quick
ChurchSmart, 2003 - 169 pages, paperback
Rating: 3 stars

This book soars as it discusses the case study of Quick's church where he first came up with his concepts. That study and the analysis of various types of church/member dysfunctions (i.e. sins) alone may be worth the price of the book. But the book crashes to the ground when he tries to apply the concepts to areas vastly different from his orignial experience.

As a young pastor Quick entered a troubled church and along the way added plenty of his own mistakes. We've all been there. Quick helped his church examine their past (Interim Task #1: "come to terms with their history/heritage") and took the dramatic and biblical next step of confessing his own sins and of aligning his sins with those of his predecessors. This brought a dramatic healing of his congregation and is a good model for that circumstance.

However, out of this he built the concept of mediatorial authority (more or less biblical) where the pastor takes on and confesses the sins of his predecessors (huh?!). And that is the place he crashes to the ground. Indeed, he goes on to suggest that an incoming After Pastor (not called as such in the book) stand up and personally confess sins including abuse perpetrated by another, identifying himself as that person. I can think of no more dangerous or unproductive move than to identify myself as the person of the pastoral pedophile or philanderer or embezzler who preceded me.

Interestingly, even though Quick identifies and diagnoses very well churches that abuse pastors, he never suggests that the congregation ever repent as a whole and ask forgiveness of their past pastors. Instead, he suggests a church board stand in place of the church. Thus the abusive church never has to look at its own sin and repent. I would not want to be the next pastor in that church.

Read the book for the excellent analysis and diagnostic descriptions, and take Quick's remedies with a large truckload of salt.

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Toxic Churches: Restoration from Spiritual Abuse
Mark A Dupont
Chosen Books (a division of Baker Books), 2004- 189 pages, paperback
Rating: 2 stars

This book should be titled Toxic Leaders since it views spiritually abusive churches as solely the effect of abusive senior pastors. All of us know that hardly matches reality. Still, Dupont provides a decent profile of spiritually abusive leaders. What he never does is tell how to bring a church into recovery from such abuse (despite the book's subtitle). What little advice he gives will be destructive to a church's life - "forgive or else". Chapter 12 The Freedom of Forgiveness deals entirely on the obligation of forgiveness. Never does he deal with the issue of repentance, apology, or amends by the abuser. Nor does he tell people how to forgive. If you tell people to forgive and not how to forgive, you also commit a form of spiritual abuse. (Unfortunately, all too many pastors do that regularly. Fortunately, Lewis Smedes has provided us with Forgive and Forget to fill in this gap.) This book also suffers from being parochially Pentecostal in setting and language. Read it for the diagnosis, but do not recommend this to anyone who has suffered spiritual abuse.

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When Bad Christians Happen to Good Pepole
Dave Burchett
Waterbook Press(a division of Random House), 2002 - 243 pages, paperback
Rating: 4+ stars

If you don't like books by smart-alec Christians, then don't buy this one. If you buy it, understand that Burchett (ESPN producer) is a deeply sincere Christian who has earned the right to laugh at the church (and himself). He is one of the victims of "bad Christians" and will detail for you in painful depth the kinds of ways that we harm the faith of both Christians and outsiders. Then he will take you beyond this into self-reflection on how each of us (including Burchett himself) can change the church by changing ourselves and then others and the institution itself.

While Burchett's humor is charming and sometimes devilishly sharp, you will miss the worth of this book if you do not finish it. Section III: Reality-Based Faith for Survivors will give you plenty of ideas of how we (as the church) can do better in living- out the life of Christ. While he takes shots at the whole 2000 presidential debacle which may irritate Democrat-leaning readers, please note his crucial point that we act as partisans and (as the book unChristian points out) this is one of the great critiques of the church by outsiders.

Those involved in After Pastor work will need to work hard to apply the insights in this book to their situation (especially since most of the "bad Christians" Burchett describes are non-pastors). However, this book touches on so many ways that Christians hurt each other, it would be a loss to not read it.

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