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A Tale of Two Pastors, Part Four--Served With Papers.

By Raul Rivera

This story is a continuation of part three...three months later

Pastor Jones* had always done his best to be a good steward of the ministry entrusted to him, and though his efforts were imperfect, they were wholehearted and had resulted in ministry growth. The church was now at 325 members, and to Pastor Jones' relief, he had not heard anything more from the divisive board member, Abel, who had been voted out at the surprise board meeting just three months prior. It appeared to all of the board that Abel had quietly accepted his dismissal.

Opportunity comes knocking for Pastor Jones

Meanwhile, a state grant had flung wide the doors of opportunity, and outreach to the community was in full swing. With an after school program that paid the church to tutor about 65 students, the pastor hired some of the private and public school teachers within the church to function as tutors for the program. Pastor Jones was excited, not only for the income stream it generated for the church, but moreover for the direct contact that his church now had with the children and their parents as they came to drop-off and pickup their children in the sanctuary on a daily basis.

Served with papers

It was a Friday afternoon and the church sanctuary was buzzing with children. Aside from the 65 children in the after school program, the church also offered a Kid's Club that allowed other children to come and play games in the afternoon while their parents worked. An outreach of its own, the Kid's Club provided children a chance to hear the gospel and experience community while having fun. Life at the Littlerock Church was thriving and church membership participation was at an all-time high. Then the visitor came! It was nothing new to see a perfect stranger come to the church office, but this visitor seemed a bit different from the start. Well dressed and insistent, he only wanted to speak with pastor Jones-who happened to be running errands and not expected to return for at least an hour-and so the guest sat patiently in the office lobby, viewing everyone who came and went through the glass doors. It was noticeable that he was impressed with the activity at the church when he asked Melissa, the newly hired receptionist, if the church was always that busy...followed by, "Looks like a happening place."

Pastor Jones arrived just over an hour later. As he came through the entrance and noticed there was a visitor seated in the lobby, he immediately extended a warm welcome, inquiring if there was anything he could do for him. The visitor asked, "Are you Pastor Richard Jones?" "Yes, I am." The visitor then introduced himself as Mr. Winkler from Three Star Corporate Services and, with a lower than normal voice, told Pastor Jones that his church was being served to appear in court. Such a statement captured Pastor Jones' attention at once. Not desiring to take the conversation any further while in the lobby, Pastor Jones invited Mr. Winkler into his office where the two of them discussed the matter. Pastor Jones signed a few papers and Mr. Winker left.

Pastor Jones began to inspect the service of process, wherein he read that one Abel Z. Martinez, the former church board member that was ousted three months earlier, was suing the church. In the complaint he claimed that he was unlawfully dismissed from the board of directors because the vote took place at a board meeting for which he had not been given due notice. He further went on to state that the church bylaws only provided church membership with the authority to remove a board member; the authority did not rest with the pastor or the board.

Distraught, Pastor Jones immediately called his wife and explained what was going on. The two of them prayed together and asked God for wisdom; Pastor Jones then called each of the board members to an immediate meeting to discuss their options.

Opportunity knocks on Pastor Smith's* door

What a difficult summer it had been for Pastor Smith's church, but they were finally turning the corner. The economic downturn had produced a high level of unemployment, and therefore, a record level of requests for benevolence. But Pastor Smith had been ready for it, and eager to lay aside the monotony of the summer days, he now anticipated autumn and what he hoped would be a surfacing of new opportunities to grow as a church.

But before he could move forward he knew that he had to deal with Marciano Morales, a divisive board member who was unwilling to resign and very unreasonable to work alongside. Just like in Pastor Jones' church, this board member was hindering the congregation, and Pastor Smith had spent a considerable amount of energy pleading with him in private meetings, until Pastor Smith became convinced that his best efforts were falling on fallow ground. He checked the church constitution and bylaws and made sure that they followed the proper procedure for board removal. The bylaws revealed that the power to remove a board member belonged to the board of directors, with the pastor's approval, so long as they voted on the matter at a properly called board meeting.

Knowing the proper procedure, Pastor Smith called Marciano and asked him for a few minutes of his time. Over the telephone, he graciously made it clear to Marciano that he believed it was in the best interest of the church if Marciano resign from the board; he then told him of a special board meeting to be held 14 days later, whereby each board member would vote on the matter, and whereby Marciano had every right as a current board member to attend and voice his opinion. The next day, in keeping with the requirements of North Carolina §55A, Pastor Smith instructed Luisa, the church receptionist, to send out official notices of the upcoming board meeting to each board member by email and by regular mail. Attached to the notice was the agenda. Pastor Smith prayed for Marciano and his family.

Fourteen days later

Pastor Jones left very discouraged from his meeting with the church attorney, who, after reviewing all the church's corporate documents, felt that the church had a very weak defense. To begin with, the church had incorporated using the services of an attorney who was good at forming standard nonprofit corporations but unfamiliar with the specific needs of churches. This had resulted in articles of incorporation and bylaws that gave all power for adding and removing board members solely to the members of the church. Secondly, there was no written record ever showing that the members adopted a new set of bylaws. And though morally wrong in his attitude and actions, Abel had a strong case in court against the church.

That evening Pastor Smith and the board of directors held their special board meeting, with the usual refreshments and pastries spread over a table. He called the meeting to order and presented a letter of resignation that had been delivered to the church by regular postal mail. The resignation letter cited that due to strenuous circumstances through which he and his family were passing, Marciano Morales no longer felt that he would be able to adequately serve on the board of directors. Pastor Jones motioned to accept Marciano's resignation effective immediately. The board unanimously agreed, and the meeting was adjourned. Pastor Smith was now ready to embark on the new opportunities that lay ahead.

*The story of Pastor Jones and Pastor Smith is a series based on true life events of pastors all across America.  This series originated in the mind of our founder, Raul Rivera.  His experience with over 14,000 pastors and leaders has allowed him the opportunity to write these short stories.  Pastor Smith and Pastor Jones are generic names.  They are not the actual names of the real pastors and leaders who have gone through these events.  When this series first started, Raul used Pastor Winners and Pastor Losers as the generic names.  After several weeks, he received an email from a reader suggesting different names so that winners and losers are not defined by these stories.  It was a great suggestion.

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