It is tragic enough to deal with trouble from outside of the church, but it's worse when those who should work for the well-being of the church become part of the problem and not part of the solution. It's not the circumstances of life that people have little or no control over that directly holds the small church hostage, but it's the circumstances in life that people have a reasonable amount of, or a lot of control of, that holds the small church hostage. Through these writings, awareness, and enlightenment will come to this devastating quagmire that plagues many of our churches. We will no longer continue to be in danger of being The Church Held Hostage.
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The Church Held HostageThe plight of the small local church
By Alfred A. Dingle Sr.
Trafford PublishingCopyright © 2010 Pastor Alfred A. Dingle Sr.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe Beginning of My Lesson
In the year of 1996, in the month of July, I was called to be the pastor of the Memorial Baptist Church. The church was located at 19 - 21 Magnolia St. in the city of Newark NJ at that time. It appeared to be a nice small church with a whole lot of potential. I was very impressed by the inner appearance of the sanctuary. It let me know that someone had been hard at work. The late Rev. Bonney, the previous pastor, had been called home to be with our Lord in that same year a few months earlier. I was 33 years of age by that time with a young family. I was married with three children. My first born, Alfred Jr. was 13, my second born, Clarysha was 11, and the youngest Christopher was 8 years old. I was extremely ambitious and full of life and expectations for the church and my new ministerial responsibility. I'd planned on using at my disposal all the gifts and abilities bestowed to me by our wonderful Savior's Spirit to take the Memorial Baptist Church to a greater level under my leadership. It was my goal and my intention to build on the foundation of my forerunners and take Memorial to a new plateau. After all, I came from a well taught church and good leadership. I had the example of a good pastor, the Rev. Willie W. Wilson, and working strategies. My home church, the Mount Calvary Baptist Church in Jersey City, NJ, was an active church that in many ways functioned as a well oiled machine. Adding to that, I'd become active in that ministry. I was a part of many of the ministries in the church. I participated in the music ministry as lead and bass guitarist, with the choirs as director and at time leading songs. I taught and participated in various classes and served as the assistant to the pastor, just to name a few. I worked and fellowshipped well with the deacons and the other church officers. Because I knew that my ministry consisted of more than the pulpit, I was willing to work where I was needed. I wanted to bring all these experiences with me. It was not my intention to transform the Memorial Baptist Church into another Mount Calvary Baptist Church, but it was my intention to enhance Memorial. It was my desire, and I believed the vision which God the Almighty had given me, to do great things at and with the church. But I was in for a rude awakening. I was not aware of what laid ahead. There was a spirit and a mentality that had gained a strong hold on the church. This hold had no intention of letting go, but appeared to gain momentum down through the years. There was a spirit of complacency as well as an unwillingness to grow. There was a satisfaction of remaining that size or minimizing the growth of the church. I didn't realize it at the time and it has taken me about 11 years or so to obtain some type of understanding that the church had been in a hostage position. I am and have been in war against this spirit and mentality for most of my pastorate. It was only in the recent year or so that I've been enlightened to why. For many times I've questioned my ability to pastor. Many times I doubted myself critically. Many times I've viewed myself as a failure, and felt like giving up. I know that there are many things I could and should have done differently. I know that there was much more I could have and should have done. But to say that the church would have been where I'd hoped, in all honesty, it is hard to say. But I do believe that some things would have been different. I found consolation in the fact that I was not alone. I've learned down through the years that those who were before me enter the pastorate position with like passion and enthusiasm as I. They worked diligently and unselfishly to lead the church in the direction they were moved by the Spirit to go. But they too had to deal with this hostage spirit that got a hold to the church. For had they been able to truly achieve all what was in their heart to do, the church would have possibly been much further than it was. I may have walked into a church of mega proportions. I dare not say, in any wise, that they failed, because they did not. Not by a long shot. For to say that they failed, is to say that God failed and God will never fail. So much has been accomplished through their efforts and leadership. I'm grateful to the Lord Jesus Christ that there still remains a remnant of the leaders, as well as people who can witness of the struggles and successes of their leadership. I was informed that only two others, prior to myself, was pastor for a significant number of years. The Rev. Bennett Johnson, who pastors the Greater Mount Moriah Baptist Church in Newark NJ and the late Rev. C.F. Bonney were pastors there for about 8 years each. All others in between pastorates were brief. I also found consolation in my fellow pastors and other congregations. They let me know that many churches are in the same struggle. But most of all I thank God that I've found encouragement in the Holy Scriptures. The apostles continued to encourage the New Testament churches through times of mayhem and manipulation tactics. I've often wondered 'why the struggle Lord?' Every time it appeared that the church was on the move, it seemed like the bottom would fall out. So many times I had to battle the spirit of jealousy when I saw other ministries growing, while at the same time it was hard to keep the bills of the church paid. Many times I had to forfeit monetary gifts I should have received from the church in order for the church to meet its obligations. Some times that wasn't enough. I've had to sacrifice paying my own bills in an effort to help the financial situation of the church. So often and even now I fight frustration, disappointment, and feelings of inadequacy as a pastor. But I've come to terms with the purpose of these ministerial struggles. As unpleasant and uncomfortable as it was and can be, the Lord had to let me experience these dilemmas for His glory and to gain this information. As Joseph proclaimed in the scriptures, I also echo the same sentiment What was meant for evil, God meant for good. The Spirit of the Almighty God, informed me that these situations are for the benefit of letting other pastors and small churches know, who are also in the struggle, that you are not alone in your battles against these wrong spirits at work in the church. It wasn't then or is it now for me to accept defeat, but to expose the problem and let others, who are still struggling as I and the Memorial Baptist Church, know that faithfulness in spite of the conditions will be rewarded by God. For the race is not given to the swift, neither the battle to the strong but to the one who endureth to the end. The Memorial Baptist Church is currently located at 355 -357 14th Ave., in the city of Newark NJ. We are presently experiencing a period of endurance and purging as well as a period of preparation for God's movement and blessings. For the Scripture says in Galatians 6:9; "And let us not be weary in well-doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not." Therefore, I am confident that when the Lord is ready, He can and He will move mightily at the Memorial Baptist Church. Romans 8:31; "What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?" So for those who are enduring what I and the church are enduring, be encouraged. As the scripture says, 1 Corinthians 15: 58; "Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord; forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord."
Chapter TwoThe Plight of the Small Local Church
There are many small local churches being held hostage. Those which are not currently in this condition are in danger of being held in a hostage position. It may be unpopular to say and an unfortunate situation to be in, but there are many churches being held hostage. How is this accomplished? In the small local church most of the work done is done on a voluntary basis. When people who don't share the vision that has been given to the angel of the church, who is the pastor, by the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the head of the church, it can put the church in a hostage position. Not sharing the vision doesn't necessarily mean working against the leadership only, but also not working at all. Some people in the church have their own vision for the church, which at times differ drastically from the Pastor's vision, while others want to take a neutral position. People will use tactics of intimidation and threats of membership relocation, either spoken directly to the pastor or spoken to others in the church of what they will do if things don't go their way. I must say that it is extremely important for people to have the opportunity to share their concerns and ideas about the church. Everyone in the church should and must have a voice. But unless there are biblical dialogs as well as understanding that what we do is for the promulgation and edification of the kingdom of God, our own agendas will supersede God's agenda. Plus, there are some people in the church that just do not put in as much enthusiasm in working for the church. Because in all honesty there is either no salary involved, or the financial stipend is minimal. Some people do what they do for what they can get out of it. It must be understood that we are to communicate with each other in a rational and loving manner.
I thank God that in every church there is what I call the faithful few. These are the members of the congregation who are dedicated and sincere concerning their church. These are the ones that make the sacrifices needed for the church to move on. It is on the backs of the faithful few that the small churches primarily operate. It is the dedication of the willing workers that support the continuation of the small branches of Zion. I thank God for the faithful few that exist in all of our churches who share the vision with the God appointed leaders. Thank God for the prayers of the faithful few.
Chapter ThreeWhat is a hostage situation?
I'm sure that a general concept of what is a hostage exists in the minds of many people. But for clarity and support of this concept as it relates to the church, it would be to our advantage to view the definition of the word in order to substantiate how it relates to the small church dilemma. What is a hostage situation? The word hostage is defined as followed.
Hostage / hos·tage
hos·tage [hóstij] (plural hos·tages) n
1. Captive held for ransom: somebody held prisoner by a person or group, for example, a criminal or a terrorist organization, until certain demands are met or money is handed over
2. Somebody manipulated by another: a person or group of people whose freedom of action is restricted or controlled by a more powerful organization by implied threats or other means
3. Security or pledge: a person or thing given or held as security (archaic) [13th century. From Old French (h) ostage, from late Latin obsidiatus "hostageship," literally "sitting in the way of," from, ultimately, sedere "to sit."] a hostage to fortune a remark or action that could potentially lead to trouble or difficulty and so is better avoided
Encarta ® World English Dictionary © & (P) 1998-2004 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.
How are hostage situations created?
There are at least 3 ways hostage situations are created.
1. By power play
2. By manipulation
3. By inferiority complex
1. By Power Play
One way that creates a hostage situation is when a person or group of people overpower another person or group of people and hold them against their will. When an individual or team (the hostage holder or holders) manifest strength and gain control over another individual or team (the hostage or hostages), the hostage or hostages become subject to the will and authority of the holder or holders. The hostage or hostages become the prisoner and /or slave to the holder.
How does this relate to the church?
The way this situation relates to the church is by people who are very forceful and loudly opinionated. There are people in the church that have gained positions of power and intimidate others in the church, either to support their agenda or not stand against them. I faced a few situations at Memorial from people who had positions of power and didn't want to compromise for the growth and well being of the church. They were very insistent on implementing their agenda. They would do or say what they felt necessary to force others to back them or to back down.
2. By Manipulation
Another way that creates a hostage situation is through manipulation. It is also possible to create a hostage situation when a person or group is manipulated, tricked, deceived into believing that the holder has a weapon or has power at their disposal that they don't actually have.
How does it relate to the church?
The way in which this situation relates to the church is when people in the church capitalize on the fears, weaknesses and concerns other members have in the church and manipulate them. When a person feels overlook, under appreciated or betrayed by someone in the church, rather it's by the pastor, officers, or other people, the manipulator communicates with them in a way to further fuel the problem rather than attempt to put out the fire. Once they believe that the door is open for their foolish ideals, they will attempt to influence people in order to promote their program. This type will attempt to convince other members that they are one of the few in the church that knows what should be done. This type tries to convince others that their way, that is the manipulator, is the best way. They too will say and do whatever they deem necessary to get their way.
Another way manipulators operate is by gaining the confidence of others, persuading them of their false love for the church. There are people who profess love for God, the pastor and the church and try to project the image of concern. But truthfully they are primarily concerned about their own agenda. They camouflage their selfish idealism under the covers of love. Love is not one sided. If they truly loved their church and their pastor, they would be cooperative and instrumental in helping the church come together. Their intention would be a desire for the growth of God's kingdom, the growth of the church at large and its well being.
3. By an Inferiority Complex
Another way that a hostage situation is created is by the weakness of a person or group of people. When one believes that they are inferior to another.
How does it relate to the church?
This situation relates to the church when people believe they have little or nothing to offer God's program. Some, I believe, are intimidated by the talents and the abilities of others. When they compare themselves and their abilities to others, they may quite possibly feel that what they have is not good enough to participate in the program. I believe for this reason they are reluctant to participate in the church. Many will not testify, sing or serve because secretly they may possess feelings of inadequacy.
Chapter FourThe Perpetrators and How They Perpetrate.
The perpetrators holding the small church hostage consist of at least two groups of people. Both, no doubt, will insist that they are not guilty of this act, but unfortunately, they are. One group performs this directly and the other indirectly. One set does this intentionally, while the others do it ignorantly. In other words, some know exactly what they are doing, while the others may not be fully aware of what they are doing. Rather it is the pastor, deacons, deaconesses, clerks, secretaries, trustees, musicians, choir directors, choir members, teachers or any positions needed and useful, they can be perpetrators. There are various ministries necessary in the church for it to function as it should. One person can't do it all. In a church with a small congregation it becomes necessary for people to do more than one job. Even when ministerial activity decreases, having multiple church responsibilities still exist. In most cases, the smaller the amount of people, the more hats have to be worn by the same people. There are some parishioners who do what they do for the love of God and the Lord Jesus, their church and their pastor. But unfortunately, some people do what they do to gain power and position in the church. It would be beneficial if it were done for the right reason and with a healthy attitude. But when a church becomes reliant on people with the wrong attitude and selfish motives, they become or are at risk of being hostage to them. They make an effort to show some people how valuable they are and the church can't do without them. These people have developed the mentality that the church can't function without them. They have the mentality that if I don't do it, then it won't get done. Unfortunately, in some aspects, they are right. At times, in order to prove their point, they won't do their duty so people will recognize what they do in the church. They shun their responsibility because they are in position to hold the church hostage. One of two things will happen. Either someone else will have to take on additional responsibilities, or the work must go undone. How the perpetrators can hold the church hostage is by the following:
1. Those who are not concerned about fulfilling their duties adequately and efficiently because they believe they can't be replaced, simply because there's no one to take their place.
Excerpted from The Church Held Hostage by Alfred A. Dingle Sr. Copyright © 2010 by Pastor Alfred A. Dingle Sr.. Excerpted by permission of Trafford Publishing. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
The Beginning of My Lesson....................1
The Plight of the Small Local Church....................7
What is a hostage situation?....................11
The Perpetrators and How They Perpetrate....................17
The Disadvantage of a Small Congregation....................23
How Absenteeism Harms the Small Congregation Church....................33
The Advantages of the Small Local Church....................41
Heading toward Liberty from hostage ship....................45
Still Learning and Growing:....................57
Outreach Ministry Questionnaire Survey....................59