Any impression or expectation that the Church was – or ever will be – perfect this side of heaven is mistaken. There is plenty of evidence of that in the letters of the Apostle Paul to the early churches. I see it daily in the ministry of clergy renewal and restoration how “less than perfect” we can treat each other – especially our ministers. Instead of shining like a beacon, our representation of Jesus and the Gospel sometimes looks more like a light stuffed tightly under a bushel, duct-taped to the floor, and sat on.
But, the very same ministry also provides the chance to see the Church shine like the city on a hill it was meant to be. In the midst of the disappointment and outright anger – from outside as well as from within – the Church does get it right innumerable times and in ways that rarely get noticed.
These are the times when the Church shines!
There are countless prescriptions offered these days for clergy to help themselves: read this book, go to this conference, try this method. I wonder if it doesn’t buy into and reinforce our American propensity for individualism. Yes, we need to take personal responsibility and grow. But when it comes down to it, you can't fix yourself! Especially when you are mired in a sense of discouragement, failure, or uncertainty.
It isn’t unusual for us, as human beings, to want to retreat into personal isolation when we have been hurt; to lick our wounds in private, and protect ourselves from further harm. However, for real healing to come – especially when the wounds have been inflicted by the very community we have been called to serve – it must come within the context of community.
In these times, I have seen the Church be the hands and feet of Jesus in the lives of ministry families that have been wounded and forced out of leadership. I’ve watched as clergy and their families have moved from despair to hope, from second-guessing their worth and calling to having their sense of purpose renewed. When a body of believers signs up to become a Refuge Church, they have the opportunity to live out the Gospel and grace of Jesus Christ in front of everyone.
Churches that become Refuge Churches, surrounding a ministry family in need, enter into what someone has called the “healing partnership.” It is a partnership between God, the exited ministry family, and the church. It is a partnership that I have seen restore faith in God AND the Church, through love and grace expressed in hospitality, listening, prayer, encouragement and honest relationships. It is a partnership that has helped hundreds of ministry families regain their footing. It is a partnership that lets the Church shine!
Cultural battles will continue, imperfect people will continue to be unkind and hurtful, and our brokenness will always be visible. But the last twenty years of my own personal experience – and specifically the last five years in this ministry – have provided me with a different perspective.
In one church at a time, with one minister and his family at a time, we at PIR Ministries are honored to be a part of encouraging that partnership; and helping to change the image of the Church. And not just for ministers and church people. It could be that there are those watching – with broken lives and who don’t know this Jesus we serve – who might find a glimmer of hope for themselves as they watch a church become a place of refuge for a wounded or fallen leader. Perhaps, when the Church shines in offering grace and kindness to one of its own, those looking on might be able to sense there is a place for them.
“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (Jn. 13:35)
Let the Church shine!
If you or your church would like to explore becoming a Refuge Church, please visit our website at www.pirministries.org. You can also email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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God’s servants need hope! Roy’s personal experience has shaped him in unique ways to come alongside the many ministers and their families who are “exited,” have fallen or are just plain burned out in ministry. He pastored for 17 years in an evangelical denomination. As a result of a major “crash and burn”, Roy experienced both the discipline and the grace of God through years of slow but steady growth, restoration and renewed hope. Prior to joining PIR Ministries in 2012, Roy spent 16 years in industry, focusing on management and quality systems.
Roy served as a Regional Director for PIR Ministries from 2012 to 2016; and was appointed the Executive Director of PIR Ministries in 2016.
Roy and his wife, Deb, have been married for 42 years. Roy is an ordained ruling elder and regular teacher at Grace Chapel EPC in Michigan. He is a graduate of William Tyndale College.