Monday, March 25, 2013

The Devil in Pew Number Seven: A Review

Every pastor experiences at least one member who makes his ministry and life difficult.  Some endure people who make it a living hell.  Robert Nichols, unfortunately, had to have the latter.  Having worked through many of my own traumatic issues over the years with some incredibly challenging parishoners, I do have to say that Nichols tops it all.  You simply have to read the book from cover to cover to really appreciate what this man went through.  However, it's easy to get caught up in the horror of it all and miss the real point of the author: forgiveness. 

To tell the story in full here would be to spoil the ending if you don't already know it.  So I won't share too much, except to encourage you to read the book.  The book's author, Rebecca Nichols Alonzo, shares an incredible tale of survival on a physical, mental and spiritual level.  You find yourself wondering if you could have survived all that she endured.  Yet it also reminds you that no matter how bad your situation is, there are those who have suffered much worse, especially in terms of congregational dysfunction.  Still, the real healing is not survival, but reconciliation, a most helpful story for this time of year. 

4 comments:

Jeff said...

Trying to figure out how to respond to this. Any church that has just one such person is truly blessed. The pastor is not alone. The Board of Elders are given specific responsibility to aid the pastor in these matters. Would love it if the church had individuals who were not proud of their serving rather then proud of HIM whom they are supposed to be serving. Somewhere along the way, the word humble has taken a back seat, in many cases.

Donald V. Engebretson said...

It is true that the pastor is not alone, that goodness. However, it is possible for one person to have such influence as to over-dominate the rest; or, to intimidate them into a kind of quiet submission. Even church officers, such as elders, can find themselves intimidated by such a person and feel almost incapable of dealing with them in a constructive way. In the case of this story the one person, Mr. Watts, isn't a member and yet because of his economic clout and position in the community, no one feels that they can oppose his actions, which, after your read the book, you will discover are destructive in the extreme. Not every parish is exactly like this, but the dynamic exists in most parishes at some point in their history. Mr. Watts is just a very extreme example. He was motivated by jealousy and resentment, which turned into a violent kind of hatred. It seems almost unbelievable that such a person could exist in a Christian church, but as this story shows, it can happen. But again, the end of the story is the most important point of all: forgiveness and reconciliation.

Donald V. Engebretson said...

Sorry..."thank" goodness! (I don't think you can edit a comment after you post it.)

Jeff said...

I probably should read the book. :) One person can have a lasting negative effect on a church, especially over time. A pastor must deal with all sorts of situations that the members are not even aware of.