Let’s face it, sometimes there are significant differences in what a preacher and an eldership believe they have agreed upon or the duration of said agreement. Even if it becomes more toxic than tenable both parties WANT to be or at least say they want to behave as Christians. I hate to admit it but I have seen both ministers and elders stretch that beyond credibility. Please notice, this is the exception, it is rare, most times both try to and do deal with each other without a massive breakdown. But how do you handle it when it doesn't work out.
Be careful: The Bible is clear that it’s a mighty big thing to accuse an elder (1 Timothy 5:19). I know there is a ton of emotion involved when one is hurt by a congregation or her leaders. That, by itself, should be a warning for us to proceed with caution. I find when I act out of emotion I am more prone to act rashly and foolishly. I’d advise seeking counsel and wisdom from godly people ANYTIME your emotions are running high and then to proceed without speed.
Be aware: ALL elders and elderships are human. If an elder could not make a mistake he would be perfect and there was only One who fills those shoes. There would also not be a pattern given to receive (i.e. hear) accusations if there were never a possibility there could be one. A few items must be suggested here. Just because you CAN bring an accusation, does not mean you SHOULD bring one. Some of us in ministry seem to hold elders in such a position that we set ourselves up for disappointment. We are fine, and amen, the concept that elders can sin and can make mistake until such a mistake involves us or our family is hurt by the mistake. Sometimes we should be willing to just take a loss.
Be certain: Anytime an agreement is entered in between you and an eldership be certain to put everything thing down in writing. This is NOT a matter of trust but of reality. Sometimes we all forget what has been agreed upon. When presenting it, put it on yourself not them. It is also true that sometimes there are changes in an eldership, I’ve had a complete turnover in my eldership since coming here. Finally, a document in writing helps clarify what is being said. If you did not get one when you started then you should suggest one as soon as possible. Even if your elders do not acknowledge it, write down as best you can honestly remember what was promised, agreed upon.
Find a brother: If your elders do not acknowledge what they promised or will not live up to what they promised there are only two legitimate possibilities. One you can seek out a brother both parties trust and strive in Christian love to arbitrate. See if a workable conclusion can be met.
Move on: With all of that said, if there appears to be no solution there is really only one suggestion. Move on. Yes, it hurts. Yes, it will cost you greatly. Yes, it is sinful on their part. But you really have no choice. The Bible prohibits you from taking them to court and that would only give the church a black eye anyway. So, write out clearly where you feel you have been wronged, give a copy to the elders and let them know you are moving on because you do not want to do any harm to the local church. And, I know you want to argue with me on this, but you will only do harm to the local body if you do otherwise.
Move on: Part two. Pray for your own heart and spirit that you not become bitter. Learn what you can from the experience what you might do different in the future to avoid this again and throw it in the ocean and move on. Remember it is only when we suffer when we do good that we get to most deeply identify with Christ (1 Peter 3:8-22).
Bless you brothers. Our long and vast experience has shown that our brothers and their families in ministry are some of the most gracious, long-suffering and humble people on earth. Even if that is not rewarded or recognized here, it is recognized WHERE it matters, THERE!
Feel free to post your additions below.