28 October 2016
I have been fighting a private battle that I have not really shared with any of you. I met
with Mick last week and explained to him my struggle and asked him what I should do about it,
and his recommendation was for me to lay out both for myself and for our church leadership what
some of my own “non-negotiables” were. In other words, what are the problems that I see that I
think desperately need to be fixed. And, with that, what are some solutions that, in order for me
to continue serving here, and for my own sanity, we must begin to agree on and move toward.
This is my attempt at doing that. I would like for us to meet next Thursday, November 3rd, at
6:00 PM to discuss it together.
I am wrestling with what needs to be done here at Whiteville and whether or not I have the
ability and capacity to fix it. This is almost always on my mind, and my constant struggling with
it has begun to spill over into my home. Last month, I drafted a resignation letter from the ministry.
That is to say, not resigning from this church, but from the ministry. I know that I cannot go at
this on my own, so this is my attempt to see if there is agreement on those things that I see as
problems and solutions. If there is, then I think we can work together toward those goals. If there
is not agreement, then I think the Lord would have me move on somewhere else, and move
someone in who sees things differently.
I see so much potential in our congregation, but I have become convinced that it will never
materialize if some major issues are not addressed. I feel as though our future meetings will be a
waste of your time and mine without first pausing to consider and address these issues.
In my estimation, we have several systemic problems that desperately need to be fixed before
we can move forward in any direction.
What problems do we have that must be addressed?
1) There is an unhealthy view of the pastor that stands at odds with the interpretation and practice of
the C&MA. (Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5; Ephesians 4:11-13; 1 Timothy 4:14; 2 Timothy 1:6)
a. The pastor is a “temp worker”.
i. This comment came from one of our elders in regards to his own view of the pastor.
This comment is eye-opening and concerning in and of itself. What is of even
greater concern is that not a single elder challenged that viewpoint. It is no wonder
that pastors have been met with stiff resistance from our church leadership (which
has been largely unchanged over several pastors) if the pastors are not viewed as
leaders at all.
b. The pastor is simply “one of us”.
i. When asked multiple times about the relationship between the pastor and lay
leadership, this has consistently been the answer. The pastor is an elder whose
voice is no louder or more authoritative than any other. Essentially, the voice of
the pastor is 20% (or less) of a group. This would be an uphill battle in and of itself,
but it is near insurmountable when the majority of voices are either related or have
deep bonds of friendship and partnership forged over a longer period of time than
the pastor has been alive.
c. The primary, and sometimes only, roles of the pastor are to preach on Sunday mornings,
visit people in the hospital, and chair church meetings.
i. This view allows no room for spiritual or organizational leadership. When biblical,
pastoral leadership is exercised, it seems to be viewed as the pastor “exceeding his
role” and is met with resistance. Positive change, of course, then becomes only a
vain and fleeting hope.
2) There is no vision and/or mission for the church apart from the school.
a. The ministry of the school so heavily dominates conversation that no community outreach,
no clear pathways to discipleship, no “missional” thinking can take place because of the
enormity of the ministry of the school.
b. Though we use terminology like “the school is a ministry of the church”, financial and
human resources tell a different story. Rather than the school being leveraged to further
the mission of the church, it seems as though the church exists for the benefit of the school.
Our money is tied up there as are our people and our leadership discussions. All those able
bodies who could so impact a community for Christ are all tied up in school activities.
Several are employed by the school, and many more volunteer all their available time to
athletics, support, or fundraising efforts.
3) There is no sense of “collective ownership” of church issues and decisions.
a. There was a strong consensus that clarity needed to the brought to church offices and
decision-making processes. Therefore, I drafted a “Ministry Manual” to clarify “who does
what” within the relationship of the church and school. The Governing Board, when
presented with this matter, decided to push this conversation to the elders, as they are the
governance authority of the church. The elders met twice about it, with both meetings
involving members leaving the meeting early in frustration. After only two meetings, the
decision was made to “let Justin and Sam handle it”. Following this series of meetings, I
was very disappointed in what those meetings communicated to me, which was that no one
in church leadership, other than Sam, was willing to put in the necessary time to deal with
such a huge problem. If it were never brought up again and nothing was changed, I don’t
know that anyone would suggest that we revisit it, even though it is such a troubling issue.
What this communicates to me is that either our church leadership does not acknowledge
this as a problem, or they are unwilling to put in the necessary time to work through the
4) Our church is financially unstable.
a. We are increasingly having trouble meeting our monthly mortgage payment. We are
constantly shifting money around from one internal account to another just to meet our
basic financial obligations. This only further convolutes the already ambiguous financial
picture of the church and school. On top of that, the board seems to be unwilling to drop
the price of our building in order to sell it and provide for our financial needs.
b. We are unable to pay our principal. Currently, Wayne Bailey Produce pays the $50,000
annual salary. This places an undue burden on one man who gives out of generosity, but
who, if we were financially healthy, would not have to so heavily and disproportionately
support the school.
c. The ministry of the school is heavily subsidized (roughly 20% of annual budget counting
fundraisers, principal salary, and other work and contributions) privately by individuals
within the church. Between the private contributions of businesses within the church, much
of the school’s ministry is accomplished. George mentioned at a recent board meeting that
he alone pumps roughly $90,000 into the school annually between paying the principal and
providing various fundraisers. If anything were to happen that would limit George’s (and
others) ability to give, the entire ministry would collapse. To put this in perspective,
George’s annual giving to the school is roughly equal to about two-thirds of the annual
church budget. This is very simply an unhealthy financial situation for everyone involved.
5) Relational dynamics cause church leadership to tend toward dysfunction.
a. Due to the interconnectedness of church leadership members, decisions have the potential
to cause interpersonal conflict, even if unanimously agreed upon by everyone.
i. The decision was unanimously made by the Board in 2015 to pursue a new
Headmaster for CCA. Even though this decision was unanimous, it seems to have
caused interpersonal tension and, even if it didn’t, it certainly carries with it a great
potential to do so. Since the results of that decision were carried out, emotions are
so high regarding decisions that affect the former Headmaster, Sam Hinson, that
these elevated emotions seem to hold honest opinions and, ultimately, decisions,
hostage. (Ex: Comptroller discussions that emerge at every Governing Board
meeting due to budgetary constraints)
ii. Though we have a tremendous need for new voices in church leadership (the
addition of Geoff, for example, has been greatly helpful and beneficial), I am
extremely reluctant to ask people to serve due to the troubling dynamics currently
So, what solutions am I proposing?
I do not simply want to lay out a laundry list of problems without proposing solutions that could
help us fix these problems. The first solution listed is my strong recommendation because I think
it will address and help resolve most of the problems listed above. However, the second option
would work, too.
We need to specify a goal for ministry; a very specific goal at which we aim and by which we
organize. I am laying out two options for us. While they are very different, they are equally
attainable. I am not proposing that we implement these plans overnight, but I do need to know if
we are willing to move in one of these two directions. However, if we are unwilling to take either
of these paths, I honestly believe that my time of usefulness in Whiteville is coming to a close.
The fact is, the only target we are shooting for right now is a month-to-month existence. If we do
not purposefully choose a path, we will continue to simply exist and feel “accomplished.” If we
are satisfied with just existing, then I cannot continue to dream and envision what the Lord wants
to do here with our church in Whiteville, with little hope of seeing those dreams and visions come
I am listing two options for us to consider, both of which require a shift in our understanding of
ministry and a shift in the organization and purpose of MAC & CCA. The first is a vision of the
school primarily as an outstanding academic Christian educational institution and the second is a
vision of the school primarily as a ministry of MAC. It is important to understand that I am asking
us to choose one or the other, not both. Trying to pursue both options will result in mediocrity in
both the church and school.
1) Option 1: THE SCHOOL EXCELS AS A CHRISTIAN EDUCATIONAL
INSTITUTION. If we do not merely want a ministry, but rather, and very differently, we
want an educational institution whose academic quality far exceeds the other educational
offerings in our county, we need to “plant” the school and set it free to truly flourish as a
bastion of Christian education managed by experts in that field. What would this look like
and how is this different from what we have now?
a. Under our current organizational structure, the school is so tightly controlled and
managed that it is not allowed to either succeed or fail as an organization.
i. CCA has never had the opportunity to blossom into a full-fledged
educational institution because it has always been supported and managed
by the Christian lay-leaders and pastors of MAC. We are not experts in the
field of education nor do we claim to be. However, by so closely managing
an educational institution, we are limiting its growth potential to that which
we know and can manage. As long as the school is managed and run by the
church, we will never see it grow into what it can become as an educational
ii. CCA has never had the opportunity to fail, due to the private subsidizing of
the school. I have been told that the school would have gone under several
times if not for the private support of individuals within the church. What
if it is the Lord’s will that the school ceases to exist? Are we comfortable
with that outcome or will we continue to, perhaps, artificially support
something that is unviable? I once heard a saying that altered my view of
ministry: “Where God guides, God provides.” In other words, if God is
leading His people in a certain direction, He will provide the means to
accomplish those purposes. If He is not providing, can we accept that as a
sign that He is not leading us to continue in that direction? Perhaps He is
trying to lead in a new and more glorious direction. (Think Acts 16 where
Paul is prevented from traveling to Asia despite his obvious longing to go.)
b. Our church has not experienced its full growth potential because of the school, and
the school is not allowed to grow to its full potential because of the church. The
statement here is referring to the mission and vision of the church and school, and
does not relate to finances.
i. A church is organized and managed by pastors and lay leaders. A school is
organized and run by educators, teachers, and administrators. The two think
and operate very differently from one another. However, as long as the
church must always consider the needs and demands of the school, and the
school must always consider the needs and demands of the church, neither
of the two will be able to realize their full potential as organizations.
1. It is important to note that I am not talking about the sharing of space
here. It is completely possible to share space and still accomplish
this objective. Just so long as there are very clear organizational
lines drawn between the two. For example: separate boards making
separate administrative decisions, having separate finances, but
understanding how the two relate to one another.
a. For example, we share the space on campus, which is
efficient and being a good steward of resources. However,
we are constantly juggling the church and school in our
interior building plans. The two utilize space quite
differently. (Churches are laid out and decorated to convey
purpose, mission, vision, etc. Schools are communicating
school events, fundraising, athletics, etc.) By having to
accommodate both, the front of our building is bare for lack
of consensus on a design, the lobby is bare, our walls are
bare, our sanctuary is bare, our fellowship hall is bare, etc.)
The school does not decorate for fear of infringement and
the same is true of the church. But, again, this is only a
symptom of the larger issue of purpose, mission, and vision
of the two organizations.
ii. Financially speaking, as long as the two are joined at the hip, money is
shifted back and forth from one to the other as needed, which only cripples
either organization from spending its own money as it sees fit. Not only is
this financially crippling, but it is also demoralizing to those who wish to
see the fruits of their labor in their given department.
1. Last summer, the church loaned tens-of-thousands of dollars to the
school in order to help it exist into this year. While that is not
necessarily a bad thing, it financially cripples the church from using
its funds on anything other than the school – mission trips, taking
youth to the LIFE conference, community outreach, investing
money into strategic discipleship programs, hiring staff, etc.
2. From the standpoint of being demoralizing, if the CCA Athletic
Department was, for example, making thousands of dollars per year
from our teams and facilities, but that money is taken from them and
poured into church functions or other school uses (paying staff,
lights, or mortgage). This demoralizes the very individuals who
have worked so hard to make that money for the athletic department.
This leads to apathy of our volunteer base and a high turnover rate.
c. If we truly wish to see both the school and church set free to grow into all that they
can be, we must adopt this mindset of “planting” a Christian school into our
community and trust the results to the Lord. Doing this would free up the church
from constantly discussing educational matters like accreditation, tuition costs,
scholarships, dress code, athletics, and a variety of other educational issues. Being
obligated to discuss school matters at the church board level soaks up valuable time,
which could be used to further the mission of the church.
2) Option 2: THE SCHOOL FUNCTIONS AS A MINISTRY OF THE CHURCH. This
option involves having the school truly function as a ministry of the church to the point
where the school is used by the church to further the mission and vision of the church.
What would this look like and how is this different from what we have now?
a. Right now, the school is a ministry of the church in name. However, other than a
couple of families who trickle into the church body from the school, it does not
serve to further the mission of the church in a profound way.
i. For example, a friend of mine serves at a church in Georgia that has a
Christian school as a ministry of the church. Like us, their school is
unaccredited. Therefore, they intentionally use their staff positions to hire
church personnel rather than qualified educators. Their worship leader,
youth pastor, and children’s director are all teachers at the school. In other
words, their teaching roles are a part of their official church duties. In this
sense, they leverage the school to further the mission of the church. What
would this look like for us? Consider this: We are an unaccredited school.
If we remain in this standing, we need to use our teaching positions as a
means of furthering the mission and vision of our denomination and our
church. The Alliance has a great vetting process and does most of the hard
work for us. If we truly wish to see the school serve as a ministry of the
church, we need to hire Alliance personnel (future missionaries, pastors,
and chaplains), which would not only bring more cohesion into the
church/school relationship, but also would certainly further the mission of
the church in our community.
b. Our goal would not simply be to continue to exist. I hear often, and it is said
proudly, that we have existed for 40 years. While that is a form of accomplishment,
we should not strive to simply continue to exist. This shift in thinking would
radically change our identity as a church and school. We would go from being “the
Christian school church” to a focused, missionary training and sending institution
the likes of which this region has never seen. Not only that, but the cohesion of our
staff would only increase as people of one heart and mind come together toward a
common vision. Furthermore, we could also leverage these fine men and women
for service in the church for the duration of their time in Whiteville. This would
prevent the pastor from serving as the Senior Pastor, Youth Pastor, and Worship
Pastor and hopefully, re-energize the body and increase personal involvement in
the local mission. In this sense, the school would truly serve as a ministry of the
church in every sense of the word, and not in name only.
I am, like each of us, invested in the work of Christ in this community. However, I have the lonely
task of being held accountable before God to a greater degree (James 3:1), regarding the ministry
here at Whiteville. This is a burden that I feel daily and that I take very seriously. This is the
reason for my grave concern for both the church and the school. As the pastor of the church, I am
held responsible and accountable for the fruit of both for as long as I am here. While I do not
intend this to sound threatening or combative, I have felt the effects of trying to work within a
system that I believe is fundamentally broken and that I constantly debate whether or not can be
changed. Furthermore, I just cannot lead an organization that is not moving toward any other
specific goal than the continuance of existence. It is maddening and I can feel my frustration often
come out in unfair and unreasonable ways in my home.
I am simply asking you to consider if you are willing to do two things. The first is to address those
issues that I feel are systemic problems. This requires agreement on the fact that they are problems
to begin with. The second is to take a very specific course of action with regard to the church and
school. Either of these two options is acceptable, but, as I have stated, I cannot continue to lead
an organization that I am so seemingly at odds with the direction, or lack thereof, that it is going.
I say all of this with malice toward none, but simply wanting to honor God and use our abilities in
a way that would see Him glorified like never before here in Whiteville.
Just a man trying to save his thoughts and correspondence