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By Dr. Tom Cheyney THE POLTERGEIST EFFECT IN CHURCH REVITALIZATION!

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1 By Dr. Tom Cheyney THE POLTERGEIST EFFECT IN CHURCH REVITALIZATION!

2 Remember the sci-fi horror movies of the 1980’s? There was a little adorable girl which in her tiny voice said “They’re back!” That meant that the monsters had returned and bad things were about to happen. In fact this series of films disturbed by Metro-Goldwin-Mayer revolved around the members of the Freeling family who were stalked and terrorized by a group of ancient ghosts that were attracted to the youngest daughter, Carol Anne. The Poltergeist films collected a total of about $132 million in the United States box office.

3 THE POLTERGEIST EFFECT IN CHURCH REVITALIZATION! The film was rated in the top 100 Scariest Movie Moments and the Chicago Film Critics Association named it the 20 th scariest film ever made. The Freeling family live in a quiet California community called Cuesta Verde and Carol Anne awakens one night and begins conversing with the family’s television set, which has started transmitting static. The next night while the family is asleep, Carol Anne becomes fixated on the television again. She announces the famous phrase: “ They’re here!” they were back and all types of trouble began to take place.

4 Every church has experienced the same poltergestic effect when disgruntled church members leave the church only to return in a short while because they have no where else to go!

5 THE POLTERGEIST EFFECT IN CHURCH REVITALIZATION! Usually they will “prop up” their return with remarks such as “we thought it was the only godly thing to do to give the pastor one more chance to do what God has called us to do!” The reality is where could they go and have a say in things? These individuals are accustomed with having their own way when they want it and will not be able to find that in a new church!

6 THE POLTERGEIST EFFECT IN CHURCH REVITALIZATION! Some pastors are unable to say goodbye and farewell to dead baggage which is hurting their churches! I have never been that way as you can see. I will not break a sweat over this because the Lord’s church is more important than all of us. This probably has more to do with me being an “I” on the DISC and it is the “C” or the “S” which is going to suffer over these leavings. The church revitalizer with his spiritual gifts is going to find it easier to look to the future with optimism – no matter who has just departed – than those who are primarily gifted with a high degree of mercy.

7 THE POLTERGEIST EFFECT IN CHURCH REVITALIZATION! Church Revitalizers who have a high degree of confidence do not struggle with this very much. When I was first starting out in ministry, I suffered as an insecure leader when people left my flock! Many a time I took it so personally when it wasn’t meant personally at all. It was John Maxwell who challenged me as a leader through his writings to stop doing that! What a waste of sorrow I was expending!

8 “ WHO STOLE MY CHURCH? ” Gordon MacDonald wrote about this with excruciating honesty in his fine book, “ Who Stole My Church ”: “…as a pastor, you give your heart to the people of a congregation if this work is indeed a calling. You invest in them, think about them constantly, try to find ways to build Christ into their lives…If you really do give away your heart, then when people leave they take a piece of it with them. I have known more than a few pastors who’ve given their hearts away piece by piece until one day there was nothing more left to give. It’s not unusual for some pastors to reach a point where they can no longer manage the disappointments of people leaving or just hanging around and making trouble. Something dies within them and they either quit or begin to treat their work as a regular job in which the person counts the days until retirement.”

9 THE POLTERGEIST EFFECT IN CHURCH REVITALIZATION! Adding to the pain of the young and inexperienced Church Revitalizer is the fact that in most cases, he is leading a small church. The small church is the family of God at its most intense, functional level. For the most part, the smaller the church, the greater potential there exists for sweet, tight, fellowship and conversely, the greater potential there exists for conflict, dysfunction and an unwillingness to embrace change.

10 THE POLTERGEIST EFFECT IN CHURCH REVITALIZATION! Have you ever taken a volunteer audit of your church? It is very revealing to most pastors. This is where you analyze who you have in your church that are workers and who in your church are those on sabbatical! If you have a church with only 25 volunteers and one family leaves which had 5 of your volunteers that is quite extensive. If you have a church of 50 with 25 volunteers who do the work of ministry you have lost 10% of the total church’s membership and 20% of its work force.

11 THE POLTERGEIST EFFECT IN CHURCH REVITALIZATION! It may be that we feel totally inadequate to meet the needs of today, but we could not be more inadequate than Ezekiel in the valley of dry bones. Our adequacy is no more the issue than the condition of the bones. What really matters is this: do we trust God to work? God did not send a social reformer to this valley, neither did he send a politician or an educator; rather, he sent a preacher! Ezekiel was in that valley not at the invitation of the dry bones and not by his own inclination but he was there by the sovereign will of God. God promises nothing about the future except that it will be God’s and ours together and that life can come out of dry bones.

12 THE POLTERGEIST EFFECT IN CHURCH REVITALIZATION! Some people leave because they are bitter against the pastor or some other church member. They are taking flight and running away, pure and simple. Once the Christian has decided to go away, he’s going to do it.

13 THE POLTERGEIST EFFECT IN CHURCH REVITALIZATION! Beleive it or not the horror story continues because they will be back! Some people just cannot move on!

14 THE POLTERGEIST EFFECT IN CHURCH REVITALIZATION! It is amazing just how many churches are ran by a male lay leader which is controled by a stronger spouse with a vicious tongue. Often they will become the church receptionist so they can have immediate information to what is going on at church and what the staff are doing.

15 THE POLTERGEIST EFFECT IN CHURCH REVITALIZATION! These type of people are all over churches in need of revitalization and renewal. Having spoken with hundreds of pastors it appears their relatives are everywhere. Let’s look at the poltergeist effect profile:

16 THE POLTERGEIST EFFECT IN CHURCH REVITALIZATION! This individual has been a member of a single church for over 20 years and leverages this tenure often. They are control freaks or micro managers and want to be seen as the major decision maker.

17 THE POLTERGEIST EFFECT IN CHURCH REVITALIZATION! They have not been pleased with or supportive of any of their pastors. They have in fact sought to undermine God’s leader at every turn! A historical inspection with previous pastors will verify this fact. Most present challenges are identical with previous ones their predecessors experienced.

18 THE POLTERGEIST EFFECT IN CHURCH REVITALIZATION! They have very little respect for elected lay leaders. There is no desire to lead themselves because it is much more easy to gripe from the back rows then the front seats. When church leaders follow the pastoral leader this group refers to them as yes men.

19 THE POLTERGEIST EFFECT IN CHURCH REVITALIZATION! Church growth and revitalization does not excite them. It means too much work on their part. Outreach is thwarted by these people as well as any program designed to draw new people into the church. Success to them is synonymous with remaining small and insignificant.

20 THE POLTERGEIST EFFECT IN CHURCH REVITALIZATION! They have never seen a building program they liked. New buildings expand the ministry signature and might cause growth. Then we would have to pay for it! Anything which speaks of advancement is a challenge to these individuals. The larger you grow the less control they have and will be scared of losing their strangulation hold on the church!

21 THE POLTERGEIST EFFECT IN CHURCH REVITALIZATION! They detest new and popular music. Yet complain why the present pastor cannot draw a crowd. If congregational singing is a time when everyone stands up, they will either stay seated or just stand without singing. They show their lack of alignment by public rebelion. Often as a show of displeasure they will walk out of the sanctuary when the music portion of the service is taking place. They are too Holy for this popular stuff.

22 THE POLTERGEIST EFFECT IN CHURCH REVITALIZATION! They assume a distressed and agitated look. Part of this is because of personal health issues. They are not well physically and their view on church is reflective of their lack of wellness overall. Their face displays extreme discomfort and it has more to do with ailments than church.

23 THE POLTERGEIST EFFECT IN CHURCH REVITALIZATION! They display a love for foreign missions and an absence of concern for their specific church community. Their moto is more about reaching the world but wanting to be comfortable and unchanged! These disfunctional Christians will even withhold their tithes from the church, justifying their actions are correct. They have no or little desire in reaching their specific community for Christ.

24 THE POLTERGEIST EFFECT IN CHURCH REVITALIZATION! Their body language is rebellious, insubordinate, insolent and defiant. As things are proceeding on the sanctuary stage they are often talking to their spouse to further show total disregard. When the preaching begins they act bored or sleepy, sit with arms folded in disgust, or look out a window.

25 THE POLTERGEIST EFFECT IN CHURCH REVITALIZATION! They expect to be consulted on every church decision whether in leadership or not. What they are not up on they are not in favor. Which does not really matter anyway because they are not in favor of anything except maintaining the status quo.

26 THE POLTERGEIST EFFECT IN CHURCH REVITALIZATION! They are often over weight and have problems with anything physical. Interestingly their lack of self-control is perhaps a visual demonstration. They are not open to any ministry which takes physical effort into the community.

27 THE POLTERGEIST EFFECT IN CHURCH REVITALIZATION! When on a rigorous oppositional crusade, they will devote whole Sunday mornings hovering in the foyer, backyard, or parking lot dispersing dissatisfaction and venehem without so much as even joining the worship service.

28 THE POLTERGEIST EFFECT IN CHURCH REVITALIZATION! They cannot understand why they are not considered for leadership within the church. Along with the contemptious cronies who will listen to them, they ponder why the present pastoral leadership cannot see the great skills they could bring to the work at church if they were elevated.

29 THE POLTERGEIST EFFECT IN CHURCH REVITALIZATION! Whenever there is a difficulty, setback, or hindrance surfacing in the church, they are not far away. These people thrive on creating conflict and trouble. They are unrepentant and unconfessed of their individual sins.

30 THE POLTERGEIST EFFECT IN CHURCH REVITALIZATION! Although permanently unhappy they cannot or will not leave and move on. Where would they go? Who would want them? Not many growing churches accept members without checking up on their individual performance and commitment.

31 If you know of individuals which display 10 or more of these profiles in your church, then they are part of the poltergeist effect which is hurting your church’s chance for growth and expansion. THE POLTERGEIST EFFECT IN CHURCH REVITALIZATION!

32 WHY DO THEY LEAVE? The most important point to remember is that not all church departures are the same. In the throes of taking an impersonal act personally we can be blind to this, causing ourselves and others needless pain and strife. It is not about us most of the time, but about their individual struggles with advancement and change!

33 WHY DO THEY LEAVE? If today, your sermons are aimed at “searchers” and your pastoral care is delivered through small group leaders, you have significantly changed the landscape and you can expect some to change their minds about you and your church. But for the cause of Christ move forward anyway!

34 WHY DO THEY LEAVE? Still others leave because their life-situation changes. Maybe your church is a family of families where there are very few singles. Maybe you are looking for a new church where singles don’t “stick out like sore thumbs.” You are a church member who lost his spouse to divorce or death last year.

35 WHY DO THEY LEAVE? Closely related to this, Some leave because they want or need a fresh start. Some people can’t walk in the door of their church without being overwhelmed by memories of the spouse or other family members whom they have lost to death or divorce. They need fresh scenery. Let them go in peace. Young couples raised in your church frequently want to get away from mom and dad's church and establish their own, new identity in their own, new church.

36 WHY DO THEY LEAVE? Saying goodbye hurts when you just spent many hours on their premarital counseling. Let them go anyway; it's the right thing to do.

37 WHY DO THEY LEAVE? Sadly, growing numbers of people leave one church and attach to another as simple consumers of a service. Christian hoppers hopped around to find the best preacher. Some Christian hoppers hop in search of the best band or the best youth group. Once the church hopper has decided to hop, there’s precious little that can be done about it.

38 CAN WE PREVENT PEOPLE FROM LEAVING? I’m not saying that people don’t change churches for poor reasons; I am saying that most of the effort we put forth to get them to not do so is wasted. “People change, churches change, people change churches.” There’s no question that Christians sometimes change churches for frivolous or even sinful reasons, but it seldom works to try to change their minds as they’re on their way out the door.

39 SHOULD WE TRY TO DISSUADE PEOPLE FROM LEAVING? In most cases I don’t think we should. The rule of thumb is that persuading departing church members to change their minds usually has poor results. The folks stay in your church but with a bad attitude. Worse yet, they feel empowered to threaten to leave again every time they disapprove of something. In most cases those who stay in your church with a bad attitude will eventually leave anyway, it’s just a matter of time. The secular work place has discovered that it’s better to get the bad attitude out the door as soon as possible.

40 THE POLTERGEIST EFFECT IN CHURCH REVITALIZATION! In the worst case scenario, some churches fill up with people with bad attitudes who were persuaded to stick around by a well-meaning but misguided and persuasive pastor. Over time, the people who want to be a part of a healthy church move on to greener pastures to get away from the many folks around them with bad attitudes. There will always be somebody in the process of leaving your church; the key is to have the right people leaving for the right reasons and the right people staying for the right reasons.

41 SOME COPING STRATEGIES IN DEALING WITH THE POLTERGEIST EFFECT Run to God with your pain. Tell Him all about how it feels (He knows). Talk to Him about what you find in Psalms 3, 5, 9, 11, 16, 23, 27, 94 and more. If you have so much difficulty with abandonment that you can’t discern between the person who stabs you in the back and the good brother who disagrees with you about ministry philosophy, you probably shouldn’t be a Church Revitalizer.

42 SOME COPING STRATEGIES IN DEALING WITH THE POLTERGEIST EFFECT Trust God with the departing persons, your church and your soul. A faith-filled, joyful attitude on your part will help attract new folks who will love your church. Our goal is to be able to weather our own church storms as well as Paul was weathering his when he wrote his joy-filled letter to the Philippians.

43 SOME COPING STRATEGIES IN DEALING WITH THE POLTERGEIST EFFECT Remember the good things that can come. The person leaving might find his way to a church where he is a much better fit and serves God effectively and with a great attitude. Your church can be freed up to make important changes you couldn’t make with this individual still on board. Your church will be more unified, more joyful, maybe even more powerful.

44 THE POLTERGEIST EFFECT IN CHURCH REVITALIZATION! A dysfunctional and influential person in your church who goes to the bigger ministry down the road (we all have one) will find himself instantly disempowered when he walks in the door (not greeted like a conquering hero as he imagines) and in many cases this is exactly what this person needs.

45 THE POLTERGEIST EFFECT IN CHURCH REVITALIZATION! Remember, the departure of good folks who don’t share the unified vision owned by the church leadership can be crucial in bringing unity to the church. The ideal of church unity seen in Romans 15:5-6 usually cannot be attained without some “blessed departures.”

46 Blessed Departures (My Apologies to Fanny Crosby) Blessed annoyance your problems are mine! Oh what a pleasure to see you resign! Heir of all troubles, irritation at best, Pleasant departure, now we are at rest! Refrain This is our glory, you are now gone, Praising my savior all the day long; This is our glory, you are now gone, Praising my savior all the day long;

47 Blessed Departures Perfect satisfaction, perfect delight, Visions of expansion now burst from my sight; Angels, now joining, birthed from the change Echoes of unity, are now quite strange. Refrain This is our glory, you are now gone, Praising my savior all the day long; This is our glory, you are now gone, Praising my savior all the day long;

48 Blessed Departures Perfect fellowship, we are now in peace, I in my Savior am cheerful and pleased, Looking and expecting, looking around, We are filled with His goodness, no longer a frown. Refrain This is our glory, you are now gone, Praising my savior all the day long; This is our glory, you are now gone, Praising my savior all the day long;

49 THE POLTERGEIST EFFECT IN CHURCH REVITALIZATION! Have as peaceful a “going-away” visit as you possibly can. You may need to bring a supportive board member with you both to help you cope with a tough conversation and to vouch for your good behavior, should the departing individual/couple choose to misrepresent your words and actions after this visit is over.

50 THE POLTERGEIST EFFECT IN CHURCH REVITALIZATION! Be aware that some folks use the “leaving the church” ploy to try to get their way. It worked well for them with a previous pastor; they will expect it to work with you and will be furious when you do not beg them to stay. William Shakespeare said, “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned”. While you’re not actually scorning anyone (hopefully you are continuing to love your former members) these folks will view it this way - and will tell their friends. Best policy: let the whole church know (often) that the leaders of your church don't make bargains with departing members.

51 THE POLTERGEIST EFFECT IN CHURCH REVITALIZATION! Learn any good thing you can as people leave. People leaving my church are not my favorite teachers; nevertheless, let’s face it, they often point out legitimate weaknesses that I need to know about.

52 THE POLTERGEIST EFFECT IN CHURCH REVITALIZATION! Chuck Colson said that when people asked what church he attended, he said he did not just attend a church, he BELONGED to one. Then he named his church!

53 By Dr. Tom Cheyney THE POLTERGEIST EFFECT IN CHURCH REVITALIZATION!

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