A Church Repents

The following article was part of the latest news release from the Assemblies of God National Leadership and Resource Center (i.e., headquarters). It’s a beautiful story of how a church repented for three decades of mistreating a succession of pastors by rebellion, gossip, and a controlling spirit. While I personally experienced almost none of this in the wonderful church I pastored, I saw barely enough to enable me to empathize with pastors and their families who live in toxic churches. Having experienced just enough to know what it was like, having served as a Sectional Presbyter for 18 years, and as a friend of many pastors, I know the damage done to pastors, godly parishioners, and the Kingdom by rebellious, divisive, slandering, controlling people in churches. Although some would label such behavior as merely dysfunctional, it is in fact purely sinful and often demonic. This article is a beautiful story of how one courageous pastor and one local church finally did the right thing. May God bless them for it.

When he applied for the job as lead pastor, Peter A. Joudry knew
Madison (Indiana) Assembly of God (MAG) had a reputation for
mistreating clergy during the past three decades. Nevertheless,
Joudry soldiered on through a seven-month vetting process that
included a dozen interviews before the congregation elected him in
April 2011.

However, by the seventh month of his tenure, old, entrenched
patterns began to resurface. By the ninth month, 40 percent of the
260-member congregation had left.

Soon afterward, Joudry invited the four men who had preceded him as
pastor during the previous 30 years to a reconciliation weekend at
the church.

Even though many of the members who had wounded the pastors no
longer attend MAG, Joudry determined to apologize for the offenses
committed against the leaders. As an act of contrition, Joudry and
his wife, Ruth, washed the feet of pastors and their wives dating
back to 1983: Don and Barb Fisher; Stephen and Patty Perry; Ron and
Dorene Bontrager; and Chuck and Susie Lynch. Members of the
congregation gathered around the guests amid tears and hugs.

Before the foot-washing ceremony, as the four former pastors and
their spouses sat on the platform, Joudry led the congregation in
prayers of confession and repentance.

“We needed this weekend because of the misdeeds and un-Christlike
attitudes that were displayed by our congregation toward these men
of God and their families,” Joudry says. “They suffered greatly
under a yoke of rebellion and control while being here. They left
this body wounded and deeply distressed.”

At the service, the sins the congregation repented of included
gossip, assuming the worst about their pastors, sending the
ministers anonymous letters containing un-Christlike comments,
publicly maligning their pastors, and causing a strain on their

Even though he has been gone since becoming pastor of Lakeview
Church in Indianapolis 18 years ago, Bontrager says he still knows
three-fourths of the attendees at MAG. He said during his time in
Madison he felt like a young, insecure hireling who had to toe the

“But all who remain there want to support the pastor; the spirit of
control has been broken,” Bontrager says. “The service was
authentic, encouraging and extremely meaningful.”

Joudry credits M. Wayne Benson, founder of Paraclete Ministries,
with laying the groundwork for the reconciliation. Benson, who also
took part in the ceremonies, served as MAG interim pastor before
Joudry’s arrival. Benson commended Joudry for his courage and
conviction in organizing the event and urged the congregation to
pledge their loyalty to Joudry.

The ceremony included a responsive reading by the congregation to
resolve future problems in a biblical and Christ-like manner.

“What we do with rumors and accusations will help change the culture
of the church,” Joudry says.

–John W. Kennedy, “Pentecostal Evangel”


About Michael D Sharp

Disciple of Jesus, husband to Debra, father to two sons, a DIL, a grandson, serving Christ's Church as a pastor-teacher, equipping discipleship ministries in Alabama.
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