Pastors: Dealing With Peril in the Pew

By   •   October 8, 2010

Being a pastor or part of a pastor’s family is not an easy road. Rebecca Nichols Alonzo has firsthand knowledge.

In 1969, her father, Robert Nichols, moved to Sellerstown, N.C. with his wife, Ramona, who was expecting Alonzo, to pastor a small town church. They were warmly welcomed by this community and their congregation. In less than one year, the church grew from 11 to 100 members.

The town was happy about the new addition, except for one man who sat in “pew number seven” every Sunday – Mr. Watts. He was a wealthy county commissioner who controlled the community for years. He began a string of terror on the Nichols family that lasted for over five years. The harassment included threatening letters, drive-by shootings and explosions around the parsonage in which they lived.

Several years after this terror began, an armed man entered the Nichols home, and things were never the same.

Lessons on Forgiveness

While Alonzo’s story is an extreme example of the difficulties of pastoral life, forgiveness is an issue many clergy families must face.

“As a child, my mother and I used to pray consistently for Mr. Watts,” Alonzo remembers. “The Bible is very black and white about forgiveness. It doesn’t matter whether the offender ‘deserves’ it or whether you ‘feel’ like forgiving. Romans 12:14 clearly tells us to bless those who persecute us. The Word of God is full of instruction on how to deal with disgruntled church members or with those who usurp authority. It tells us to love our enemies and do good to those who hate us.

“Jesus is our greatest example of forgiveness, as He hung on the cross and asked God to forgive those who crucified Him. This principle should apply to us today as we go through hard times in churches. When there is a problem in a church, the power of God can come in and take care of that problem His way. We are blessed when we obey Him and forgive others. However, this doesn’t mean He is going to take the people out of your church who have caused the problems.”

The Power of a Loving Congregation

While Alonzo’s family suffered under the mistreatment of this man, that experience did not interfere with her spiritual growth or her connection with the church. She testifies to the power of a strong, supportive, loving congregation.

“Because everyone else in the church was so loving and thankful that my parents were there, it didn’t taint my view of the church or the community. I looked to my mom’s strength and love for people and saw that my dad was faithful to the call God placed on his life,” Alonzo explains. “Because Mr. Watts came to church every Sunday, their hope was that the Word of God would penetrate his heart, he would receive Jesus, and as a result, those seeds of anger and bitterness would melt away.”

Alonzo encourages people to pray for their pastors. “Please pray for a hedge of protection around pastors, their families, their minds and their finances,” said Alonzo. As for pastoral families, she urges them to trust in God’s protection. “Just know that He will be there with you during anything you go through.”

Learn more of Alonzo’s story; visit her Web site.

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30 Comments

  1. magungu says:

    i want to welcome your ministries to uganda magungujohn, come and we serve GOD.

  2. Cody says:

    This article is very truthful. Forgivness is the way to go, for it serves to heal tensions that were once tearing your soul apart. “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Luke 23:34. Keep the faith Christina, and forgive those who trespass against you.”

  3. Juanita says:

    Christina,keep up the good work and do not despair. God is on your side. Jeremiah 29:11

  4. Juanita says:

    The Bible DOES say we are not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together, so we are meant to attend Church. If anyone in the church body is causing dissension and trouble, we are to take that person to the Father in prayer. Ask for wisdom and as God directs, approach that person whether they are the pastor or not. The Bible clearly states that if that person will receive correction, then that settles it. If not, then the matter is to be brought before the church. If they refuse to receive correction, they are to be expelled from the church. Even though this is in obedience to the Scripture, there is the danger of the church being taken to court. So I suggest prayer, prayer, and more prayer. If the church body will earnestly pray according to the Scritpure, God Himself will either save the person or remove them Himself. Do not fret, we are told in Psalms. God is still in charge. Maybe the whole church needs to be strengthen.

  5. Steve says:

    Susan asks: “What do we do when its the PASTORS WIFE that is causing a rift in the church? Our church needs desperate help. People are extremely hurt, gossip is rampant, people are angry and disillusioned and disgusted”. Susan, find a small group of supporting individuals with whom you can share fellowship, friendship and the Word during this difficult period. What you describe does not sound like “Church” but sadly, too typical of what passes for it these days. Don't be discouraged. Jesus says there is a “kind” that comes out only through fasting and praying. As a very last resort you may also consider joining another fellowship.

  6. David says:

    Yes, Veronica has put here finger on something there..on occasion it's the “pastor” that abuses and terrorizes. ..because Jesus Christ is the Good Shepherd followers of Him tend to believe that the “pastor” who holds the office of under-shepherd will therefore have the best interests of each member of the flock at heart and represent Jesus Christ faithfully in that office. Very sadly, this is often not the case.. and when a “pastor” gets it in their head that a member of the flock of Christ is a threat to their status ..look out member of the flock!! ..and the “elders” in the Church tend to side without question the “pastor” that holds the reins of the platform. where the “elders”' children may or may not get access according to their genuflection to the “pastor”.

  7. Tonia says:

    Sometime people forget Pastors are anointed to pray over our Souls. In 1st Chronicles 16:22 the word of God says, “Do not touch MY anointed ones, and do MY prophets no harm.”

  8. Joyce says:

    I agree. God bless.

  9. Steve says:

    First, there is no requirement in the Bible that we must attend a church. We are all members of the “chruch” just as we are all Americans – but we don't all huddle together. The only thing sacred about the church is the people in it. If our lives are offended by some or interrupted by a few maybe we need to re-examine ourselves. Or more importantly, remember that when we read the Bible what we get out of it is only for us – not to be used to judge others or Devils as some call them. The only thing that matters is our own relationship with God NOT what we think of others.

  10. Don says:

    The forces of evil all stepping on the throttle saints! Please continue in all good things that the Lord has provide!Remember What Christ said to Peter about the gets of hell NOT PREVAILING agianst OUR CHURCH!! We are in this last of last days Saints.Continue forward for the sake of Christ Jesus!We all know that the devil knows that his time is short. The devil knows quite well that we know! He is simply going crazy with his acts of evil trying to keep us down!!To call his actions “misery loving company” is a gross understatement!!We are the victors in Christ Jesus!!!!!!All praises unto our God!!!All praises unto our Savior the Lord Jesus Christ!!!We have the power of the Holy Spirit with us Saints!!!!In ChristDon