Surviving a Forced Termination

DeannaHarrison-1021-dlxDeanna Harrison has been my friend for over 20 years. She has written many a Bible study for me, and we even  once wrote a book together. But Deanna has just released a new book that tells a story and deals with an issue that plagues a lot of churches and hurts a lot of people.

But I want you to hear it from her.  

Imagine that you arrive at church one Sunday to discover that your minister is no longer there. The church leaders have the scoop but they’re not talking. They simply say that Minister X is no longer serving at your church. “Trust us,” they say, and you are left with an uneasy feeling that something’s not right.

What I’ve just described is the silent epidemic of forced termination among clergy. It’s been swept under the rug for decades. When a minister’s actions are immoral, illegal or unethical, a church has no option but to take action and termination may have to be part of that action. But the majority of times, forced termination is the result of disgruntled church members, personality conflicts, or a power play.

If you’ve ever wondered what happens when a minister disappears, I can tell you. After serving a church for many years, my husband and I were suddenly terminated. I was still married to the same godly man of integrity, but he was no longer a pastor. I was no longer a pastor’s wife. Our lives were shattered and I wondered if we would survive.

41A0yE-Cj6L._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_Moving On: Surviving the Grief of Forced Termination is the account of my journey through grief. I encourage you to read it, if for no other reason than to understand the ramifications of forcing a minister to resign. My prayer is that through telling my story, others who have experienced forced termination will find hope and healing. Here is an excerpt:

As I drove behind the truck that held all of our worldly possessions, I knew without any doubt we were walking by faith. We had no home, no jobs, and nothing on the horizon. All we could do was put one foot in front of the other, believing God would see us through.

A full moon shone brightly by the time we pulled up in front of my father-in-law’s home. Exhaustion consumed me but adrenaline surged through my body as a host of emotions began surfacing. An incongruous mixture of gratitude, anger, fear and relief spilled out of my pores as I began unloading the car. I could faintly hear the sound of my husband’s voice in the distance, pleading with me to slow down. But I knew if I slowed down I might stop, and if I stopped I would surely fall apart. So I forged ahead, determined to carry in every box, every suitcase and every armload of clothes until finally my car sat empty.

 Then I stopped.

 And then I fell apart.

 Through my tears I found myself standing in my father-in-law’s guest room. I couldn’t believe that in a blur of time I had gone from living in a beautiful multi-level home that was mine to living in one room that belonged to someone else.

Take time to read Moving On. Share it with someone who has endured a forced termination. And share with those who are part of a church reeling from the effects of a forced termination. Read more from Deanna Harrison at




Habits for Our Holiness

Philip5-200x300Philip Nation is the Director of Content Development with LifeWay Christian Resources and serves as Teaching Pastor for The Fellowship, a multi-campus church in Nashville. He has a new book that released this week – Habits for Our Holiness: How the Spiritual Disciplines Grow Us Up, Draw Us Together, and Send Us Out. I asked Philip to stop by and share a bit about this new book. 

Our spiritual lives should be full of joy—never overwhelmed by guilt. Habits for Our Holiness is designed to give us easy paths to walk on for our spiritual growth. Here is an excerpt:

41WQr4W89ML._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Seeking the Unchurched, De-churched, and Antichurched

Plenty of others in our cities need to encounter the Word as well. There are the unchurched, the de-churched, and the antichurched. Everyone who is intentionally or unintentionally disengaged from a church family has made a choice. They have decided that the revelation from God—the Bible—and being in church to hear it, are unimportant. We need to learn how to talk with them. It cannot be the thunderous preacher on the street corner. Rather, it is the chance to talk friend-to- friend about the most important issue of our lives. As people of faith, at our core we believe that God has revealed Himself to us in the Bible. To go for years without ever bringing that up is beyond silly. It is ridiculous. Even more so, it is cruel.

God has revealed Himself so that all of humanity would hear from Him. Not just the select few of us who attend worship services, own a Bible, and read it for personal gain. The Scriptures, God’s revealed Word, are for everyone. We must dig into it so we can grow up in it. Then as we grow up in it, we can reach out because of it. In the second to the last book of the Bible, Jude wrote to a troubled church about the need to fend off those who were twisting the truth of God’s revelation. He closed his one-chapter letter with these words:

But you, dear friends, as you build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, expecting the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ for eternal life. Have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them from the fire; have mercy on others but with fear, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh.

Now to Him who is able to protect you from stumbling and to make you stand in the presence of His glory, blame- less and with great joy to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, power, and authority before all time, now and forever. Amen. (vv. 20–25)

The impact of the passage is so clear. Grow up so I can reach out. Reach out so I can grow up. These two activities are linked, never to be separated. When we live like this, then we can fully understand the beauty Jude describes in verses 24–25. Growth and mission are the twin crucibles that God brings us through to make us look like Jesus. He is totally able and willing to shape our lives so we can stand in the gospel’s power. And when we do, it brings great joy—to us, and more importantly, to Him, the only God our Savior.

Today, take great joy in the gift of God’s Word.


Let me encourage you to get a copy of Philip’s book and dig through his work on how the spiritual disciplines engage our personal faith into God’s public mission.

Jesus Was Born … Where?

Picture1Where was Jesus born? In a stable? In a cave? In a house? We know where Jesus was not born. He was not born in the inn—because it was already full.

The Greek word Luke used for “inn” is kataluma. Luke actually used this word twice in his Gospel. The first is in the story of Jesus’ birth. We might expect to find the second in the story of the good Samaritan, who “brought him [the injured man] to an inn, and took care of him” (Luke 10:34, HCSB, emphasis added). Luke, however, does not use kataluma in the story of the good Samaritan. Instead, he used the Greek word pandocheion, which also translates “inn.” Kataluma has as its root a word that means to loosen or untie, as in to open the satchel that would hold a traveler’s clothes. Pandocheion comes from two Greek words that mean to receive all. A pandocheion was always a stand-alone inn or caravansary (as in the good Samaritan story). Akataluma could be a stand-alone inn or lodging space—or, it could be connected to a house. This brings us to Luke’s second use of kataluma.

The second time Luke used the word kataluma was when Jesus instructed His disciples to go to the city to make preparation for the Last Supper: “Tell the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher asks you, “Where is the guest room [Greek, kataluma] where I can eat the Passover with My disciples?” ’” (22:11, HCSB).

manger-350x350In the first century, many people lived in one-room houses, typically with a separate area for the animals to stay overnight for their safety and protection. The feeding trough would have been in the family’s living quarters, either elevated or separated from the animals by a wall. If there were a wall, it would have had a hole through which the animals would stick their heads to eat (see artist’s rendering). Sometimes the houses were built at a cave, which the owners could also use to accommodate the animals over night.

Some of the more affluent families, however, lived in larger homes with an adjoining room they used for guests and entertaining. In such a room Jesus and His disciples celebrated their last Passover together. Unlike the family’s living quarters, guests could visit or sleep in this additional room (kataluma) and not be bothered with the sounds (and smells!) of the animals.

This possibility fits the nativity story. If this was indeed the case, Mary and Joseph came to Bethlehem and planned to stay in the home of a well-to-do friend or relative, one whose house had a guest room. By the time they arrived, however, the guest room (the kataluma) was already full of guests. So, Mary and Joseph stayed in the family’s living quarters, adjacent to where the animals slept. When her baby was born, Mary laid Him in the feeding trough, right there in the family’s home.

So, was Jesus born in a stable? In a cave? In a house? Was the kataluma a stand-alone inn or the guest quarters of a large home? The reality is, we don’t know. Our lack of knowledge is a reminder that the real emphasis of the story is not where Jesus was born but the fact that He was born. “The Word became flesh and took up residence among us” (John 1:14). For that, we, like the angels, proclaim: “Glory to God in the highest heaven!” (Luke 2:14).

005075109This article originally appeared in Biblical Illustrator (Winter 2011-12). Let me give a shameless plug because I love this magazine.  Click here to learn more and see a sample.

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