Friday, December 5, 2014

Train Wreck at Coast Hills Church: Rick Warren Defends My Ex-Pastor Ken Baugh

I was kind of shocked at the way my Coast Hills Church parted ways with my pastor Ken Baugh just last month. Ken is an extraordinary fellow, a true leader in the effort to adapt the church to better meet the needs of Generation X and the Millennials. He is the co-author of at least two books which I believe to be essential reading for anyone seeking to grow the church among young people including The Quest for Christ: Discipling Today's Young Adults (2002) and Getting Real (2000).  He is also a wonderful person to hear preach or to meet with one-on-one. He is a soldier for Christ who has brought decisive vision to our community and launched missionary efforts around the globe.

Given his remarkable strengths, I startled to see that Coast Hills Church removed him from his position as Senior Pastor without first arranging a new strategic plan, planning for an interim pastor, or even providing for a smooth six-month transition. The way the Board of Directors handled the process of removing him from the church – abruptly and in great secrecy – made it look as if Ken Baugh had done something wrong. Despite the tearful remarks made by Board Member Doug Armstrong expressing compassion for Ken and his family, it was clear to me that the Board of Directors lashed out at Ken Baugh and perhaps sought to damage his national reputation by letting him go in such a startling, precipitous manner.  

In this context, the Board of Director’s appeal for unity looked like a political gimmick designed to prevent shocked members from going to other churches or else discourage what might become a string of mass staff resignations. (The Board of Directors has made similar pleas for "unity" when it has made highly visible mistakes in the past.)

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For a quick look at what Ken Baugh is doing for our community right now, please check out the website for his The Institute for Discipleship Training. This website will show you the wonderful creativity, compassion for others, and intense scholarship which informs Baugh's ministry even today.

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I was pleased to see that our nation's most successful pastor, Rick Warren, quickly came to Ken Baugh's defense and invited him to preach "Surprised By Hope" this weekend at Saddleback Church. My wife and I will be going to the 4:00 p.m. Saturday service to hear Baugh's Christmas message. You can also catch Baugh's signature style at the later 6:00 p.m. service or on Sunday at 9:00 a.m. or 11:00 a.m. or 6:00 p.m. 

Rick Warren has nothing but unbridled praise for Ken Baugh and it made me proud to see that he was willing to step up and help protect Baugh's reputation in the community. Rick Warren, for example, went out of his way to remind the local Christian community of the historically significant work done by Ken Baugh through Frontline, a cutting edge young adult ministry which he established at McLean Bible Church, an extremely successful non-denominational evangelical Christian church which now has campuses throughout the Washington, DC area.

Following Rick Warren's lead, I am happy to use whatever modest influence I have on Twitter and social media to defend Baugh's reputation and encourage others to hear him speak at Saddleback Church this weekend.

Due to my work as a grant writing consultant, I have had a chance to learn a great deal about the perils of ministry and the often cruel treatment that Board of Directors unleash on their pastors. I have even worked with an agency in Colorado, QuietWaters Ministries, which has made a name for itself in helping pastors recover from the mistreatment of the lay leadership. 

As a political scientist, my only suggestion is that those of us who are fans of Ken Baugh need to speak up
and kindly suggest that it is unhealthy to have an ineffective, stuck in the mud, Board of Directors. 

Scanning the website, it appears to me that many of the Board members at Coast Hills have been holding on to their volunteer jobs since the time when the founding pastor, Denny Bellesi, was there which is at least nine years ago. For example, the Coast Hills Church website indicates that Gary Luke has served as the Chairman of the Elder Board for over 12 years. This is despite the fact that Elder Board members are supposed to be limited to only two (2) three-year (3) terms. I do not care how much of a genius you are as a church Board member, it seems like common sense that after a while the entire church is better off without your continued Board-level service. 

My recommendation is that Coast Hills Church enforce its existing term limits for every member of the Board of Directors. 

I think all of us will be better off if Elder Board members who has been there over six (6) years simply resign and make way for a more adept and humbly compliant group of leaders. 

I am confident that a new Board of Directors will have fresh energy, better emotional IQ, and more common sense. Without changes at the top, I am afraid that Coast Hills Church will decline, lose members, lose staff, and fail to realize the promise it once provided to the community. After all, it will undoubtedly be difficult for the community to respect the legitimacy of a Board of Elders that functions in a manner inconsistent with its own by-laws, by-laws that should be interpreted as the will of God for Coast Hills Church.

In the meantime, I am also confident that Ken Baugh will go on to bigger and better things.This was certainly the case with Denny Bellesi. I was pleased to see that he is working with the extremely successful folks at the rapidly growing Mariner's Church. Even Bellesi's wife, Leesa, has garnered some national attention by ministering to the needs of contestants on American Idol. I remember I was in church on the last day that Denny preached there. He did not look happy on his last day of service after 20 years, but at least the Board of Directors gave him the dignity of going out in style in a respectful and organized fashion

At any rate, I am expecting that more of us will catch on to the sometimes dysfunctional way volunteer boards treat their pastors. Too often, these boards chew up the young pastor's energy and enthusiasm and then tosses them out in a way that damages them for life.Thanks to the support of Rick Warren, however, I am sure that Ken Baugh will remain as a bright, prolific, skillful church leader. He has done a great service for the Lord and I thank him.

30 comments:

Anonymous said...

As someone who has been involved with CHCC for over 15 years, I have been appreciative of Pastor Ken and his ministry.

While I am sure you mean well, your post is a major disappointment and telling regarding your spiritual maturity.

If you are interested in helping Pastor Ken, I would suggest you come along side those who are disappointed (as you clearly are) and help them understand that God is in charge always and will make more of both Pastor Ken and CHCC If everyone remains faithful to the calling of Christ.

This post seems to be mostly about venting, which is understandable. However, making allegations about secrecy and the nature of the Board's decisions (as well as the blatant ad hominem attacks on several board members) without knowing the facts is irresponsible and again, spiritually immature. There is a reason why Paul said those who teach will be judged more harshly; it is because they should know better. With great power (a blog people read) comes great responsibility.

I sincerely hope you seek out more information concerning what happened, and once you know more, have the courage to update your post so others can be comforted.

I wish you only the best God has for you.

Keira Mitchell said...

Ken Baugh is an INCREDIBLE pastor and I have no doubt that God is moving him into bigger and better things. What a shame to hear how things transpired :( I'll be praying for him and his family.

2 Corinthians 4:8-11(NIV)

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body.

John C. Drew, Ph.D. said...

I have friends who worked closely with Ken Baugh at Coast Hills Church for many years and they have indicated that my comments are accurate. In my view, spiritual immaturity is most evident among those who think it was an inspired decision to dismiss Ken Baugh in such an abrupt and offensive manner.

chunnel said...

I know Gary Luke well, as he and his wife counseled us prior to our getting married 10 years ago. While some of his advice to me at the time didn't pan out, it was my fault, not his for not listening to what he was telling me and implementing the things he said I should be doing in order to have a healthy marriage. My marriage has survived my missteps but I would have been in much better shape had I listened to Gary's sage advice.

I find it hard to believe that with zero facts as to the motivations of the board and the reasons they had for Kens dismissal, that you back Ken 100% and throw Gary under the bus. It's important you say to protect Ken's reputation, but you have no problem destroying, or at least trying to destroy Gary's reputation. Again, you have zero facts to back up your opinion, only that "insiders" that you also have decided to also protect, supposedly agree with you. That is known as hearsay and it's not admissible in a court of law, nor should it be here.

Your report is trash and it's the worst kind if trash as you pretend to have the facts on your side, whereas you have nothing to back up your opinion.

In regards to Gary's long term on the board, I don't know if the bylaws say what you say they do, but CHCC wouldn't have asked Gary to stay on if they didn't feel his presence was worth it and it would have involved to input and approval of Ken himself to continue Gary in that role.

I don't know what happened with Ken, but more importantly, neither do you. While I always found Ken to be a man of integrity I also found the same of Gary. To throw one man under the bus and back the other blindly based on zero information, I find the height of irresponsibility. You owe Gary an apology, IMMEDIATELY!

John C. Drew, Ph.D. said...

As far as I am concerned, the failure of the Board of Elders - including Gary Luke - to follow our church's bylaws is a terrible sin. It is a sign of considerable arrogance. For you to suggest that their selfish desire to hold on to power over the rest of us - in violation of the Coast Hills bylaws - is somehow consistent with God's will is too bizarre to consider from a Biblical perspective. Coast Hills is not a cult. In my view, the fact that the Elder Board is violating the portion of God's truth contained in the Coast Hills bylaws is cause for the rest of us to demand their immediate resignations. Rule breakers like Gary Luke are bad examples and unworthy of leading our church. I won't be eating any of that "Elder Chili."

Anonymous said...

Wow. This entire article is all about "successful" pastors and "successful" churches. Not one word about God being high and lifted up, nothing about the "success" of a church being based upon maintaining a high view of God whether that appeals to the masses or not, or of grounding it on the inerrant Word of God--only the typical modern blather about "successful" pastors and churches, obviously based solely on the number of people attending, and whether the pastor has a "national reputation." Nothing about promoting a Biblical gospel, calling for repentance and faith in Christ alone. HOw sad.

Anonymous said...

As a former pastor and current professor, I read this article (and the comments) and think, "Been there, seen that." I also find myself sad. Sad for two reasons:
1. The way we Christians treat each other at times.
2. The fact that - right or wrong - the manner in which CHCC handled the "Ken Baugh" situation could have and should have given glory to God - but we may have to wait many years now to see how that plays out.
All I can say is God is control - and He loves His church. The transition period will be a painful process for everyone involved at CHCC - especially those who also love the church. Pain is a necessary part of our existence on this planet and always leads to growth. I also know that Ken Baugh is a man of God who accepts God's authority - and I have no doubt that Ken is already a better man/pastor than he was before the so-called "train wreck."
May both CHCC and Ken Baugh bring glory to God through their pain - and demonstrate His might to a needy world as He brings healing and restoration - in HIS time and in HIS own way.
AND never forget - this and all websites are public - and they will know that we are Christians by our love.

Anonymous said...

I truly miss Ken and his preaching. He has been surly missed since CH asked him to leave. I truly loved Ken's messages and his heart. The messages he spoke truly touched my life... and will truly be praying for him and his family during this time.

I did not like how CH handled this situation. It was very abrupt and just funky. I truly loved serving at CH over the past 10 years... and just felt that it was time to leave CH. I am praying for CH that God would bring in someone there to lead the church faithfully as much as Ken and his family did. Ken was such a blessing...

Thank you Ken for your love and support... May God surly guide you and open a new chapter for you and your family.

Anonymous said...

You do a great disservice to the mission of Coast Hills and to Christ's church by spreading the seed of dissention and breaking down the unity that is needed to get the church into its next season. You misrepresented why Denny Bellesi left and you gloss over the fact that CHCC had been losing pastors and members under Ken's leadership. The men who have served on the Board of Elders are solid men of God who do not take these decisions lightly. If they felt it was Ken's time to leave, then they needed to act on it and not drag it out. CHCC has never been through the dismissal of a senior pastor (Denny left of his own choice) - it is up to members of the church like you to help shepherd the process forward or be roadblock to progress.

John C. Drew, Ph.D. said...

I guess you and I live in alternative realities. In my world, men of God follow the bylaws of their church. We should not tolerate such a failure in our own church.

It is common knowledge that Denny and Leesa Bellesi wanted to stay at Coast Hills Church the rest of their lives.

I have seen no evidence provided by the elders (or anyone else) that dropping church membership or staff defections played any role at all in CHCC's decision to part ways with Ken Baugh.

If you have empirical evidence to back up your claim, then feel free to post it at this site.

Anonymous said...

The firing of Ken Baugh was not a godly move by the elders. It was done while Ken was given his first sabbatical in 10 years. The elders circled the wagons, despite allowing Pastor Ken to address the church before taking a break, assuring everyone he was coming back, and that it was the elders that recommended the break.

I have attended CHCC for over 6 years and it is disheartening to see a church being led with junior pastors and elders that over-reached. I know Pastor Ken will go to great things, and I pray Denny Balessi can put out this dumpster fire situation like he did at Lake Avenue Church 10 years ago.

CHCC was in great hands with Ken, but that era is over. I am not running from attending CHCC. I have been through church upheaval before and it is generally ugly. The Holy Spirit will restore the church. God's graces are sufficient. Man made mistakes are forgiven...the wound is just fresh.

John Chetti said...

Funny how a man who demands empirical evidence, uses his "friends who worked closely with him said"...as his source for empirical evidence. Can't have it both ways Doc, but you do have a Ph.D in Political Science...how's this for empirical evidence. The last couple of years under Ken's tenure, the back door was bigger than the front door.

Anonymous said...

Does anybody know what happened to Pastor Todd Dean?

Anonymous said...

Coast Hills was almost empty at the 5pm service tonight. What other church or churches did everyone change to?

Nawal Toma said...

I was blessed to hear a very touching message at capo beach church on this mother's day Sunday from Pastor Ken Baugh. People were touched by his amazing message and many came to accept the Lord. God bless this man . People meant harm but God almighty used it for Ken's & our benefit. We give God the glory.

Nawal Toma said...

I was blessed to hear a very touching message at capo beach church by pastor Ken Baugh on this mother's day Sunday. It was amazing and many came to accept the Lord. I know in my heart that He puts his life in God's hands and what ever was meant to harm him tge Lord will use to benefit him. We give God the glory.

Anonymous said...

Your boy went down.....plain and simple. Many of us watched in astonishment as CEO Ken wielded the sword of arrogance and abuse. How long, we wondered and prayed. We saw the church dwindle in both the membership and leadership (including worship pastor Mark C and teaching pastor Ryan abandoning ship) How long, we prayed and wondered. Then we get spoon fed how much Ken needs a break and needs to putter around the house. We knew then his time was up and sugar coating it didn't matter.
How long? Not Long. Because what Ken has reaped is what he has sown.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

You are a goat in sheep's clothing. You must have hated Ken.

Anonymous said...

Is the Lord worried about Ken Baugh's future?! Is the Lord worried about CHCC?! There is a time and a season for everything under the sun. The word says "let us not judge before the time". It is not Ken B. or Gary Luke, they are both servants of Christ and they are both LOVED by Him. Thank you both for doing the work of the Kingdom as good as you know how. The Lord will award you both. And for us, let us just focus on finishing OUR OWN RACE triumpantly, as to our own master. I believe THE BEST TIME is ahead of CHCC, and I pray that the best seasons are also ahead of, the man of God, Gary Luke and P. Ken Baugh. Bless your Church with more of your PRESENCE in this season Lord...Be Glorified..

Anonymous said...

Amen anonymous! Well said :-) God bless us all and may everyone have a joyful Christmas <3

Anonymous said...

http://anonymouspoliticalscientist.blogspot.com/2014/12/three-elders-provide-no-solid-basis-for.html?m=1

Anonymous said...

http://anonymouspoliticalscientist.blogspot.com/2014/12/three-elders-provide-no-solid-basis-for.html?m=1

Anonymous said...

http://anonymouspoliticalscientist.blogspot.com/2014/12/three-elders-provide-no-solid-basis-for.html?m=1

Anonymous said...

http://anonymouspoliticalscientist.blogspot.com/2014/12/three-elders-provide-no-solid-basis-for.html?m=1

Anonymous said...

Here's a link to another blog that shows something was amiss with the elders:
http://anonymouspoliticalscientist.blogspot.com/2014/12/three-elders-provide-no-solid-basis-for.html?m=1

2 Minute Tour said...

This commentary has been purged. Where is my commentary from several years ago defending Gary?

2 Minute Tour said...

This commentary has been purged. Where is my commentary from several years ago defending Gary? (Please disregard. The old commentary didn't show at first, but now, upon refresh, it does)

Anonymous said...

Should be updated to reflect the reconciliation among the parties. God is at work and shows mercy even though none of us deserve it.

Keira Mitchell said...

Amen! Great to hear they've reconciled <3 Thank you for the update anonymous.