As a result of a church tragedy, Al and Phyllis Grounds bring healing to wounded pastors and churches embattled in conflict.
Al was a gifted evangelist — it was never his intention to enter the pastorate. But after months of pursuit, _____ Church* finally persuaded Al to accept their invitation as pastor. Under his leadership, the church grew exponentially, drawing hundreds from all over western Kentucky and Tennessee. People drove for miles to attend.
Then, amazingly, one disgruntled woman maneuvered an attack that plummeted the church into an intense war. The root of her anger? She didn’t want people from outside her community coming to her church. Because Al’s preaching drew the people, she greatly resented him and wanted him out. “She decided to do all she could to get me and the ‘outsiders’ out and rallied support for her actions within the church,” Al painfully recalls. “It took her almost two years, but she did it.”
In the middle of this dispute, 13 church members sued Al and his deacons for $140,000 for violating their “rights,” and the church leadership found themselves fighting a 24-hour battle of threatening phone calls and harassment. The casualty rate continued to rise, tearing the church apart; one deacon killed himself. One man even pulled a knife on Al at the end of a Sunday morning service — the perpetrator screaming, “You deserve to die for what you’ve done to this church!”
The two-year attack claimed Al’s ministry and marriage. Battle-weary, wounded, jobless and alone, Al struggled through a wilderness lasting several years. He strained to make some sense out of what happened, running the gamut of grief and emotions: “I went through a period of devastation, which led to a period of bitterness and resentment. There were even times I dreamed about revenge.”
Out of despair
After a few years, Al started going back to church, trusting that God would somehow redeem the broken rubble of his life, and the bitterness slowly began to dissipate. “I kept [returning to] Romans 8:28, which reads, ‘And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.’ ”
Within a short while, Al was asked to take over a Sunday school class, which was “the start of healing for me,” he remembers, “and shortly after that, I was asked to pastor again.”
Out from the ashes, God gave Al a passion for helping other pastors through the same kind of pain he had endured. He never wanted another pastor to feel as alone in battle as he did. So 14 years ago after he remarried, Al and his wife, Phyllis, founded Restored Ministries based in Smyrna, Tenn., — an outreach that literally hand -delivers a message of healing and restoration to congregations in every denomination who have been hurt by church conflict. Together, they form a conciliatory ally with embattled pastors and churches, standing with them in the crossfire. Not a day goes by that the Groundses don’t minister to hurting pastors and their wives.
According to Al, 99 percent of conflicts revolve around some fleshly issue; rarely are they about doctrine. Phyllis agrees, “Satan hates us and doesn’t want to see churches go forward. If we give him a crack in the door through troubled relationships, he’s going to elbow his way in and come in full force, destroying whatever he can, so we have to be watchful. We have to arm ourselves with God’s Word and prayer, realizing that we are engaged in a constant war, especially since we’re on the front lines of ministry.”
By Shelly Esser at www.parsonage.org
Thank you Al & Phyllis Grounds – may God bless you & keep you.
- The Perfect Pastor (barefootpreachr.org)
- A Simple Plan for Church Growth (barefootpreachr.org)
- Wanted: The Perfect Congregation (barefootpreachr.org)