Hey, Calvary Fremont –
It’s been a rough few years for the Bad Boys of Ministry. Pastors who act like the Godfather are falling faster than Elliott Ness can reload his machine-gun. Since when did Vito Corleone become the example for those in ministry? The word ‘minister’ means ‘servant,’ yet a considerable number of men who serve as pastors do not function as servants. They have become dictatorial and distant, unapproachable and unaccountable, image and status conscious, impatient with collegiality, and overly impressed with themselves. There are a number of dynamics driving this –
I will cluster the first three together. Skill. Charisma. Success. These are the possession of an individual – not a team or a group. And these dynamics tend to elevate an individual and set him apart. As it applies to the church, the pastor is skilled at what he does – preaching and teaching. He is a skilled communicator – and people are attracted to this. They are attracted to someone who can take them deeper than where they are and can do it with a skill that makes understanding easy and enjoyable.
Charisma is a compelling attractiveness or charm that inspires devotion in others. This is someone who is ‘cool.’ I heard one man say that being cool is like being six feet tall – you either are or you’re not! Charisma is the X Factor that serves to heighten an individual’s appeal and mystique.
And who can argue with Success? Someone who can bring in bodies and bucks and swelling budgets is someone to treat with kid gloves. In the TwitterVerse, followership confers status. The same is true in the ChurchiVerse.
No, there is nothing evil or ominous about Skill, Charisma, and Success. I wish I had more of all three! It’s not the presence of these dynamics that cripple pastors and alienate congregations. It’s the presence of these dynamics combined with the absence of character. Character is integrity, honesty, principle – holiness. Character is Christlikeness. Skill and Charisma and Success absent Christlikeness is a tsunami rushing to the shore. And when congregations and elder boards elevate Skill and Charisma and Success over Character, they remove all barriers to the incoming wave of destruction. When church boards insulate a Skillful, Charismatic, and Successful leader from dissatisfaction among the rank and file, this creates a buffer zone that protects him from the criticism of the discontent. This fuels his own warped sense of importance.
Another dynamic driving the Bad Boys is Bad Theology. The thought is that the anointing of God upon him makes him immune to criticism. And since love covers a multitude of sin, his sin can be ignored because of his anointing.
Another dynamic is Hesitant Critics. This is produced in a congregation that is never taught theologically, only devotionally. They are never taught about their responsibility to recognize sinful behavior and confront it. They are never taught to speak Truth to Power. They are encouraged to elevate the Man of God and to feel unspiritual when they do cast a critical thought toward the pastor and his way of doing things.
A further dynamic is the admirations of business culture that has shaped leadership philosophy in the Church. The pastor is more a CEO than a Servant. Therefore, he acts more like a CEO than a Servant.
The cultural shift toward intuitional authority is a further dynamic fueling the rise and acceptance of Bad Boys in the ministry. Intuition is inherently individual, and intuitional authority elevates the individual and locates authority within a person’s self – and not in a Book or in a Board or in the Body. Intuition doesn’t recognize accountability structures.
All these dynamics can be enlarged upon, and I’m sure there are others that I haven’t identified in this post. God never meant the ministry to be the fiefdom of a Skillful, Charismatic, Successful, Unaccountable, Unapproachable, Dictatorial, Narcissistic man. Just look at the fallout when these Bad Boys are finally yanked from their perches (they don’t leave easily or quietly) – wounded sheep, disillusioned sheep, lost sheep, dead sheep.
Solomon, in Psalm 72, gives expression to Ideal Leadership. “Give the king Your judgments, O God, and Your righteousness to the king’s son. May he judge Your people with righteousness and Your afflicted with justice. Let the mountains bring peace to the people, and the hills, in righteousness.”
No, the pastor is not a king, but we’ll let Solomon express himself in his context. Notice the last sentence, “Let the mountains bring peace to the people, and the hills, in righteousness.” In the Bible, mountains are often symbols of leadership and authority. What is leadership to do? Bring the peace of God to the people of God; bring the righteousness of God to the people. The pastor is to be a channel through whom the Lord flows to the people. You can only be a channel when you are laid low and wide-open to the Lord and to the people. Pastors that use intimidation instead of persuasive reason, who shame others instead of bringing gracious correction, use bombast to control others instead of Christlike kindness, and silence criticism instead of prayerfully considering what is being said are digging their own graves.
Are you a pastor who is Skilled, Charismatic, and Successful, but lack the Character of Christ? Has Bad Theology, Hesitant Critics, Business Culture, and the Cultural Shift toward Intuition propped up your swaggering ego? Your days are numbered. May you repent and learn to bring God’s peace to God’s people. This is what they’re hungry for.
Be blessed and stay healthy and follow Jesus – Pastor Tim