Hey, Calvary Fremont –
Your flesh is your fallen/sinful human nature. What’s the difference between Christian flesh and non-Christian flesh? Nothing – except Christian flesh is uglier because you expect something different, something better, something that looks more like Jesus than not. This is why the Bad Boys of Ministry stand out like swollen black eyes on the Body of Christ. You expect a pastor to have some people skills, to know how to move through a demanding situation with some diplomacy and ease. You expect there to be understanding and graciousness. Paul writes to Timothy, “The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged…” 2 Timothy 2:24 And this is why there is such disillusionment when a pastor is more like a raging bull in a China shop than a tender shepherd with his flock.
This last Monday, I blogged about the Bad Boys of Ministry and quite a few readers shared it. In one response, a man made the observation that out of the 380,000 congregations in America, the majority of the pastors are faithful shepherds who faithfully serve the Lord and the people of God. He meant that relatively few pastors have a ‘Bad Boy’ attitude – egotistical, unapproachable, unaccountable. And I agree – so let’s put this in realistic perspective. One percent of 380,000 pastors is 3,800 pastors. Two percent is 7,600 pastors. And five percent is 19,000 pastors. Could 19,000 pastors, just 5% be Bad Boys – egotistical, unapproachable, unaccountable? Are there 19,000 megachurches? No – but you don’t need to have a megachurch to have a mega-ego and be a mega-jerk. The average church in America has 65 people in attendance. If there are 19,000 Bad Boy pastors – that’s 1,235,000 people tied to the tracks with the train coming.
How does a Good Boy become a Bad Boy? King Rehoboam started out as a Bad Boy with a swaggering ego, yet very few pastors start out as Bad Boys. As mentioned in Monday’s blog, success can turn a Good Boy into a Bad Boy. Swelling numbers bring increased influence and bulging bank accounts which can lead to an over-inflated heart. This is said of King Uzziah, “But when he became strong, his heart was so proud that he acted corruptly, and he was unfaithful to the LORD his God.” 2 Chronicles 26:16 King Uzziah was a Good Boy until his kingdom became strong, wealthy, and secure – and then his heart became proud and lifted up. Success spoiled King Uzziah. The same can and has happened to pastors.
Disappointment can turn a Good Boy into a Bad Boy. There are few pastors who don’t hope their churches will grow and be healthy and have community impact. But when there are twenty-five people one week, and then nineteen the next, and twenty-seven the week after that, and after a year the average is thirty-five, it’s hard not to become discouraged. It’s easy to slide into ‘beating the sheep’ – blaming them for the stagnation of the church. It’s easy to want to isolate yourself as a means of self-preservation against the penetrating sorrow of disappointment of ministry stagnation. (Tim, it sounds like you know a little something about this!) Encouragement can become exhortations which can turn into scolding and then ultimately the pastor is condemning the people. Pastors go from bringing grace to bringing condemnation!
Criticism can turn a Good Boy into a Bad Boy. Unless your heart is humble and teachable, the sting of criticism can bring you to pushback. And usually, the pushback is stronger and more powerful than the initial push. A pastor with more education and experience can resent those with lesser education and experience questioning what he does. This can lead to an adversarial relationship with the board and church and tend to isolate a man and bring him to rule by unilateral decision rather than by persuasion and group consensus – because this board and these people won’t be persuaded.
Being a Bad Boy isn’t an all-or-nothing proposition. There are degrees along the pathway from Good Boy to Bad Boy. At various times I’ve experienced a frustration that, if I gave into it, would send me down that road. We rented our church building to another church at one time and I had to let the pastor know that they didn’t clean up according to our contractual agreement. He sent me the email that he had sent to all the leaders. It said something along the lines that Pastor Tim didn’t like the way we left the church and that he (the pastor) wanted that to never happen again or there would be severe consequences for them. The email was severe and harsh in tone. I contacted him and told him that his communication with his leadership went well beyond what was necessary. I didn’t think he needed to correct them in that tone – only inform them so that they would do better next time. I said, “Don’t become a tyrant. Don’t become that man.” He has thanked me often since then for that admonishment.
If you see yourself on the pathway to becoming a Bad Boy – stop and turn around. You’re doing no one any favors. When Jacob reconciled with Esau, Esau invited Jacob to come live by him. Jacob said this – “My lord knows that the children are frail and that the flocks and herds which are nursing are a care to me. And if they are driven hard one day, all the flocks will die. Please let my lord pass on before his servant, and I will proceed at my leisure, according to the pace of the cattle that are before me and according to the pace of the children…” Genesis 33:13-14
Do you see that? The leader sets the direction, but the flock sets the pace. How many times have I heard of pastors demanding of their staff and volunteers increased work and longer hours? Don’t be a shepherd who drives those God has given you. Lead them gently. Don’t be a king like Uzziah or Rehoboam – be a shepherd like Jacob. If you are being pastored by a Rehoboam or a Uzziah – prayerfully and lovingly go to him, tell him you love him, and tell him the truth. You might just save him and a lot of people a lot of heartache.
Be blessed and stay healthy and follow Jesus – Pastor Tim