The Problem of Controlling and Manipulative Pastors is Real

The number of prominent pastors stepping down because they are very controlling and manipulating, and creating a culture of fear and intimidation, appears to have reached new heights these days. Although this type of behavior is unacceptable, I’m hoping to shed some light so that repentance can take place in the pulpit as well as the pew.

Regardless of the pastor, the comments are often the same: “The leadership is secretive, controlling, and manipulating. They retaliate against anyone opposed to them! There is a culture of fear among the staff. The pastor has a lot of ‘yes’ men surrounding him.” All these comments demand that pastors and elders look in the mirror, reassess our calling, and repent if warranted. That’s obvious. But on the flip side, these statements are sometimes unwarranted and unfounded when used by disgruntled members.

The problem: pastors are people: Why do they fall? They fall for the same reason that all Christians fall. Each of us is drawn away by our own evil desires and enticed. We need to abort sin when it’s conceived (see James 1:14–15). Sin has a life cycle—it either grows or withers depending on whether we feed or starve it. John Owen once said, “Be killing sin, or sin will be killing you.” Put Christ on the pedestal, not people. People will always let you down; Christ will not.

If a leader continues to ignore the warning signs of a hard heart, they will inevitably drift from God. Not all fallen pastors are wolves, false teachers, or unbelievers; they’ve been overcome by sin. They need to be lovingly confronted and lovingly encouraged. Have we drifted so far that we have forgotten to exhibit the same grace we so desperately need ourselves? I’m not talking about sweeping corruption under the rug; I’m speaking of the ultimate goal of restoration—not necessarily to ministry but to relationship. It’s just as heartbreaking to see Christians bash a fallen leader as it is to watch the leader fall. Hurt people hurt people.

A misunderstood calling: Leaders may appear controlling because they are called to lead. They may come across as unapproachable because they set boundaries. They may be viewed as hard because they are called to defend. They may appear secretive because they must choose their words carefully. If they are not available 24/7, we say that they are “not there for us.” If they can’t make every event or respond to every email, Tweet, and Facebook post, we label them as “unavailable.” Folks, we all need a lot more grace.

When it comes to money, churches need to handle finances like we handle explosives: very carefully. However, everyone will have different opinions on where the money should be spent; this cannot be avoided. When churches grow quickly, this becomes even more challenging. I’ve noticed that how money is spent will always be an issue. As long as the church is avoiding massive debt, building on integrity, and accomplishing the Great Commission, they are hopefully heading in a good direction.

This doesn’t excuse financial mismanagement, but we must look at the whole picture. For example, I often hear this about churches in America: “The pastor is surrounded by ‘yes’ men.” Should we be surrounded by “no” men? God forbid. A healthy church is a unified church. This does not mean that it’s okay to control the board or manipulate decisions, but this topic deserves a closer look. Many times when people make this statement, it’s because they were denied a request. Instead of repenting of a wrong attitude, they use the “yes men” clause against the leadership. But sometimes their concern is very valid. So yes, some churches have passive board members who do not confront overbearing pastors, and I’m not defending that behavior. However, the answer is not a passive pastor. Within the leadership of the church, there ought to be unity, which is only found in prayerful submission to one another.

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Shane Idleman