Ten ways pastors kill, wound, maim, destroy both people and churches. These are some thoughts based on personal observations – in no particular order – and not referencing any one particular person.
Fortunately, most pastors and leaders do not commit these cardinal sins. I’ve been in several excellent churches where this sort of thing doesn’t happen… ever. If it did, the church board would quickly take care of the pastor in question. Unfortunately, if you have a church without a board and a sovereign system of hierarchy, abusive pastors can take hold.
If you’re in a church like this – pray about what God would have you do. If you’re the pastor – repent! God has a much better way for you to lead by following Him in all things.
#1 – Have your lay leaders do almost everything. Tell people that YOU do everything (after all, you’re the pastor) and that no one ever helps with church work. When your leaders want to do something innovative, don’t let them. Or, grudgingly allow them to do it (without help from the pastor, of course – you were against it to begin with!) When the event is over, publicly berate them, even if things go well with the project. Promise your church leadership that something is available/will be done. A few days later, tell them they’re foolish to expect it. Don’t meet with your associate pastor, youth pastor, or lay leaders regularly. Talk about mentoring the other pastors and leaders, because they obviously need it! Don’t bother to make the time to actually do it. (They’ll know you care because you really “want” to meet with them!) Never check to be sure that the doctrine being preached by the other pastors and teachers actually matches the doctrine of your church, or even the basics of Christianity.
#2 – Do nothing to encourage visitors to come to your church. When they do, don’t talk to the visitors any more than you absolutely have to. If there’s something you don’t like about them, do your best to avoid them. Speak badly of them after they leave. Do absolutely nothing to follow up. Assume these visitors to your church wouldn’t want to come back anyway. Tell absolutely everyone – church members, visitors, and the community – that in your church, you like the “cloud” (of God’s glory) better than the crowd (of God’s people) – even if there’s only five of you in a church built for 300. When you’re speaking to members of the community, introduce yourself as a pastor and say bad things about your church. Complain that you can’t afford to keep the building and say things about your church members (confidentially, of course).
#3 – Fight and argue with your spouse. Make it as public as possible. Say terrible things about your spouse from the pulpit, to church members, and to visitors. Whine when it’s your anniversary. When your spouse leaves you because you’re a jerk, don’t tell anyone because they might judge you, or even ask you to leave. Tell people what you REALLY think on any and every subject. Tell people what you really think about other people. Smile and make jokes as you do all of this.
#4 – When you see that someone is upset over a situation, do nothing. If you’ve personally insulted or wounded them, do nothing (after all, they should be coming to you if they want an apology). Keep this policy even with children and teenagers. If the person is upset enough to leave, let them – they only came to church for the attention, and to stir up controversy and strife. If they move to take other families with them, do NOTHING to prevent it.
#5 – Refuse to answer questions. Defer anything you don’t know to someone else, instead of researching yourself. Or promise to get back to them about it, and then don’t bother. Or make up an answer that sounds good on the fly. If you do this, be sure to assume an air of authority and use lots of Christian-ese in your answer – if you drown them in words they don’t understand, they might just accept what you have to say. Holler at people who had previously been closed spiritually, but now are asking questions. After all, you’ve explained the gospel to them before and they should have gotten it.
#6 – Make a decision. Change it. Change it again. Change it again. Abruptly announce each of these changes as non-negotiables. Don’t explain – you’re the pastor and you don’t need to. If people question the decision, assume they’re trying to take over the church and treat them accordingly. Even better… make a decision regarding church discipline, and don’t tell the people it will affect most. Just go with it. When they ask what is happening, assume that air of superiority when you tell them what is expected of them or why you are disciplining them … but don’t tell them why you’ve made this decision.
#7 – Don’t share the gospel with the community. Grudgingly help people with things like food or clothing, but only do so if you feel good about it. If they continue to act like sinners, drop them like a hot potato and comment to others that you never should have helped them. When they don’t get saved or come to church, get angry and bitter about it. Talk all the time to your church members about the importance of evangelism and how your church is about winning the lost. When your people want to actually go out and witness, do everything you can to put a damper on it.
#8 – Make fun of people at every opportunity, without regard for how they (or others) may feel. Deride anyone you disagree with. Speak sneeringly of other churches and pastors, even if you don’t know them. Announce that you’re sure that certain people are headed to hell (even if they’re Christians or other pastors) because their lifestyle is evil (for example, if they have tattoos or they smoke or chew tobacco).
#9 – If you pray for a person and nothing happens, assume there’s something wrong with their faith/their walk with the Lord. NEVER question your own. Tell other people about it. Sneer and make faces when you do. If it gets back to them, dodge them until they get over it.
#10 – Treat your prayer and devotional life as an obligation meant to be performed when you start feeling guilty enough. Pastors are busy! Quote spiritual-sounding Bible verses in the presence of others. Deny having spiritual issues. Be sure to get up on Sunday morning and preach something that condemns half the congregation for their lousy spiritual walk. Do it with a smile.