As I watch the news of Penn State and Syracuse the thought that keeps running through my mind is "why did otherwise reasonable people either ignore, give a pass or not confront behaviors which it now seems were egregiousness and serious? There are probably several reasons: the perpetrators had power; people didn't want to assume that these upstanding citizens could be doing these things, and a simple failure of courage!
Let's take that same question and apply it to the church! Why do pastors get away with behaviors that would otherwise be forbidden even in the secular workplace? Here are some of the behaviors I have observed over the past 20 years of consulting with local churches and I am talking about evangelical churches here.
- Pastors whose insecurities cause them to divide people into two camps. Those who agree with them and are therefor their friends and those who disagree with them and are therefore their enemies. Enemies are ignored, shunted to the side and marginalized. How does that square with loving the flock?
- Pastors who use threats to get their way. Threats as blatant as "I could fire you if you don't do this" or "I will resign if you push me on this." "I don't care if I get zero votes on a confidence vote, I am not leaving and will take the church down with me if I have to."
- Pastors who use inappropriate sexual language or touch and even flirting with the opposite sex in both public places and private situations (counseling).
- Pastors who are intimidated by other strong leaders (who are seen as a threat to their leadership) and make it hard for them to serve in the church.
- Pastors who are unaccountable with their time. When they are away from the church, no staff members has any idea as to where they are or how to reach them.
- Pastors who will not allow their boards to speak into their lives, specific situations that have occurred, conduct executive sessions of the board or give them an annual review. This sends a loud message, "I don't have to be accountable to you."
- Pastors who hire staff without due diligence, don't mentor or coach them on a regular basis and fire them if they become a threat to them or don't perform to their standards. This is a user mentality toward people.
- Pastors who leave their church angry, deliberately dividing the congregation on their way out.
- Pastors who triangulate relationships to form alliances against others whether other staff members, board members or congregants. Not only wrong but a sign of poor emotional intelligence.
- Pastors who will take credit for any advance and find scapegoats for any failure.
- Pastors who use their "God given authority" to lead as they see fit. After all they are "God's anointed." Again, this ignores accountability and shared leadership.
- Pastors who speak ill of board members or congregants even as they become angry if they hear of either group criticizing them.
Fortunately, the vast majority of pastors I work with are wonderful individuals who are deeply committed Christ followers and models of Christian leadership. But when I see behaviors that are out of the pale and ignored, as they were with Penn State and Syracuse, I have to ask myself why? I understand the unregenerate behavior but I don't understand those surrounding the situation who allow it to continue. Where is the board? Where are members of the congregation who see and are grieved?
Often pastors who exhibit these characteristics are simply bullies. They get in the face of anyone who tries to speak to their behaviors which is why boards often back off. But why should a board back off and since when do bullies qualify to be pastors of a local church? I think of the qualifications for elders and deacons in the New Testament and the further comments of Peter on the matter and wonder why we allow behaviors that are so contrary to both New Testament teaching and the model of Jesus.
TJ Addington of Addington Consulting has a passion to help individuals and organizations maximize their impact and go to the next level of effectiveness. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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