I believe that leaders are called to lead at specific times in the history of a church. And, that their unique abilities and vision is critical to the next chapter of a congregations success. However, I have also watched with concern a phenomenon of new leaders coming into a church and essentially hijacking it for their own purposes. What are the signs of a church hijack?

One. There is a criticism of the past as if nothing good came out of it. The new leader/pastor talks about the future and implicitly or explicitly denigrates the past. This forgets that those who gave their energy, money and talent in the past made the church what it is today and provided the platform for a new leader to build on the past. Every leader stands on the shoulders of those who led in in the past unless they start something new. And the people who are there when they come are God's flock.

Two. The new leader does not ask and take into account the vision and dreams of the leadership or congregation but rather inserts their dreams as the vision for the future. When we come into a new church as a new leader we do not come into a vacuum. We come into a congregation with a history and a vision, whether vague or focused. It is critical that we take that vision into account and not simply impose our own vision as if the past does not exist.

Three. Being willing to see many people leave so that a new leader can achieve their dreams. I have watched new pastors see hundreds of people leave the church because they have imposed their agenda on it without being at all concerned about the views and concerns of those who leave. It is as if they are willing to sacrifice the past to achieve their vision of the future. As a change agent I fully understand that some people leave when a new leader or vision comes but when significant people leave it is more about the agenda of the new leader than a shared vision for the church.

Four. Marginalizing current staff. Again, there is no question that a new leader needs to build their own team. However, when it comes at the expense of qualified and good staff who have served well it probably indicates that the new leader is anxious to get rid of the past and put their own stamp on the future. It is often a sign of their insecurity rather than security.

Five. Imposing a new vision that is unnecessarily a break from the past. Good leaders don't move faster than their constituency can follow and they honor and give value to those who are there. Sometimes it takes time to get to where we want to go. Jesus never marginalized people in the pursuit of His mission other than the Pharisees. 

Six. Not listening to the concerns of the current constituency. This is one of the key indicators of a leader who is hijacking a ministry for their own purposes. When there is not a concern for the vision, concerns, ideas and issues raised by those who have come before there is an arrogant rather than humble attitude of leadership. And, it usually results in divided, wounded and conflicted congregations because of the agenda of a new leader who does not choose to take into account what has come before them.

When leaders hijack a church, they leave a trail of wounded bodies and hearts behind them. Because it is God's church, many leave or suffer quietly but it does not excuse those who deliver that pain or lack of sensitivity. It is very sad when it happens and often results in deeply wounded congregations. I have a very hard time reconciling this behavior with the values of Jesus and how he treated people - His flock. It also seems to violate the advice Peter gave to under-shepherds in 1 Peter 5.  The question is whether it is ultimately more about them then about Jesus and His flock. Ministry platforms can and are used for personal agendas all the time. Unfortunately!

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  • Dec 21, 2014
  • Category: News
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