Church bullies are toxic to the local church. They create divisions, and unhealthy alliances, spread gossip and rumors, and undermine leaders on a regular basis. They do this to accomplish their ends. They may be angry, they may have an agenda, or they may want to hurt leaders, whether boards or the senior pastor. But the end result of their toxic, unethical, and unbiblical behavior is to hurt God's people. If you are a church leader, please read that last sentence again because it matters.
Here is the problem with church boards and church bullies. Boards are very reluctant to deal with them. They are intimidated by them and don't want to rock the boat. They find all kinds of ways to justify this toxic behavior. "Oh, that is just Joe; get used to it." Listen, Betty really is a good person in spite of all the gossip and malicious lies she tells." "We have always had a problem with Bill."
And who gets hurt? First, God's people. The leadership becomes complicit in the toxicity when they refuse to deal with it. Bullies use disinformation, unkind words, gossip, malicious charges, and underhanded techniques to get their way. And they refuse to be held accountable. They triangulate leaders and, in the process, create doubt, distrust and undermine senior leaders. Often the senior pastor.
I am asking passive boards to reconsider their inaction when it comes to those who are toxic in the church. You are the key to solving these issues, and I am inviting you to do what God needs you to do and protect the body of Christ.
I have several questions for church boards.
First, if you were the target of this malicious behavior, would you want someone to stand up for you? That is what senior pastors often don't get. They are expected to put up with unacceptable behavior in the church because you, as a board member, will not call the bullies out and confront them on their behavior. Many pastors simply live in pain or choose to move on when boards will not protect them.
Second, if you were a leader in a business or business owner, would you allow this kind of behavior in your organization? Of course, you would not. You would recognize that this kind of behavior does not serve you well, and is undermining you and what you are trying to accomplish, and you would put a decisive stop to it. So why do you allow it to continue in the church?
Third, what do you make of frequent commands to Timothy and others to deal with divisive people in the church because their behavior is antithetical to what God has called us to? One day, you will stand before God and account for what you did and did not do as a leader and whether you protected the flock for such sinful behavior.
You cannot have a healthy church with unchallenged toxic behavior! It will not happen, so pretending that it is OK and that you don't need to act is foolish and naive. Paul specifically commands leaders to deal with the three wolves of heresy (false teaching), sinful behavior (that is ongoing and egregious), and those who sow division in the church. Paul himself challenged the church in Corinth to deal with those who sowed division and those who were living in unrepentant sin.
Church bullies do what they do because they suspect that no one will challenge their behavior. After all, they have gotten away with it for a long time. They refuse to be accountable and refuse to repent, apologize and adopt healthy behaviors. And boards coddle them, don't confront them, and tell pastors that this is just the price of being in ministry. That is wrong, unbiblical, toxic, and makes leaders complicit. And there are thousands of complicit church leaders who refuse to do what they are supposed to do as undershepherds of God's flock and protect the body of Christ.
Please, if you are one of those board members who will not confront sinful behavior (it is), either step aside or do the job God has given you to do. The health of your congregation is at stake.