By Joe McKeever
“Be strong and courageous” (Joshua 1:6,7,9,18).
The pastor of a church with which I’m familiar is something of a bully, according to some members I know. So, the other day, seeing him talking rudely to two women and watching them leaving in tears, a deacon in that church did a brave thing.
He went to see the pastor.
After hearing out the preacher on what had occurred, this courageous clayman told the pastor he was in the wrong, that he had been out of line, and asked him to apologize to the women.
The last I heard, the pastor has not apologized. From what I gather, no one expects that he will. He built a reputation as one who will get his way above all, and to back down to anyone is not in his nature.
Such a bully has no business in the ministry.
Where did he come from? Where did he get the idea that a pastor had the liberty to behave in this way? Who taught him that the shepherd of the Lord’s sheep may lord it over them?
I suspect that along the way he has had some bad role models and modeled himself after the wrong kind of minister. Running roughshod over the membership to get his way seems to be an entitlement with him. To oppose him is to go against God.
Clearly, such a pastor either does not read his Bible or does not believe it. Jesus said, “I am among you as One who serves” (Luke 22:27). “Shepherd the flock of God among you…not as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock” (I Peter 5:2-3).
The pastor should be a shepherd, setting high standards for himself, the kind of person who sets the example of service and humility for the rest of the congregation.
A friend tells me that pastor-bully is quickly losing support in the church and they doubt he will be there much longer.
My friend may be being a little too optimistic.
Such a pastor is known to hang on long after his support has dried up, long after his usefulness has disappeared, long after his “sell by date.” He stays for one very strong reason: no other church wants him. He has nowhere to go.
He may be willing to ride the church into the ground.
In outstaying his usefulness, the bully-pastor puts the congregational leadership in a tough spot. They have to decide whether to force him out. Doing that runs the risk of creating a scandal, splitting the church, soiling the church’s reputation in the community, hurting a lot of people, damaging the pastor’s family, and ruining any future prospects for this man’s ministry. Ousting a pastor could set a bad precedent, and give a “taste for blood” to the carnal members who thereafter see this as a cureall for the church’s ills: “Get rid of this preacher and find another one we like better.”
Firing a pastor should be done as a last resort.
Complicating the matter is that some of us have known situations where lay members were “just sure” that the pastor did not have the support of the membership and needed to leave for the good of the church, when it developed that they were mistaken, that it was those members themselves who were out of step with the congregation.
The deacon who was willing to confront his rude pastor is a man of courage.
He will need to be a man of great wisdom.
Leaders of every congregation need to know the Father’s will about difficult issues like this (wisdom) and then do what God wants done(courage).
Leadership requires both courage and wisdom.
Or, take another situation.
A pastor friend is under attack by a small group in his church. He assures me the congregation as a whole is enthusiastically behind him. Yet, that little group, a strong committee, is determined to get him out.
A member of their staff says he so admires the pastor for standing firm, and that the pastor’s leaving would devastate the church.
My counsel for that minister would be for him to consider going nowhere, but to see if the Lord might have him to stand tough and take his stand.
For that, he needs wisdom.
Does the Lord want him to stand his ground and force matters to a showdown? If so, how specifically should he do that? He needs to know God’s will in this matter.
There is no peace on the planet like knowing when you are in the will of God, right exactly where you are supposed to be.
But once he knows the Lord wants him to stand strong, to stay where God put him, and to endure this storm, he’s not there yet.
He needs courage.
It’s one thing to know what to do, another to do it.
Courage is a product of wisdom. If you are unsure whether you are doing right, hesitating and proceeding tentatively would be natural. There is no insecurity like uncertainty.
But if you know what the Lord wants you to know and know that you know it, you have a peace inside that is so sweet and solid, it might even surprise you (as it did with me).
My advice to someone considering confronting the bully in the pulpit or the bullies who make up the committee…
Pull together two or three of your most trusted confidants and seek their counsel. Assuming they do not live in your town, find a meetingplace convenient for everyone and clear off a day for this. Travel there, spend at least a couple of hours in prayer and conversation, making sure you hear them out, listening while they discuss this among themselves. Make no promises to anyone on what you will do, but thank them.
Should you pay their expenses for coming? In most cases, no. Only if they could not come otherwise. Let them do this for you as an act of worship to the Savior and service to His church.
On your way home, talk to the Lord. Be quiet and listen for His voice.
Consider various scenarios as you drive. Role play. You’re going to do one thing and imagine it and speak the lines, making them up as you go. Then, after a bit, change and take another approach, making up what you would say.
Then wait on the Lord. Fasting is good. Praying and being quiet. Reading the Word, particularly the Psalms.
When you know, you will know.
Then, go do it, whether “it” is to go home and mow your grass, love your spouse, and let Him handle the problem, or walk into the lion’s den and dare the devil to do his worst.
Recognize that the Lord telling you to do something (giving you wisdom) and giving you the strength to do it (granting you courage) will not automatically guarantee matters will immediately work out the way you wish.
They crucified Jesus.
But in the long run, it will. So be faithful. Trust God.
Joe McKeever is retired missions director for the New Orleans Baptist Association. Before that Mr. McKeever pastored churches in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and North Carolina.