Executive Training

Some pastors behave as though they’re running a business trying to meet production and show a profit at the end of the quarter. They drive themselves and their people in such a way they create a work environment around everything they do as a church. They don’t realize the stress that places on the people God has brought together as a faith family. It wears them out and it makes them dread coming to church for fear they’ll get chastised, because they didn’t make their quota for the week. The relationships they build feel forced and unnatural. Their participation in church activities and events seem more like an expectation to be met than an opportunity to be enjoyed. Most of them just settle into the belief this is the way it’s supposed to work.

I served under such a pastor in my early years as a novice minister. He had put me in charge of a committee that handled maintenance matters. He called me to his office one morning to ask why I had handled an issue in a particular manner. Before I had a chance to explain anything, he tore into me like a raging bull. He was a big guy, and his neck would turn beet red when his temper flared. He bashed and berated me for twenty minutes before he cooled to a simmer. Then he made a statement I almost wished I had not responded to. He said, “Now if there is ever anything you have a concern over, please feel free to come to me about it.” With little hesitation, I said, “Well, you could learn to temper your rebukes with a little more love.” Oh, boy, was that the wrong thing to say. I got a flash boil-over tirade for another ten minutes on how that was just how he was, and that was the way he handled things. He talked about how he had managed others in the business he worked in. I remember thinking, “I wonder if this is how he deals with his wife and kids,” and “If that’s what church leadership is, I want no part of it,” and finally, “No wonder no new people want to come to this church.” I left his office wanting to turn in my resignation and pack up my wife and go anywhere just to get away from that. I determined I would never lead in such a manner.

When I hear of a pastor bullying his members, it brings up those feelings again. When I hear someone explain that it’s just his leadership style and his natural temperament, I think to myself, “Dude, he needs to learn to use other styles of leadership as well.”  You want a leadership principle? Here’s one that might prevent some unnecessary conflict: There are times when you need to suppress your natural temperament and leadership style when the situation calls for it. That’s true for every personality type, not just those who lean toward the high D quadrant. Just saying “that’s the way I do it” is usually nothing more than an excuse to hide behind when you want to force the results you want, or when you just want to avoid dealing with a matter.

The point is, everything about the church should focus on God working through His people to accomplish His mission, not on people working through the church to accomplish someone’s vision. If the leadership is not championing such an atmosphere, the members are going to view church as an obligation, a duty, a responsibility–a job–and not a joyful walk with God as a way of life. Sadly, many in the culture of Church, Inc. can’t even tell the difference.