This doesn’t excuse financial mismanagement, but we must look at the whole picture. For example, I often hear this about churches in America: “The pastor is surrounded by ‘yes’ men.” Should we be surrounded by “no” men? God forbid. A healthy church is a unified church. This does not mean that it’s okay to control the board or manipulate decisions, but this topic deserves a closer look. Many times when people make this statement, it’s because they were denied a request. Instead of repenting of a wrong attitude, they use the “yes men” clause against the leadership. But sometimes their concern is very valid. So yes, some churches have passive board members who do not confront overbearing pastors, and I’m not defending that behavior. However, the answer is not a passive pastor. Within the leadership of the church, there ought to be unity, which is only found in prayerful submission to one another.
Leaders walk a very fine line:
Church leaders must be bold but also broken, firm but flexible, hard on sin but humble with others, demanding excellence but not pushy, motivating but not overbearing. Sadly, it’s impossible to walk this line perfectly. We need to own our faults, apologize, and ask God to change us. But on the flip side, a wounded pastor who is constantly under the microscope—where every word and action is weighed in the balances—can become passive to avoid pain. We begin to think, “I don’t want to deal with that issue; I’ve been hurt many times before,” and we become paralyzed.
The passive pastor gets steamrolled, and the abusive pastor is the steamroller. Pastors will spend their lives trying to find the middle ground. Those who are abusive, manipulating, and controlling (the wrong type of control, that is) need to repent and seek restoration and rebuild broken relationships. Passive, weak, people-pleasing pastors also need to repent and spend time in the prayer closet. Ask God for boldness to lead, fortitude to make tough decisions, and the strength to continue. Bold, humble, gracious leaders are desperately needed in these dire times. The church, as well as our nation, desperately needs to hear “the voice crying in the wilderness” to awaken, convict, and restore.
It’s hard to walk the fine line between passivity and passion; balance and boldness. As they say, “The struggle is real.” As a child, I would isolate myself to prevent future pain (I still tend to do that today). I became an approval seeker, something you would find hard to believe if you heard my preaching. Angry people scare me and personal criticism hurts more deeply than it should. The deep pains of ministry can linger, and the enemy of our soul will use them against us. Thankfully, God makes provision for all our needs through His Word. He must be our anchor and our true source of hope.
As I said in a past op-ed, if you are on the cliff or have already fallen, take time now and repent. It will hurt, but the fruit of repentance far outweighs the fruit of exposure that will surely come (see Numbers 32:23). God’s grace will see you through. A penitent person turns from sin. They accept full responsibility for their actions without blame, resentment, or bitterness. They seek forgiveness without conditions and stipulations. They take full (not partial) responsibility for their actions. There can be no “buts” when repentance is genuine. “I am sorry. I was wrong. Please forgive me,” are often (although not always) healing words and signs of repentance. Excuses need to stop before healing can occur.
Begin to repair cracks in the armor by making God, not ministry, the priority. Deep healing needs to take place. Weep and worship while He heals and restores. Let the Bible study you; let it cut deep and remove the cancer of pride. When you read books written by others, stop glossing over Scripture because you “already know what the Bible says.” Pride is deadly and damning. Ask God to heal and help. You may call yourself “Spirit-filled,” but are you? That’s the key: to be broken and humble before God, exposing sin as soon as it begins, staying vigilant and remembering that your enemy goes about as a lion seeking to destroy you. Every year, I try to read Paul Tripp’s book on pastoral ministry, Dangerous Calling, and I encourage you to do the same.
As a final word:
Don’t forget about taking care of your body. Most pastors are either skinny and malnourished, living on energy drinks, or are overweight, tired, and unproductive. Both states will affect your mood and your attitude toward others. What you put in your body and mind affects your spirit—and when you feed the spirit, it affects the body and the soul. I’m often asked to pray for people who have panic attacks, angry outbursts, and anxiety. God honors prayer, but are we opening the door by not halting highly addictive habits that cause those very things?
In the past, I excused my poor attitude with statements such as “I had a bad day,” “I’m under a lot of stress,” or “I’m tired.” Ironically, I was the primary cause of my bad days, stress, and fatigue. Addiction to caffeine, for example, often fuels angry temper tantrums and explosive outbursts. It’s a powerful stimulant that incites irritability and a quick temper. Even the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders lists caffeine-related disorders—all can lead to angry outbursts, severe anxiety, and extreme irritability. Wake up...you may be fueling the very thing you’re fighting. This is not what many want to hear, but it’s what they need to hear. (Here is a teaching on health for those interested, and free e-books are available here.)
Remember, there are consequences for past mistakes, but it’s best to live within God’s healing arms of forgiveness rather than live broken outside of His will. Which way will you turn . . . which way will you run?
Shane Idleman is the founder and lead pastor of Westside Chrisitan Fellowship in Southern California. More can be found at ShaneIdleman.com, and free downloads of his books are available at WCFAV.org. Visit him on Facebook for weekly sermon videos and articles and subscribe to his new podcast. You can follow Pastor Shane on Twitter here.
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