Pastors and Church Leadership
The relationship between the pastor and the church leadership is perhaps the most sensitive
pressure point in a church organization.
There are times when the pastor wants to lead the church in one direction, and the leadership wants
to move in another direction.
This can settle into a long power struggle.
Division can come over anything from the building program to the order of the morning worship service.
It can also come over the color of the carpet.
Power is at stake and the issue is often irrelevant.
What counts in this situation is who wins.
The issue is often settled at the expense of a split.
Pastors sometimes bring division on themselves.
Some pastors see submitting to the leadership as a sign of weakness.
Some pastors believe that to be called of God is a guarantee that only they know God's will
for the congregation.
They may also think that God blesses only those pastors who stand up for their views,
regardless of what it may cost.
The pastor might even be tempted to misuse scripture, and even warn those who disagree with him
that they had better not touch the Lord's anointed.
The more dictatorial the pastor is, the more necessary it is for him to win on every issue.
He sees even minor matters as a referendum on his leadership, so he must get his way every time.
When the leadership doesn't agree with his views, he'll resort to pressure.
He will bypass the leadership and appeal to the congregation directly.
He will also try to coerce members to agree with him.
He may even write a letter to the congregation in his defense.
He will emphasize that this letter is in the interest of truth, and to set the record straight.
Unfortunately, pastors who have this attitude are not willing to leave some disputes for the Lord to set right.
This pastor may not realize that what he gains in the power struggle he loses in credibility and respect.
Peter presents a different picture of a pastor's role: "Shepherd the flock of God among you,
not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain,
but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples
to the flock." (1 Peter 5: 2-3, NASB)
Christ taught that the primary quality of leadership was servanthood, not a dictatorial spirit.
This is not to suggest that the leadership is always innocent.
There are many church boards that have driven their pastors to unnecessary resignations.
This also is not Christlike!
Here are some basic principles that can help in negotiating the inevitable differences that will arise.
There Must Be Accountability.
Every leader of the church and the pastor must be accountable.
The pastor has no authority to act independently.
He should not and cannot override the vote of the leadership by appealing to his divine call.
The pastor must never threaten to resign unless the controversy and possible division merits his resignation.
When the situation involves eternal truth or important doctoral or moral issues, the pastor must stand
and declare the consequences of such things.
When difficulties arise, the pastor may feel slighted, unappreciated, and misunderstood.
All of us have an innate desire to justify ourselves.
So the pastor may determine that he will not leave until justice is done.
However, Paul has admonished us not to avenge ourselves, but to let God settle our accounts.
The pastor can live with himself and face God with a clear conscience when he can accept wrong
without compromise, but also without retaliation.
Clarifying a matter is one thing, but to persist in being defensive is another.
The bottom line is that the pastor must submit to the authority of the church unless a clear point of Scripture
is at stake.
It is better for pastor to leave, than to stay to prove a point or to get "justice."
The pastor must share his vision with those to whom he is accountable.
This takes time and patience, but will bring fruitful dividends when the leadership acts as one in making
decisions for the benefit of the body.
That kind of unity comes through prayer and hard work.
If the previous pastor has had a tarnished reputation, the leadership and the church will need time
to develop trust and confidence in their new pastor's integrity.
When a group decision is made, there is also a shared responsibility.
That doesn't mean that the pastor shouldn't be a strong leader.
Most church leadership expects their pastor to take the initiative and to give direction to the ministry.
Paul writes in 1 Tim. 5: 17: "Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor,
especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching."
If the pastor dictates to the leadership, and so acknowledging that he does not consider them
an integral part of the decision-making process, the members may eventually polarize against him.
The leadership may have many different opinions about a proposal, but the pastor and the board
must be willing to pray and wait until a consensus emerges.
The leadership should stand behind its decisions.
They should not vote, yes, just for the sake of pleasing the pastor or for the sake of unity.
Neither should any of the leadership reverse themselves after going home and talking it over with their wives.
They should not be doing that any way!
The Responsibility of Leadership
The leadership must keep a watch on their behavior.
They must never become unruly.
No one of leadership should ever be considered the official "church boss."
No one of leadership should ever strive for recognition and control.
Such an individual will oppose the pastor and pretend to speak for others.
Some of the leadership and especially new ones can be intimidated by so-called "church bosses."
They usually reason that he has been in the church for years, and so they just hope that the problem
will go away.
The problem will not go away.
It will only get worse, and discord will spread.
There have been churches where a church leader has ruined the ministries of a succession of pastors
with this strategy and the need to control.
Such a leader will befriend the pastor in the first year and then turn against him in the second.
He has enough influence to generate opposition against the pastor to force a showdown.
Other leaders in the church and members allow this to go on.
Unfortunately, this kind of intimidated leadership usually believes the pastor is expendable.
They are aware that pastors come and go, but this church boss stays forever.
The leadership of the church must possess the love for God and for the church and must have
the determination to discipline its own members.
If not, then the church leaders have adopted a double standard, and the work of God is hindered.
Paul gave some specific instructions in confronting a leader.
An accusation should not be received except on the basis of two or three witnesses,
and, if a leader continues in discord and sin, he should be rebuked publicly. (1 Tim. 5:19-20)
The pastor must enlist the cooperation of other church leaders when it is necessary to call a church leader
When Satan cannot get a pastor to ruin his own reputation, he will try to create friction between the pastor
and the leadership.
Without unity, we cannot conquer the world or the devil.
Benjamin Franklin's words are as true for a church as it is for a nation:
"We must all hang together, or assuredly, we shall all hang separately."
Let us determine to keep Paul's admonition to be "diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit
in the bond of peace." (Ephesians 4: 3)
Anything less than this will harm the body of Christ.
When this happens, the body of Christ works against itself.
Every pastor and every leader of the church must be determined to protect and preserve the unity
of the church of the living God.
Nothing is more important than this to the great ministry of God's Church!