What kind of Pastor are you? Church Politics 101

My intention in writing this is to enlighten, and not to harm, though it may hurt…because the truth hurts. As I ask many times in my articles, if you are going to read this, please commit to reading it in its entirety, because there will be some difficult points and thoughts to ponder, but if you let the Lord speak to you, the conclusion will be worth it.

I have always been somewhat of a reluctant leader…leading by necessity and calling rather than desire. Because the church “leadership” failed in many ways to help me grow, I found early on that I had to lead myself first, and then offer to others that which the leadership failed to give me. God used the situation for good, but the battle has been hard fought.

The leadership failed for two primary reasons: First, what I needed, they didn’t have. Second, if they did have it to give, they gave just enough, dangling it like a carrot to keep me coming back, but never was I filled. They kept giving me fish when I desperately wanted to know how to fish. The first was a failure of preparation, the second was a power play. They didn’t want to help me grow into the person God was calling me to be, at least not fully, because they were comfortable being the spiritual ones in charge. This is not simply my perspective, I had objective observers tell me these things before I ever vocalized them. It was a bittersweet confirmation of what I already knew.

This emphasized the fact that the church organization has a hierarchical structure, even if you are part of an independent, non-denominational church. The church organization has defaulted, and continues to default to a hierarchy of established people and expected norms. This is the nitty gritty of what is known as “church politics.” Of course, when one looks at actual politics it is quite clear that, whether you like it or not, there was a political revolution in the presidential election of 2016. The “establishment” politicians were overthrown and kicked out.

The church has an “establishment” too, and if you are one, you should desperately check your life and be sure you get on the right track with the Lord, because it is only a matter of time before He rectifies things. You don’t want to be included in the “church establishment” because these people will eventually be kicked out as well.

(I will be using leadership and establishment interchangeably in this article)

Here are some points to help you determine if you are part of the church establishment, the primary causes of which come from “All that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (the pride in position and possessions).” 1 John 2:16

  1. Manipulation – Do you help people grow to the point where they don’t need you anymore? If you help them grow a little, but not as much as you actually can, you are probably doing it so they remain dependent upon you for spiritual guidance. This protects your position as a leader, because the underlying motive is that they not reach the spiritual summit that you assess yourself to have reached, for fear they may become closer to Jesus and/or more popular with the masses than you, thereby eclipsing the position you have attained. Be careful because this is a form of manipulation for the purpose of maintaining control and power. Are you manipulating people by holding them back from being the person they can truly be in the Lord?
  2. Greed – This goes hand in hand with the first point. Remember that old adage “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”? The church establishment gives people fish every Sunday to keep them coming back. They neglect to teach people how to fish so they can grow on their own, in order to keep butts in the pews and tithes in the purse. Are you allowing money to keep you from doing what’s right?
  3. Power – The church establishment is destined to fail because they were never supposed to be “in power” in the first place. Christ is the head of the church and all authority has been given to Him. How often do you hear a message on how to hear the voice of God? Not very often, because the establishment thinks that “lay people” aren’t learned or responsible enough to understand such deep, intimacy with the Father, that should be left to those who have a theological degree. That is an elitist mentality that protects its’ own. The fact is, shortly after Moses, the Exodus, and the promised land (which foreshadow Jesus and his mission of leading us out of the bondage of sin and into the promise of His Spirit), comes a book which I am convinced is a foreshadow of Christ and the church – the book of Judges. In this book God speaks to, and employs those He chooses at any given time for any given purpose. Subsequently, the people want an established human leader but God wants to lead them Himself, and speak to them personally. As many of you know, the Lord eventually gives the people what they want in the form of King Saul, but it was not God’s original, perfect will for them. His original will was essentially a Theocracy – a nation led by the Lord Himself. This is why Jesus said “But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one Teacher and you are all brothers. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ.” By these verses it is clear that the Lord does not want hierarchy of power within the church, because that simply leads to an elitist mentality. He should be on the throne of every heart. Are you usurping Gods’ perfect will? Do you have an elitist mentality when it comes to ministry and the things of God?
  4. Jealousy – I know of a pastor (we’ll call him John) who has had the call of God on his life for ministry from the time he was a teenager. Johns’ goal has always been to help people grow so much, and get so close to Jesus, that they don’t need John anymore. However, other pastors and leaders have been jealous of the gifts and anointing that the Lord has placed on Johns’ life, and they feel threatened by Johns’ Biblical knowledge, youthful zeal, purity of heart and maturity in the Lord. They are secretly afraid that John will take their job because he is more qualified both in the eyes of man and in the eyes of God. Because of their jealousy and fears, they have held him back from accomplishing the call of God and operating in his giftings. Their actions have deeply wounded John because these pastors and leaders are people who should know better. They should put their pride aside and, at the very least, allow the Lord to work through John in his giftings. However, an even better, more mature response would be for them to help John in ministry in whatever way they can so that the church may thrive. To make things worse it hasn’t been just one church or pastor that has felt this way and done this to John, the majority of pastors John has worked with over the years have responded out of jealousy and fear. The only consolation is that John is in good company, because the religious leaders of the day treated Jesus the same way. Of whom are you jealous? Who do you feel threatens your position in ministry?
  5. Bias – Singles are treated as second-class citizens of ministry (See the article “Church and Singles“). Do you have a biblical view of singleness and marriage?
  6. Favoritism – I have a friend who is a fellow minister and who is intimately familiar with church methods for obtaining staff and guest speakers. As a pastor and speaker myself, I was refreshed yet deeply saddened by a comment he made. Refreshed because he was unabashedly honest, and saddened because it is unfortunately true. He said nobody cares if you have a great message, they only care if you have a big name and can draw a crowd. Unfortunately, the ways of the world creep into the church. Whereas God looks at the heart, man looks at the outward appearance. If one doesn’t fit the mold that the establishment thinks one should fit (the way one looks, dresses, talks, yes, sometimes even what one drives), or if one doesn’t have a big name that can bring big bucks, they are ignored by or passed over by the leadership, even if God’s anointing is upon them. Do you rely on your own desires, or on God’s Spirit when looking for staff and speakers?
  7. Nepotism – This is very rampant in the church establishment, perhaps because the church establishment has become a career rather than a calling. It is also one of the most obvious and therefore hurtful mistakes that the establishment can make. I have witnessed excellent candidates who were not even considered for a position simply because the pastors brother-in-law wanted the job. Odds are that anyone who has been in church any length of time has negative feelings on this issue. Is ministry a calling or a career for you?

This is not an exhaustive list, and there is a lot of overlap, but I listed all of these things to point out how “the pride of life” (the pride of position and possessions) is manifest in the church establishment, and God’s word says that “God opposes the proud…” and that pride goes before a fall. Therefore, from one pastor to another, I challenge you to answer these questions honestly and evaluate whether you are a part of the church establishment.

After you have given yourself an honest evaluation ask yourself “What can I change to become more like Jesus?” and “what am I actually prepared to do?”

In conclusion, just like there was a political establishment, there is a church establishment. A loving rebuke and warning to those of the church establishment: You think you are elite but you are not. You teach on maturity but you are the ones who are immature. You talk about love but you love money, influence, power, and control. You love all that is in the world. But no matter which way it is divided, it all boils down to lust and pride. The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of Life (the pride of position and possessions). You have no room in your heart for Jesus, but this is your chance to change, and who knows, the Lord may forgive and cover your transgressions as if you never even wandered off the path. I pray this is the case, and it begins with you making a decision to soften your heart, abandon your elitist attitude and in humility ask for forgiveness from the Lord. Open your heart, once again to Jesus. You know Him, now let Him know you.

(See also “What you need to know about church“)

About Jesse Walker

Profile 3 - Cropped_LI

  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: