Things that ruin a Church: Dominating, Controlling, Manipulating Dictator-Pastor
The pastor of a church is a key man. To understand the Bible’s teaching on pastor, we need to understand how shepherds keep their sheep. A pastor of animals is always there for them, but they are not a dominate personality normally. I say “normally” because most pastors are humble people. There are some key points in what they are and what they do that are important to understand first before you approach what the Bible says about church leadership. Pastors basically let the sheep graze all day, and this is simply, let them do their own thing. Some eat, some rest, some drink from a brook, and perhaps the young play. These activities do not “bother” the pastor, and they do these things without the pastor even being noticed, much less is the pastor the center of attention of these activities. The point is that pastors usually are not “insertative” in the daily affairs of sheep “normally”.
A pastor exerts a very dominating and overwhelming personality when a wolf, bear, fox, or other danger comes around. In these situations the pastor is totally different. He interposes his own self between the sheep and the threat, and he becomes aggressive, antagonist, and cruel and swiftly and accurately deadly for the threat. The other times that a pastor changes his personality is when a sheep wanders off, then he goes after the sheep with the express purpose to bring it back, and it is said of pastors, that when a certain sheep constantly wanders away, then a pastor in total love and care becomes very cruel and breaks its leg. Now it cannot walk, so he carries that sheep on his shoulders, and that sheep, when healed, is never more than a few yards from the pastor.
Another thing that the pastor does is that he has dogs. These dogs are very similar to wolves, except they are benevolent. They never kill or eat the sheep, but they do nip at their heels quite frequently. What this translates out to is that pastors of churches (wise pastors) often will have men in their church that will preach very strongly most often against false prophets and false doctrine. He wisely uses them to “keep the sheep in line”.
But again what we see in this analogy is that good pastors basically are there to let the sheep do their own thing, which is to eat, rest, exercise, grow, and reproduce. Sheep produce little sheep and wool. Perhaps you could think of milk from the mother sheep as a fruit of them, but I have never heard of pastors taking that milk. Within the church, this is very similar. Pastors are their to let the spiritually gifted members work their gifts. The pastor is not necessarily there to be at the front of everything except when it is necessary that somebody does that. For example serious problems, false doctrine, church discipline, there is nobody else that should take that spot except the pastor.
Eph 4:11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; Eph 4:12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
Whereas many groups think that the pastor is an unbiblical concept, the Bible disagrees with them. Pastors are clearly at the center of church government. A shepherd of sheep makes executive decisions for the flock, and the sheep follow his decisions. The owner of the sheep (shepherds many times are not the actual owners of the sheep, but work at this as a profession) leave a lot of the day to day and even the important decisions to the shepherd.
1Tim 3:4 One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; 5 (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)
So who should be ruling the church or flock of God? The pastor. He should have specialized skills and the “pastor” mind set. It is totally unscriptural to replace the concept of pastor with elders, with deacons, with a church board, or with a popularity vote of the sheep. Those things are not biblical. In reality, the elders rule the church and minister to it, but one of the elders must be the leader among them, and he is called Pastor or Supervisor (Bishop). The people of a church (also God) puts a lot of confidence in the person of the pastor. He must be faithful and true, and he must be on target, or not only will his own life be messed up, but he will drag down the entire congregation with him.
The problem is some people get into the pastoring of a church that should never be there. This is the problem that ruins many a church.
Watchman Nee has a book called “Authority and Submission” in which Nee proposes that Christians should blindly obey anything their spiritual leaders (those who “provide their spiritual covering”) tell them. His reason is that God will not hold the individual responsible for any errors if he is obeying his spiritual leader. This is exactly what many today occupying the pulpit want. They want total control and manipulation of their people and the complete organization.
When we examine the pastor as the cause for the ruining of the church, the list of errors pastors do to ruin a church is long and involved. But these errors stem from a misconception by the particular pastor as far as his rights, privileges, and responsibilities. Many pastor err in ignorance, and this error is critical. The pastor is placed in the church by God with really a single purpose, fix what is wrong. If that is his motto, then the lack of study and understanding of the very essential nature of his own job is inexcusable.
Having said that, let me open another problem. There exists churches with a different kind of pastoral problem. These churches simply have a wolf, a false prophet in the disguise of a pastor directing things. This is a much worse and much more dangerous situation. While a misguided pastor may make mistakes, he should still have the Holy Spirit in him, and he feels bad at his poor spiritual management of the church. Perhaps he is uneducated or is in a church where he has to work a secular job. But his conscience is active, and he seeks to bring in other preachers to help him minister where he is weak. He looks to the spiritual and godly men of the church, and he asks them to share his burden.
A wolf is another problem altogether. A wolf dominates to consume and devour. His aggression is visible and easy to spot. What he wants he takes. A good man will want the church’s will to be done, and in general, a good pastor will not act in ways that would hurt the church family nor its finances. Often such a pastor will work so as not to be a burden on the church finances. A wolf isn’t worried about this, but sees what he takes as a right, and it just isn’t the members’ business what he takes for him self or for his cronies.
Often this undercuts any desire among the members to give, and then the great manipulations begin.
What happens spiritually is that the wolf-pastor damages spiritually the people of his church. As a rule, something has to give. 1) The wolf-pastor moves on to another church when individuals put a stop to his laying waste the churches resources. 2) The wolf-pastor runs off the people that oppose him, and he goes into evangelism mode, and he works to build up the church again (after running off the strongest and most stable of the families). This is not true evangelism because his eye is not towards the weak, the poor, the needy, but his eye is on sheep stealing, taking those who are the richest, most gullible, and easiest to persuade. 3) At times the wolf-pastor has members that stay a long time with him, and this is a miracle really, but it is done because the wolf-pastor has convinced these people that they must obey their spiritual authority without question, and they must provide is every whim for luxury. Typically he will preach or go to materials like Watchman Nee’s Spiritual Authority to accomplish this.
How to spot a wolf-pastor
First of all, you need to watch for his motives. When money, fame, glory, power, and control take an unhealthy center focus of a pastor’s ministry, start making your way towards the door to permanently leave. These people are like icebergs. What you see is only a very small percentage of the real danger.
Secondly, you need to watch for his ministry fruit. Christ tells us in reference to false prophets that a tree is judged by its fruit. These wolves are experts are faking real fruit. But unfortunately, they are not discipled people in general, and as such, they all so often “let the hair down” in public. You can often see them slip from the fake face that they want people to see, and you can see them get angry, show selfishness, and show their evil pride. Remember, what you pastor is spiritually, that you will become. If he is humble, servant-like, understanding and patient, then you can expect that to “rub off” on your and the other members over time. If he is difficult, impossible mostly to placate or get along with, if he is demanding yet others must concede to his demands, and yet you see little demands on his own life, then he is going to be a problem. Moreover if he isn’t much like Christ, or Christlike doesn’t seem to come naturally to him, then you pretty much are seeing the spiritual fruit within him.
Pray that the Holy Spirit will open your eyes, because he is there for that, to guide you. Do not write off the tell-tale signs as being nothing. Meditate and pray over them. Are these weak moments that the pastor is trying to overcome in himself, or are they really his heart, and he is just upset when others detect them in him?
Thirdly, watch for his methods. How he gets and accomplishes what he is and has and does is very important. It speaks as to his submission to God and God’s methods of working in the spiritual vineyard.