Three huge mistakes church bullies make (and what to do about them)

Anyone interposing himself between the Lord Jesus and His church is asking for it.

Sometimes–as I keep getting reminded by readers–that would-be dictator is the pastor, a man sent by God to be the shepherd of the sheep but who has forgotten that he does not own the flock and cannot do with it as he pleases.

More likely, however, the man (it’s almost always a man) who takes it upon himself to run the church is a layperson with what he thinks are dynamic leadership skills.  My observation is that he is a bully in other ways and places too, particularly at home and in the office. (He usually owns his own company and thus calls the shots without interference from anyone.)

1) Bullies are wrong about themselves.

They don’t think of it as bullying: they’re just taking the leadership when no one else will. Filling the vacuum.

Continue reading

The scriptures that define you

“So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done” (Luke 17:10).

What do you mean when you say a certain scripture is “my verse” or “my text”? That you ‘own’ that verse or have ‘claimed it as your own’?

The verses I claim as ‘mine’ are that not because I own them, but they own me.  They know me, are privy to all my secrets, and have nailed me as surely as an prosecuting attorney ever could.

Take Luke 17:7-10, for instance.  It’s not a particularly happy text, not one I read for inspiration and encouragement.  No, it’s something else entirely. But it is mine as surely as my children, my wife, and this house are mine. They carry my name, and so this this scripture.

When all is said and done, I am an unworthy servant; I’ve just done my duty.

Continue reading

Pulling rank: What some pastors do which Jesus never did

Standing with a group of pastors, chatting and fellowshiping and shooting the (sacred) bull–smiley-face goes here–one of them came out with something like:

“I told him I’m the pastor of the church, that God sent me here as the overseer, and if he doesn’t like it, he can find another church.”

That brought nods of approval, even from a couple who knew they would never have the gumption to say such a thing. Even if they feel it.

But that pastor is wrong.

Dead wrong.

If anyone on earth had the right to pull rank on other people, it was our Lord Himself.

Yet, He never did.

Continue reading

For pastors’ wives who are hurting

The letters and comments are pouring in from our recent article on the pastor’s wife.

I suppose it should not surprise me–weirdness is everywhere–but some people were angry that we called the pastor’s wife “the most vulnerable person in church.”  One guy gave a long list of people, mostly the hurting seekers who arrive at church hoping to find a word of encouragement or a helping hand, who come before her.

There is no question that churches are filled with seeking, hurting, vulnerable people.  Ranking them in order of desperation and need is pointless, since we are to be ministering to them all.

That’s why the Lord wants His people to love one another, serve one another, help one another, and so forth.  The “one another” scriptures take up a great deal of the New Testament.  Clearly, the Lord sends us forth as wounded warriors to minister to the other wounded.

May the Lord make us servants and helpers of one another, not obstacles in their path or hurdles to be navigated around.

Someone going through a receiving line told the new pastor’s wife if she would be willing to give up her health insurance, it would save the church a lot of money.

Continue reading

Games we play with God’s word

All right. It’s time for the game. Everyone ready?

Here’s how it works.

Add up all the letters in your name.  My name, Joe McKeever, has 11.  Joe is 3 letters, McKeever has 8.  Now, find a scripture somewhere in the Bible that is chapter 11, verses 3 through 8, and see if and how it fits your life. If you find a good one, that’s your passage.

See what we did? The total number of letters is for the chapter, and the numbers in your names separately determine the verses. So, I’m 11:3-8.  The question is, “What book?”

We find a lot of “chapters 11:3-8” in the Bible. Genesis has one, Exodus does, Leviticus, Numbers, etc. etc.

Since I made up the rules, I get to select the passage that best suits me. (smiley-face goes here) Hebrews 11:3-8, for instance, is all about faith. And since I like to think of myself as a faith person, that’s my scripture passage.

Continue reading

Building a 3-D website for your church

Friend, I’ve been to your church’s website, and the news is not good.

The four most common problems I’ve noticed, and in this order, are:

1) It’s outdated. You’re still pushing last year’s Christmas program.

2) It’s neglected.  You’ve got a big weekend coming up (I know, because I’m the speaker!) and there’s not one word on there about it.

3) It’s dull.  Who wrote this, I wonder.

4) It’s too hard to find stuff that ought to be easy.  On one I looked at this weekend, wanting to read up on their staff, I had to check out all kinds of categories to find where they had buried the photos and identities of staffers. Finally found it under “new to our church?”

Half the pastors of churches where I have spoken recently or am scheduled to speak will read this and “just know” I’m talking about their website and be offended. Was I talking about your website, pastor buddy?


Continue reading

What to say to a church bully

(This is the type of article some church people will find objectionable.  I’m fully aware of that and am willing to run the risk of the flak from writing it.  If it results in one congregation standing up to a member who has held the church in a stranglehold and run off preacher after preacher, if it puts just one bully out of business, it’ll be worth the flak. This is a far bigger problem than most people realize.)

No church bully thinks he’s one.  He’s just (ahem) looking out for the interests of the church since a) no one else seems to be willing to do it and b) even though it’s a difficult task, he has the courage to step up and do the job.

Cooper Manning, oldest son of Archie and Olivia Manning, and thus older brother of football champions Peyton and Eli, admits that he gave his little brothers a hard time when they were children.  “I never thought of it as bullying,” he says.

They never do.

Continue reading

A hundred things I tell young pastors (the final 20).

81. Just as no one knows you better than your spouse, your co-workers on the church staff see you as no one else does. Make sure they respect you as a person of integrity and compassion who keeps his word, has a sincere heart for God, and treasures each of them.  Defend them before critics.  If you lose their respect, the fabric of your leadership begins to fray.

82. Watch for certain scriptures–a verse here, a verse there–to begin to impress themselves upon you in a special way. This is a work of the Holy  Spirit. When this happens, He is inviting you to study this area more, to seek His insights and receive His teaching.

83. Humility. Do not fear apologizing to your people. If you made a mistake and everyone knows it, to stonewall and refuse to admit it is to enrage a few and disappoint the others. By humbling yourself and admitting your error, then asking for their forgiveness, you endear yourself to everyone who matters.  (I’ve known of pastors who gained so much love and acceptance by publicly apologizing for a mistake, they jokingly say they are now looking for some other dumb mistake to make just so they can apologize.)

84. When you need the approval of a committee, say the finance or personnel, for some project or expenditure, if the chairperson says, “Oh, go ahead and do that, pastor,” you should respond, “Thank you, my friend. But I’d really like the entire committee’s input on this.” Insist on meeting with the entire panel, and never allow the chair to act as if he/she is the committee. (Church bosses are created just so subtly as this.)

85. Always err on the side of conservativism in finances and on the side of grace in relationships.

Continue reading

A hundred things I tell young pastors (61-80)

61. Resiliency. There is no shame in being fired by a church or run off by a group within the church. The shame comes when you let that discourage you from future ministry.  Read Second Corinthians 4:8-10 again and again until you “own” it. Then get up and get back in the game. Your team needs you.

62. If you are terminated–or “encouraged to leave” a church in a way that leaves you angry and bitter–read Luke 6:27-35 repeatedly until you make it your own. Then, to rid yourself of the anger and bear a faithful witness to your detractors, do the actions the Lord commands here: do good, bless, pray, and give to them.

63. Encourage pastors who have been terminated. (A pastor recently ousted from his church asked me, “Why don’t other pastors want to help me?” I said, “Tom, when you were pastoring, how many unemployed preachers did you help?” He said, “I didn’t know it was the problem it is.” I said, “They don’t either.”)

64. Problems. Teach your lay leadership (preferably in small group settings) how to deal with problems that arise in church, how to confront a troublemaking member, and what to do about a pastor who has gone rogue. (When nothing of that sort is happening in your church is the perfect time to teach this.)

65. Make yours an encouraging church.  Train your people to write notes of congratulations and appreciation to people in the news who do good things.

Continue reading