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Monday, May 23, 2005

Are You An Abusive Leader or a Servant Leader?

Angry_1 What kind of leader are you? In his latest Leadership Letter, Malcolm Webber describes the personal characteristics that differentiate between a true servant leader and an abusive leader. Malcolm writes:

Servant leaders are secure in Christ. Consequently, their focus is not themselves but others. Abusive leaders, however, are insecure. Because of their insecurity, their agendas revolve around themselves. They are characterized by self-absorption, self-protection and self-interest.

Because they are secure in Christ, servant leaders exercise power in constructive ways to serve others. They are more concerned about genuinely contributing to the welfare of their followers than they are about promoting their own dominance, status or prestige.

In contrast, abusive leaders exercise power in dominant and authoritarian ways to serve their own interests, to manipulate others for their own purposes and to win at all costs. Although they know how to mouth the right religious slogans related to servanthood, in reality they are preoccupied with "looking out for number one." They use power for personal gain and exercise it in a dominant and controlling manner. The life of the organization revolves around them – not their visions but their persons.

The two kinds of leaders also differ in their moral standards, which influence their decisions. Servant leaders follow biblical principles of truth, which may go against the majority opinion. Such leaders are not swayed by popular opinion unless it is in line with biblical principles. They are internally consistent, acting in concert with their values and beliefs. Moreover, they promote a vision that inspires followers to accomplish collective objectives that will help the organization and promote Kingdom agendas. Their vision is driven by "doing what is right" as opposed to "doing the right thing" for the moment. Through their example of high moral standards, they develop the moral principles, standards and conduct of their followers.

Abusive leaders, however, follow standards if they satisfy their immediate self-interests. They are skilled at managing an impression that what they are doing conforms to what others consider "the right thing to do." They are often excellent communicators and are able to manipulate others to support their personal agendas.

Servant leaders are realistic in appraising their own abilities and limitations. They learn from criticism rather than being fearful of it, welcoming both positive and negative feedback. They are open to advice, seek accountability, and are willing to have their initial judgments challenged. Leaders who are secure in Christ have the confidence to encourage contrary opinions and can enhance themselves through the strengths of others.

Abusive leaders, however, have an inflated sense of their own importance, thrive on attention and admiration from others and shun contrary opinions. They attract and gravitate towards followers who are loyal, affectionate and uncritical. They seek to create loyal supporters and eliminate all dissenters. They are unwilling to have their strategies questioned and expect and even demand that their decisions be accepted without question. Moreover, they will avoid genuine accountability, feeling personally threatened by it.

To succeed in such an organization, followers soon learn to offer the leader only the information he wants to hear, whether or not it is correct. In extreme cases, even critical information may be withheld because of the leader’s intolerance and intimidation, resulting in organizational disaster.

When an abusive leader succeeds in some organizational endeavor, he is often further confirmed in his central abusive tendencies by the accolades that accompany his accomplishments. If he believes the praises heaped on him, he will be further seduced by delusions of greatness. Each time the admiring crowd shouts its approval of him, the leader’s façade of invincibility is strengthened. There is a mutually-reassuring intoxication as the followers are mesmerized by the leader’s success and the leader is mesmerized by the enraptured adoration of his followers. Rather than focusing on the next challenge, he becomes preoccupied with maintaining an aura of greatness. Image management replaces active, meaningful leadership of the organization.

Servant leaders, however, are secure in Christ and so do not need the praises of men. Instead, they deliberately avoid the trappings of success, choosing to stay little in their own eyes. Moreover, their followers who have been strengthened in their capacities for responsible thought and initiative, provide critical input to their leader – balancing encouragement with reality (in contrast to the flattery that the abusive leader surrounds himself with) – which may keep him from straying down the wrong path.

Personal Qualities of Leaders

Servant Leader

Abusive Leader

Secure in Christ. Personally insecure.
Is considerate and concerned for others. Is concerned primarily with himself.
Studies the stress that others are under to help alleviate it if possible. Constantly elicits sympathy for himself over his own stress and hardships.
Willing to discuss his decisions and the reasons for them, unless circumstances do not allow. Interprets questions as personal criticism or disloyalty.
Tries to work with the initially uncooperative, seeing their positive potential. Quickly discards individuals who he perceives will not embrace his vision or conform to his agenda.
Trusting toward people; thinks the best. Suspicious toward people, sometimes to the point of paranoia.
Vulnerability is power. Knowledge is power.
Communicates freely and openly. Withholds or conceals information when it does not suit his purposes.
Responds to problems with prayer and investigation. Responds to problems with anger and accusation.
Responds to failure by taking personal responsibility. Responds to failure by blaming others.
Knows he must earn the support of his followers. Demands unchallenged support.
Welcomes appropriate accountability. Threatened by any attempts at real accountability.

FOR DISCUSSION: What kind of leader are you? Have you ever in your ministry life had abusive tendencies? Have you ever work with an abusive leader? Tell us your experiences today at the Monday Morning Insight blog website.

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May 23, 2005 in Leadership Issues | Permalink

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I have known a couple of abusive leaders. The problem is that these leaders would never recognize themselves as such. They have become so wrapped up in themselves that they truely believe that they are doing what is right. To them it is obvious that they are doing the right thing, after all, look at all the compliments if things are going well and if things are not going well they are being persecuted for the cause of Christ. While most disconcern in a congregation is not from an abusive pastor, I have seen abusive pastors hide behind the persecution for Christ shield and not examine themselves. i have also seen some very good pastors labeled as abusive only because they won't do what pleases the powers the be in the church. Could it be that an abusive pastor depends on your own perspective?

Posted by: Bart | May 23, 2005 9:19:27 AM

We all have our setbacks so speaking from a position of lesser influence in the church (I am the associate)-working with an abusive leader has become more tolerable knowing that we all have faults. After reading that article I couldn't believe how much every one of the Personal Qualities of Leaders matched up with my pastor. This winter I really felt as if my boss hated me. I've never felt it so strong with anyone before. I reached the point of feeling like I couldn't do anything right. I still feel that way from time to time - okay about once a week. And it really doesn't help matters much when there is family history together. Any dissolve in our ministry relationship would hurt our families relationship. Jeckle is easy but how do I handle Hyde? I read a devotional this morning from Mike Yacconelli about Hatred. He said if anyone hates you look at your hands. If you don't see any nail scars just know that you got off easy. Needless to say I got put in my place. People are people I guess.

Posted by: Ryan | May 23, 2005 10:46:30 AM

I am serving withthe poster child for this description. He considers himself a prophet and so if anyone disagrees with him they have a spiritual problem and are rebelling against his truth. He is close???? to retirement we hope and that is the only thing that keeps me hanging on that and the good people God has placed in this church. Sometimes I could strangle him at other times I feel sorry for him finishing out his ministry on this note. It's sad that people with these personality traits can't see what it's doing to their interpersonal relationships. Your prayers are greatly appreciated as we seek to serve under these circumstances.

Posted by: Duane | May 23, 2005 11:20:58 AM

Thanks for the thoughtful discussion between an abusive leader and a servant leader. In Webber's side-by-side contrasts, he mentioned that an abusive leader withhold or conceals information. I was accused of this action as an administrator of a Christian school. I could not disclose the information in order not to violate rights of the individual nor violate proposed plans that were not officially determined. Some of the staff mistook this as being power hungry. My heart was not there at all. The one truth Webber shared that I learned was to welcome accountability and feedback. I allowed for informal feedback but not formal. Yet even on this point many staff members thought that by giving feedback that their suggestion then would occur. Not necessarily so, all suggestions had to be weighed in the balance of the vision of the school.

Posted by: Gary Fortney | May 23, 2005 11:23:39 AM

i can relate to this article,because i have a friend who pastors and although he could be a great leader.he leans more towards abusive.more often than not being as a member of his church you had to wonder who you were serving,him or Christ? he felt that the church was his kingdom and the member of that church were his subjects to rule over as he saw fit.this is what he expressed to me during a conversation about ministry!

Posted by: r.long | May 23, 2005 12:06:25 PM

Hello. I found the article to be very good and spiritually informative. I have had the misfortune of serving under control freak, abusive, and immature pastors. I had been involved in 5 churches in a 4 year period when I was living away from the area where I live now where I grew up. Coming from a charismatic point of view, I hope my words don't startle you. But satan has a diabolical way of seeking to infiltrate leadership and control them. One Biblical example of someone who was all about manipulation and control was Queen Jezebel. The spirit of Jezebel is still alive and well in the church because satan hates the Body of Christ. Scriptural reference for Jezebel in the New Covenant dispensation in which we live is found in Revelation 2:20-23. God had ought with the Church of Thyatira because they allowed the spirit of Jezebel to come in and seduce them with deceiving doctrines and eating foods sacrificed to idols. There are pastors who have eaten of the food sacrificed to the idolatry of modern-day witchcraft which manifests as insecure abusive ungodly control. Certain denominations exercise unscrupulous overjurisdiction and overjurisprudence in areas where they have no right to exercise that authority. When a church is not allowed to be a sovereign church (free to function as an autonomous local fellowship), then abuse occurs and thereby we see that control can not only come from a pastor, but also from the district office or general overseer of a given church organization.

Had I known then what I know now, I would not have "gypsied" through so many church experiences. I would have had the wisdom to screen out the prospective pastor to find out if he was a man of integrity. Rarely will you hear a pastor go before his/her congregation and make an open apology for what he/she did to the congregation to fail them or openly ask forgiveness from someone when the congregation had knowledge of what had happened. Reconciliation is something that needs to be restored to the Body of Christ in our day. And if pastors are too insecure to take the first step to reconcile themselves with whom they need to be reconciled to, besides God Almighty, then satan will have his way in the church. It would be no wonder if there were to be a church split or falling away.....or worse yet, the pastor running everybody out of the church.

Some pastors who reflect such gross insecurity have probably truly missed their calling....in other words, they were never meant to be a pastor. God had (has)a different calling on their life in some other facet of five-fold ministry, and instead of seeking God's face about the matter, they decided to listen to the wisdom of man (i.e.: their parents telling them that he should be a preacher, when his giftings and talents are in other vocations). People need to ascertain what God's calling on their life is before they make a fatal mistake of pursuing the wrong avenue when they need to stop and wait and get some good godly counsel from their pastor and/or other lay leaders and trusted Christian friends. I say spare a congregation the agony of accepting a pastorate when you have doubts the whole way through and later making the church a disaster. Wait on the Lord about what He wants you to do. I know in my personal situation, I am having to wait on God as I browse the internet and post my resume online for a prospective music minister position at a church, while praying and waiting on God's timing at the same time. Well, I believe I've said enough here. God bless you.

Posted by: Dwayne Mull | May 23, 2005 12:15:52 PM

Interesting article and, unfortunately, true for too many people who should be shepherds rather than abusers. I've worked with a few.

What I found interesting was the writer's underlying thesis that the abusive one is insecure while the servant is secure. So true. I also found the chart enlightening because there are areas where I am insecure and I find myself responding as an "abusive" leader in those situations. I consider myself a servant leader, but where I am insecure, I become more of the abusive leader.

Just shedding more light on the darkness in my life. Places where I need more of God's grace.

Good piece.

Posted by: Bob | May 23, 2005 12:31:28 PM

When I look through the list it seems that it is not always an either/or situation. It can be more of a scale, and I can slide up or down that scale depending on what is going in my world and in my spirit. My intentions aren't be abusive, but catch me at the wrong moment, and it may not be all that pleasant. There are more dynamics that enter in than may be first evident.

Posted by: Kent | May 23, 2005 12:32:30 PM

I think there is a third category besides the two mentioned of the insecure, abusive pastor and the servant/secure in Christ pastor. I have seen many times pastors who are very secure in who he or she is in Christ, but are still abusive. They seem to put their very definite goals and vision ahead of diplomacy. The issue, time and time again, seems to be a lack of accountability. WHEN are congregations, elders, boards, denominations, and individuals going to take responsibility for these abusive pastors? If we have the inroads to build relationships with leaders/peers that allow us to speak the truth in love, we should do so. If the pastors don't allow people to get that close, then where does the responsibility with denominational/apostolic accountability begin? We all know so many stories, but what do WE need to do? Is it not the most loving thing to do to correct someone in love? The system is often so broken down that we feel helpless in this. But I don't believe that we should settle for that.

Posted by: Carol | May 23, 2005 12:32:36 PM

[What kind of leader are you?]

I think I have problems in two areas:
[Quickly discards individuals who he perceives will not embrace his vision or conform to his agenda.]

Although the language is strong, I generally believe I know the direction God wants me to go an a matter and I know some will disagree. I usually don't waste time if they haven't prayed or searched Scripture about the matter. Although I do listen to ideas and thoughts.

[Trusting toward people; thinks the best. Suspicious toward people, sometimes to the point of paranoia.]

I don't just accept when a person says they are a Christian as absolute. I've learned many people are abusive with the lifestyle whether in leadership or not. I'm much more skeptical than I used to be, although I am not at all paraniod.

[Have you ever in your ministry life had abusive tendencies?]

Sure, especially early on in my ministry or if I was working with abusive leaders myself. Sometimes, abuse leads to abuse and many times it brought out the worst in me.

[Have you ever work with an abusive leader?]


My question is: Should abusive "christian" leaders be in the ministry?

I honestly think we as servant leaders need to focus some of our attention on purging the Church of some of these abusive tendencies. Why?

Abuse breeds abuse and sin increases. Obviously this is not of the Spirit of God so why do we allow it IN the Church (especially in leadership)?

I believe there are two main areas of work in purging abusive leaders from the Church:
1. The leader must respond to problems with Biblical prayer and investigation.
2. The leader must welcome appropriate Biblical accountability.

If a leader in the church is not willing to institute these two principles, then they should be asked to step down from leadership. Why?

Because all the other attributes mentioned in the article (the side-by-side chart) are a result of leaders willing to adhere to these two Biblical principles.

1. The leader must respond to problems with Biblical prayer and investigation.
a. Secure in Christ
b. Is considerate and concerned for others
c. Studies the stress that others are under to help alleviate it if possible
d. Willing to discuss his decisions and the reasons for them, unless circumstances do not allow
e. Tries to work with the initially uncooperative, seeing their positive potential
f. Trusting toward people; thinks the best
g. Vulnerability is power
h. Communicates freely and openly
i. Responds to failure by taking personal responsibility
j. Knows he must earn the support of his followers
2. The leader must welcome appropriate Biblical accountability.
a. Secure in Christ
b. Willing to discuss his decisions and the reasons for them, unless circumstances do not allow
c. Vulnerability is power
d. Responds to failure by taking personal responsibility
e. Knows he must earn the support of his followers

[Note: It really comes down to being a man of careful prayer and thoughtful Biblical study/research - EVERYthing stems from this]

Posted by: BeHim | May 23, 2005 12:46:38 PM


You are exactly BIBLICALLY right!

I was typing my blog entry while you submitted yours but very well said!

Posted by: BeHim | May 23, 2005 12:49:10 PM

I do want to point out, God can and does use abusive leaders:
Jacob (deceiver)
Moses (at times was abusive - striking the rock)
Peter (acted one way with one group and another way with another group)

God can overcome our issues.

When I say "purge" I really mean... step aside ... not put away for ever (my choice of terms was very strong in its suggestion).

Posted by: BeHim | May 23, 2005 12:54:07 PM

It can be a mistake to think that only Pastors are or can be abusive leaders. There are instances where abusive leaders are not the Pastor. We had a situation where one of the three Elders of our church took it upon himself to create some major divsion in the church and then to lead a rebellion against the rest of the leadership of the church when he was challenged. He clearly demonstrated all of the characteristics of an abusive leader that are mentioned in this blog. This Elder was finally put of of business when all the leadership of the church (including the Pastor)was asked to affirm its commitment to our denomination's Code of Ethics for Churches.

Posted by: Peter M. | May 23, 2005 1:12:56 PM

Abusive leadership is the "dirty little secret" of the church today. I believe it is rampant in American churches for a number of reasons:

#1. American culture places a great value on strong independence, and honors the "successful" hard-driving leader who exhibits "power-based" leadership that emphasizes status, authority, decision-making, and eminence.

We see that in the business sector and we see that in the private as well. This cultural bias creates an environment that is conducive to the kind of "entitlement" abuse we have seen so much of lately among CEO's. It's the attitude of a leader like Nebuchadnezzar who says "Is not this... great, which I myself have built... by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty?" [see Daniel 4]. It's the attitude of a leader who says, "I deserve to be able to do what I do; decide what I decide; without objection or interference."

#2. The rise of independent American churches has created a greater acceptance among American believers to allow pastors to exercise leadership without any formal structures or relationships of accountability. True, independent churches allow for greater freedom of innovation and less denominational or congregational bureaucratic encumbrances. But the dark side of this freedom is that it also allows abusive leadership to exist without any formal provisions to restrain it.

#3. Many good people who serve on congregational governing boards are seduced into allowing numerical and financial "success" to overshadow the deeper issues of church health.

As long as attendance is strong and the money is coming in, governing boards are loathe to interfere with an abusive pastor. When the pastor's abuse of a staff member comes to light, they are much more likely to "side" with the senior pastor; and deal with the staffer somewhat dismissively; and describe the incident as another example of "our pastor's style of strong leadership."

#4. The Christian community is extremely naive about emotional dysfunction. Our tendency in the church is to spiritualize unhealthy conflict in the wrong way, rather than to confront it properly.

Most people don't realize how deep-seated emotional dysfunction really is - the kind of dysfunction that lies at the center of the inner life of abusive leaders. This is the same kind of emotional deficit that leads to outward manifestations of addiction - many of which are not recognized as addictions by the average church member. So, an abusive leader can be addicted to the adrenaline rushes of rage and conflict; risky behaviors and decision-making; or even the weekly "performance" in the pulpit... and parishioners (and elders) will not see their addiction for what it is.

The other attribute of addiction that I also see in abusive leaders is DENIAL. They never see themselves as having a problem - the problem is always with the staff member or even the board member.

The common outcome of all of this is that the abusive leader "acts out" more and more extremely, over time, until something happens that is so overt or audacious that it simply can't be ignored (like marital infidelity) and then church members blame it on spiritual warfare and the "work of the Enemy" without understanding the true nature (and real insidiousness) of the leader's emotional deficit.

#5. Most abusive leaders are adept at spotting emotional deficits in others, and developing effective ways to manipulate them through dominance, affection, or shame. As a result, it is quite common to see the staffs of abusive leaders take on the typical attributes of a dysfunctional family system.

In most cases, staff members who are emotionally healthy and well-grounded invariably exercise personal choice and simply move on to another position at another place. The "revolving door" of exiting staff is usually explained, again, by references to the abusive leader's "strong leadership style." And the staff becomes increasingly populated by followers who are more easily intimidated by the abusive leader, and less likely to confront the leader or the situation. It becomes a vicious cycle.

#6. Many governing boards are reluctant to bring leadership abuse (and failure) out into the open, for fear of "damaging the church"; driving parishioners away; and experiencing the resulting financial stress of lowered giving. So abusive leaders are often "set free" to go somewhere else and continue their abuse at another church, whose search committee members are oblivious to the leader's history.

So. What am I saying?

Abusive leadership is not going to go away any day soon! These conditions I've listed are chronic in the church and will exacerbate the problem for many years to come. In the meantime, the best defense a congregation can have against the tyranny of an abusive leader is to have a highly aware, and properly-trained search committee and governing board - with members who are educated to the problem, and prepared to make difficult decisions in the selection and hiring process, AND in the TERMINATION process, as well.

In other words... GET HELP IN HIRING. Find a consultant with experience who can come alongside the lay leadership and provide informed, wise counsel.

If you find yourself working for an abusive leader, my advice is... GET OUT NOW. Don't look to the lay leadership to help you. They probably won't. Exercise the greatest power you have - the power of choice. And leave. Then be VERY careful before you apply for another position. Do your homework about the leader. Talk to the staff! They'll tell you what to expect! That's the irony of people who follow abusive leaders - they almost always do so with a very strong dose of resentment. If it's there, you will be able to sense it and find it. Just keep asking leading questions and let people talk.

Sorry for hogging the blog - but this issue is very close to my heart. I have such a great desire to see the church enjoy strong, but HEALTHY leadership. It can happen!


Posted by: Dr. Jim Dyke | May 23, 2005 1:42:05 PM

WOW! I had to take a hard look at that article. I see myself as an abusive leader in some aspects but not in others!! And I don't like the ones that make me see myself as others see me. The question I have is: "How does Jesus see me?"

Let's face it, there are people in leadership who are better than others. If we are in touch with the Holy Spirit (who should have residence in our lives) we are confronted with these "errors in leadeship" on a constant basis. Some leaders have great communication skill in the pulpit and horrible communication skills in the office. However, if one seeks to be like Jesus in His leadership role we should always be open for criticism from HIM. Therefore I take this article seriously and aim to make it "RIGHT" where I have failed.

For a "Shepherd" It is when the "sheep" know the direction they should go in without a shepherd THAT the greatest problems arise.

As a pastor in Skid Row LA, I found that sheep BITE and I have gotten hurt on many occassions. Biting sheep are often problematic and the "good" leader gets to deal with them more often than one might suppose.

My only consollation to all of this is the fact that I know Jesus called me to this ministry and he will provide for me. I am deeply repentant for the areas I failed.

I NEED to PRAY more -- there is no doubt!

It is difficult for all of us to see that we can get caught up in ministry work and in the process forget what the ministry work was about. Isn't "saving souls with Christ as our Shepherd" the purpose for the ministry? If the ministry becomes more important that the individuals we serve, a RED flag should be raised in your thinking as it sometimes gets raised in mine. OUCH -- I will pray -- how about you.

Posted by: Pastor Bill | May 23, 2005 1:51:47 PM

Abusive leaders are everywhere, but we still, as a culture, believe all ministers are the same, and we're all sweet, kindly and spineless. Pretty clearly, we aren't. I suspect it is pretty daunting to run up against a clergyperson who doesn't fit that sterotype at all, or only when it is convenient in the the pattern of manipulation he/she has set for themselves. How do you even begin to try to create a collegial relationship? Short of God's direct intervention, I don't believe there is, but it takes a long time to figure that out, and the, like one of the first people to write in, you feel as though you can no longer do anything right.The only thing that I have discovered that works is to back up and do your own work.

Posted by: Cory | May 23, 2005 1:55:00 PM

In my personal encounter with these kind of "pastors" they assume a kind of godliness but denies in a continous sense the power of God,as thier character, attitudes and behaivour never did match nor will it ever be, unless they repent and turn from thier evil, the character of Jesus Christ, which is LOVE in its broadest sense and application.

My words of exhortation to other saints that may be in this situation, is not to argue with them or seek to patiently want to correct them, bcos to me, it seems these set of pastors are beyound turning from thier selfish ways, but that we should quietly withdraw from such people so that by our continued association with thier ministry, we do not incur the wrath of God as He will visit them in Judgment for thier evil conducts.

Posted by: FOLORUNSHO NICHOLAS | May 23, 2005 2:06:11 PM

This article could not have come to me at a more opportune time. I am currently on staff with the abusive leader described. It is interesting that in his case abuse does not take the form of lording it over others, but in the more insipid manipulation of others. The question I am faced with, as an associate pastor, is whether or not I can continue to be part of the church knowing that this person is going to hurt someone else. The elders have, up until now, been enamoured of this man. There have been a variety of instances where he has caused harm to others by his words and actions, even going so far as to make a pass at a woman. The elders have confronted him on several occasions, even to the point of sending him away for counselling. The problem is that he seems to be able to talk his way out of everything. He is now away on sabbatical because he believes his behavior is a result of being "tired." I say that being tired is the pressure of the hand squeezing the sponge. His acting out is his true nature being expressed under pressure. What needs to happen is that the contents of the sponge needs to be replaced.

Posted by: Steve | May 23, 2005 2:12:48 PM

I always look forward to the Monday Morning Insight. I'm also a fairly driven leader, so I was interested in some nuanced ideas about how to modify my style.

Unfortunately - and unusually - this column wasn't particularly helpful. Almost no one is going to resonate with the caricature of the jerk in the right hand column. "Let's see... personally insecure, discards others ... yep that's me."

The article asks, "Are you an abusive leader?" But I had a funny feeling that if I looked at the blog, I'd find a bunch of people pointing out the specks in other people's eyes.

Sure enough.

Anyone want to recommend a deft treatise on this subject of being a leader who's strong, but not a strong-arm?

Posted by: Jeff | May 23, 2005 2:41:49 PM

I have served under an abusive Pastor. I'm sorry to say that about him because I love him, but it is true. It's funny because I'm sure that he would be appalled that anyone would think that of him. He thinks quite highly of himself and pats himself on the back for being a servant. Anyone who doesn't agree with him is not a "servant", and doesn't understand the mission.

He left a church because the Overseer was overtly abusive. My Pastor left there with a gentle and pure heart wanting to be the opposite of this man and once he gained power, he became very much like this man just in a more hidden way.

As a young minister, I wanted him to be pleased with me. I now see the part I played and what God wanted to teach me. I was in error because I sought the approval of a man. Many I think border on idolatry ignorantly. Idolizing their Pastor/Leader.

The current "church system" provides many opportunities for men/women to become abusive. For example, Todd said something that really bothered me and I quote him - "They are more concerned about genuinely contributing to the welfare of their followers than they are about promoting their own dominance, status or prestige." His followers? The Pastor has followers? I thought we were to be followers of Jesus Christ not a man.

"But you are not to be called "Rabbi," for you have only one Master and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth, "father," for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor ar you to be called "teacher,", for you have one Teacher, the Christ. The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted." Matthew 23:8-12 NIV

Posted by: Dee Dee | May 23, 2005 3:14:35 PM

I agree with others who say that this will not abate anytime soon. Here are some reasons why, and this may give insights as to what abusive leaders are "thinking":

1) Education = Qualification: We continue to shift focus from spiritual giftedness toward educational endowment. Knowledge can puff up. A prestigious M.Div is not heresy insurance any more than it should be taken as a form of spiritual development. Elements of spiritual development and acumen are gifts from God, refining a depraved heart by infusing the Holy Spirit. On that, we are not all equal because we are not all gifted equally -- to whom much is given, much is expected. The modern reaction to the reality of inequity brings me to my second point...

2) Psychology: Having raised two full generations now wholly compromised by secular psychology, many in the church now dismiss abusive pastoral behavior as "personality conflict", among other unbiblical terminology/excuses. In fact, there is a name for unbiblical behavior: sin. Psychology, as a branch of medicine, merely views things as "healthy" and "unhealthy" -- and very relativistic at that. I would say that 99 of 100 church attending Christians cannot think outside of the shifting "elementary principles of the world" [Gal 4:9] psychology offers, and thus are unwilling to totally abandon psychology for the total sufficiency of Scripture. The effects of this -- especially in terms of who/what we allow in leadership -- could hardly be overstated. We dismiss unChrist-like behaviors, fears, reactions, etc., as if God will judge us based on how we live according to our personality type instead of His word.

3) "Higher standards" for leadership. Yes, this is a bad thing, folks, and it leads to the very abuse we hope to prevent. First, the premise of this is that while we are all called to "be perfect as our Father in Heaven is perfect", leaders are held to some different, higher ("better than perfect"?) standard. I've read all sorts of Pharisee-like articles of all the things the pastoral super-class can't do. Again, this is based on the idea that something may be a sin for a pastor, but it's all well and dandy for the congregation to behave differently. Well, having promoted "pastorship" to a double-standard, it's no wonder increasing numbers get away with living a double standard right out in the open. They're just doing as they've been taught: holding themselves to a different standard! Excuse me for screaming this: LEADERS ARE NOT TO BE HELD TO A HIGHER STANDARD --- they are to be held to that *same* standard "more strictly!" There is a world of difference there, and anyone who does not understand if fully should not be in the position of selecting leadership.

Because feelings now validate, a leader who feels strongly is not readily challenged, and those who do (especially with Scripture) are immediately ostracized as threatening.

P.S. to Jeff: Monday Morning Insights readers/commenters often recount quite number of wounds from church. Trained ears can sense the self-centered histrionics behind the whining in some of them, but many hurts and disappointments are legitimate.

Posted by: Phil in CA | May 23, 2005 5:04:59 PM

Hi steve

I read your blog!

You may not have read all the other replies to the article. I for one saw in myself the abusive pastor in more than one area. I would like to say I am excused due to the nature of the ministry I have -- but I am not.

The hardest part of any leadership position is to see yourself "wanting" in some areas when they are "character traits" that need repair.

Don't you think that Peter filled many of the bad side issues in the article. He even told Jesus that he thought He was wrong. The words "not so Lord" came out of his mouth when cofronted with a vision of a sheet being lowered. (acts 10 & 11). He challenged Jesus with words like - "If you are ... bid me to come to you...." and later sank in the water.

I see much of Peter in me -- I think that is good -- when it comes to his relationship "AFTER" the resurrection but unfortunately I see myself like Peter (before the resurrection). For that I am repentant.

Anyone who thinks that Church leadership is easy -- they are in for a RUDE awakening when they get there. The second hardest thing I have done in life is be a leader for Christ in His Church. The first hardest thing is "walking the walk that goes beyond the TALK."

One thing I have, "Philip. 3:13 (NIV)
Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,


Pastor Bill

Posted by: Pastor Bill | May 23, 2005 6:22:52 PM

Sorry that last Post was for Jeff NOT Steve.

Forgive me Steve

Posted by: Pastor Bill | May 23, 2005 6:26:42 PM

I am so glad for the openness shared here about abusive leaders. The eyes of the flock need to be opened to these wolves in sheeps clothing, as I have been the wife of such a leader. Pastor's wives will not say much and do not have avenues to vent, however this is a much needed area in ministry today, that is, support for the wives of these leaders. The wives suffer more than anyone could ever imagine, yet are often afraid to save themselves, but continue to "serve" the husband and leader in the name of servanthood and ministry. I have recently had to leave my own home, as my husband, the pastor, carries the features you have described, and even more intense, at home where no one sees. As his wife, I learned to wear the mask, where no one would ever imagine my pain. I was also a pastor in the church, and because the abuse was destroying me, and he would not admit to the abuse, it was not God's will for me to remain. Please pray for and support the wives of these such leaders. I only pray that I can bring the hope of God to other wives with the same experience.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 23, 2005 9:59:29 PM

I think every leader is tempted to use the flesh and one's "power" to achieve one's vision. It is an easy trap.

One is constantly bombarded with how our church should be! It should be thousands of happy people coming and never leaving; it should have great worship; the sermons should rival Moody and Finney; the facility should be “cutting edge;” the children’s department should look like “Disney” and have 4 volunteers to every child; every small group must be a perfect place that heals all ills; the pastor should visit each member of his parish, no matter the size, every other day; the pastor also should mentor the staff, counsel at any time of day, and still create the next great vision movement!

Now, how easy it is for the Enemy of our Souls to oppress and castigate and beat down on the pastor for not fulfilling what WE have now defined as “real” and “meaningful” ministry?

When are we ALL going to realize that what we are doing is actually reaping what we are sowing.

Posted by: Pastor Al | May 23, 2005 11:57:43 PM

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