4 Things to Do if Your Church Leaders are Wrong

This issue keeps coming up for me.  There seems to be a deluge of articles and personal stories about church leaders who are not living up the standard that Jesus set for church leaders.  And I don’t just mean they sin.  Of course they sin.  I’m referring to the systemic departure from the leadership model that Jesus commanded.  I’ve already written here and here about my take on how leaders need to walk in transparency and humility and about how we should be fellow sojourners.  But what do you do if you are in a situation where the leaders over you do not seem to take this approach?

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There has been the recent controversy and subsequent apology of Mark Driscoll.  There has been the attacks on Steve Furtick over his house, huge spontaneous baptisms, and a coloring page from his church’s Sunday School classes (shown here –>).  And this doesn’t even touch on the numerous crimes of embezzling and sexual abuse that have been perpetrated on faithful church members by their pastors and leaders.  Almost down to the last one, these stories revolve around men who have insulated themselves from accountability and who look/act like the leaders Jesus warns about in the Gospels.  In Matthew 25 he says, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them.  Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave–just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

I’ve experienced first hand what it is like to serve under a man who held a tight grip on his authority and led by force of personality rather than by grace and openness.  For these men, transparency is the scariest possible route to take as a leader.

I want to be careful not to judge any of the men mentioned above.  I don’t know what it is like to lead a church with thousands of people and be responsible for millions of dollars at the church’s disposal.  I don’t know how I would handle the pressure or the temptations those scenarios bring.  I’ll leave for another day the question of whether anyone should face those pressures or temptations.  I can also see some very good things that have come from these men and their churches.  I certainly am not implying that God cannot work through the good that is present, nor am I suggesting that he can’t work in spite of the bad that is present.  I am the happy result of a church that fell prey to this type of leader. But the ends never justify the means.  And we would be irresponsible to avoid calling the behavior of insulated and secretive leadership wrong and dangerous to the the leaders, to the church, and to the Gospel.

So what do you do if you leaders act this way?

  1. Fight the urge to leave right away.  This is hard.  Our first instinct may be to bolt. In the end, this may be what you have to do but it can never be the first step.  Here are a few ideas why you should stay a bit longer.  You might be a person who can influence the church for positive change.  And not only you, but other like-minded members can have a great influence if only they will work together and fight for the health of their church.  If all the people who see the problems leave, there is little hope for change.  Additionally, God put you there and maybe there is something he wants you to learn.  Again, you may have to leave in the end, but what lessons do you bypass and cheat yourself out of if you aren’t willing to try to see change first?
  2. Go directly to the leaders.  This is scary.  Jesus is clear that if someone is in sin, the first step is to go to them directly.  You never know what may happen, or who the Holy Spirit has been priming to respond in repentance.  This is the best possible outcome.  You may want to take some time to write out exactly what your concerns are so you don’t end up forgetting, or having a hard time putting it into words, or (worse) falling into anger and basically ensuring that your message will fall on deaf ears.  It may also help to have a clear understanding of what you think should be done and how you can help facilitate the change.  What you should not do is begin talking to others and try to raise a coalition of sorts.  At least not yet.  That time may come later, but it would be a mistake and sinful to engage others before you engage your leaders.  If you need to process it with someone, do it with someone you trust who is not a part of the church and is removed enough to give sound advice and won’t start talking to people.
  3. Engage others without gossiping.  This is crucial.  The first step is to take one other person with you.  Then, if the offending party does not repent, it is time to take it to the church.  This step may be necessary, but it is fraught with challenges and may result in major conflict within the church.  Remember, conflict is not inherently bad.  What is bad is when people allow the conflict to draw them into sinful and hurtful behavior.  When you talk to others, it would probably be best to feel out what they think about how things at the church are going before you share all that you are feeling.  What you don’t want to do is introduce people into this controversy unnecessarily.  If you find someone else or even a few people who feel the same way, try to address the leadership again.  Do this as humbly as possible.  The key is to model the type of engagement that you’re asking from them.  If necessary, this may finally result in a church-wide meeting over the issue and could challenge the cohesiveness of the church.  Just be very sure that the challenge is coming from sinful behavior on someone else’s part and not on yours.  By this I mean make sure you are doing all you can to handle the conflict with integrity and in the proper manner.  If you do this, the rest is up to others and, ultimately, God.
  4. Be prepared to leave.  This is sad.  Sometimes there are leaders who are entrenched in unhealthy ways of thinking and leading.  Sometimes these men (it’s almost always men, but there are exception) are unwilling to repent and unwilling to listen to the reproach of their church members.  And sometimes there will not be enough consensus or a strong enough will among the church members to remove them.  If this is the case, it may be time to leave.  But leave for the right reasons. Leave only if you know that staying would prolong division or create challenges for the church moving forward.  Leave only if you know that staying would be detrimental to your spirit, or to the spirit of your family members.  Leave without bitterness. Leave without a desire for revenge (so don’t start talking to everybody who will listen).  Leave in prayer.  Leave in peace.  There is no point in leaving if you take anger and resentment with you.  That allows the leadership to continue to hurt you. Let it go, trust God, and move on.

In the end, each situation is different.  These are only general guidelines.  Still, if you are feeling uncomfortable with the manner in which your church leaders are leading the congregation, it is worth talking to them.  Maybe you’re missing something. Maybe there are other circumstances that you are unaware of that require a level of secrecy around specific events.  Be willing to be corrected.  Also be willing to stand for your convictions. The only way for churches to be healthy is for members to be willing to hold their leaders accountable.  Without this, there can never be a system of health in your church.

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4 thoughts on “4 Things to Do if Your Church Leaders are Wrong

  1. Pingback: Peace Making | Living On Purpose

  2. You probably believe we live during “latter days”, right? So, why not believe what your very own Bible has to say about “Christianity” during latter days? If you would accept it’s Truth, you would know that today’s Christianity is as fake as a 13 dollar bill. Your very own Bible tells us that the latter day’s clergy is as “saved” as Sodom was saved [from destruction]. And the followers are as saved as Gomorrah was saved.
    Surely, the gentile christian “branches” have been cut from the “tree” and the original branches are ready to be grafted back into the genuine “tree”. (Don’t believe the false “rapture” joke. The christian branches will be thrown on the bonfire and burned, and not be “changed” at the Messiah’s return.

    • Robert, thanks for your comment. I’m not exactly sure what this has to do with the post, unless you’re suggesting that all Christian leaders are always wrong. I’m not sure where you see that in the latter days prophecies of Scripture. The Lord has always had a faithful remnant and always will.

      • What I gave you had nothing to do about “4 things to do if the church leaders are wrong”? Jeremiah chapter 23:1-22 is easy to understand why christians church leaders do their wicked things.

        Most “real christians” say they believe they are living in “latter days”. Their belief comes by what they have been taught by their spiritual leaders (who had been taught by their spiritual leaders-who had been taught by their spiritual leaders). But, do the spiritual leaders know how “latter days” are best identified by the Bible?

        Luke 12:56

        56 You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky; but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?

        Jer 23:16-22

        16 Thus says the LORD of hosts: “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes; they speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD. 17 They say continually to those who despise the word of the LORD, ‘It shall be well with you’; and to every one who stubbornly follows his own heart, they say, ‘No evil shall come upon you.’”

        18 For who among them has stood in the council of the LORD to perceive and to hear his word, or who has given heed to his word and listened? 19 Behold, the storm of the LORD! Wrath has gone forth, a whirling tempest; it will burst upon the head of the wicked. 20 The anger of the LORD will not turn back until he has executed and accomplished the intents of his mind. In the latter days YOU will understand it clearly. (“In the latter days you will understand it perfectly”: in the NKJV)

        Where are the “YOU” who understand the important truth found in Jeremiah chapter 23?

        (“But Jeremiah was writing about things during his life, that we who live in the latter days would understand clearly.”, today’s theologians shout. Why not take the time to read from the beginning of that chapter to see how much of what Jeremiah had been inspired to have written, happened during his time? Was there a righteous king ruling Judah and Israel so those people were secure?)

        21 “I did not send the prophets, yet they ran; I did not speak to them, yet they prophesied. 22 But if they had stood in my council, then they would have proclaimed my words to my people, and they would have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their doings.

        RSV

        As soon as someone clearly, or, perfectly, understands that ALL of “God’s prophets” (that surely is the entire christian clergy of today) don’t preach God’s truth about “judgment” for their unrighteous followers [and for themselves], the latter days have arrived. (Any minister who preaches something that has not yet come, surely, would be a prophet.) True, there are “prophets” who preach, “unless you repent”. But believing that all it takes is to say, “I repent” [while continuing to be sinful], makes it impossible for genuine repentance to come. All of today’s christian “prophets” can easily be identified by the truth found in Jeremiah chapter 23 [and in other scriptures].

        14 But in the prophets of Jerusalem

        I have seen a horrible thing:

        they commit adultery and walk in lies;

        they strengthen the hands of evildoers,

        so that no one turns from his wickedness;

        all of them have become like Sodom to me,

        and its inhabitants like Gomor’rah.”

        RSV

        (Know the meaning of “all”?)

        And what happens when the followers have known how they have been deceived, can be learned in the following:

        Zech 13:1-14

        13:1 “On that day there shall be a fountain opened for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to cleanse them from sin and uncleanness.

        2 “And on that day, says the LORD of hosts, I will cut off the names of the idols from the land, so that they shall be remembered no more; and also I will remove from the land the prophets and the unclean spirit. 3 And if any one again appears as a prophet, his father and mother who bore him will say to him, ‘You shall not live, for you speak lies in the name of the LORD’; and his father and mother who bore him shall pierce him through when he prophesies. 4 On that day every prophet will be ashamed of his vision when he prophesies; he will not put on a hairy mantle in order to deceive, 5 but he will say, ‘I am no prophet, I am a tiller of the soil; for the land has been my possession since my youth.’ 6 And if one asks him, ‘What are these wounds on your back?’ he will say, ‘The wounds I received in the house of my friends.’”

        And be so blind as to believe this tells about the returned Messiah! Did the Messiah’s parents do to him as this scripture says? Was the Messiah ashamed of being who he was? Did the Messiah say he was a farmer, instead of being who he was?

        Your words: “The Lord has always had a faithful remnant and always will.” Show me just one of today’s christians who has been conformed to the image of the Messiah! How could there be even ONE when ALL christians fight for a biblical right to be UNRIGHTEOUS?

        (Know much about the end time “olive tree”?)

        Stichter

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