10 Characteristics of the Best Bad Church Leaders I’ve Ever Known

In the past, I’ve written about characteristics of the best leaders I’ve ever known. Today, I write about church leaders I’ve known who were strong leaders on one hand, but poor leaders on the other. Here are some of their good and bad characteristics: 

  1. They had a great vision but assumed others would follow them only because of the vision. They were sure vision would trump anything, include things like personal integrity and godliness. In fact, they couldn’t imagine why anybody would not want to be on their team.
  2. They demonstrated preaching and communication skills but were unwilling to consider any need for improvement. After all, why should they worry about improving when their track record already proved their skill?   
  3. They built a great leadership team but didn’t see that the team didn’t want to work for them. They sought, recruited, and secured other great leaders – but those same great leaders for various reasons grew tired of following them.
  4. They publicly promoted godliness but privately lived otherwise. Their hypocrisy was behind closed doors – as it most often is. 
  5. They bragged about their staff but failed to realize they were disconnected from that staff. Everybody else seemed to know it, but the leaders themselves somehow missed it. The staff thus felt unappreciated even while they heard their praises.
  6. They emphasized relevance and change but fought change in their own office. It’s funny sometimes how leaders will tell others what they must do while completely ignoring that application in their own world.
  7. They stressed family values but failed to see the pain in their own family. In fact, some of these leaders wrote on the topic even while their own home was falling apart.
  8. They pushed missions but refused to go themselves. And, their refusal was for no reason other than they simply didn’t want to travel that far. “Do as I say, not as I [don’t] do” was their missions motto.
  9. They understood the importance of confrontation but used their staff to do the hard confrontations. In fact, they often confronted others only through email or public articles – while avoiding face-to-face discussions.
  10. They had infectious passion for their work but allowed their passion to devolve into rudeness and impatience. They so badly wanted the job done that they sometimes ran over people to get there.  

Let me be honest: even as I write this list, I see myself in far too many of these characteristics. How about you?  

Posted on June 30, 2020

Dr. Chuck Lawless is a leading expert in spiritual consultation, discipleship and mentoring. As a former pastor, he understands the challenges ministry presents and works with Church Answers to provide advice and counsel for church leaders.
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  • Jamesia Seawright says on

    This is my pastor and his wife.

  • Yes Dr,as I went more in Reding what you wrote finally I found your among very important servant of God with with very broad experience,, as my English is do limited I feel to write a lot but I have language difficult, kindly I request you Sir in name Jesus to be my best friend ,sim poor man but I love you do much yo be my spiritual Father, if holy spirit speaks some thing about me in this unique spiratual sense kindly don’t hesitate to go ahead with me I can s very mission here Tanzania that we can work together ss an expert, aim ready,God bless you all,greeting to wife, share with this request in name of Jesus, be blessed and keep in touch

  • George Barclay says on

    Thanks as well, Chuck. I’ve certainly seen some of these in others, but this was more convicting and helpful for me, especially as we’re all scrambling to lead in unknown territory. The last two particularly hit me. As one who tends to want to avoid conflict anyway, #9 becomes too easy. And as the stress of the last three months has risen, I am finding myself loosing patience all too easy. Time to take some time off and recharge. Thanks again for the introspection this article gave me.


  • Rev Tracy Mallory says on

    That hit home in ways I never could have imagined. I would say I can see myself in 60% of the list. I came to a church where there were limited competent Diaconate leadership. The mature leadership in the church was afraid of the younger membership. No one knew how to lead. It fell on a trustee who took control of the church. She had zero biblical experience, only a secular title. She never worked with a pastor who had a vision; so, trying to get her to get onboard was hard. My deacons had zero training and never understood what being part of a Diaconate was. As I write this, I see myself laying blame, and I don’t want to do that, I only want the best for the church, but then I ask, what does the church want for themselves?

  • Even though leadership skills may not be included in our genes with prayers for our church leaders and understanding God’s glory will be present. Humans have a weakness and others who are close to them are able to seek out these opportunities for growth.

  • Frederick says on

    Your perceptions so describe a great number of pastors we have encountered over the decades. I have been reading you for years and hope that your observations cause others as well as myself to learn to know that others know what is going on while we hope to the contrary.

    Please speak to us about the consequences of our actions or inactions. Explain that our fiefdoms can not last no matter their sizes. While some ride the crest of their individual waves, disaster looms.

    It seems that a mindset exists that the shepherd can become a god unto himself. His Inevitable fall Whereupon he won’t repent will destroy many sheep. The compromising shepherd leads many astray.
    It has been too long that preachers have been preaching from the Book of Fluff in all its chapters. Sin by any other name is still sin. There is much rotting in the state of Denmark.

    Will Covid 19 bring the church to its knees and keep it there after the pandemic? Will the word of God be in the mouths of pastors any more than it was after the 9/11 crisis. At that time the churches packed out but when the word of God could not be found in the house of God following that crisis, those seeking God ran back to the world.

    Keep preaching the hard truth for the quasi-truth is the drool of the devil. Instead of keeping the numbers up hold up the truth. Instead of harvesting dollars we need to harvest souls. Rather than entertaining the sheep we need to disciple them. Better not to coddle them in their sin but rather preach against it.
    Instead of preparing them to take the mark of the beast by telling them they can take it and still be saved, tell them the absolute truth

    Many pastors have gagged the prophets to keep numbers constant, forbidden guest speakers to speak truth, or ceased to invite them to speak again. So too have they stifled the Holy Spirit regarding the manifestation of His gifts,

    God in His love and wisdom had allowed Covid 19 in order to chastise his church, to try to bring the dead and spineless back to life. We are going to our knees but only God knows whether or not we are faking a move to just return to a Laodicean normal at best. God is not fooling around.

    I hold every false pastor accountable for the souls who do not receive Christ Because His blood is not preached, cross not mentioned, sin not condemned, salvation not preached and the list goes on. Yes, God is love but someone has to teach the truth about His love.

    I encourage every shepherd to return to the cross rather than to their yachts, golf courses, and other toys.

    In closing, I had heard a person speak to a coming reset 9 months before it hit. He did not mention Covid 19 but a coming reset. Many others spoke to the coming greatness of 2020 with all its open doors, great expectations and so on. Where have all the prophets gone? The one I knew had been ridiculed by his pastor And subsequently left his church. Months later a reset button by the name of Covid 19 had been pressed.

    Would we know a prophet if we were to ever hear from one? Let’s repent and get back to the Bible while we can. Fight against the spirit of the Pharisee that will rise in you as you read this. Recognize it and rid yourself of it in Jesus name.

    God bless,


    • Brother Fredrick,
      I am touched right down in my spirit by the truth you have just posted. When will we start understanding that the Church must be a Church Jesus is building? It is an organism, not a seculars institution, or a great 5,000 seat sanctuary. The Church receives its living nutrition from the bread of life, Jesus, our LORD and SAVIOR and head of the Church. He will lead “if” we listen to that small still voice that guides us into all truth. Did He not say “I am the way the truth and the life” John 14: 6? Jesus said “if I be lifted up my will draw all men unto me. “John 12:32. Jesus is the head shepherd, not the Pastor, not the elders and not the deacons. JESUS is the owner of sheep, the head of the Church. We must understand that we are to be guided by study and of His word and prayer. Not phycology or philosophy these are simply worldly humanist doctrines of man nd have no place in the Lord’s Church. We are to teach others, future Elders who can teach ,(feed the flock) and others who will be able to teach also. Deacons were simply servants of the Congregation to perform the oversite of the physical condition of the Church building and physical needs of the congregation not the income ,not as a pulpit committee to call Pastors, etc. not to hire and fire Pasters ,etc”.I have pastored ,taught and evanelized
      For forty seven years now and at all most eighty six years of age now. I can plainly see the gradual falling away we are experiencing until today we have followed the same path that Israel followed when they turned to the world instead of obeying the instruction and warning of the Lord.
      I am so encouraged by your comments here and I Pray those who read this piece will stop and reflect upon what this piece has brought to the light .Let us be the first to bow our knees and seek the Lord and obey 2nd Chronicles 7:14 . Then and only then will we see the Church, “people” prosper in the Lord . Each one and myself included. Preach the Cross and God Bless.
      Thank you sincerely for your

  • Thank you, Dr. Chuck Lawless, for this insightful article about the 10 Characteristics of the Best Bad Church Leaders I’ve Ever Known. Its good to read for we all at one time or other have fallen into some of those characteristics. What came to me as I read this article is that we need to always be evaluating ourselves and tweaking those areas that need to be changed. Secondly, we need to remind ourselves that we have been called to serve God and God’s people and staying faithful to God’s mission for the church and for the leadership we have been blessed with. Again, thanks and blessings on your ministry.

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