Nine Traits of Mean Churches

March 23, 2015

“My church is a mean church!”

I received two emails this week from church members who made that very statement. The members are from two different churches in two different states. One of the churches belongs to a denomination; the other is non-denominational. In both cases the church members made the decision to drop out of local church life altogether.

Yes, I tried to reason with the two members. I told them that no church is perfect. If they had any doubt, I wrote, look at the two letters the Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Corinth. I failed in convincing them to stay in their churches. I pray they will become active in other churches later.

I love local churches. But I have to admit, I am hearing more from long-term members who are quitting church life completely. One member wrote me, “The non-Christians I associate with are much nicer people than the members of my church.”

Ouch. That really hurt.

So, after receiving the second email, I began to assimilate all the information I could find where church members had written me about their “mean” churches. They may not have used the word “mean” specifically, but the intent was the same. I then collected characteristics of these churches, and I found nine that were common. I call these the “nine traits of mean churches.”

  1. Too many decisions are made in the cloak of darkness. Only a select few members really know what’s going on. The attitude of those elitists is that the typical member doesn’t really need to know.
  2. The pastor and/or staff are treated poorly. Decisions are made about them without a fair process. Complaints are often numerous and veiled. Many of these churches are known for firing pastors and/or staff with little apparent cause.
  3. Power groups tenaciously hold on to their power. The power group may be a formal group such as a committee, elders, or deacons. But the group can also be informal—no official role but great informal authority. Power groups avoid and detest accountability, which leads to the next point.
  4. There is lack of clear accountability for major decisions and/or expenditures. The church has no clear system in place to make certain that a few outlier members cannot accumulate great power and authority.
  5. Leaders of the power groups have an acrimonious spirit. Though they may make first impressions of kindness and gentleness, the mean streak emerges if you try to cross them.
  6. A number of the members see those outside of the church as “them” or “those people.” Thus the church is at odds with many in the community instead of embracing them with the love of Christ.
  7. Many members have an inward focus; they view the church as a place to get their own preferences and wants fulfilled. They are the opposite of the description of church members in 1 Corinthians 12, where Paul describes them as functioning members for the greater good of the body of Christ.
  8. Many people in the community view these churches negatively. Those on the outside often refer to these churches as “fighting and firing churches.” The community members detect no love for them from these churches.
  9. Most of the members are silent when power plays and bad decisions take place. They don’t want to stand up to the power group. They are afraid to ask questions. Their silence allows the power abuses to continue.

Are mean churches really increasing in number? My anecdotal information would indicate they are.

What can we do to become a more unified body? How can churches demonstrate more positive impressions to the community? What can we do to hold on to good members who are giving up on local churches altogether? What is your input on these issues? Let me hear from you.

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232 Comments

  • One repeated theme I’m noticing in your post is a person or small group of people who have too much power.

    • But the very powerful people or group may be large donors (who really can’t be upset) or have very close (lifelong) ties with those in leadership. What I have never understood is the paralytic fear of even kindly approaching them.

      Sadly, I have recommended that the young lobby the large donors to support their request even for something as simple as part of the sermon to be relevant to them. I guess next is the retaining of a lobbying firm.

    • Thom Rainer says on

      So true.

  • James Lambert says on

    The real question is can a church recover from this. My church is now a happy loving fellowship, but I fear it will always be seen in the light ( or darkness) of the past mean spirit of those who were there.

    We have to deal with the source of the meanness. This is hard because it’s not always what we think. Many times it comes from people who really love the church and want to do good but have been hurt by pastors and frustrated at the long slow decline of the church and it’s community.

    There is so much to this topic.

    • Thom Rainer says on

      Sadly, there is indeed too much on this topic.

    • Thank you for sharing James. I am a Director of Missions and sadly I see this happening a lot! And usually I am not told about the internal strife or asked for help until it is too late. People are already leaving the church and decisions have already been made.
      Two thoughts: 1) consider posting on your church sign what restaurants put when they have new owners and are having to overcome a bad reputation because of previous owners: Under New Management: Come See For Yourself. (Of course, I say that with tongue in cheek, although it would be tempting!)
      2) show your community your new identity. Find school classrooms to paint. Community or Sr. Citizen centers to spruce up. Have a banquet at your church in honor of your local emergency personnel. Give them a special recognition.
      Just some thoughts!

  • Tom Mosher says on

    Thom, you’re on target! Having been in the Ministry for 40 plus years, I’ve seen these qualities that you mention, and we wonder why our churches are not growing and people don’t want to come to church.

  • One more is “pay to play”. If you don’t donate a large sum of money every year then your ideas will not be considered. This is buying one’s way in.

    Also, why are organizations perceived as mean? A generation or two ago, people (mainly men) joined and then took a turn in leadership. That was in groups who had rotating leadership (e.g. Rotary). Most churches did/do not have rotating leadership. As one group joined the leadership, they stayed and stayed and are still there. T

  • With all this being said and your anecdotal information indicating growth of this problem, Thom, what would you say is the answer to this monumental church issue? The obvious one is a restoration of church leaders/members to Christ and a total emphasis on truth of the Scripture. How would you suggest we stem this tide of mean churches and implement change outside of becoming more like Christ in our own walk? I understand we will not get rid of this 100% because Jesus encountered it and Paul’s writings warn us of self-seeking persons in the body of Christ.

  • Charles Deglow says on

    Having served more than a dozen churches through transition, I am deeply concerned about the growing number of churches that can be identified by the characteristics you have listed. Somewhere along the way, we became focused on maintaining the organization at the expense of fulfilling the great commission to make disciples and develop them into mature followers of Jesus. We desperately need to return to personal involvement in ministry and mission-to be transformed from expecting “them” to come to “us” and become like us to going to “them” bringing the good news in a real in-the-flesh personal compassion. Dietrich Bonhoeffer accused the churches of Germany of forfeiting the right to be called the church of Jesus Christ because of their indifference to heresy and abuse of the Jews. It deeply grieves me to say this. I wonder whether some of our “churches” have forfeited the right to call themselves the church of Jesus Christ as well.

    • Thom Rainer says on

      Well said, Charles. Thank you for your ministry.

    • Well stated Charles.
      I also believe Dietrich Bonhoeffer was correct. With all that is taking place within buildings that call themselves churches these days I wonder how in the world they could even be considered a church in God’s eyes.
      I can fully understand how a church could quickly become labeled as being a mean church. I know of a specific church that was better described as being a country club rather than a church. Feel good sermons and very little of the meat of God’s word was the norm for this group of people. As a result this became more of a social club than a church and as a result abominable practices also became common place within this body of believers. Members who were involved in lifestyles of gross unrepentant sin went unchallenged and were allowed to continue serving in key positions within this church body all in the name of an inaccurate perception of love. Historically this was also a ” hire and fire” church that went through preachers like a child through candy. Anytime a good preacher of the Word would come along who would preach God’s word without apology it was soon he realized his days were numbered.
      This trend continued for years until finally along came a preacher of God’s word who would not be intimidated into compromise and along with him came along a few good men in the church that backed and supported him. Together they were able to convince the leadership that this church needed start acting like a church and start living up to the name on the front of the building and as a result some changes were immediately made. Individuals that were serving in positions that they should not be were met with several times and dealt with in love. Some responded favorably, but some did not, ultimately leaving the church. Along with them many more of the congregation left accusing the church of being a mean church.
      For the unbeliever, the convicting power of God’s word can come across as being mean. To quote the famous Texas preacher John Hagge who said to his congregation of thousands one Sunday morning…..”If these words make you uncomfortable or upset….remember this…..these are not my words but the words of God. If you don’t like what you hear….there’s the door….we need your seat”. John also said in another sermon that he “hates wimpy preachers”. In other words don’t apologize for God’s word. Conversion comes through conviction. And conviction of our sin is something greatly lacking in our world and within our churches today. The American church has watered down the convicting power of the sword of God’s word and replaced it with the warm fuzzies and happy face stickers of worldly acceptance to the point where the church has nearly lost its impact and in many cases has.
      This country is in great need of revival.

      • My issue is that I go to church for my soul and to walk out feeling better then when I walked in instead I left tonight broken I’ve been pointed out and humiliated over a cuss words that was in my Facebook post I am not saved but trying to get back I to church and make a huge change.i had to walk out crying and I just left.my family goes to this church but the power people in this church does no wrong.im not ok ne hundred in my church family but what my pastor did and continues to do is humiliate people I get it the word of God will make sinners uncomfortable but I don’t feel like running out a sinner when we all sin is what God wants.nor does he want the church to push out his people.isnt judging others also a son? I’m so confused!

  • I’m sad to say that I have seen almost all of these traits first hand in my pastor ministry. Number 5 is particularly heartbreaking for the pastor or church member that is working to make something good happen in a negative church. There is nothing that hurts more than a “sucker punch” from a fellow church member you thought was supportive.

    Another trait to add to the list is that these mean-spirited activities are often done under a guise of godliness or spirituality. The reasoning that is given, if at all, is to protect the church from some harmful influence or person.

  • Yes. You hit the nail on the head. I hear from numerous pastors’ wives who have received the brunt of these mean churches. As a pastor’s wife myself, I have also experienced nearly every point you made. This is a growing problem. It seems to come from either the leadership OR the membership. Often when it comes from the membership, it is a group that was born and raised in the church and even though they are not qualified to lead, they maintain an unhealthy power in the form of a clique, thereby negating the authority of the pastors. When this happens, it is ugly, as I’m sure you know. When it comes from pastors, it does seem that they appear to be gracious and kind. But the moment you disagree with them or ask about something they said, they immediately get defensive and become graceless. The only thing that makes them settle down is if the person who challenged the pastor backs down, apologizes, and begins to compliment the pastor. Then it seems that all is okay once again. But it will not last, because it is a false peace based only on the leader being in complete control and having everyone agree with him. This stuff makes me cringe. It is abuse. No wonder people want to leave. The “quiet” people have a lot of good to say, but they will never be heard, and they know it. So they keep quiet. I’ve seen it happen over and over. These people end up leaving eventually. And, you know what? I think they are doing the right thing. In many cases, there isn’t a lot of hope for change and they feel stuck. God help our churches! We are in a sad, sad state when unbelievers are kinder than our own church folks. Unfortunately, I speak from experience.

    • The description of the pastor you gave was spot on for an experience I had. Someone that I thought I knew for years as kind and gracious lashed out… I described it at the time like he had been wearing a mask all along, and had let it slip in that situation. Not a good experience to say the least.

      • Dallas, I’m not sure how to respond to this. On one hand, I’m sorry you experienced the unpleasantness you describe. However, on the other hand, your “explanation” takes me back to Thom’s friend’s point about people outside the church being nicer than those inside. Let me explain:

        There’s a sentiment I’ve seen make the rounds on social media several times – generally shared by non-Christian friends. The placards sometimes differ in their wording, but the basic gist is, “Be Kind because everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.” So when someone you knew for “years” as kind and gracious suddenly lashes out, why assume that the graciousness was a “mask” that had “slipped” rather than asking, “Hey, this isn’t like you. What’s going on?”

        I fear that kind of assumption (that the ugly is someone’s “true colours” even if it’s out of character) is part of what contributes to “mean churches” and is unfortunately fairly typical American behaviour (and to a lesser extent Canadian behaviour as well). We’re conditioned by our culture to look for dirt and quick to judge each other. But Christians should be called to rise above our culture and take a different path.

        I’m also reminded of Jesus words about “whoever offers a cup of cold water in my name” Just this morning, a friend sent me a short article entitled, “Everything Is Awful and I’m Not Okay: questions to ask before giving up ” and the very first bit of advice was to offer the person a glass of water!

        I know it’s against our nature and habit, but I think sometimes dealing with “lashing out” could be better handled by stepping back and saying, “Let me buy you a coffee and let’s talk about this.”

      • Very well put, Elise. Christians are only human, and so are pastors. I’m afraid people often forget that. Show me someone who has never “boiled over” in a moment of anger or frustration and I’ll show you someone who is probably less than honest. Mind you, self-control is a fruit of the Spirit. If a spiritual leader – especially the pastor – has a habit of lashing out at people, the church has a duty to deal with it. If it’s an isolated incident, though, that’s quite another matter.

    • Thom Rainer says on

      My prayers for you and your ministry, Leah.

    • Pastor J says on

      It is sad but true that pastor’s wives are often major victims of “mean churches.” I am in the process of trying to find a new church to pastor due to the unrepentantly unloving attitudes and actions of the leadership in my current church (urged on by a former pastor and former deacon who have axes to grind). I have had incredibly hurtful things said about me, but my wife has been treated far worse. The amount of work and criticism pushed off on her by the “power bloc” in the church has adversely affected her health (high blood pressure and previously controlled asthma becoming a major issue).

      I think that children tend to be another major casualty of “mean churches”…especially the “unchurched” ones who don’t know how to sit perfectly still and act like little automatons. They may not be aware of exactly what is going on, but they can sense if they are unwanted by the older church members.

  • I would add that they enourage shunning of anyone that dares to switch to another church in the community.

    • Thom Rainer says on

      Yep.

    • I would say that with the exception of gross unrepentant sin, this is dangerously close to a cult mindset.

      “Ours is the only true church, any on the outside have fallen away.”

    • My husband and I switched to a different church in the community b/c the pastor at the original church we were at was preaching “feel good theology” instead of Biblical theology. Man, were we shunned throughout the town when we ran into people.

    • I don’t think “shunning” is scriptural even in the case of unrepentant sin. True, sometimes the church has to take disciplinary measures, even to the point of voting someone out of membership. Even then, though, I believe the church should continue to reach out to that person and try to restore him/her to fellowship. After all, that’s the true goal of church discipline. Mind you, people that have been disciplined for unrepentant sin often shun the church. If they do, that’s their problem, not yours.

      I once heard a pastor say something I hope I never forget. He said, “If you can discipline a church member without a broken heart and teary eyes, chances are you’re the one that needs to be disciplined.” Church discipline always tears my heart out, and it should. If it doesn’t tear your heart out, chances are you’re doing it for the wrong reason.

  • Sadly, this is an accurate description of several churches I am familiar with and one that I pastored. Number nine is the saddest point of all. There were so many times when church members came to me and assured me that they did not like what was happening and the majority of the congregation was with me. But they would never stand up for me when it counted. They were terrified of the power block in the church.

    • Thom Rainer says on

      You’re right, Tony. That story is too common.

    • I don’t understand why people are scared of the power block in churches. The folks making them are just people, try having a conversation with them. If the pastor’s scared of them then isn’t the entire congregation doomed?

      • Growing up, I remember being told not to upset the old people with any request or question. This included not being allowed to ask why nothing in the sermon had any relevance to anyone under 55. It was keeping the peace at all cost. It is one thing to “respect your elders.” It is another thing to be made to sit and watch them run people out of Christianity. I am not saying all old people are guilty of this, but quite a few likely are and may be unaware of it.

        The group of old people who comprise church leadership have usually been friends with the power block all their lives and/or are related to them. Most people don’t want to upset a lifelong friendship or cause a family squabble.

        Now for the purely secular answer:
        Count up the donations from the power group and compare them to those from the affected people. See which is greater. Never, never upset a large donor. The more you donate the better your ideas are.

      • I do not fear the power block in our church. I speak up because that is the kind of person I am. But I get incredibly frustrated with our deacon body. Every decision needs their stamp of approval. I would like to see the deacons return to the biblical definition of deacons. The church could then allow the pastor to lead.

    • There are different kinds of power blocs. I can understand the concern about concentrating power into the hands of only a few, and believe me, I am staunchly opposed to oligarchy. However, some churches go to the opposite extreme and won’t make any decisions unless they put it to vote in business meetings, and then they have to discuss and debate it to death. This can be very frustrating to the pastor and other church leadership. Surely there must be some healthy middle ground between oligarchy and micromanagement by the congregation. I’m not exactly sure what that middle ground is, but I’m still searching for it.

    • Leah Orbrasdittor says on

      The power block within the local parish church here where I live, tried to enter my husband’s death bed against my will.

      It was against my will because they were exhibiting absolutely bizarre behaviour – and I say that as a very devout believer of 50 years, and at the sacred time of my husband’s sudden and unfortunate death (he was in a coma and we’re always unaware of how much the comatose person can hear or understand) – and I just didn’t want him or me any further distressed.

      Afterwards (several months later) I tried to raise the issue with the new parish vicar, and he vigorously, mean-spiritedly, and aggressively began shouting at me on behalf of the power block.

      I’m not intimidated by such power blocks (which I will call ‘the Jezebel spirit’) and that makes them all the more disliking and threatened of and by me. I just want peace and Christian acceptance.

      It is very easy for a minister to use his position of power and influence against a ‘vulnerable’ parishioner – because everybody wants his acceptance and approval.

      This position can be and has been and *is* used in excuse for sexual sin, power trips, and spiritual abuse. God never wants that and it harms the cause of Christ – not to mention it doesn’t really do your Christian CV any good.

      I feel very hurt and “ex-communicated”. God has helped me. But dear oh!!!

  • Your number six was what came to mind first for me. I have seen a church that I care for a lot engender a persecution complex over the years, that combined with equating conservative politics with orthodox theology has led to an increasing attitude of “us vs the world” rather than “us for (or to) the world”.

    I think that when we allow disagreement and loss of privilege to equal persecution we do a disservice to those who have been and are being persecuted. We also do a disservice to ourselves for the days that we may see real persecution.

    In the meantime we close ourselves off and become bitter when we engender a culture of persecution where it doesn’t exist.

    We would do well to become more aware of the history of those who have suffered persecution and more active in ministering to those brothers and sisters who are suffering real persecution today.

    • Thom Rainer says on

      Thanks, Dallas.

    • Lynn McIntosh says on

      Thank you Dallas, and Thom. We also have a great problem with gossip and judgmental overtones in Churches. Also mentally ill people…we should not be afraid of them, just a touch on their arm can make a huge difference in their lives.

      Why can’t we just take our problems with others to God first, ..instead of across the table?. Gossip only influences others and not always in the best way. Sometimes I feel it’s a lack of faith to not do that first. 9 out of 10 times we don’t have a need to tell others when we do this. I think this is especially true if it is about the Pastor,..God amazes me even more so, when He allows me to see how He works in this way, with all problems. But, if we still have a problem,.. go to that Pastor or person, first, don’t take it across the table, first.
      My father passed away Nov 22 and God worked it out that I was able to care for him the last three years. He was an awesome man and gave great advice.. But, I remember him telling me once,”if you go to a church and it doesn’t line up with what God tells you through His word and experiencea with Him… Run like crazy out of there!”. Daddy was a good man.

      Thanks again for this article. God bless all the minister’s out there!

    • I agree that it is a mistake to equate conservative politics with the mission of the church. However, I think we do a disservice to our people if we don’t point out the shift in our now post-Christian culture. Absolutely our experiences cannot compare to our brothers/sisters around the globe who give their lives/freedom/families for their testimonies for Jesus. But everything starts somewhere. The persecution in the early church began with exclusion from the trade guilds because these new believers would no longer pay homage to patron deities and so they lost their ability to make a living – that sounds a lot like what’s beginning to happen in our culture with so-called marriage “equality” laws, etc. The earlier persecution eventually became Christians being burned as torches in Nero’s garden. Where we are headed now is still to be determined.

      • Thom Rainer says on

        David –

        That is well-articulated. Thank you.

      • I agree that that was well articulated, but at the same time it is incredibly offensive. It is equality, not “equality”, or do you not believe in human rights? What is at issue in the situation you describe is the legal right to practice discrimination. Some Churches used to support not serving black people, not serving Jews and now some churches are supporting not serving homosexuals. All public businesses must follow the same rule of nondiscrimination. If you want to put your hatred into action, don’t start a business that serves the public. There are plenty of ways of making a living.

        What really took the cake though was the insinuation that marriage equality would lead to burning Christians like torches. The politics of fomenting fear is not an appropriate path for Christians.

      • “Marriage equality” is a euphemism for the left’s attempt to redefine marriage. Forcing a Christian caterer or photographer to participate in such ceremonies is not unlike forcing a kosher deli to serve pork or catfish. Christians have rights, too, and I don’t accept the argument that people give up their religious freedom when they go into business. What other freedoms do business owners give up? Freedom of speech? Freedom of assembly? Freedom to petition the government? Newspapers are businesses; do they not have freedom of the press? The same First Amendment that guarantees these freedoms also guarantees freedom of religion. You can’t have it both ways.

      • DawnMichelle says on

        I find it terribly sad that you have injected politics and judgement into a dialog about mean churches. Ironicly, it would seem that some of that meanness is coming from the pulpits of some of these churches. Jesus washed the feet of the poor and comforted the outcasts. He preached and LIVED LOVE. He would never turn away people because he thought he was “better than”. I am a lesbian woman now legally married to the love of my life with whom I have abided for 31 years now. In that time we have cared for ill parents, supported one another through all the religious hatred that has come our way, and volunteered around the world to try and live a positive example of love and concern for the wellbeing of others. If that isn’t a good, devoted, loving marriage, (no parenthesis), worthy of the love of God, then I am missing something. My wife and I are worthy of God’s love and blessings as anyone else and I know that the way His teachings are being applied is not in the spirit of Jesus teachings. Please, please examine your heart and reconsider how you treat people like me, for I fear you are doing great harm to strangers and to Christianity as well. Please respond

      • First of all, please do not insult my intelligence by linking my stand against homosexuality with conservative politics. Not long ago, conservatives and liberals were united against same-sex “marriage”. The Defense of Marriage Act passed Congress with bipartisan support and was signed into law by President Bill Clinton. In 2008, President Obama and Vice-president Biden both explicitly said they opposed the legalization of same-sex “marriage”.

        It would be easy for me to take the path of least resistance and affirm what you are doing, but is it really loving for me to affirm something that I believe in my heart of hearts is wrong? The fact that Jesus never challenged Jewish teachings on homosexuality is a pretty good indicator that He agreed with it. Furthermore, He explicitly defined marriage as a male and female relationship (Matthew 19:4-5). I harbor no hatred for homosexuals, but love is not the same as approval.

      • The Sodomites even threatened Lot, and you equate homosexuality as a human right? The bible says Lot was the only righteous man left in that place. Lot knew homosexuality was a sinful choice. As Lot said, they did wickedly, hence he offered his daughters as wives, who the men were offended by. They wanted to know the Angels carnally.. This is not color of skin, which is something you are born with. This is a choice they made, just like if I chose to be a lesbian right now. I know it isn’t an option for me to even consider. I know I’d have to fear judgement if I sin willfully. I will not willfully be deceived by lies others choose to believe. It is the same as Sodom, and Jesus said it will be worse than Sodom in the end. We must acklowedge sin, and repent. Homosexuality is a sin. Read the old and New Testament. Even The Apostle Paul said it was bad in the book of Romans, as did other Apostles in the NT. These men were taught by Jesus, and they warned us to distance ourselves from those that resist their wholesome teaching. It is a fact that the Old Testament says men should not lay together as they would with a woman, or they will die. It is strange flesh, and giving yourself over to a debased mind. Jesus did not die for us to continue in sin knowingly. It is discernment to see this for what it is, not judgement. God has already judged who is in the book of life and knows who will deny his law. Read the bible, it is not the words of man, it is the word of God. Or else all Christians live a law and you make God a liar. But only people lie when they walk in transgression. We stand on that rock (the word of God) for our defense and cast no personal judgement. We test all things with the word of God, not our feelings. Or else most Christians would have nothing against homosexuality if it weren’t for the bible telling us Gods truth. We must obey, or risk judgement. We speak the truth in love. God has offered to all that believe in Jesus and keep themselves clean from the world eternal life. If making a transgressors mad by speaking the truth means getting to heaven, then so be it. Then their blood is on their own hands. Better to warn even transgressors, risking their scoffing, then to disobey and made bad good, and good bad. Lot made the Sodomites really angry too. They probably thought he was a judger worthy of punishment, like homosexuals see Christians in today’s secular loving world. I have had other Christians even tell me I’ll burn in hell if I don’t accept homosexuality as good. I took that as they don’t believe the word of God, nor fear him. The bible makes no such judgements on those that resist evil, only people do that. The bible says who goes to hell, and how to avoid it. Jesus said to be afraid of the one that can send you to hell, that would only be God himself, not people. If following the word of God is evil, then I’m the worst of all sinners.

  • H. B. "Sunny" Mooney, III says on

    OUCH!

    • Thom Rainer says on

      For sure.

      • H. B. "Sunny" Mooney, III says on

        Now, in response to your question “What to do to fix this fine mess?”

        It falls on leadership. Pastors, must quit being fearful of ‘job security.’

        That means that we’ll have to preach the Truth to our people, to teach the Truth to our leaders, live the Truth in every aspect of our community (including our family), and to expect the Truth to be demonstrated by everyone who identifies themselves as a disciple or follower of Jesus Christ.

        Transformation doesn’t happen overnight. Sometimes it takes years, decades or a lifetime. So that means that when God calls you to serve as pastor to a local congregation you must be willing to invest yourself for the long haul rather than seeing this flock as a stepping stone to bigger and better things. Longevity sometimes equates to credibility if the man of God has integrity, humility and a passion for his present flock.

      • Thom Rainer says on

        Well said, Sunny.

      • I agree with Sunny’s comments. However, I have been at the same church for 14 years and we are certainly not a mean church but definitely difficult to change. I adopted the long view approach a long time ago (why I’m still here) but I don’t know that it’s entirely fair to put all the burden on the pastor and tell him to not worry about job security. I have a large family and have to work part-time to supplement so my family’s needs are always front and center. I preach the truth unapologetically (I spent ten years preaching through the entire Bible, verse by verse) but still, I can only do so much. I confess that I used to think all it took was truth from the pulpit week after week but in retrospect the people are responsible, too.

      • I know of one church that was formed in the 1930’s. It has had around 14 pastors since then. All but two were either fired or forced to leave. One was told to leave after being there for 15 years and having a heart attack on Sunday morning after an ugly confrontation by a deacon. The deacons told him a short time later that he needed to resign because his health was no longer up to the job. The pastors of that church were not wimping out because of job security. They were simply not allowed to do the work they were called to do.

      • H. B. "Sunny" Mooney, III says on

        I appreciate both of your Points Of View.

        David and Tony – I appreciate your POVs. I just had and miraculously survived a ‘widow maker’ heart attack. Even though the church that I currently pastor ‘had’ a reputation for being a ‘pastor-killing’ one, over the years that reputation has changed. But I have had to take a stand against unbiblical leadership styles and insist that our leaders lead by Jesus’ example (I’m finishing up my 12th year here and this process really began about years 4-5.)

        David I admire your willingness to stick with your congregation over the long haul and am glad that you are faithfully preaching the Word. Yes, I agree that the leadership decisions that we make can potentially affect the fiscal responsibility for our families. But those possible fears should not influence the way that we preach and lead. Both preaching the Truth and then leading others to follow the Truth are preventive measures that pastors must take as we assist our flock to transform their lives after Jesus’ example.

        It’s hard work and really not for wimps. I am glad that you guys are champions for the Truth taught and caught. Blessings!

      • I agree to a certain extent with Sunny. The only problem is that when the power is held by a select committee or group, the pastor might try to lead, only to lead his way to another congregation because he got fired.

        I’m not sure what the solution is. Maybe, we have diluted the meaning of Christian to such an extent, that we forget that the first time it was used was meant to identify those who were legit Christ Followers. Not denominational followers; not pastor followers; not elder followers…etc. Maybe we need to redefine what Christianity really is (and by redefine, I don’t mean put on it a generic term…I mean truly be a Christ Follower.)

        If we redefine it, and maybe refine it to incorporate Christ follower, discipleship and spiritual disciplines, then maybe we take back that hill.

      • Exactly! Leadership (staff-wise) is only effective when the ministry staff and laypersons in “positions of power” are unified in God’s vision for the church.

        Unfortunately, we’ve served and observed enough to know that too much power, regardless of initially good intentions, is never a good thing. If that unity isn’t there, ministry staff is often sent packing due to an agenda-based tug of war. Then we wonder why we can’t seem to reach nonbelievers.

      • Pastor Gary Logoteta says on

        Good reply Sunny, I would like to add that I was a founding member and leader of a new church plant in 1985. We had gotten tired of God genuinely moving in the lives of many young people and seeing them make a commitment for Christ and then the older members being very mean spirited to this new generation. The church imploded and died. That’s when the new church was begun and after 15 years of great growth the senior pastor began to move from the freedom that had set us apart from older churches around to become very legalistic and regimented. Rules driven rather than Spirit and people driven. We left and after several years planted another church. We are almost 7 years old and steadily growing each week. I won’t allow that “control” spirit to get a foothold and we are very open and accepting of all people that come. We embrace the person, not their sin. We feel that the church is a hospital for spiritually sick people so the body openly welcomes sinners of every kind from drug addicts-recovering or not to gay and lesbian to moms and dads that don’t have a lot of hang-ups. We are a happy family with love for Saint and sinner alike and have that reputation in our city. The other churches call us the rehab church-and a church that lets anybody in, we love it! We feel that if you truly love people and accept them and preach the Word without candy-coating in love God will move on their hearts or they will move out, but still respect the church and it’s love even though they won’t forsake their sin at this point. We are cautious not to let the visitors influence the Saints in their walk or discipline. Jesus hung out with sinners and was ridiculed for it. We follow that example of purely loving all people and keeping our doors and hearts open to the human need around us without judging.

    • I am looking for a good Christian Home church. I visited a non denominational church during last Easter and turned my joy into disappointment. During the sermon I noticed this young man acting strange and no later, the ushers, (about 6 men), escorted him out. (He may have got scared and left). I thought this young man got chased out due to his praising. I thought a church was suppose to welcome all no matter what. Anyway, that was last visit. Also, the pastor didn’t like parishioners to wear a cross jewelery.

      • Rev. Run says on

        Do you know the history? I was the associate pastor of a church where I had to confront a young man who was threatening the youth group girls. It came down to keeping the girls safe. I would do the same thing 100% of the time. It turned out that most of the area churches had rules concerning this young man, including one where he was allowed, but only escorted.

      • Thom Rainer says on

        Indeed. I know of a pastor who lost his job recently for taking a similar courageous stand. Sad but true.

      • Daughter of God says on

        I agree that all of the points made in your article are valid, but may I say something from the other side of the coin? I am not a pastor, my husband is not a pastor, I was not raised by a pastor, and none of my
        family members are pastors. I have gone to a church where it was the pastor who was mean spirited and often made jokes at the expense of the congregation. He had no qualms about pointing people out in a service to purposely humiliate them. I was one of those people. I stayed for over 20 years, and remained respectful of this man, until I heard God say it was time for me to go. I’ve actually seen more abuse coming FROM pastors and church leaders than anything I’ve seen coming AGAINST them. And I say this respectfully, but pastors almost
        never think they could be doing something wrong
        when there’s a problem in the church. I’ve heard some of the meanest things come out of pastors mouths, and that’s from behind the pulpit on a Sunday morning. I’ve heard a radio minister say the most insensitive things on his program then talk about all the people leaving his church and how “rebellious” those people are. And I’m thinking, if you preach that way every Sunday, maybe there’s a reason so many are leaving. Isnt’ there any time of reflection on the part of pastors when long time members who sincerely love God, and love the church, start leaving, or is it always assumed it’s NEVER the pastors fault? And I’m NOT talking about
        sermons that convict us or correct us…I’m talking about making insulting, personal remarks, or even name calling. Even pointing at people and insinuating “hidden sin” when it’s not true. That has no place in any sermon.

    • I have to agree that the Churches have become very mean…We live near a local bar and I can tell you that although I don’t patronize that place, the locals that do patronize it are very friendly and always willing to lend a hand.

      In the Church we attend unless you are a member of the various cliques you will never get a helping hand.

      I sometimes wonder if Harold Camping was not correct it his statement that God has left the Churches in the late 80’s….Really can’t see Him there anymore.

      David from Illinois

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