9 Warning Signs Your Pastor May Be Building His Own Kingdom
People like to be controlled!
People want to be controlled!
In a recent post I raised the question of why Christians would allow themselves to be abused in church systems that wreak havoc in their lives and those around them.
Simply put, because deep down many Christians want a pastor who tells them
* what is right or wrong
* what God wants or doesn’t want
* what they should or shouldn’t do with their life
In 1 Samuel 8 the people of Israel demanded that Samuel give them a king. Samuel goes on to explain to the people that a king will control them, abuse them, and use their lives to further his own.
And yet, surprisingly they replied, “We still want a king over us!”
You see the pattern?
There are many Senior Pastors and church leaders who model Christ’s example of servant- leadership (Matt. 20: 25-26)… but there are still far too many who “lord over” their congregations.
Now laying aside the fact that Paul the Apostle wrote 9 epistles (letters) to specific churches that are chapters long and never mentions a Senior Pastor, Lead Pastor, or Lead Elder (which may hint that we’ve got some foundational flaws inherent in the modern church structure) …
…here are 9 warning signs that your Pastor is leading you away from Christ’s Kingdom and towards his own
1) The Pastor is more vocal about taking the nations, country, or city “for Jesus” than loving individual people
Mike Anderson, former leader with Mark Driscoll at Mars Hill Church, explains in a blog post that they thought they were “changing the world.” This is something I see often in leaders (and at times myself when I’m honest) where the “mission” and importance to the world gets promoted more than compassion for people; which is often regulated to those few people in the church who are “called to do that sorta stuff”.
Does your pastor talk about “God’s love for the world” from the platform on Sunday morning but seems a little lacking in just simple love for a neighbor the rest of the week?
I’m also pretty sure we are not supposed to “take” or “take back” anything Jesus hasn’t already paid for 2,000 years ago
Something to consider…
2) Family members seem to fill key church job openings
I was reluctant to include this one as I know MANY great churches with family members serving together in gifted capacities…but I also know that nepotism is a rampant problem within the Body of Christ and so I need to include it.
Hey, what pastor doesn’t want their wife, son, daughter, husband, aunt, uncle, nephew or niece ministering beside them? I have two sons who I would love to see with me in some capacity some day.
I get it..
But when church positions seem to come quicker and with higher pay and perks for family members, things have gone off the rails a bit.
*I know of a church school who paid a qualified principal less than market wage but the principal gladly did it “for the Lord”. When the principal later left he was replaced with the much less qualified pastor’s son. Miraculously then the funds became available to pay a market wage! Funny that …
* I know a lady who served as a church secretary for years. When the pastor’s daughter became old enough to work the secretary was encouraged to move on. Amazingly though, when the daughter assumed the position the post now came with a church paid for S.U.V. My friend laughed when she shared the story, “All those years I never got a car for the job, but daddy’s little girl sure did.”
If too many of your church leaders are calling the Pastor “dad”, this may be a warning sign!
3) The Pastor is not enthusiastic about uniting with other churches in their geographic region
Pastor’s building their own kingdoms have little interest in corporate gatherings which involve other churches. Sure they love to have people from other churches come to their “special event” but show little interest in having their folk attend an event sponsored by another church.
Big name speakers coming through can sometimes get promoted though because they’ll leave town after all and can’t take any sheep with them on the way out.
4) Your proximity to the Pastor is directly related to your ability to further the church’s vision.
This kinda relates to point 1. If you make money, if you can give money, if you look right, if you will attract other people, if you solve problems, if you don’t make problems, and if you have marketable skills that the church won’t have to pay you for, you will get all kinds of “face time” with the Pastor looking to build his own kingdom.
If not, you’ll be one of the few people encouraged to attend another churches’ “special event”
5) The Pastor positions himself as having just a little better revelation of God’s will than everyone else
Even though Jesus had total revelation of God’s will he always engaged people with humility and compassion. A Pastor promoting his own vision though takes the (incomplete) piece of revelation he thinks he has received and uses it as a hammer to convince his people they are right in following him as well as validation as to why they are just a little more right in God’s eyes than the Christians at the church down the street.
Rather than humbly seeing other congregations as having different, yet vital, understandings of the nature of God that they need to have as well, this Pastor sees other Christians as just not “getting it”…otherwise they would be at his church after all.
6) In the Pastor’s eyes you are viewed as either “in” or “out”
The Christian life is not about a New Life and a journey with the Creator of the Universe, heaven forbid no, it’s about furthering the vision of the church. So in a warped model the Pastor is not a facilitator and a builder up of the gifts of the saints but a pilot who is taking his passengers to a particular destination… “and we’re all going to the same place!”
In this expression the church member who begins asking questions about the Pastor’s vision is akin to a passenger attempting to open the cabin door at 30,000 feet. And the result tends to be the same. Fear and anger in the other passengers lead them to take down the obviously deluded person until the pilot can have him arrested. Crazy nut!
In this type of church you are either “on board” or not. You are “in” or “out”. There is no wiggle room for other journeys, destinations, or paths.
7) There is passive or aggressive pressure by the Pastor not to associate with others who have left the church
Pastor’s building their own kingdom’s suffer from a bit of paranoia. Someone is always talking behind their back… someone is always plotting...someone is always out to get them.
Trust between pastor and church members begins to break down.
Eventually people have enough of the control and manipulation the paranoia produces and they leave…or are kicked out!
The last thing then the Pastor in such a church wants is for “untainted true believers” to be talking to the black sheep who could never appreciate or understand the Vision to begin with.
Anytime a pastor calls you, e-mails you, or arranges a coffee chat to warn (or threaten) you not to associate with former church members be afraid…be very afraid!
8) The Pastor requires you to have your understanding of God, the Bible, and “the world” be in total agreement with his
When the pastor is less than tolerant on you holding a position in conflict with his be warned. When it is expected that you have the same views on:
* political party affiliation
* women in ministry
* sexual orientation
* environmental concerns
or a myriad of other issues Christians of good conscious disagree on…
…chances are you need to find another group to fellowship with.
9) The Pastor uses pulpit teachings to address conflicts that should be dealt with personally or privately.
Call this a “pet peeve” but for years I’ve been particularly annoyed when pastors use the Sunday sermon as a bully pulpit to attack a particular person or issue because they were to afraid to deal with it directly. As a lead pastor I would often ask myself if a sermon I prepared was instead prepared for a particular person to hear. If not…then I would preach it!
The problem with this type of Pastor is that the person or person’s to whom the message is directed just end up getting ticked off more. It also leads to insecurity in the rest of the church who begin to wonder who the Pastor is talking about and is it them.
I sent a draft of this post to a good friend to get his take and input before publishing it. He wrote back:
Your 7 (now 9) signs are exactly that of the how Israel was strutted under the law. We are now free from that curse. Jesus made it clear we are not to organise ourselves in this way just as Samuel warned Israel. The system has a king, a vision, a mission and is hierarchical in nature. By definition it’s an institution and that means to gain unity you must require conformity. To gain conformity you must gain control….
Maybe the system is a contributor to the abuse and manipulation we see in the church today. Samuel the prophet told the people what comes with an earthly King…
And yet we still seem to want a King!
My final word is this though:
God gave you a life; Live it…or someone else will live it for you!
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