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

* eschatology 

* women in ministry

* sexual orientation

* environmental concerns

* hell

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.

Final Word

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!


  • Latuan Colbret

    This is an interesting article and while there may be some truth to it, until you have pastored a church from the lead position, you have no concept of what it takes to be a pastor. I not in total disagreement with the article I just think it comes short by only sharing one side of the story. Interview some pastor and create some balance so that people are aware of the facts and not just opinions.

    • Steve

      Latuan, I am a pastor and so I have quite a bit of the experience you suggest. This post is not birthed in theory…but as a church planter and pastor myself

    • It may be possible Pastor Colbret that because you pastored a church you didn’t get the opportunity to visit other churches. There are quite a few small personality cults our there. I fell into one that fits this description very well.

    • Latuan, obviously I can’t claim to know your heart and presume it to be good and pure, but your comment sounds like it is looking to justify the things Steve pointed out, believing that there is justification for such behavior, in some circumstances, and that Steve (or others) just don’t understand. This problem exists and I can imagine no circumstances that would justify such behavior.

  • Scott

    Steve, I agree with you and have discussed this topic many times over the years. I have often said, as you did, that people want control. In fact, they want control so badly that they will choose it even when they are guaranteed to fail. To be more specific, when people are offered the choice of control via the law with GUARANTEED failure or grace with complete freedom, a very large percentage will pick the law. The shocking part of this is not at all to say that people are stupid, rather, it shows the incredible degree that humans want control, even with failure being the only outcome. And, it is for the reasons you state: they want someone to tell them what to do, someone to tell them what God wants them to do, and also have clear instructions on what is right and wrong.

    The big lie in this whole picture is that God is in love with behavior when in fact God is in love with people.

    • Steve

      Yes, leaders fall into the trap of control. I think though (and I allude to it in the post) is that because churches tend to be so singularly identified to an individual. Identity pressures drive a lot of church conflict

  • Margaret

    So as a follower of your brother what words would you give him to return to his first love when he sees Mark Driscoll behaving this way and no one can stop him. He was called to repentance in 2007 and he continued on. Dave Kraft called him to repentance and Mark marches on. I am sure your brother is asking where is god. I am sure your brother has called out to god and not heard a word from god. What do you say to your brother to encourage him to believe in a bible that was written by many men. This bible is full of contradictions.

  • Justyna

    I in general liked this veeeery long article.. or points. I had been in many controlling churches. From my experience no one likes to be controlled, so i must disagree, the problem is that many people come from under one control into another and they see no difference. From the side of leadership, well control is mistaken with leadership skills. Good leader leads people into right direction at the same time investing in each one of them and pulling out treasures out of them and guiding them into developing this new talents and skills. Now another side of coin. Only insecure leaders reach into manipulation and controling. It gives them sense that their position is secure and that they are important and needed. People became a problem whet they grow in identity in Christ and can discern controling spirit. So thats basics from experience. I highly disagree with fact that people like to be controlled. Now if it comes to that example from the Bible. I wish you could give more then one because I see no pattern in it whatsoever. I was raised in country which head Monarchy. And King or Queen was someone who protected the land, was celebrating traditions and believes connected to God and in some cases leaders people were proud to be under. Did you think of that? That any of us is designed to follow, to have a guide? It suppose to be The Holy Spirit yet not many know how to built this relationship. As we are designed that way we search for someone to look up to as we do to Jesus. Basically saying that we like to be controlled, you say that we were made as dolls to be moved by doll maker. Its like giving away the fact how God made us to devil. Overall good article.;)

    • Steve

      Appreciate the comment. I would add that people say the don’t want to be controlled (no one ever says they do) but their actions often prove otherwise. It’s far easier to let someone else manage the relationship with God. Another example is Moses when he came down the mountain. The people said, “you talk to God Moses, and then you tell us what he says and we’ll follow.”

      We don’t need a system where the pastor is some kind of “oracle”. (“Please pastor, tell me what God is saying so I can do it”). God gave us the Holy Spirit to lead use into relationship with him through Christ…but that level of freedom makes people too nervous. So they cling to the Holyman to tell them what to do. If you get a good one, you’re blessed. If you get a bad one who is building his own kingdom, well, there can be years of manipulation and pain.

      Many say They say they want freedom, but they often really just want to go back to Egypt.

      • I really don’t agree with that. I didn’t want to be controlled – really hated it in fact. What kept me there was not the desire to be controlled, or to be told what to do – I had plenty of ideas of my own thanks, but the deeply ingrained belief that God wanted me there and that He wanted me to submit to the leadership. The reason that belief was there was down to the teaching. Most of the time it was subtle, but on one particular occasion the pastor referred to a builder who’d done work on his house who they’d had a disagreement with and who had subsequently died of a heart attack – they put that down to God’s judgement and strongly implied that any disagreement with them would incur such judgement on ourselves. I also believe there is a strong spiritual power at work keeping people in bondage, and I’m not talking God given power. Saying people want to be controlled reminds me of rapists saying ‘she was gagging for it’. It’s a rather contemptuous way of looking at people who are in bondage simply because they’ve been convinced that is what God requires of them and they don’t want to disappoint Him. It is the end result of leaders claiming to have a God given ministry, and that God has given them authority to dictate the minutiae of people’s lives. They have stripped God’s children of their rightful inheritance of grace and replaced it with the heavy burden of judgement and guilt. Telling people that you know better than them about what they are really feeling, that they were really ‘gagging for it’ (and that is precisely what you’re saying by saying they want it, because their actions proved it), is just more abuse. I’ve had more than enough of being told what I believe and being blamed for the actions of others. Leaving church was the hardest thing I ever did, solely because I felt I had failed God. It took years before I could even pray to Him again because I expected judgement and condemnation for leaving. Being in church was like being gang-raped by the leadership, and no, I wasn’t gagging for it.

        • KMH

          Sue, bless you, Sister. I totally agree with you and with the writer. Seems crazy to agree with both – but I too, have been hurt along with many, many women who were used by church pastors who used us to run a school and took the tuition dollars for their pay. We women thought we were doing ministry. However, looking back now, I can see that God always wants us to trust only HIM not a system (whether it be for our jobs, our children, etc.). The school became our idol. For the pastors, their positions, their title and pay is their idol. This is satan’s blinding and he is mean! Currently, the “church” is going through the Nones and the Dones. This is not sustainable for the current system. It is coming down. God is doing a whole new thing! New wine in new wineskins! Sue – you will be healed and God will use you to heal others and give out to others. I am praying for you to have at least one other woman to heal with through this. Pray and call someone that God puts on your heart to reach out too. Chances are you are not alone, God will conquer and heal this through love. That is His way.

        • sl

          Sue, you are not alone and you are free in Jesus. I was in a manipulative church for 10 years and leaving was hard and all kinds of emotions come up and we don’t even know where to start, but there God is our HOPE. I pray that God’s hope fills you and that his love overwhelms you. I pray if you get to read this that you will be in a position of power and joy.

    • Justyna, though no one admits to a desire to be controlled, people do seem to desire the comfort of being spiritually controlled. It is comforting to be told that, if you do these specific things, or hold to these specific beliefs, you are perfectly in tune with god (small g on purpose). That is why the cults are filled with people. That is why so many abusive churches are large. It is much more difficult to teach people to be led by the Spirit and to accept others who do things different that they, too, are led by the Spirit. While we must submit ourselves to the authority of the Scriptures, there is a lot of latitude for the Spirit to guide different Believers differently but still within the confines of His Word. And I, too, am a pastor with 26 years in the ministry as a pastor, and 10 or so years before that in various positions under a pastor. I grew up in a very controlling Baptist church so I know both sides.

  • Sarah Lussier Hoskyn

    I think also that people are told by those manipulative leaders that they can’t think for themselves and that only the pastor knows what is best for them. This is another ploy to gain control. And the people believe it – they become uncertain, they double-guess themselves when they have questions, etc. they think they should not question. This happened with the Catholic Church in Quebec for decades. Only the priests and the church leaders supposedly had that special connection with God, and since people were not educated, they could not read the Bible themselves. So it was easy for the church to control the direction and spiritual journey of their congregants. So I think it’s not so much that people WANT to be controlled, it’s just that they are aggressively made to become passive and be controlled by the manipulative leader. And they are everywhere. It seems that they are especially in the evangelical circles too. And kids who grow up with this kind of culture/environment of course grow up to be non-confident, self-doubting christians who always wonder if they are straying from the “right” path when they start having doubts or questions. They are not taught to rely on their intuition and seek counsel from God directly when having questions because they think that asking questions means they are far away from God, and being far away from God, why would God speak? They need to “repent” and come back to the “right” way of thinking. And if they don’t want to do that, then they just leave the church and often leave the faith because they think that they have already started to stray and God is already far away.
    Vicious cycle…

  • Jo

    This is excellent stuff. Sadly, I saw it happen in a couple of churches. I drank the Kool-Aid along with the best of ’em. What’s even worse, I was the senior secretary to the senior pastor and it was right in front of me–and I didn’t even get an SUV! ha

  • A.E. Strickland

    HOMERUN. Wow, Steve, you got this right. I was on the staff of one of the largest churches in the US, and the nine things you list are unbelievably, eerily, the things I experienced. And I do mean, all nine, even the part about having a son who is pastoring one of his satellite churches and another son working in a lead position in the Christian School! If people do not believe this, it is because they just haven’t been on the inside of the belly of the beast! But to be fair, I have pastored/started three churches myself, and God has recently revealed to me that these things were pretty true of my leadership, too! OUCH. Apparently I was praying “My Kingdom come” instead of “THY Kingdom come” all these years. Since my own time of brokenness over this issue, my compassion and grace for people has skyrocketed, and so has my patience and understanding. “The Lord opposes the proud,” and He often – pretty much always, that is – uses trials and failures to open our eyes to our pride and make us humble like Jesus. But the nagging question I have at this point is how can we help churches and pastors caught in this mindset to get out of it? And secondly, as I move forward, what are the best steps for me to take to keep from using people, instead of loving them? I don’t want to go there again!

    • Steve

      Thanks A.E. I’ve been there myself and cringe. In fact I think I frustrate some folk now because I so don’t want to manipulate people that I can sometimes be nervous to even challenge them

  • daryl

    Steve,this post really speaks to me.I have a lot of respect for you and some of the other pastors who commented,and appreciate the humility to go against the grain and consider that how we do church is basically wrong….even though doing so may affect you greatly,financially,personal attacks,etc. For many of the reasons mentioned in the article,i have become one of the “dones” you mention elsewhere….not done with God,but done with local churches.I do not have the time,desire,or energy to go search the world for a local church i can feel at home at,and in fact I don’t believe it’s that important.My wife still attends and is involved in local church ministry,and still wants/slash makes my boys go to some extent.I am sure that I am viewed by many at the church as a “deadbeat” dad….one that is not being the spiritual leader of his home….all because of my lack of attendance and involvement at church. I do want to lead my boys spiritually,but every time i go to church,i feel as though i have to leave my brains at the door,there are so many things that are taught or implied that are wrong.I really believe that things are “caught” better than “taught”,and that i am a better father to my kids than most who would look down on me or rebuke me for not going to church with them. Anyways,really appreciate many of your posts and will gladly receive prayer as I try to be the best husband and father i can be.

    • Steve

      Hi Daryl, Thank you for sharing that. I think what you are experiencing now is becoming more and common with followers of Christ. I trust your example will be a help to others walking a similar path! God Bless

    • KMH

      Daryl, Bless you! SERVE with your kids. Teach them to help others as Jesus did. Most churches do not help the widows and orphans, care for the sick, etc. Prepare a meal at your local Ronald McDonald House with your kids!!! Bake cookies or take games and go and hang out at a home for seniors. This will teach your children.
      Many years ago, I invited a single widow Dad to our then church. He continues to go with his children, but now we are Dones due to the 9 items above. However, because the family had came over every Christmas eve for almost a decade, they grew up with my kids. It was so fun to gather this Christmas even though we are not in a formal church together. This is the relationship and one anothers Jesus wants. Pray for where you can serve once a week with your family – then go!!! That is being a spiritual leader. You can read them a gospel story or OT story, before you go. That is church! Did you know worship and service are the same word? I will be praying for you. May God show you that you ARE able to spiritually lead your family. Don’t let the world force you into a system and don’t let the enemy steal your worship.

  • These 9 points express so clearly and helpfully, what warning signs to look for in a sick church…I think many believers suffer from poor self esteem and think they need to be under the “authority” of a pastor. They have also bought the lie that the church is there to serve the community whereas it is my firm belief the church should exist first and foremost for the encouragement and building up of God’s people. These wrong beliefs, reinforced by legalists in a church, point to whether or not a church member is “submitted” or “serving God.” The “rebellious” believer is judged and rejected. The whole thing is dysfunctional and subtly abusive….robbing God’s people of the joy of their salvation!

  • Joshua David Mbinji

    U’ve put sexual orientation in your list in point no. 8 like all orientations are acceptable! Unfortunately some are not! And that’s not my pastor talking, that’s the Bible!

    • Black guy

      I agree with that completely and I’m glad you brought it up…that one seemed fishy to me

      • Steve

        I use it as a point that Christians of good conscience can disagree on these areas and it should not affect relation.

  • Eric

    I don’t see it so much as ‘wanting control’ as people in general are lazy and want someone to make the decisions for them. They have no desire to put forth the effort and seek out that personal relationship with Christ. For a lot of new comers in Christ, the bill of sale comes with the statement, “Life will be easy now, it’s all good.” printed at the bottom. No, it’s not control people want, it’s someone else they want to tell them what is good and what is bad. They have no desire to figure it out, work it out for themselves.

  • Steve

    Many of these hit home for the church I attended for almost 40 years with the hiring of the most recent pastor. The most interesting example was after he appointed his daughter secretary. A few months afterward, he, not the board, stood in front of the congregation to explain how invaluable she was and needed a more than 50% raise. It was approved almost unanimously.

  • Kevin

    Acts 7:48 The most high doesn’t live in houses built by human hands! Church is bologna it’s not about religion it’s about relationship. That verse alone tells us all that God doesn’t live in these buildings called churches. He built us we are his temple where he desires to take up residence and transform our lives. If we are his children ,we All are pastors/ministers. Don’t we inherit genetic characteristics from our parents? Ok well that means I too along with everyone else is a pastor. Whether we pastor through preaching, singing, playing an instrument, dancing, poetry etc. We have the ability to minister to others. We serve a diverse God & it is quite foolish to believe he is one dimensional and that he expects his message to be delivered by some self appointed man/woman. We only access 10% of our brains capacity yet we believe the infinite God is contained in a book (Bible). We allow ourselves to be lead by people that cant answer the daily drama that goes on in their own lives yet try to tell us that they have God’s full understanding. Following a pastor is like the blind leading the blind. We are to follow God and not frauds, we are All sheep including you pastor in need of guidance from our shepherd God . May these wrongful teachings that create bondage for those under it be destroyed in the name of Jesus!

  • Adrian

    My family and I recently escaped a church very like that described by Steve. I was on eldership but could never quite “get the heart” of the lead guy. We saw many people broken and leave but stayed on thinking we could bring stability. Eventually the eldership ganged up on my wife and did a character assassination on her so we left. The decision to leave was followed immediately by the most incredible sense of relief, freedom and God’s right hand. While we were in it we knew something was wrong but could not put our hands on it. When we left it all became clear like the veil was lifted as we walked away form the spiritual oppression of a controlling leader. Months down the line many more have left to find freedom. My wife has a lot of healing to experience but it is happening in God’s time.

    Don’t take this issue lightly, controlling leaders hurt people – badly. If you are in it get out and break ties totally with the leadership and find a new church where the incalculable price Jesus paid for your freedom is honored. Key to this is finding leaders who live the principle of servant leadership and take no pride or fame for themselves but love and serve the flock with open hands.

  • After reading this article it is clear to me that Hill Country Bible Church in Austin, TX is not a cult. Praise Jesus.

    • T. Olney

      Interesting, after reading this article, and twenty years connected to the HCBC world, I concluded the opposite. For others who come here via Google, be warned: Hill Country Bible Church is a very lucrative and aggrandizing operation for its elders and pastors. That folks like Dean Blair would seek to comment that it is the opposite, unsolicited, is rather telling.

  • Great article. The irony that the whole rest of the page is all about Steve is pretty humorous though.

    • LovesGod

      I thought this article was 90% right-on but I didn’t think Steve was centered on himself. What he did say was he could also fall to temptation to be controlling, and is warning other pastor’s what signs to look for in themselves.And the point about favoritism in the pastors families is right on. Two examples I’ve witnessed: a middle aged couple were asked to step down out of the children’s ministry THEY started. It had been successful for about 25 years. The young children they ministered to for years were now grown and bringing their own children to the same ministry. God was leading and it was apparent. Much good fruit coming forth.They were more less told they needed “fresh faces” to lead the children now. The new leader, a guy in his late 20’s ran it into the ground and left after about a year because it wasn’t his calling, obviously. The guy was the son of one of the pastor’s. It’s obvious to me no one in leadership asked God what HE wanted. (It was a paid position) Apparently, the pastor’s son needed a job. In another church, the pastor’s sister has been worship leader for years. She is an okay singer but makes more noise singing too close to the mic and drowns out the worship music. She has no training and monopolizes worship service but no one would say anything. She’s the pastors sister and his only sibling. I’ve been in churches where worship was spirit led and I can tell the difference.

  • Shondra

    God bless you & thanks so much. Awesome and so true

  • Shila

    All I can say is, “Wow!” You hit everything right on. My in-laws were the pastors of a church that we attend and I was the secretary, but we never took advantage of the church. However they have retired and was hoping to stay but unfortunately the new pastor and my in-laws had issues. I could see both where they were wrong and right. My husband and I used to have a good relationship with the new pastor but after everything that happened and when his parents retired he totally changed towards us. We may not agreed with everything, but we want the best for the church and especially for God’s work and for his family. When my husband approached him with some concerns and questions he informed him that he couldn’t take anything my husband says due to who his parents are and won’t hear anything. We took a year off just to make sure that the congregation would go to them and not to us for matters and to give time for healing. When we came back so much has changed and everything became a “me” church. Within a short time we saw so many leaders and people that they took to and within a year each time leave the church. When they would start questioning some of the things he is doing he would get offensive and a how dare you attitude. We saw so many people hurt and leave. One couple close to us even informed us that they were leaving due to one couple that left they were told that because they were in leadership they were not allowed to have bible study with that couple anymore. We are now unfortunately on his list because we question and are still in contact with all of these couples. He assumes that if you are in the parking lot and talking you are talking about him. When we get together we talk about other things and not the church. When we approached with some questions on the financial report for membership meeting at a council meeting he out right said it was over everyones head and should never be given out because people just don’t understand it. There is no church functions and he controls everything and I mean everything. We continue to pray for him and his family and the church.

  • Walter grier

    Hi my name is walter i see what you are talking about iam on the trustee board at a church and there are things that is not right when i speech out about it i have problems with the pastor he will be having a meeting with the noard anout me please pray for me the things that are going on are heavy on my heart

    • Steve

      Hi Walter, thanks for sharing. It can be very difficult to be in your situation. I trust you will come through well, God Bless

    • LovesGod

      Walter, I’m sorry for what you’re going through. One reason the board of a church is there, is to hold the pastor accountable. I’m suspicious of any board that’s made up of the pastor’s closest friends. They’re the ones he plays golf with, goes hunting with, or takes out on his boat fishing. In the church I’m referring to, the board members wives go shopping with the pastors wife. The pastor’s kids are best friends with their kids. The pastor’s family has even traveled with their families, not church related but real vacations.The pastor meets up with the board members, individually for casual lunches, away from the church. Even the elderly Mom and Dad of the pastor was (most of them have died) close friends with the elderly parents of board members. How in the world can a boardmember be impartial and avoid compromising when his best buddy is the pastor or his wife is best friends with the pastors wife. Pastor’s often appoint “yes men” to hold positions such as board members and Trustees.That way no one wants to rock the boat.They risk not only their position in the church as a trustee, on the board, but also close personal friendships with the leader and his family. Some may think I’m crazy but I honestly think pastor’s should not have friends from his own church but should only seek close friends from those attending other area churches. His closest friends should not be on the board or hold a high position in the same church. That doesn’t mean he can’t be friendly, but he shouldn’t be their best bud either. I’m not kidding. That’s why he’s got a problem with you. After all, “how dare you ” do the job you’ve been appointed to do?

  • Doug Atkins

    God showed us this as a church. We have moved as an entire church to change our ways. We want only Jesus as our King. Thanks for your observations and teachings. The Holy Ghost is in the lead!

  • Steve


    Excellent points. I taught SS in Southern Baptist Churches for 30+ years. About 2 years ago we left our Church because the Pastor and much of his staff exhibited all nine of your points. I attended seminary for awhile years ago, have had many family members who were pastors and one family member on staff of the Baptist Home Mission Board for 25+ years. I say that only to let you know I have met and known many Pastors and Staff over the years. And of course there are some very devoted men and women who love and serve the Lord and people with all there hearts.

    However, as an Attorney who has also been involved in the political arena over many years and likely seen just about every kind of behavior possible, it breaks my heart to say that in the three mega churches I have been intimately a part of I found Pastors and many Staff(voluntarily or not) to exhibit all nine of your traits, at least to some degree. Obviously it not just the members these Pastors seek to control but those serving under them.

    It seems in too many cases today we find Leadership that are arrogant, self-serving and all with an attitude of “it is my way or the highway.”

    I know for some this may just sound like an unhappy member, but I have actually dealt with a number of these issues in Legal settings where only the facts were involved and undeniable.

    Sorry for this long comment but seems to me that we have a lot of “church leaders” leading a lot of members to follow them instead of God because they “know” best. No wonder we loose so many people.

    • Steve

      Hi Steve, thanks for sharing that. Yes, this article seems to resonate with many as it seems to be an all to common occurrence

  • Josh

    Umm, I’d like to hear your clarify or further explain number 8. Sexual orientation, women in the ministry, and hell are clearly defined in the texts. Enlighten me Steve.

    • Steve

      Hi Josh, as you see the topics you mentioned “clearly defined” you probably need no clarification from me 🙂 The point of the post though asks whether when you see an issue clearly defined in contrast to another person who loves Jesus can you break bread in communion with them? As I suggest many pastors don’t tolerate other viewpoints much. Thankfully some do…

  • Glenda Woolfolk

    Excellent. I feel the church I attend is in this situation. My current Pastor replaced our previous Pastor of 50 years. The church went through a court battle because some felt the new Pastor was a dictator and a novice not showing compassion for the flock. Therefore they demanded a re-vote, which our by-laws grants with stipulations of course. I stood behind the Pastor because I did not want to disobey God’s Word concerning going against the Pastor. The other members won the court case however the judge granted a “stay” until after the case has gone through Appeal. But lately in the last 2 years I have literally been able to identify all 9 issues in my Pastor you’ve detailed in this article, and it seems to be getting worse. I feel so confused and frustrated and hurt. Please pray for me. I was needing to know if there was anything out there that addresses these actions and this is how I came across your article. Thank yout so much.

    • Steve

      Glenda, I’m sorry for the situation you feel yourself in and pray that peace will prevail in your churches’ ordeal. Unfortunately this is an all to common issue

  • Rayshawn Anderson

    Excellent Article! As A Minister I Saw Most of these signs in the Pastor I sat under. He felt that God only Spoke to him, he felt the church and the congregation belonged to him by always Quoting “My Sheep know my Voice” and instead of feeding and correcting the sheep through the Word of God….he often attacked them through his word because they were not doing what he wanted or not being who he tells them to be. You can tell he was controlling because whenever there was a church forum and he ask, “Is there any questions, comments, or suggestions? ” The entire congregation was afraid to stand up and speak, because they knew if they said something he would belittle them, attack them, and make them feel inferior to him. He often uses Malachi 3:10 out of truth and context to make people feel bad about giving to the church and tells members that if after 60 or 90 days they dont attend church they are no longer a member and the church is not obligated to pray for them or be there for them. This pastor instead of talking to you privately about whatever issue he had about you would instead attack you about the issue in his sermon during service and in his posts on social media. He also cracks a lot of jokes in his preaching and one time after he was done preaching he dropped the mike on the ground and walked away from the pulpit. It got to much for me and I could no longer sit under these shenanigans so I left and never looked back. I know this pastor is attacking me and my family right now calling us disloyal, weak, and everything else under the sun but its ok. Im free and no longer bound to a controlling pastor and a cult like church organization. The list goes on and on. Now there are a lot of Pastors out there with a Shepherds heart…. But there are also a lot of pastors out that are not encouraging people to come to church so they can be fed and grow in Christ but are attacking, threatening, intimidating, and manipulating the sheep to come just to serve and help them with their Vision that really has nothing to do with Christ’s Vision for the Church…….

    • Tyrone Wrisby

      Wow powerful I am now going threw the same situation in my wife’s church who her parents are the dictators sorry founders I’m a a point of discouragement looking for an escape without hurting my marriage please pray for me

      • Steve

        Difficult situation Tyrone, I hope you find the way out of a destructive environment while preserving your marriage!

  • I dislike our pastor he says if you got a problem dont come to him hes no different Than me. He says you can lie just ask to be forgivin ect i cant stand him or his wife, wife wanted divorce me so i called and ask to pray for my marriage ,no mind you theres two pentacostal. Churches in this very small town this pastor wife says my wife has choiches n i read God hates divorece, no adultry just my mouth was bad grew up that way but it hit me hard i quitswesring the divorce woke me up so she ccancelled. Divorce two weeks before ckurt date but i went other church the pastor n i pryed hrd for my wife snd i he lent me a dvd go watch n visited me n we prayef. The other one says i kno a paster in korea if you have a problem climb to the top of a hill n fast thirty n he says i gaurenter yourpray will b answered. One church the guy i dislike everyone trys to outdress each other n the other is potter bouse a place were you dont have to be all dolled up Missovich44@gmail my email i live in cass city mi tbe guy i fislike i called his wife said she never talked to my wife so i ask my wife n she said yes i talk to her isnt yhat abomination to the lord,..i hear i give more that 10% and i get a raisr in pay,,,,he is the reason i dont go to church anymore

  • Christian's husband

    I have been a believer for nearly 59 of my 69 years and have been very active in church all of my adult life. Unfortunately, I have experienced much of this abuse over the years even though it comes from well meaning leadership. I have been used and abused to the point that I am skeptical of leadership. The majority of the abuse mentioned above I have personally experienced. I still teach on a regular basis but am reluctant to get actively involved with other ministries. Our church just recently implemented Elder ministry to further disillusion me.

  • Mark

    If you knew in advance that the Titanic would sink, would you go anyway to help The passengers you couldn’t convince beforehand?

    This is an illustration of why we decided to NOT follow our Pastor’s ‘vision from God’ to change locations from a paid for facility (which they will maintain) in one town, in order to rent another facility in another town, in which they have to set-up and breakdown weekly to spend about $3300 per month. Apparently, wisdom and practicality and counting the cost are secondary to stepping out in faith.

    I hope we are quite wrong about our assessments of their guaranteed failure and predictable burnout where so many pieces and players have to almost literally fit perfectly every week just for a few new potential (and not guaranteed) disciples. Does it sound like an accident just waiting to happen, or am I being a little melodramatic here?

  • Peter

    Hi Steve ,

    I am a volunteer at a church where the pastor is secretive and toxic. Until I met this pastor I had never experienced narcissism or a person with passive aggressive behaviour.

    My experience with this pastor’s narcissism has led me to read many articles on the subject .

    As my partner ( who is an employee of this church ) and I deal with this pastor’s deliberate and extreme attacks on us both , and his attempts to alienate us both from the congregation, I came across a quote just this week.

    ” Narcissists usually have years of built up inner rage and darkness and they mirror and deliberately target their inner darkness and rage onto ” Light Workers ” . (Light workers defined as people with beautiful hearts who willingly help others in life . ) ”

    I wish I had known this over four years ago as it would have saved my partner and I from hundreds of sleepless nights and angst. It would have also saved us involving our adult son’s and their wives , who were drawn into our nightmare by default.

    We are just an ordinary honest and hard working husband and wife who accidentally stumbled across what we thought was a priest who had a special connection to God .

    How wrong we were . We should have picked up on the signs in the very beginning when this priest regularly included the terms “narcissism ” and ” alienation ” into his homilies and his baptism and wedding preparation nights .

    Our battle continues .

    God Bless

    • Steve

      Peter I’m so sorry you had this experience. I think often people endure these situations far longer than they should because of the feeling that the person “is a priest with a special connection to God” or “God’s anointed”. We ALL have a special connection to God and are God’s anointed so we have no need to endure narcissists.:) God Bless

  • Frances V Handrick

    Thank You!!!

  • Melissa Irving

    Wow…wow.wow.thanks for writing this I thought something was wrong with me.

  • A very good article! It’s interesting what you say about Israel wanting a king in OT and all along God was communicating His heart to His people that He had called them to be a nation of kings and priests, a body with equal authority, not hierarchical but valuing each member as a crucial part of the body of Christ and unable to function without the combination of every part. I have been in a controlling church and after being set free from that I have stood in the freedom of Christ and guarded that. When I first started to sense something wasn’t right in that church I asked the Lord what it was and how I should deal with this. He spoke to me in a number of dreams and showed me that the spirit of control is usually accompanied by a prideful and a lying spirit. There is a false humility and sweet like appearance that turns nasty when the system is challenged. The Lord said that I should separate myself from this controlling system, repent of putting the system system or leader in the place of God and of compromising my freedom in Christ and to avoid getting into conversations with them as they went around in circles. then as the church began to talk about me, spread lies about me and say that I was falling away from God because I was beginning to pull away from the church I was encouraged and comforted in the words regarding Jesus that He became of no reputation, He did not open His mouth when He was wronged yet He gained the victory on the third day. Standing in love is the hardest thing in this circumstance, praying for those who have manipulated you. Love doesn’t mean standing with those who have abused you spiritually. By separating ourselves from such set ups and sending peace and love we guard ourselves against unforgiveness. Love conquers all things but we must separate ourselves from a system that grieves His Spirit and love at a distance praying that the veil is taken away and that Jesus is invited back to take His rightful place as the Head of His church.

    • Steve

      Well said…glad you found freedom

    • JamJay

      I so love this response; it ministered to me. My Google search “how to deal with an arrogant pastor” brought me here. I am wrestling with the decision to resign post as Min of Music in a local ministry. I don’t want to be a quitter or more importantly to move when the Lord has not said to… But the pastor is arrogant and the entire church reflects her dysfunctional attitude, in my opinion. To be fair, she’s there by appointment and only 2 yrs or so in herself. Im sure she has a difficult task; all the more reason to be humble. My final thought is “I don’t need the aggravation” .. but shouldn’t my focus be what God wants? I have to chuckle here… Cause – proving Steve’s point – I’m inquiring outside of or apart from the Holy Spirit (God!) Who is IN me. Control…

  • Genevia mintz

    I been there but remove myself because God gave me a mine if my own or you can’t. Talk to tis one or that one but once i left they said all kind of bad thing about me i was not real for God all kind of thing

  • Randy

    wow, I can see all this transpiring right now before my very eyes, my wife and I have visited other churches to see how they operate. thanks for the info.

  • LovesGod

    I agree with everything you said except one point. Disagreeing with sexual ideas or perverted sexual identity is NOT a matter of whose “opinion” is right or wrong. (I’m not a pastor, btw). The bible is clear on sexual matters and that issue is not a matter of debate. Without going into details, the WORD concerning these issues must be preached, because only TRUTH will set people free. However, no one should be made to feel like God doesnt love them as much, if they struggle with sexual desires contrary to the word of God. On all other points I do agree. I think abusive, controlling pastor’s can spot those in the congregation who have true discernment. Many of them want only those who will conform and not make waves. The discerning ones will make them uncomfortable. Obviously you are a healthy pastor of a healthy church. I’m sure there are others. But I’ve NEVER found one in my area, and it’s not because I haven’t tried.

  • Ashley

    Thank you so much for this article. Just this week I have left my church, and each point of this article is confirmation that I have done the right thing. I have felt ruled by fear and control for too long and it is not healthy. The red flags kept coming up and I kept dismissing them and tried to constantly discern for myself what is “bible”, and what is being twisted or just plain old opinion… but the amount of discernment I have had to have within each bible study or sermon given has been overwhelming and I’m finding myself in constant fear: fear of being rebuked, fear of judgement, fear of being transparent/honest, fear of things not being kept confidential… (the list goes on).
    It is a small church, and I believe I am the first to leave. It will likely make a large statement since I have been in a leadership role with the church (filling in for bible studies and sermons while they preached out of town). For now I have simply let them know that God is directing me elsewhere, but I wonder now if I should let them know in depth why I am leaving. I don’t think anyone has confronted them on their wrong-doings. So my question is: Should I express to them my true reasons for leaving?? There is no possibility for change if no one says anything right? But with these types of people, will it fall on deaf ears and just envoke anger??

    • Steve

      Ashley, thank you for sharing and I wish you well on a new journey of freedom and discovery. My experience of having “the talk” with your church leadership can often lead to more stress. Church leadership doesn’t change from below, it comes from above. You need to do what you feel is in your heart but my initial reaction is you are free…now fly! 🙂

      • Ashley

        Amen! That is my initial reaction as well and I believed I would receive confirmation TODAY in that. Thank you again :):) I’m definitely looking forward to this new journey of FREEDOM.

        • JamJay

          Yay Ashley! Happy for you… God bless!

  • Angelia Kelley

    Thank you Jesus!!! Free at last free at last thank God Almighty I’m free at last!! Its time it’s uncovered and deliverance comes forth. When issues are brought to light, leaders try to make you feel you’re immature for even “thinking” orbringing to their attention by their response. If you don’t like it, you’re always free to go elsewhere. Then they tell members don’t fellowship with members who have left the church. HAVE THEY LEFT GOD?EVEN JESUS SOUGHT THE LOST. What about the 1 missing from the “99”?

  • Russ Rossi

    Some people no longer attend church because the church makes them feel gulty
    and fearfull.

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