Friday, May 22, 2015

Pastors, staff and board members who use inappropriate language, emotions and actions

I was once doing an intervention in a church where the pastor was in conflict with several associate pastors. During a "reconciliation meeting" the senior pastor acknowledged a whole lot of behavior that he termed was "below the belt" but his further comment was that "It was no different than what the associate had done to him." Really? 

I told them both that their behaviors would be a no brainier for termination in the ministry I lead and that foul language, anger, threats, shouting at one another and undermining each other was simply unacceptable behavior in ministry and would be cause for termination in the business sector. What I said to them was that they were like two year olds throwing sand at one another in a sandbox rather than grown ups who deal with one another with grace and the attitudes of the Fruit of the Spirit.

I am always amazed at the behaviors that are acceptable in the church but would be unacceptable in business where the standards presumably are lower than in the church. When the Fruit of the Spirit is not exhibited by those who are in church leadership - whether pastors or board members or volunteers there is a deep problem. When the scenes behind the scenes are not consistent with the public portrayal there is hypocrisy in the camp.  Yet boards and staff seem to ignore this all the time. Why? 

I suspect boards ignore such issues because when it is a fellow board member they don't have the courage to confront one of their own. I suspect they ignore these issues with a senior leader when that leader is "producing results," irregardless of the behaviors that should be deemed unacceptable. That is a pragmatic approach that ignores the inner dishealth of the leader. What they don't get is that the health of the leader will inevitably determine the health of the staff and the entire congregation. As goes the leader, so goes the church. When it all comes apart, I have often had boards acknowledge that they knew all was not well with their leader but chose to ignore it because the leader was bringing people in. The facade was good but the inner structure was unhealthy.

Paul told Timothy to watch both his life and his theology with diligence so that all would notice (1 Timothy 4:15-16). He also told him to "set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity (1 Timothy 4:12). Theology without a life that reflects that theology is unacceptable in the Kingdom of God. No one is perfect but there are boundaries to what is acceptable and if it not acceptable in public it is also not acceptable behind the scenes. 

If our behind the scenes leadership (language, actions, behaviors attitudes) do not reflect our up front leadership there is a dissonance that should be addressed because it will eventually cause deep problems. Our public lives should directly reflect our private lives and when that is not the case there is a discontinuity that will eventually hurt the organization - especially when it comes to leaders. In the case cited above it caused the explosion of a church which has taken several years to heal.

See also, Abuse in the church. When the bully is the pastor.

Posted from Bloomington - Normal, Illinois

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