Posted by: watchman | January 19, 2012

Reasons I Shouldn’t Pastor: Dictatorship of the Weak

My friend Jeremy (a former pastor himself) once used a term that I thought was an appropriate description of most of the churches I have been involved with: ‘Dictatorship of the Weak.’

Dictatorship of the Weak occurs when a ministry revolves around the weakest members and their (dys)functions. Now, I don’t mean weakness in the sense of the Beatitudes. For instance, a church rallying around a struggling family or a member with addiction issues. In Christ’s kingdom, those people are worthy of the attention and resources. The struggling and hurting should be a focus for any Christ-like ministry.

When I say ‘weak,’ I invoke the backwards, upside down Kingdom mentality presented in the Gospels. Within that perspective the drunken beggar is the image of Christ, but the haughty Pharisee is the antithesis.

Too often in the American free church, the Pharisee gets all the attention while the drunkard gets ignored or worse. Ministry meetings are dominated by people complaining about the length of the service, the attire of the youth minister, or the placement of the flags on the stage. To end the meetings, a quick prayer is said for the couple in the process of divorce.

*****

Most people in the church are well-intentioned and low-maintenance believers that are so supportive and gracious. My time with them was actually refreshing and encouraging. However, I also saw a lot of high maintenance people in my offices. Some of them were struggling hurting people that grappled with their own brokenness on a daily basis. In short, they were a mess and somebody needed to hold their hand for every step in the darkness of their lives. Such work was exhausting, but Godly and good. There was, unfortunately, another set of high maintenance people.

The other set of high maintenance members were the Dictators. Under a guise of Christianese and spiritual jargon, they would dictate how the ministry should proceed. They would critique everything and hotline complain about how the ministry was not meeting their (God’s) expectations. One meeting would lead to another and any effort to engage them on a subject or offer a different perspective would be met with a thinly disguised threat to leave the church.

In a full panic, the church would respond:

‘So and so is going to leave the church?’

Gasp!

Why are they leaving? Why can’t the pastor just give them what they want? Can we afford to lose their tithe?

inevitably, the church would rally around the dictators and anybody responsible for upsetting them were given a free lesson in ‘unity.’

****

Anybody who gets their way via threats and manipulations is a spiritual weakling and these are not the people who should be running the church, unless the church wishes to be weak.

Such people are unavoidable in any institution, spiritual or secular. Also, any organization follows the old rule that the ‘squeaky wheel gets the grease.’ For certain, these people know how to squeak. So, if a person is going to pastor or lead any organization they have to learn to tolerate such people, right?

No. The Church is uniquely qualified to help such people grow past their sniveling immaturity. The New Testament is a wonderful picture of wildly diverse believers pushing through disagreements yet remaining focused on the work of the Kingdom. Did people gripe and make a fuss? Yes. Were they dealt with? Yes, but they were not allowed to run the show and they were certainly not allowed to derail the focus of the ministry.

The New Testament church is the place where people go to grow up. We move from milk to meat by learning that if we throw temper tantrums somebody is not going to run over and coddle us. If we have a hissy fit in the middle of a business meeting, the pastor is not going to change his sermon, but he is more likely to refocus us on the goal.

So, why can’t I pastor anymore? Because I was bad at dealing with such people

  • I never learned to pull punches. When I preached, I preached the text as I saw it and I had no issue with pointing out particular issues within the church directly.
  • I never learned to coddle people that were acting like jerks. Every time somebody threatened to leave the church, I told every one of them to hit the road. In fact, I usually referred people to a different ministry. However, I never ran anybody out of the ministry. I was willing to work with them and love them, but they needed to get their butts to the back of the line.
  • I never learned to allow the dictators to run amok. If somebody was getting run over by one of the dictators, I said something and I always tried to stand up for those being wronged.

I’ve been told by several pastors that this is just part of what it means to be the church. I’ve been told that my temperament and personality was not ministry material. They give me a pat on the head and shake their heads at me. Then, they return to their pulpits to coddle their dictators, water down their sermons, and collect their checks. Screw that. I can do that anywhere.

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