Pastor stop being nice

By Bob Bickford

A recent article about bullies in the church and several subsequent conversations with Pastors and friends has created a stir in my heart and soul, I might even say, a righteous anger.

Some people (some not all) in churches are downright mean, they are bullies, they are controlling, they are passive aggressive, they love traditions more than they love God’s word, they stir up conflict through gossip and slander, they are abusive to pastors and their families, they hinder the mission Jesus has given the church to proclaim the Gospel and make disciples. They find ways to insert themselves into positions of power and use their platform to exercise stranglehold on the church. People know it, excuse it, are fearful of it and don’t do anything about it—including some Pastors.

Why are Pastor’s hesitant to take on a bully or difficult person?

The Bully has power the Pastor doesn’t–this is a tragedy not because it’s bad culturally, it’s awful because it’s unbiblical. The democratic majority rule, Robert’s Rules of Order, we vote on everything, by-laws before Bible type of congregations are plentiful and actually render the Pastor mostly powerless. Pastors in churches like these are at a distinct disadvantage to lead toward healthy biblical change—The people who are in power in churches like these don’t really want change, they want control and that comes from maintaining the status quo, creating conflict, undermining the Pastor and his leadership.

The Pastor may be Financially Dependent–a church like this may not be able to afford a full time pastor but they have a parsonage and enough to pay a small salary and end up finding a pastor who says yes to being their Shepherd but immediately finds himself trapped. If he leads in a direction that some in the congregation don’t particularly want to go—he could be voted out or financially frozen out when some members withhold their contributions. He may have a family, kids and school loans to repay which all add to the weight he feels.

The Pastor has misconstrued “being nice” with being Biblical–search the scriptures, you won’t find the word nice. You will find the words kind and gentle and the instruction for Pastors to not be harsh or domineering. We must be those, but the pressure to be “nice” must not trap us.

I’m going out on a limb here but I’ll take the risk. Jesus wasn’t nice. He was good, gentle, loving, kind, gracious, patient but not nice. Look at some of the things he said….

 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. “So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. Matthew 23:27-28

“You hypocrites, rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you, saying, ‘This people honors Me with their lips, But their heart is far away from Me.” ‘But in vain do they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’” Matthew 15:7-9

“O unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you and put up with you? Luke 9:41

Jesus, unlike you or me, was able to see into and understand the motives and intents of the heart. You and I can see, hear and observe actions and words that are unbiblical and harmful to the church body we shephered. 

  • False Accusation
  • Gossip
  • Slander
  • Unrighteous Anger
  • Manipulation
  • Lying and spreading half truth
  • Pride
  • Prejudice
  • Hardhearted stubbornness

In some instances Pastors fail to address those sins even when they are clearly exhibited by power brokers and bullies in the church. That must not continue.

Instead of succumbing to the pressure to be nice be biblical and be bold:

Preach the Gospel, wisely warn and teach by the power of God
 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me. Colossians 1:28-29

Challenge false doctrine
 I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith. The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. 1 Timothy 1:3-5

Rebuke Sharply and Silence false teachers
 For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach. One of the Cretans, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith. Titus 1:10-13

Admonish, Encourage, Help and be Patient
 And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. 1 Thessalonians 5:14

The words warn, admonish, rebuke, charge, and silence aren’t nice, they are difficult to say, hear and even more difficult to do, but Pastor, they are biblical.

There are some in our churches who not sheep but rather wolves. You’ll discover them as you exercise loving, bold and biblical pastoral leadership.

Pastor, stop being nice, be biblical and bold. Your church needs more from you and the scriptures demand it.

Published December 6, 2016

P.S. Get our best content in your inbox

We send one email per month full of articles from a variety of Replanting voices.

Bob Bickford

Bob Bickford is a Replant Pastor in suburban St. Louis, serves as the Associate Director of Replant for the North American Mission Board and is the co-author of Am I a Replanter,  Pathways to Partnership and the Associational Replanting Guide. Follow Bob on twitter @bobick