There is a special kind of pain associated with being written off. There are the emotions of sorrow or perhaps bitterness, but there is also that powerless feeling that comes along with being written off. You know that for one reason or another there seems to be no correcting the situation. Neither words nor time offer much hope.
I find myself in an interesting position in the church. I function as a leader within a city church ministry but I am not a congregational leader. I fall somewhere on the edges of being church leadership and a congregational member. Not that these lines even make much sense since church leaders really are a part of the congregation, and yet the lines do exist.
I have, in years gone by, provided leadership to congregations, and now am in a season of being lead by church leadership. I think this vantage point gives me some insight into church leaders and perhaps a voice that is informed by experience and yet somewhat objective.
From this position I have observed something disturbing in recent years. It isn’t entirely new. It is however increasing and its effects, I think, are both destructive and yet subtle at the same time. In modern church culture there is a growing dynamic of writing church leaders off. There are an increasing number of voices in various forms of media that speak about church leaders as though every single leader is proud, broken, manipulative or deceived and deceiving. Of course those speaking are the exception to all those descriptors.
It is surprising how quickly our hearts want to receive accusation. The subtly of these accusations is poisonous. No names are attached and so it isn’t really gossip. Gossip involves names. But the moment we hear the accusations our hearts apply names. I am sure you have experienced it. The all too common, “I wish ______ was here for that sermon. It is exactly what THEY needed to hear.” We may not even speak it out. And so the voice cries out about the terrible church leaders and our thoughts run quickly to our own context and the leaders that surround us.
It doesn’t help that the general sentiment about all leadership is that it is corrupt. Politicians, big business, used car salesman, investment managers and the list goes on. Who do we trust anymore? It probably isn’t the neighbour that we don’t know (don’t want to know). Are we becoming increasingly predisposed to distrust our church leaders?
Twenty-seven. That is the number of church leaders I can remember having been my pastor. The number of pastors I have worked with on one level or another is probably easily double that. As I began hearing the broad accusations against church leaders I began to assess. Rather than jumping on the bandwagon and hooting and hollering I stopped, was quiet and began to think about the leaders around me? Were these accusations true about those close to me? One by one I considered my pastors and the pastors of my community. As I considered all these people from over the last 40 years do you know what happened to my heart? It filled with gratitude to God that I had the unique privilege of being the one person who was surrounded by caring and sacrificial leaders. Not only that but I had been protected my whole life from the treacherous leaders that stand in pulpits everywhere but where I live.
I am not naïve; I do know that there are leaders who could be described as corrupt, perhaps even sinful, proud or deceived. But this does not describe the majority, it describes the exception.
I well imagine that my pastors have made mistakes, some I could recall if there was any value in it and others I am oblivious to. I can tell you that I am confident that these mistakes do not represent their hearts.
Scripture tells us to not receive an accusation against a leader swiftly.1 Timothy 5:19 I would encourage you to take a moment and reflect on your church leaders. Consider their sacrifice and the way their heart is moved for the lost and those in pain. You may just find that you live where I live. Not in a perfect place, but one where God has provided loving leadership.