Here are a few headlines about leaders who take their gift of leadership too far.
The former Rev. Canon Mike Pilavachi, led Soul Survivor Church in Watford as well as a national Christian youth festival. A Church of England probe found he displayed coercive and controlling behavior at the church and had inappropriate relationships.
Mike Bickle, the founder of the International House of Prayer of Kansas City (IHOPKC), has admitted that he is guilty of allegations of inappropriate behavior and moral failures from over 20 years ago. IHOPKC has now severed all ties with Mike Bickle and an investigation is pending.
Former Mars Hill Church pastor, Mark Driscoll, who resigned the church back in 2014 and resurfaced in Scottsdale, Arizona as the pastor of ‘The Trinity Church’ is facing some of the same charges he faced in Seattle. But despite Driscoll’s early assurances to change, many of the same leadership traits that led to the problems at Mars Hill have carried on at the new church, according to former Trinity staff members and church attendees. Attendees described how Driscoll and other pastors pressured them to cut off ties with their family and close friends. Former staff members have called the working culture ‘toxic’ and told of how they were pressured to stop speaking to people who had left the church. Others described the church as ‘cultic’ and said Driscoll was ‘controlling’ and ‘narcissistic.’
I realize these are all news reports, and there is always another side. Yet, for many years I have watched people flock to charismatic leaders like flies because of their gift of teaching and persuasion. Everyone likes to be entertained and inspired, and these are the crowning jewels to a growing and empowering church ministry. Many of these leaders who misused their gift of leadership are charismatic in nature, and are founders of the churches they lead. As a founder, they have the authority to craft ministry policies and rules that best suit them to maintain the control of the ministry.
Most of the problem lies with the insatiable desire on behalf of many who follow Christ. They want to be a part of what God is doing today, and most of these gifted leaders give them what they are looking for … a dynamic successful ministry platform. I have personally witnessed the success of leaders who pad their boards with ‘yes’ people … those who would never challenge a belief or practice of the founder/leader. Look at examples of James McDonald, Ravi Zacharias, and others who should have had structures established to challenge the improprieties of the leader. I heard of one church in Florida whose pastor was charged with immorality, but many of the church leaders did not want to fire him because he was such a great leader in growing their church. It is this fascination with success that breeds the wrong type of discipleship.
I am thankful for gifted leadership, but Godly leadership must be founded upon the humility of a servant … not the success of a CEO. The gift should never be the main driving force in a leader’s life because while it is an asset, it is not what you build a ministry upon. Why? It is simple … gifts are easily corrupted. The foundation of any leader should be character. That character is built upon the values of the Scripture and the principles taught by Christ. The gift of leadership is a resource or conduit that brings Christ alive in the organization, but the gift should never be worshiped. We are to honor our leaders … not because of their giftings, but because of their Christlikeness. Leaders are only signposts that point in the right direction, but are never the source of the direction.
This happens to be a major issue in many denominations and churches today. Why? It is a known fact that 85% of church growth today is due to transfer growth. That simply means Christians are just changing churches because there is something better happening in a new place. Again, we change because there is a leader whose dynamic presentations are inspiring and entertaining. This is a bad practice of discipleship. The Church is not the gifted leader … it is a body of people who are called out to be Christ’s church in our world. Healthy churches understand that it is the corporate body coming together to do the work of ministry which is the real gift in the church. The emphasis of giftedness should be on His body … not the leader. God works best through His body and gives gifts to His body to bring them closer to Him to do His will here on earth. To me, this makes more sense than it does to undo the failings of a leader whose passion was to be recognized and controlling.
I hope this makes sense to you as well. We want to build healthy ministries God’s way, and His way is to teach people to do the work of the ministry.
Ephesians 4 11Now, these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ.
Challenging the Culture with Truth … Larry Kutzler