Posts Tagged ‘forced termination of a pastor’

In the fall of 2009, my wife and I went on a missions trip to Moldova with three other people.  After spending several days in London to recuperate and see some sights, Kim and I traveled north to Wales, Keswick, Edinburgh, and York before returning home.

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Whenever I look at photos from that trip, this little voice tells me, “The whole time you were away, the church board back home was plotting to end your ministry.”

As I’ve recounted in my book Church Coup, the official board met with me on October 24, 2009 and announced a decision designed to end my tenure at the church I had served effectively and faithfully for 10 1/2 years.

Talk about an “October surprise!”

Forty-three days later, I resigned, and preached my final sermon a week later.

I’ve been through many tough times in ministry, and managed to overcome each situation with God’s help.

But not this time … because the spirit in the church had changed.

When I refer to such a “spirit,” I’m talking about an atmosphere … a climate … a mood that I could feel … though others may not have sensed it.

In fact, one way of looking at that fifty-day conflict is to identify the spirits that drove some to push out their pastor.

As I’ve listened to the stories of many pastors and church leaders since my departure, I’ve learned that these spirits are usually present before a pastor is forced to resign … as well as during any extended conflict.

As I see it, there are at least seven spirits that drive a church coup:

First, there’s the spirit of resistance.

For years, we were the largest Protestant church in our city of 75,000 people … by far … excellent numbers in a city with only three decent Protestant churches at the time.

But an underground resistance movement… fueled by someone outside the church … slowly expanded and reached a crescendo by the fall of 2009.

Most of my time as pastor, both my leadership and preaching were well-received … but near the end of my tenure, things had changed.

Resistance is the feeling a pastor senses that certain leaders and members are no longer following his leadership.

I first started detecting resistance when we started a building program around 2002.  I let the congregation have input on both the architect’s drawings as well as our fundraising plan.

And every vote involving the building was unanimous.

We lost about eight percent of our people during that time, and two individuals in the inner circle tried to sabotage the project.

As a leader, I never forced my ideas on people.  I made proposals, stated my case, asked for input, addressed objections, called for an official decision, and then moved forward.

If various individuals didn’t like my proposals, they had many opportunities to voice their displeasure in public.

But they didn’t … they went underground instead.

By the time 2009 rolled around, I could feel the resistance, especially when I preached.  To quote Phil Collins, there was “something in the air.”

No matter what I did – perform a wedding, conduct a funeral, propose a change – there always seemed to be pushback.

Especially from the church board.

No matter how hard I tried, I could not please them.  They never told me I was doing a good job.  They never tried to encourage me.  I always felt like I was on trial.

And their resistance started wearing me down.

Second, there’s the spirit of bitterness.

Regardless of church size, it only takes seven to ten people to force a pastor out.  If that minority is determined to oust the pastor … and are willing to use the law of the jungle … they often succeed.

Some people were angry with me because I took positions contrary to theirs on matters like baptism … women in ministry … outreach events … worship style … you name it.

A handful shared their disagreements with me and we worked things out.  Most told everyone but me about their anger and pulled others into their web.

For example, as our new worship center neared completion, I created seven principles for the way we were going to run our worship services.  I went to the church board and gained unanimous approval for those principles.

But a woman on the worship team disagreed vehemently.  She began complaining about me to anyone who would listen, to the point that the board chairman had to intervene.

I invited her into my office, listened to her concerns, explained my position, thought we had an understanding, and assumed that was the end of it.

Until she started complaining again.

A few months later … having caused much division … she and her family left the church.  It hurt.  I thought we were friends.

I’m unsure if she ever forgave me.   And when people feel and express bitterness toward their pastor, that bitterness spreads, and eventually wears a pastor down … and can tear a church apart.

And all too often, the bitterness morphs into a vendetta.

Third, there’s the spirit of hypocrisy.

A hypocrite is a play-actor … someone who acts one way in public but another way in private.

While hypocrites act in a spiritual manner outwardly, they are completely different people inside.

Pastors can sense those individuals and families who aren’t behind them.  You try and move toward them, and love on them, but sometimes, it just doesn’t work.

There was a couple in that church who had been there since the church started.  No matter what, I just couldn’t seem to connect with them.

Let’s call them Bo and Jo.

I ministered to them when there were deaths in their family.  I intentionally sought them out for conversation after services.  They were cordial but rarely warm.

I knew they were good friends with my predecessor but tried to ignore that connection.  After all, what could I do about it?

Eight days after the conflict started, the entire church board resigned, and a week later, we held two already-scheduled congregational meetings designed to announce the board’s departure.

After 24 years of leading healthy congregational meetings, all hell broke loose that Sunday.  A few members became unglued and publicly sided with the board.

After the second meeting, Bo came up to me and said, “I’m praying for you, brother.”  I looked at him and said, “Are you, Bo?”  (I knew he stood against me.)

A friend later told me that Jo was crying in the ladies room because she was afraid that I wasn’t going to be kicked out as pastor.

Before I resigned, I was informed that Bo and Jo played a crucial role in forcing me out.

Jesus knew who the hypocrites around Him were and called them out.  I sensed who some were but never knew what to do except keep them out of leadership.

If you don’t want me as your pastor, there’s a simple solution: leave the church.

But people like Bo and Jo don’t want to leave.  They want their pastor to leave instead … even if he isn’t guilty of any major offense … because in their minds, it’s their church, not his church.

And, of course, they know best.

And because hypocrites are experts at playing a part, pastors may not know who they are, so they can’t proactively work things out with them.

Fourth, there’s the spirit of cowardice.

When it comes to interpersonal squabbles at church, most Christians are cowards.

If they’re personally offended by someone, they don’t approach the person who hurt them as Jesus instructed in Matthew 18:15 … they complain to their network instead.

This is especially true when it comes to pastors.

Whenever someone had the courage to tell me directly they were upset about something, I always thanked them for speaking with me personally … but it rarely happened … not because I’m scary, but because people find it uncomfortable to confront their pastor.

But sometimes, what people are thinking and feeling about their pastor is based on inaccurate information … and God’s people may not want to hear the truth.

Last year, I heard about a church where someone accused the pastor of stealing a small amount of money.  Instead of speaking with the pastor privately, this individual reported the pastor to the authorities, and then told many others in the church about his accusation.

As the charges bounced around the congregation, some felt emboldened, and added their own personal gripes about the pastor to the mix.

The pastor was driven from office even though the evidence clearly showed he had done nothing wrong.

His career was destroyed over a lie.

Christians become cowards when:

*board members are upset with the pastor but never tell him how they feel.

*members allow false accusations about their pastor to spread.

*everybody is afraid to confront the ringleaders who initially attacked the pastor.

*people who know the truth won’t share it for fear of being vilified.

If God’s people would just grant their pastors the protections Scripture offers them in Deuteronomy 19:15-21, Matthew 18:15-17, and 1 Timothy 5:19-21, we could put an end to the epidemic of pastoral terminations once and for all.

But that will require a spirit of courage that is sadly lacking in most congregations… and it requires working hard to disintegrate the groupthink that grips so many.

Fifth, there’s the spirit of gullibility.

Many years ago, I began an Easter service by announcing that the President of the United States had suddenly resigned.

After hearing gasps all over the room, I exclaimed, “April Fool!”

If I tried that today, someone would check out the news on their smart phone before I ever got to “April Fool.”

But churchgoers who often check out the facts regarding the news rarely check out negative information they hear about their pastor.

If I was a regular churchgoer and I heard a serious rumor about my pastor, I would want to know:

*the original source of the rumor.

*who is spreading the rumor.

*who they’ve been talking with.

*how solid their information is.

*the views of different staff and board members.

If I believe the first thing I hear, then I’m really gullible.  And if I pass on that information without verifying it, I could well be passing on a lie … and destroying both my pastor and my church.

But wise, mature, discerning Christians check out the veracity of what they hear before they do anything else.

Yet in all too many churches, people hear negative information about their pastor … instantly believe it … spread the story to others … and then can’t revise the narrative because it will make them look bad … so they continue to perpetuate half-truths and outright lies.

During our conflict, after board members resigned, they and their wives jumped on their phones and called as many people as possible.  (A friend from out-of-state told us who called her and what was said.  Why call her?)

When I was telling my story to my ministry mentor several years ago – a former pastor and denominational president – this is the point at which he said, “Jim, I am so sorry.”

It’s one thing for people who hate their pastor to spread vicious rumors about him.  It’s another thing for good Christian people to believe them … especially when the pastor has a decade-long track record of integrity.

What hurts more than anything is that most people never bothered to pick up the phone to hear my side of the story.

The week before I resigned, Satan attacked my family in a horrible way.  Few people know the story.  I’ll spare you the details.

During the attack, I received a phone call from a newly-elected board member who told me about the latest charge against me.  He told me the source of the rumor … where that person heard it from … and exactly what they were saying.

Because he called, I was able to snuff out the rumor with facts, which I’m sure he passed on to the other new members.

I could have snuffed out all the rumors if people had just contacted me … and I still can … but by this time, nobody cares.

Don’t the conquerors write the history?

Sixth, there’s the spirit of blindness.

By blindness, I mean that a pastor’s attackers believe they see his faults clearly.

They just can’t see their own.

Let’s modify Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:3-5 a bit:

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your pastor’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?  How can you say to your pastor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your pastor’s eye.”

Paul’s words in Galatians 6:1 (with one modification) are also appropriate here:

Brothers, if your pastor is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently.  But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.

God’s Word does not say that you are to watch your pastor’s life and then tell others about every little thing he may have done or said wrong.

No, Scripture says that before you deal with those caught in sin, you should first “watch yourself” to make sure you have a humble, loving approach so you can restore the wayward person.

And if you don’t first “watch yourself,” you aren’t qualified to address anyone’s sin.

Whenever a pastor is pushed out of a church, there are usually a few narcissists and sociopaths involved.  People who have these personality disorders never admit they do anything wrong at home … at work … or on the road.

They bring that same mentality to church, and when they sense their pastor is vulnerable, they move in for the kill … and never feel badly about the part they play.

What’s amazing to me is that many churches allow such spiritually blind people to be their leaders.

Finally, there’s the spirit of destruction.

There is a spirit behind these seven spirits … and it’s not the Holy Spirit of God.

As Ephesians 2:2 specifies, it’s “the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient” … Satan.

As I say quite often, Satan has invaded a church when two factors are present: deception and destruction.

Or we might say … deception leading to destruction.

Jesus said in John 8:44 that Satan is “a liar and the father of lies” and “a murderer from the beginning” … and He was addressing His comments to spiritual leaders.

When a pastor has done something wrong, those in a church controlled by the Holy Spirit will gently and lovingly confront him with the goal of restoring him spiritually and even vocationally.

But under similar circumstances, those influenced by Satan will harshly and hatefully condemn him with the goal of destroying him both personally and professionally.

Instead of identifying Satan’s work in their own lives, such people gleefully detect satanic influence in their pastor.

As Neil Young sang, “I don’t feel like Satan, but I am to them.”

My wife and I could not only sense Satan’s influence during the conflict … we could taste and feel it.

It’s something you never forget.

After the church board resigned, I hired a church consultant … with the assistance of five well-respected congregational leaders.

After interviewing some leaders, and witnessing two horrendous congregational meetings, the consultant wrote a report where he exonerated my wife and me and faulted others.

Then a nine-person team from the church looked into the charges against us and publicly announced that we were not guilty of wrongdoing.

But one year later, the tables had turned, and friends sadly informed me that my reputation inside the church had been decimated.

The verdicts of the consultant and nine-person team no longer mattered.  My opponents had to win.  I had to be destroyed.

The hit job on me was so complete that after I left the church, not one person – including family, friends, or colleagues – felt that I should ever pastor again.

After 36 years, my church ministry career was over.


Several months after I resigned and moved to another state, I had a conversation with a church consultant from the Midwest.  I kept asking him, “Why did these people … who claimed to be Christians … act the way they did?”  Because I could never act that way toward anyone else, I couldn’t get my head around it.

The consultant told me, “Jim, the opposition to your ministry was probably there for years, but you didn’t see it because people covered it up well.  When you were attacked, their true feelings came spilling out.”


I’m going to end this article by quoting Galatians 5:19-23:

The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hated, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.  I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. 

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Which terms best represent those that try and force out their pastor?

Hint: it’s not the second group.

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When a pastor is under attack inside the church where he serves, it is amazing how quickly many people choose a side.

No matter what, some churchgoers will automatically back their minister … even before hearing any evidence against him.

Conversely, some attendees will believe almost anything bad about their pastor … even if every accusation amounts to smoke.

I was a solo or senior pastor for 25 years, and spent 10 1/2 additional years serving as a staff member in 5 different churches.

In every one of those churches, people approached me to criticize the pastor … one of the unknown hazards of working on a church staff.

I never took the side of the pastor’s critics.  I couldn’t.  He hired me and trusted me, and I could not betray that trust … even if I thought some people’s complaints had merit.

But over the years, I learned that it was smart to be on the side of four practices whenever the sheep attack the shepherd:

First, be on the side of Scripture.

The New Testament is full of admonitions to submit to church leaders.  There aren’t any verses that advocate rebelling against a pastor or trying to force his resignation.

For example, Hebrews 13:17 counsels us to “obey your leaders and submit to their authority.”  1 Peter 5:5 adds, “Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older.”

Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 5:13 to “hold them [those who are over you in the Lord] in the highest regard in love because of their work.  Live in peace with each other.”

But what if someone suspects the pastor of sin?

1 Timothy 5:19, speaking of those “whose work is preaching and teaching,” says, “Do not entertain an accusation against an elder [the context includes paid pastors] unless it is brought by two or three witnesses.”

This means that if someone suspects the pastor of sinning, they (a) have seen or heard him commit an act of sin, (b) consider the sin serious enough to merit investigation, and (c) are willing to go on the record about what they’ve seen or heard … even in front of the entire congregation (implied in verse 20).

But when a pastor is under attack, how often do his critics search for, cite, and observe biblical parameters?

Hardly ever.

A church with a weak view of Scripture may understandably have a weak view of pastoral leadership.

But a church that espouses a strong view of Scripture should never permit people to bypass God’s Word in the interests of emotion or expediency.

Second, be on the side of patience.

The New England Patriots destroyed the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship Game last Sunday.  I watched the game until it became unwatchable … and that didn’t take long.

But the next morning, there were charges circulating that 11 of the 12 footballs that the Patriots used in that game were under-inflated … presumably so that Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady could grip the ball better during wintery weather.

Four days later, this controversy is still in full swing.  Coach Belichick and Quarterback Brady both deny that they had anything to do with deflating those footballs.

If they didn’t reduce the pressure in those balls, then who did?

We … don’t … know … yet.

If you’re interested in this story, how much does it bother you that we don’t know who under-inflated those footballs?

Can you live with the ambiguity … the mystery … the anxiety?

Judging from what I’m seeing in the news and sports media, many people want to know what happened RIGHT NOW!

The same attitude hovers over churches when pastors are under attack.

People want answers RIGHT NOW.

They want to know what their friends think RIGHT NOW.

They want to know if the pastor is staying or quitting RIGHT NOW.

They want closure … RIGHT NOW.

When church leaders exude calm during a sheep attack, that calm filters out into the congregation.

However, many members can’t handle the anxiety … so they talk … and email … and gossip … and text … and speculate … because they want matters resolved RIGHT NOW.

But unfortunately, it’s this RIGHT NOW attitude that makes conflict worse.

Galatians 5:22 says that patience is a fruit of the Spirit’s work in a believer’s life.  When believers begin to become impatient during a sheep attack, more patient believers need to calm them down rather than rouse them up.

During a sheep attack, some members post nasty things about their pastor on social media like Facebook or Twitter, which only makes things worse.

When I experienced a sheep attack more than five years ago, someone who habitually criticized other church leaders online began ripping into me on social media.  Thankfully, a church leader who knew this person contacted them immediately and told them, “Take it down!”  Fortunately, they did just that before the innuendos could spread any further.

While some people angrily take several steps toward the pastor, take several steps backwards and patiently survey the entire situation first.

Third, be on the side of a fair and just process.

This process needs to be biblically-based and conducted with patience.

Many times, that process has already been spelled out in the church’s governing documents … usually in the church bylaws.

That process may also be delineated in a separate document … or a contract/covenant the pastor signed when he was called to the church … or in denominational polity.

But sadly, some factions inside a church either aren’t aware of these documents, or could care less about them … so they resort to mob justice.

This is where a church’s governing leaders need to take charge.  Whether through a verbal announcement on a Sunday … an all-church email … or a letter to the entire congregation … the leaders need to let God’s people know that they (a) are aware of what’s happening, (b) are planning a fair and just investigation, and (c) will let the church know when they have something solid to share.

I can’t say for sure, but my guess is that more than half of all pastors under attack would be able to stay in their churches if the governing leaders used a fair and just process to investigate people’s complaints and charges against their minister.

A fair and just process would include:

*Telling the pastor what the charges are against him.

*Telling the pastor who is making the charges.

*Letting the pastor face his accusers in the presence of the governing leaders.

*Letting the pastor respond to each charge against him as it’s made.

*Insisting that those who make false accusations against the pastor repent and ask his forgiveness.

*Insisting that the pastor be rebuked publicly for any serious misconduct (1 Timothy 5:20)  and/or letting the pastor resign instead.

Once again, the only way the governing leaders can carry out such a process is if they are first on the side of Scripture and on the side of patience.

In fact, when charges against the pastor begin circulating, I believe the first thing the governing board should do is to meet and agree on a deliberate process.

But too many boards become anxious and start asking themselves, “Is the pastor guilty or innocent?”  Then they make a quick decision … and blow their church apart.

Finally, be on the side of truth.

For a believer, the boundaries of truth are set by Scripture, but I’m thinking here about two things in particular: facts and accurate reporting.

Several years ago, I had lunch with the staff supervisor of one of America’s largest churches.  He told me that two women in the church had recently accused a staff member of a serious charge.

The staff supervisor did not immediately take the side of the women.  He conducted his own investigation into their charges.

His conclusion: the staff member did not use his best judgment, but was not guilty of a major offense, and could continue to serve on the staff.

However, the women were not satisfied with this exoneration.  They continued to share their charges with others, hoping in some way to harm the staff member.

The staff supervisor heard about what the women were doing and put an immediate stop to their actions.  In fact, he told them that if they continued to criticize the staff member, he would institute disciplinary action against them.

They stopped.

Please notice: the staff supervisor wanted to know two things:

First, how truthful were the charges the women made?

His determination: the issue was not as serious as they made it out to be.

Second, how accurately did the women handle the staff supervisor’s decision?

His determination: they were now spreading lies rather than speaking the truth.

I haven’t watched the original CSI program in years, but in the early days, Gil Grissom used to tell his forensic team to “follow the evidence wherever it leads.”

Those six words well summarize the idea of “being on the side of truth.”


This Sunday morning, imagine that you enter the worship center of your church, and one of your friends pulls you aside and says, “There are people who are saying that the pastor has been misusing church funds and that he should resign immediately.”

Please, don’t take the side of those who say, “The pastor is guilty and must fry.”

And don’t take the side of those who say, “The pastor is so godly that he’d never do anything wrong.”

Don’t let immature, dysfunctional, and overly-reactive people destroy your pastor and church.

Instead, take the side of Scripture, patience, a fair and just process, and truth.

Do your best to encourage your friends … your family … your ministry colleagues … your church staff … and your governing board to follow these principles as well.

God will smile upon you.























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Let me introduce you to Zane.  He’s been a member of the governing board at the 225-member First Baptist Church in a medium-sized Midwestern city for 42 years.

During that time, Zane has watched 10 pastors come and go … and most of the time, Zane has led the charge for the pastor’s removal.

I recently asked Zane if I could interview him about the way he wields power in his church.  I had just one stipulation: he had to tell the unvarnished truth.  Zane agreed.

Zane, the average tenure of a pastor in your church is less than 5 years.  Why is this?

For the first year or two that a pastor is with us, he is still feeling his way around.  He’s trying to get settled, matching names with faces, and learning about our culture.  During this time, I still wield the power in the church.  But if new people start visiting, and the church starts to grow, then I gather my board buddies together and we start sabotaging the pastor’s ministry.

Why would you do that?  Don’t you want your church to grow?

Not really.  If the church grows too much, then the balance of power will tilt toward the pastor, and we will have to work even harder to dislodge him in the future.  While it would be nice to have more people and funds, we can never let the church get larger than our ability to control things.

But don’t you want to fulfill Christ’s Great Commission and make disciples?

I almost never think about people outside this church.  My goal is to satisfy the desires of the people I know inside this church.

How does that work out in practice?

For example, I meet with my buddies at a restaurant before every board meeting.  We review the agenda and make decisions among ourselves.  Then when we attend the meeting, we control everything, and the pastor ends up having little influence.  On those rare occasions when the pastor persuades the board to do something his way, I contact the board members afterward and bring them back into line.

So you don’t want your pastor to be a leader?

That’s right.  The pastor doesn’t know the community or the church’s history or its people like I do.  We hire him primarily to preach, counsel, do visitation, and conduct weddings and funerals.  We don’t need or want a leader.

When you finally decide that a pastor needs to go, how do you accomplish that?

The best way to get rid of a pastor is to wear him down so he’s no longer effective.  There are several ways we do this.

First, we oppose his plans for outreach.  We can’t afford to have people join the church that we can’t control.  Newcomers are almost always loyal to the pastor, so we have to limit their number.  We usually do this by controlling the money.

Second, we always make sure to attack the pastor’s wife.  We’ll criticize her for working outside the home (meaning she’s not very involved at church).  Or we’ll criticize her for not working outside the home (indicating that she’s lazy).  If she’s not outgoing, we’ll say she’s unfriendly.  If she’s too outgoing, we’ll claim she wants the spotlight.  It doesn’t take long for the pastor’s wife to sense that we don’t like her – and she’ll pass on her feelings to her husband.  When she starts missing meetings, or stays home from church completely, then we’ll claim the pastor doesn’t manage his family well.

If attacking the pastor’s wife isn’t successful, we start in on their kids, and we always find something to nail them on.  As we start spreading our opinions about the pastor’s family around the church, they practically have their bags packed.

When we attack his family, the pastor begins to wear down physically.  He becomes discouraged and depressed.  He starts isolating himself from others.  Then we claim that he isn’t fit to lead us.  This usually works.

And if that doesn’t work?

Then we start spreading half-truths.  We’ll claim that the pastor has been padding his expense account.  We’ll claim that his wife is seeing someone else.  We’ll say that one of their kids is getting poor grades.

If we’re consistent and adamant about our claims, most people in the church will believe us.  Very few people ever ask the pastor if the claims are true.  You wouldn’t believe how naïve most Christians are.  They believe the first thing anybody tells them especially if it comes from an official church leader.  My wife and the wives of my board buddies have become experts at calling churchgoers to run down the pastor.

But that’s lying!  How can you justify what you’re doing?

I’m not really lying … just stretching the truth a little bit.  In all honesty, I don’t care about the pastor – I care about the church.  And I really don’t care about the congregation as a whole – only about my friends and family.  As long as I’m in charge, they’ll keep coming because they know I represent their interests.

But isn’t what you’re doing in direct contradiction to Scripture?

Well, I asked Jesus into my life when I was 9 years old, so I know I’m going to heaven.  But I’ve learned more about subverting a leader from following politics than from the Bible.

What about church bylaws?

We either ignore them or rationalize that they don’t apply in our situation, and nobody has ever called us on it.

If a pastor became wise to your tactics, is there a way for him to stop the attacks?

I suppose there is theoretically, although no pastor has ever tried.  To stop us, the pastor would have to expose our behind-the-scenes machinations to those outside our network.  Since I’m in control of my network, almost nothing the pastor could say would sway them, but if he could document our tricks, he might convince some people to stand against us.  However, in that case, we’d just claim that the pastor was being divisive.

Just in case, we make sure to build strong alliances before we launch our attacks.  I contact the district minister of our denomination and detail the pastor’s deficiencies, so if the pastor ever contacts him, the district minister recommends that the pastor leave the church to keep the peace.  I also contact the associate pastor and office manager and coax them into spying on the pastor.  One is always a willing accomplice.

If by some strange occurrence the pastor survives my campaign against him, I have one more ace to play: my buddies and I threaten to leave the church.  We’ve only had to do this twice, and it worked both times.  If you just say, “It’s either us or the pastor,” it’s amazing how quickly people turn against the pastor because people assume that we know things they don’t know.

If the pastor resigns, what happens to his supporters?

Most of them eventually leave the church, so it affects our attendance and giving temporarily.  But we usually hire a new pastor within a few months.  When we advertise the position, we’ll get 200-300 resumes – and I always make sure to stack the search team with my people so I have the final say.

What happens to the pastors that you force out?

I don’t really care.  I’d say less than half go back into church ministry.  Right after the pastor leaves, I make sure to spread a few additional rumors about him to discourage people from contacting him in the future.  When a pastor is at our church, I try and discredit him.  After he leaves, I try to destroy him.  That way, if he tries to tell anyone from the church why he really left, he’ll be shunned rather than taken seriously.

What’s your worst nightmare?

A pastor with experience who is a strong leader.  If the church starts growing rapidly, and donations pour in, I might have to sell my soul to the devil to stop him.

I’m also afraid of a pastor who is adamant that he gets to face his accusers.  My whole strategy is based on secrecy and back-hallway maneuvering.

I’m also afraid of a pastor who comes to this church and teaches the congregation how to prevent and resolve conflicts biblically.  My success at chasing out pastors is based on my ability to manipulate a faction to carry out my wishes.  If a pastor taught the church how to handle disagreements in a biblical way, my time as a leader might be nearing an end.  Fortunately, most pastors avoid preaching on conflict, so right now, I’m safe.

One more thing: I’m fearful of a principled board member that I can’t manipulate, as well as a strong lay person who insists that we follow the Bible in our dealings with the pastor.

The latest statistics indicate that 23 million Christians in America no longer attend church.  What kind of role does bullying a pastor play in those numbers?

How would anyone know that their pastor was being bullied?  I do my work in secret, and few pastors or Christian leaders are willing to discuss the issue.

Any final words for our readers?

You’re not actually going to publish this interview, are you?  You never told me that!


I hope by now you’ve figured out that this is a purely fictional interview.  It’s a composite made up of church bullies that I’ve known, read about, or heard about from other pastors.

A friend of mine is writing a book about church bullies, so if you have any stories you’d like to share that he can use, please send them to me and I’ll pass them along.  Thanks!

Check out our website at www.restoringkingdombuilders.org  You’ll find Jim’s story, recommended resources on conflict, and a forum where you can ask questions about conflict situations in your church.

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