The Peril of Arrogant and Controlling Leadership (Especially Pastors)

Arrogant and controlling are two words we’d never use to describe Jesus.

Arrogant and controlling are two words we’d never use to describe Jesus.

Arrogant and controlling leaders have been around since some ancient tribal member grabbed a club and said, “Do what I say.” The strategy worked perfectly until someone bigger and stronger found their own club.

It didn’t take long for early church leaders to embrace the “do what I say” strategy to arrogantly control followers of Christ. Church history teaches us that it never ends well for them.

A number of years ago I had lunch with a pastor in Southern California when I remarked, “Last night at our elder meeting I had a couple of our staff members in to ask the elders for guidance and to share their hearts.”

“You’re a fool,” he shot back.

Apparently he wasn’t aware of my before-Christ personality and lifestyle. Fortunately, the Holy Spirit grabbed me before I knocked him out.

“What’s foolish about inviting staff to an elder meeting? I think it’s important for our elders to know what our staff thinks.”

He smirked. “I know what my staff thinks.”

Wow, I thought to myself, this guy’s a genius leader!

He went on, “They think what I think!” Then he winked and dug into his sundae as if he had settled the dispute.

My swift answer jerked his head up from his treat. “You’re living in a dangerous place, my friend.”

His eyes widened for a vulnerable moment, but he caught himself and and they narrowed angrily. “You lead your church your way, and I’ll lead my way.”

Two years later we got the news. Once the reports of his moral failure surfaced, he realized how little he knew about what his staff really thought. Rather than extending the grace this fallen brother and his family desperately needed to restore his life, they skewered him publicly and without mercy.

The thing is that we give arrogant and controlling pastors a pass because sometimes they’re seen as useful. They often can grow a church numerically and make things work. But it’s a house of cards.

Worse than that, they’re style of leadership is foreign to the teachings of Jesus and the apostles.

They live in a dangerous place because we let them.

Jesus never said, “Go, and grow your church by scaring and controlling your staff and people.”

What He actually said was, “Go, and make disciples. Oh, and as you go, love one another.”