I have told my son, who is a young pastor, “There are just two things you need to do: Love God and love people.” If you do these two things, you will not go too far astray.
Many younger pastors immediately try to assert their authority because they feel insecure. They try to change things overnight, do not respect the DNA of the church, and run over people. I did some of that as a younger pastor.
On one occasion an issue came up, and I was out of sorts. Fortunately, there was an older person on the board who would listen to me vent. He sat in my office about 45 minutes before one Sunday evening service while I vented. If the board did not go along with me, I was going directly to the membership. After all, more people had come to the church under my leadership than under the previous pastor. It was going to be the board or me. He did two things: He listened to me without rebuking me, and he kept confidence.
When it was time to go to the Sunday night service, I sanctimoniously got my Bible, headed out of the office, and proceeded across the walkway to the sanctuary. On the way, I felt the Holy Spirit speak four words to me that changed my life, George, fast your tongue. I had not thought of that before. At the next board meeting, there was an absolute change on the part of the board, without my ever having done anything. I had been overreaching and moving too fast.
Every week a situation comes to my attention that involves unwise pastoral decisions in either finances or the assertion of authority. When a pastor goes into a church, he gets a deposit in his account. It is like a bank account. He has a honeymoon, and they give him 100 points of credit. If he spends those in the first few months, he will have nothing left.
Credibility and trust must be earned. A pastor cannot go into a church and say, “I’m God’s person for this place. It’s your obligation to obey me. I’m the anointed one.” According to Scripture, all of God’s people are anointed. Pastors need to respect and love people. They need to be secure enough to surround themselves with strong people.
One pastor told his staff the first time he met them, “I’m going to be to you what Hitler was to the Jews.” That is a horrible statement. It is not surprising that, within several weeks of his arrival, the members petitioned to remove him, and they succeeded.
That example is glaring, but some of the chief problems churches have are the result of unwise decisions made by leaders. Chief among them is attempting to impose authority without having earned that authority through the trust and love of the people.
George O. Wood is general superintendent of the Assemblies of God. For the original article, visit georgeowood.com.