I hate to admit this, but pastors are prone to manipulation. Sometimes we are unknowingly manipulated by our own church members. Sometimes we are the perpetrators of manipulation. Neither scenario is acceptable or biblical, and both are avoidable.
In an attempt to please the Lord and His bride, we often try too hard to make our people happy, which is an unreasonable expectation for any pastor. Although there is no way we can altogether control being impressed or intimidated by people, we can avoid being manipulated in these five ways.
Being an encourager by nature, I enjoy giving and receiving compliments as much as anyone. When I sense an agenda in the middle of an affirmation, however, my internal guard goes up. Those who seek to influence us through flattering words or gifts are no less dangerous than those who try to bully us with criticism or threats. Assume the best and respond with a simple "thank you" rather than automatically reciprocating.
"A man who flatters his neighbor spreads a net for his feet" (Prov. 29:5).
"If you lead well, you will lead change. If you lead change, you will be criticized. If you can't take criticisms, don't lead." —Dr. Thom Rainer
Criticism comes with the territory and is no small price to pay for pastoring. Although no pastor can avoid criticism completely, we can avoid being controlled by it. Control the conversation by guarding your heart and controlling your tone.
"A soft answer turns away anger, but grievous words stir up anger" (Prov. 15:1).
Jesus modeled the appropriateness of silence during one of his trials.
"He who is void of wisdom despises his neighbor, but a man of understanding holds his peace" (Prov. 11:12).
Although silence is sometimes the most appropriate response to manipulation, be aware that it can also be a manipulative tool. Giving someone the silent treatment is a passive-aggressive way to control others.
Anyone in ministry has been ambushed in the church hallways by well-meaning members as well as manipulative ones. Normal Sunday hallway banter is healthy, but when someone waltzes up to you with a fully-loaded, semi-automatic rant, you need to be prepared with a measured response.
My typical response is to ask if they would like to talk about this at a more appropriate time. If this does not disarm them, leave them as quickly and gracefully as you can if it is a Sunday morning. Sometimes the best way to turn the other cheek is to literally turn the other direction and start walking away.
I sincerely do not want to encourage any pastor to become cynical or skeptical toward their church family. My only caution here is to protect your family and yourself from overexposure. I have over-shared too many times in response to requests for prayer. A well-intended intercessor can inadvertently share your request with someone else who is less interested in praying for you than in preying on you.
Share your life and burdens with your closest friends, family, staff and small group. Just be careful about giving away details that you do not have permission to share.
"In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise" (Prov. 10:19).
I would be interested to hear if you have experienced any of these or other ways pastors can be manipulated.
This article originally appeared at lifeway.com.
Get Spirit-filled content delivered right to your inbox! Click here to subscribe to our newsletter.
Help Charisma stay strong for years to come as we report on life in the Spirit. Become an integral part of Charisma’s work by joining Charisma Media Partners. Click here to keep us strong!
Dr. Mark Rutland's
National Institute of Christian Leadership (NICL)
The NICL is one of the top leadership training programs in the U.S. Enroll in the FREE Mini-Course to experience Dr. Rutland's training for yourself and then enroll for the full training that will change your life and ministry.
FREE NICL MINI-COURSE - Enroll for 3-hours of training from Dr. Rutland's full leadership course. Experience the NICL and decide if this training is right for you and your team.
NICL Training offered in FL, TX and GA - Learn everything you wish someone had taught you about business and ministry before you finished seminary. Gain the knowledge that will help propel your life and ministry to the next level as you implement practical lessons from Dr. Rutland's training. Training Dates and Details.
The NICL Online is a brand new option for those church and ministry leaders who cannot attend the in-person training. Now, you can receive all 60-hours of Dr. Rutland's training from the comfort of your home or ministry for a full year. Learn more about NICL Online.