Over the years of my church consulting and teaching, I’ve been privy to too many church conflicts exacerbated by a leader’s unwise words. I don’t intend with this post to say that all these leaders had no legitimate issue with their congregation, but I would contend that their words didn’t help:
- “I don’t answer to anyone but God.” We do answer to God, but we also are responsible to those who call us to lead them.
- “I’ll just leave the church.” The problem with saying these words is that the church might just take you up on them.
- “I assure you I’ll keep confidential whatever you tell me.” Because you never know what you’re going to hear, this commitment is a risky one. If the situation demands telling someone else (e.g., child abuse, suicide), you’ve now proven yourself to be untrustworthy.
- “God told me that this is the way we are to go.” It’s always dangerous to claim you have the corner on what God wants.
- “This budget line is for me to use, and I can spend it as I wish.” I’ve heard variations of this statement, and they’re often used to explain away a questionable use of the funds.
- “That’ll never happen to me.” It’s easy to determine that you’ll never do what somebody else has done – until temptation stares you in the face. Stated overconfidence can prove to be sadly unfounded.
- “I give my time and energy, and that counts as my tithe.” Some might debate whether the New Testament requires a tithe, but nobody I know asserts that no financial giving is okay.
- “I’ll be praying for you.” That’s a proper and important word to give to church members . . . unless you’re not likely to pray. It’s bad news when you said you’d pray, but you can’t even remember the issue when your church member gives you an update.
- “I’m the one with the seminary degree.” Obviously, I believe education matters—but I would never advise using it as a club against those with whom you disagree.
- “This is my church.” God has a way of showing us otherwise.
Without throwing any specific church leaders under the bus, what other statements have you heard? How might we help each other avoid the same mistakes?