Staffs Under The Gun (Independent Baptist Truth Revolution #10)

They suffer silently. They have to because speaking up is labeled treasonous. Even if they are treated treacherously, they are held to a standard of grin and bear it. They can be held to account and then some, but their tormentors must not be. Who am I speaking of? Some assistant pastors and other staff members in the Independent Baptist world. While there are some wonderfully happy staffs out there where pastor and staff love each other, there is a must more widespread problem than many would want to admit.

Over the last 15 years I have heard the story time and again. A pastor rides roughshod over assistants. He belittles, abuses, criticizes, over works, and treats as second-class servants the very ones the Lord has sent as a gift to help Him. The story goes that they are told they are incompetent and have everything they do over analyzed, second guessed, and often redone. Though there can be poor assistants, of course, I know men that are some of the most faithful, dedicated men I have ever known and have proved it in later ministries, and they suffered immensely in this very scenario. In some cases the wounds linger a long time and a loss of confidence must be worked through. Besides hearing this from many, and even being requested to write on this in this series, three men I know very well shared with me in great detail their horror stories. Each of them were of such character that they have never tried to retaliate by lashing out or going on a crusade against their abusers. Still, it was unjust that they should have suffered so at the hands of a pastor.

This is not the same thing as a pastor taking “the oversight thereof”, or providing leadership or vision, even if the abusers loudly want to couch the issue in those terms. As one who holds the office of pastor in the highest possible regard, I will label it for you in one word –hireling. It is one who is called to be a shepherd and give himself for the sheep using others for his own ends. He is taking when he should be giving. It was supposed to be about them and it ends up only being about self. It divests the word “pastor” of its true meaning.

Why does this happen? If you listen really closely, you will find traces of jealousy. Remember King Saul with David? It is as if these pastors must be the center of the universe, so much so than any other staff is not allowed to be loved or respected. This, of course, sets them up for failure as when they reach that grotesque of a prideful level it becomes hard to get real love or respect. Then comes the lowly assistant and everyone can’t help rooting for him. The pastor then gets more paranoid and amps up his preposterous treatment. In some cases, though the assistant has moved many miles to come their way, these pastors fire them like the most secular of companies and nothing like a church. To be sure, that becomes a source of shame to the cause of Christ.

Things Every Pastor Must Never Forget In Regards To Staff:

1. You have a shepherding responsibility to every staff member.

You are as much the pastor of every assistant and staff member as anyone in the church. What evidence could you produce to categorize them any other way? You will give an account for their souls too.

2. You pastor a church, not run a business.

A church can’t be run in the same cold fashion some businesses are. If some staff member doesn’t “produce” enough, you can’t just throw them under the bus. The reality some are missing is that a real Christian approach is the best way to run a business, not the other way around. The very best companies figured this out and make a happy, secure workforce a key component of heir business plan.

3. The church you pastor is all about Christ, and nothing about you.

You are a servant of Jesus Christ. He receives glory when local churches are what they should be, and he has placed you there to facilitate that goal. The moment you seek the glory for yourself you nullify your point of existence. What could be a greater failure?

4. Assistants are co-laborers, not inferior beings.

You just have different assignments. You work together in a great cause. They are as loved of God as you.

5. Staff members can be a place of great ministry.

What an opportunity to advance the ministry you have if you invest in them. You will never increase your influence by elevating yourself at the expense of those around you. In fact, that will render it valueless. On the other hand, the joy of old preachers is the others they have helped along the way. Mentoring, if heartfelt, is a powerful thing.

God bless the pastors who do it right. Let’s all join their number!

All other articles in this series here.


18 thoughts on “Staffs Under The Gun (Independent Baptist Truth Revolution #10)

  1. Pingback: It’s Time For An Independent Baptist Truth Revolution! | The Reagan Review

  2. Jimmy,
    I’ve seen this too, but mostly from the outside. The last pastor I worked for, Dr. Jack Scallions, did far more for me than I ever did for him. I came to him beat down from another experience (which was at least partially my fault) and he spent close to five years working with me and building me back up. I’d wish every young man I know the experience of working for a guy like that.
    Unfortunately, I also know of ministries where the pastor runs rough shod over his workers, where he holds out promotions and positions as manipulation tools and where he isn’t forthright with people. I’ve got job offers before for staff jobs (expected to be full time staff jobs) that no one could live on. I’ve been interviewed and asked what my wife wore to bed and told I would not be allowed to have a tv. etc.

  3. cannot fathom this . what sort of pastor would ask such impertinent, voyeuristic questions? a wolf in sheep’s clothing…there is absolutely no excuse for this. is both ungodly and illegal.
    why does he not ask what the HUSBAND is wearing. not that that is any of his business, either. I cannot believe this is happening and allowed to go unchallenged.

  4. I have been reading this series for the last several weeks, and “got” every single post, but this one hurts me. I actually had to sleep on it before I could make any coherent comment.

    I grew up in a great church, went away to college for an education degree, and was very excited to be hired by my home church/school. I thought I would spend my whole life there. At the end of my third year, the pastor resigned. A new pastor came in December and by January was driving staff people off to be replaced by his “own” people. By March, we teachers stood as one and refused to sign contracts for the next school year. By July, turnover was 100%. ALL of us, even the oldest of old timers, had to quit. How he managed to hide this from the church is beyond me. He actually “ministered” there for almost 13 years, but never had any staff member last more than a year or two. When he left, there was a church split, and the people have scattered to several area churches.

    AND he now bills himself as an evangelist, and pastors have him come speak at their churches.

    Some days I think the bitterness is gone. Other days I wonder if it ever will be.

    • God bless you! This is horrible and wicked. That shepherd is the worst of wolves and should never get a pulpit again. I hope I never listen to him as an evangelist either. I write this series because like what has happened to you. Feel free to write my wife or I privately anytime we could be an encouragement to you. You can use Facebook or email.

      • Thank you for your kind words. It’s been nearly fourteen years and most of the time I can talk about it without getting too upset. Just the idea that this happens enough for it to be recognized and discussed is traumatic to me. I hate to think of anyone else going through this. Just because these men are independent of an earthly governing body, they act like little Napoleons and try to rule their domain with iron fist. They should remember that they are still dependent on God and will answer to Him someday.

  5. Not sure where to begin here. I’ve been through it. We took a position to work in a Christian School and do the youth group. We were at the church from 7:30 AM to generally about 8PM Mon-Friday and then Saturday 8-12 plus whatever we had for the youth group. After these hours I had to prepare everything for the next day. We were exhausted and never saw our year old son. The pastor had me preach and everything was OK before that. We had actually seen half the youth group saved (including the pastors son) God laid on my heart to preach on honesty. I handed it back over and there was no invitation (and he was white as a sheet.) I was dismissed about a week later as “things weren’t working out.” To be honest I breathed a heavy sigh of relief when we left. Found out about a year later when I got a phone call from the trustees that the “pastor” had been caught stealing money, and had even forged a mortgage on the church building. (To be honest I could never reconcile what we were supposed to be paid and the tax supposedly withdrawn on our W-2 either so I think he stole from us as well) By the time they caught it the damage was done and they even lost the church building and the church closed. There are sometimes wolves that get in (Acts 20:29) and I think that we have failed to recognize this.

  6. What a joy to see the grace of God at work in the lives of those who have commented here. Having been in a very similar situation I understand. However, my “pastor” was not the only one at fault. I was so steeped in the performance-driven life/ministry that I treated him and those under my part of the ministry the same way I was being treated. At the same time we had a youth pastor who was full of grace and was an example and friend to me who God used to point out my sin. Now, after 2 more churches where the pastors exemplified a biblical understanding of pastoring, I’m shepherding a congregation alongside other men who work together in the ministry. I’m the only pastor but these men, elders, serve with humility and kindness, building one another up in faith. Serving as a team with other men is beyond description when compared to the past. So, let’s be sure to pastor with grace, knowing that we are shepherding people who are just like we are. They struggle like we do with the deception of Satan. They, like us, long for acceptance by men, forgetting that God’s full favor is upon His people and we need not strive for any favor, whether God’s or man’s. All of us, both pastor and layman, should be gracious servants leading with humility and honesty in the power of the Spirit, building up one another in truth. Pastor Reagan, thank you for the article. It seems like it will be a blessing to those who are still in that kind of situation and to those who are out of it as well.

    • Thank you so much for sharing! Your having been on both sides of the fence gives great perspective. You are an example of why we should not give up on these situations because God’s grace can do wondrous things!

  7. I think everyone here has articulated the points very well, and I can say no more than this. That if you’re going to call someone “pastor” whether he is the senior, youth, assistant, or whatever pastor, he is Biblically your equal. I understand that someone is always going to be the one who has been there the longest, the one in the pulpit on Sunday, the one with the most ministry experience, etc. However that does not mean the ordination (by God, mind you) of one man is better than the ordination of another. “Senior” does not mean “Superior.” but often that is how it is treated. You are all elders of the same church, even though you might have different specializations. All “pastors” would do well to see themselves as equals, whether they are fresh out of seminary or college or if they’ve been serving in ministry for decades, or if they were called right out of lay-work. Their ordination and calling is the same. If you don’t really want to hire an equal, then don’t search for another “pastor.” It would probably be better for you to ruin the ministry alone than to crush yet another family with it. Of course, if someone wants to take advantage of their assistants, he probably doesn’t really care about any of this. So I guess I’m preaching to the choir.

  8. Hi, my situation is a little different but similar. I have been in the same church since 1988. I got saved here, met my wife, and great friends go there. For 19 years I was the youth director, as a laymen no pay except for my way being paid to youth conferences. I had some fantastic helpers that were great. God called me into the full-time ministry in 1996. Told the Pastor at the time about my desire. He told me he was not the teaching type, just build the youth and that will be just like your church. did not get any training from him. He hired an assistant because he needed someone to help him. That man left and he hired another assistant. Was hurt terribly by this, but sucked it up and kept serving. That assistant became the Pastor when the former Pastor resigned. Due to the transition of new leadership, the church struggled financially for a while, so there was no money to hire an assistant. This Pastor is too busy to help train me and if he does it is usually a session on how bad I am, what I need to fix, what my wife needs to fix (which his wife does not even attend church faithfully). It gets discouraging sometimes. I left the youth ministry because of the lack of support and I was just tired. One of my former students came back from graduating from Bible College and is now doing the youth. He grew up in the church and he is related to a lot of the church members, we have a lot of inter-married kids, kids who grew up in the church and got smitten for each other. He is doing a great job but I always feel there is a competition between him and I. He recently got a new secular job that paid him less. Because of this, the church put him on as an assistant. He works for the school district so he will have summers off. The Pastor asked me my opinion about putting him on staff and I did tell him how I felt, hurt, frustrated, bewildered. He made a lot of excuses for him and why we needed to put him on and finally asked me what I thought and I said your the Pastor do what you need to do. He said it was not about him being the Pastor, but I reiterated my response. I am still at the church but have back off some of my other ministries and now do not want to go into the ministry as a Pastor. I have seen what they do and I am not of that material or stock. I am now going back to school to get my teaching degree and teach in a Christian or Public School.

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