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.