Ezekiel 34:2, “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Woe to you shepherds of Israel who only take care of yourselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock?”
Sometimes in the church people get hurt and wounded because of the mistakes and shortcomings of the leadership. As a result, the church has “wounded warriors” and “suffering saints.” By no fault of their own these precious children of God go through hardships because of what others did to them. Like in the time of Ezekiel, God’s flock can find itself under the care of shepherds who don’t really love them but only want to use them for their own selfish gain.
As a Christian, I myself have been hurt and let down by other leaders too. One of the first pastors I looked up to when I was newly saved had an affair with the church secretary and actually expected the church to continue to follow him. Another time in Bible College my favorite professor got fired for lacking integrity and wasn’t even allowed to come back and say good-bye.
Once when I was pastoring in New Orleans, I held my first major outreach and invited a powerful inner city church planter with 20+ years of experience to be the main speaker. After one of the meetings he met with an old girlfriend and eventually ended up divorcing his wife, leaving his kids and quitting his church just to be with her.
Despite the church’s best preventative measures, leaders can still find a way to sin and hurt others. The following three ways are the most common; first, leaders can hurt their sheep by living a double life. They can be secretly stealing from the church, having an affair or being abusive to their wife and children. Second, leaders can be terrible people and can cause psychological harm by being rude and abusive to their staff and congregation. Third, leaders can be nice people but teach false doctrine and destroy the faith of God’s people.
All bad church leaders have one thing in common; they hurt God’s people.
The solution to hurtful leadership is God’s love, restoration and healing through the Holy Spirit and new relationships with good church leaders. What many hurt Christians forget due to their pain is that God uses good leaders in the church to help heal the hurts and bring spiritual healing. If leadership in the church has hurt you, consider the following four things; first, forgive those people who have hurt you. Second, speak to other leaders about your hurts. Your healing may need to come through exposing the bad practices of your former leaders (God desires them to change as well).
Third, prayerfully decide if you can effectively stay and work in the church or need to join another church. Fourth, always treat others as you would want to be treated. Most bad leaders can be restored if they take the proper steps to being retrained and healed themselves. In my experience, most of the bad leaders I’ve met were hurt themselves, thus the ole’ saying is true, “Hurt people, hurt people.”
Are you hurting because of bad church leadership? If so, pray this out loud, “Father, help me to forgive and love as much of the church as you do. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
Have you been hurt by leaders in the church?
- Repent if have allowed your hurt feelings to be an offense against the church of Jesus Christ. In other words, do not allow what some bad leaders did to cause you to reject the entire Body of Christ and stop gathering together with godly leaders.
- Pray and ask God to help you discern the difference between being overly sensitive towards good leadership (every little thing bothers you) and genuine hurt from hypocrisy, bad character or false doctrine.
- Forgive the leaders who have sinned against you and find a loving church to fulfill Jesus’ Great Commission!