Monday, December 22, 2008

Bullies in the Church

Sadly this is a phenomenon that we have to endure in many congregations. I've encountered them in my life, and I know of other pastors who have them in their own congregations. They go by different titles in different congregations - Church Boss, Head Deacon, Biggest Tither - you get the picture, but they have an agenda that is theirs and theirs alone.

This article offers some sound thoughts on the matter. This thought really struck me (excerpting from article):

Few of us are surprised that we frequently encounter bullies beyond the church walls. We realize that, out there, brutal power moves are the order of the day. We expect the unredeemed to stop at nothing to gain advantage, even preying on the helpless and disenfranchised, such as children, senior citizens, and the homeless.

But to encounter such folks using strong-arm (and subtle, manipulative) tactics under stained-glass windows (often with a smile) can cause a seismic jolt to our hearts. We wonder why bullies haven't grasped biblical teaching such as Paul shared with the Ephesians: "Live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love" (Ephesians 4:1-2).

How could followers of Jesus—who taught and modeled respect, compassion and self-giving love—resort to such despicable behavior?

We ponder why they've even been tolerated, considering the damage they leave in their wakes. Why do other Christians, well aware of these intimidating control freaks and their victims, become tongue-tied bystanders who are unwilling to confront these people in their tracks? We're especially puzzled and devastated when we discover that they are our leaders, bosses, board members, and coworkers.

Why do we tolerate people who stir up dissent, seek to control others, and destroy those they cannot control? Why do we become silent and watch as good people are driven from the church? Pastors are churned if they don't kow-tow to the bully's demands. Lay leaders who challenge the bully are subject to intimidation and character assassination and usually leave because the price of staying is too high. Yet we sit idly by and allow it to happen. Are we like Neville Chamberlain and want "peace at any price" realizing that the illusion of peace means that someone other than us is being subject to the abuse?

This is a sensitive subject, and one that I have some experience with. I pray for congregations that are in the grip of bullies. I also pray for those with the courage to stand up to them and endure the strife that may break out as people let the bullies know that their behavior is not OK.

Join me in praying for them please. Peace on earth should be more than a slogan at Christmas time.

1 comment:

john rister said...

Wow, This was a very powerful story and unfortunately one that does play out in many churchs. I loved your insight and I know you also speak from experience. Thanks for printing this