What Makes a Pastor a BULLY?

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How might a pastor or elder “domineer” his flock? In other words, what makes a man a pastoral bully?

In his instructions to elders/pastors, Peter insists that they must not lead for love of power, which is to say they must not “domineer” those in their charge, but rather be “examples” to them (v. 3b).

How might a pastor or elder “domineer” his flock? In other words, what makes a man a pastoral bully?

Here are some ways.

A man can “domineer” or “lord it over” his flock by intimidating them into doing what he wants done by holding over their heads the prospect of loss of stature and position in the church.

A pastor domineers whenever he threatens them with stern warnings of the discipline and judgment of God, even though there is no biblical basis for doing so.

A pastor domineers whenever he threatens them with public exposure of their sin should they not conform to his will and knuckle under to his plans.

A pastor domineers whenever he uses the sheer force of his personality to overwhelm others and coerce their submission.

A pastor domineers whenever he uses slick verbiage or eloquence to humiliate people into feeling ignorant or less competent than they really are.

A pastor domineers whenever he presents himself as superspiritual (his views came about only as the result of extensive prayer and fasting and seeking God. How could anyone then possibly disagree with him?).

A pastor domineers whenever he exploits the natural tendency people have to elevate their spiritual leaders above the average Christian. That is to say, many Christians mistakenly think that a pastor is closer to God and more in tune with the divine will. The pastor often takes advantage of this false belief to expand his power and influence.

A pastor domineers whenever he gains a following and support against all dissenters by guaranteeing those who stand with him that they will gain from it, either by being brought into his inner circle or by some form of promotion.

A pastor domineers by widening the alleged gap between “clergy” and “laity.” In other words, he reinforces in them the false belief that he has a degree of access to God which they don’t.

Related to the former is the way some pastors will make it appear that they hold sway or power over the extent to which average lay people can experience God’s grace. He presents himself in subtle (not overt) ways as the mediator between the grace of God and the average believer. In this way, he can secure their loyalty for his agenda.

Sam Storms Sam has spent 39 years in ministry and in 2008 became Lead Pastor for Preaching and Vision at Bridgeway Church in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, where he currently serves. He has ministered in churches in Illinois, Texas, Oklahoma, & Missouri and was Visiting Associate Professor of Theology at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois, 2000-2004. Sam is founder and president of Enjoying God Ministries and regularly blogs at www.samstorms.com.

More from Sam Storms or visit Sam at http://www.samstorms.com

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  • Truly an article that rflects

    man I can’t disagree the only thing I can say is you have probably known a lot of pastors and put a whole lot of experience and observation into a very short article. Right on man

  • keith

    I disagree in part that there is more abuse in the local church by the people/flock. They think they are better than the pastor or should be the pastor without the training or education. People need to be reminded who the shepherd is and at times the shepherd must break the leg of the sheep to bring the sheep back from wandering ways. This may be perceived as abuse but it is not if done out of righteous love.

    • Jesse

      This is such a fine line. I agree completely that when done in love, growth comes. But I think it is crucial to remember that Jesus is the Good Shepherd, and He is the one to break us, not man. Everything a Pastor does should point people to Jesus, and not to himself. Whether he does this or not is a great indicator of the intent of a Pastor.

  • Matt

    Yes this author makes some very good points on the over bearing, leagalistic, self-righteous pastor. Also, Keith’s comments bring light to another facet of church life. The fact remains that the Bible is explicit in the idea that the church head is Jesus Christ. He and He alone appoints an under shepherd which is the pastor. The Bible further illustrates that the pastor and the people have a Shephard/sheep relationship.
    The Bible is specific also about the pastor being accountable for the church and that deacons are not a governmental body but simple servants.

    The problem comes in when a pastor wants to drive the sheep rather than lead the sheep; or when the sheep want to lead and have the pastor follow. This boils down to simply not understanding the Bible and/or apply it correctly.

    There is plenty of blame to go oaround for everyone. If as Christians we have been doing correctly that which God has called us to do ( focus on the great commission) then this world would know Jesus.

  • Ryan

    A pastor is domineering when he tells all of his staff that they work at the church at his pleasure. That he does not owe you a job and you are not allowed to have your own vision for ministry, only to fulfill his vision. A pastor is domineering when staff members are instructed NOT to pray during worship time and you are not to close your eyes. A pastor is domineering when a staff member is told they are not paid to think like a parent with regards to children’s ministry. I could literally go on from there but I think you get the idea. Until recently I never knew these types of pastors existed but now I see just how prevalent they are.

  • hurting

    pastors are domineering when he fires staff because they don’t aren’t representative enough of the multi-culturism of the church

  • Mar Komus

    Interesting. And oddly enough, if you put a different spin on all this, these are the exact things that we claim make a good leader. Very interesting indeed!