12 Signs of Power Hungry Pastors

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Dangerous ambitions can sink leaders and churches.

The Anthony Weiner debacle is a microcosm of a greater issue related to why certain people crave positions of power and influence.

In his run for mayor of New York City, Weiner seems to be blind to the incredible humiliation he is bringing upon his family, himself and the office of mayor in general. Why would someone with all this baggage think it would never surface publicly in a very public run for office? I believe these are symptoms of power hungry people who fit a certain psychological profile that attracts an increasing amount of dysfunctional people to politics while concomitantly repelling seasoned, mature leaders.

God-ordained public service should never be about a person’s desire for power, but should arise out of a servant’s heart to meet the needs of the people they represent.

Jesus modeled this when He washed the feet of His disciples and when He said that the greatest in the kingdom of God are those who serve (John 13; Mark 10:43). Of course, we have power hungry leaders in every sector of society—not just in politics—and this includes the church.

I believe power hungry people are the cause of numerous problems and divisions within the marketplace and church, and we need to be honest with them and speak into them when necessary, lest they sabotage great organizations.

Since their drive for power will stop at nothing to achieve their ends, more mature leaders need to counter their dangerous ambitions instead of continually feeding into them.

The following are some of the signs of power hungry leaders. 

(I believe all leaders, because of our fallen nature, have to deal with some or all of the following issues at times in our lives. But some have totally given in and live out these issues as a lifestyle of choice.)

1. They only relate to other “power” people.

Power hungry people are constantly going to social events, parties, conferences and frequently joining boards of powerful organizations that will connect them with the most influential people—irrespective of whether they truly have the time or talents for it or genuinely want to connect with these people on a human covenantal level.

They are always looking for the next person who can do something to help them climb the social ladders in their spheres of influence, which causes them to use people instead of serving people.

2. They are constantly dropping names and speaking about their accomplishments.

There are certain leaders whom I have heard speak several times, and every single time they have spoken, either to me in private or in public gatherings, they have mentioned prominent academic institutions where they received their degrees or dropped the names of high-level leaders with whom they have access.

After a while, it becomes obvious they are attempting to flout their power and accomplishments so they can receive accolades or respect from others instead of it being a sincere attempt to give their audience context for their life narrative. 

Joseph Mattera Joseph Mattera is in demand internationally as a speaker and consultant : His mission is to influence leaders who influence nations : to order one of his four books or to subscribe to his weekly newsletter go to www.josephmattera.org

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  • Anayo

    I read with some interest your post; however, it was not
    apparent to me why Anthony Weiner’s moral failure should serve as an
    illustration; there is enough of his ilk in our midst—the church. I have always
    believed that those who live in a glass house should not throw stone; the
    church ought to pay some attention to its leadership.

    As a Christian, I feel thoroughly disheartened when I see the
    church doing its best to imitate the world-its leaderships’ conducts,
    programmes, sound bites, culture, opinions, faulty judgment, etc. It is a
    fallen world pure and simple. An attempt to take cues from the world is naiveté
    in the extreme. I was pleased that you alluded to issue of self when you
    talked about the last sign of Power Hungry Pastor which for me is the pink elephant in the room. I believe that it is the starting point of all moral failure. When self becomes an object of worship, every other failings, toga of vanity, entitlement, etc are all underpinned by this singular catastrophic misplacement of worship including your 12 signs.

    When we conflate the world with the church-as most pastors have done-we completely lose focus and perspective regarding our depraved and wretched past until there was Him. Sometimes we wonder off into some anaemic imitation of psychological profiling as your article seems to bear out which detract from the fact that man is basically on his own irredeemable irrespective on his knowledge, refinement and other outward veneer and attributes. The entire panacea from man–psychological therapies, mind boggling counselling and other frenetic efforts—will all lead to some symptomatic relief without affording him any real freedom. It is by submitting to Him and daily bearing His dying in our bodies that His Life remains in us. More to the point, the Church should put its house in order and let God judge the world. We are quick to judge the world, but remain reticent when it comes to the ill we see in the church. 1 Corinthians remains instructive: it wonders why we do not judge those within and leave those without to Him.

    • http://napadofoundation.com/ Donald G.

      I think you made some very valid points. I see especially among the “mega-churches” the tendency to “borrow” techniques and ideologies from the secular world in an effort to become the biggest and most prestigious “church” at the expense of the truth. While I believe that secular government and leaders are also in place and power because of God, I believe that churches have a definite blueprint from Scripture to work from and I do not see many who really follow it as designed. Institutional churches have now become big business and think they should be run like one instead of how God planned giving way to the power trip pastorate. I believe this is one reason God never intended for a single elder leadership in a church, in the New Testament churches there were always multiple elders and none was the “senior” elder or “senior pastor”. From anything I see in Scripture there is no place for pastors or any other church leaders seeking a power trip. I remember when I was much younger taking the Strong-Campbell Interest Inventory (survey/test) to see what vocations I had similar traits with and they were “politicians, police officers, lawyers and judges and pastors” all vocations that are power trip vocations. Therefore I know that I have to be especially careful about that issue.

  • Michael

    Are we all meant to think, ‘I know at least one person like that?’ Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the most wonderful pastor of them all? With one finger locked on ‘them,’ how is it that so many are pointing at me? How is St Paul’s approach to addressing issues like ‘Power Hungry Pastors’ different from psychology and motivational insights? It is a marvel that no matter his opponent, the church issue, or the leadership struggle which St Paul addressed, his every word reflected/elevated/mirrored the gospel.

  • Nhamodzenyika

    I enjoyed this post and have also found out the 12 signs are applicable to all in leadership, pastors, Elders, Deacons, Fathers, Mothers and even circular leadership. The heading could have been more general.

  • Dave Ekstrom

    What a probing article. I have to admit that my motives are mixed between wanting to do God’s will, love others and promote myself. At my best my worst is still there. How we need others in our lives to save us from ourselves. I don’t know that I will ever purge selfishness from my life. I don’t even think I can keep it locked up. I just pray that that monster doesn’t get enough leash to dishonor God and hurts others.

  • ServantHeart2012

    They will also falsify data (numbers) and/or direct subordinates to in order to make themselves approved by their peers and leaders. I once worked under a pastor who grossly inflated attendance numbers because, in reality, the numbers were declining. Sadly, no one among the staff or membership of the church would confront him about it for fear he would retaliate against them.

  • TL

    Promotion comes from the Lord. if you become a servant of Christ you are promoted because promotion is servant hood.