Pastoring is difficult enough without shooting ourselves in the foot. Self-inflicted wounds weaken strong leaders. Hobbling around, bleeding through your boots with gun smoke still wafting does not inspire confidence.
Yet, some pastors, perhaps unknowingly, undermine their own leadership credibility. They find themselves in constant frustration without always knowing why. They have not pilfered any money from the offering, bumped-off a deacon, or made a mistake typically associated with being disqualified. Yet, a persistent lack of credible influence remains.
Some church members are naturally distrustful, but this is not always the case. Sometimes pastors undermine themselves through actions incompatible with sound leadership. The undermining erodes the confidence of those who should be part of the journey. Here are a few examples.
1. Excusing Any Inconsistent Behavior
Few things undermine credibility more than hypocrisy. Saying one thing and doing another erodes trust. If you preach against lying while everyone in the congregation knows you are not fully truthful, you lose credibility. If you castigate teachers for being late for class while excusing your constant tardiness with, “I know I’m late sometimes, too” do not expect them to become more consistent.
2. Revealing Private Information
A deacon once told me about a meeting he had with another pastor. Over lunch, that pastor began sharing the details of a counseling session he had recently held. The deacon was not one of the counselees, nor was his advice needed to assist the pastor. It was simply spreading information that should have been kept private.
The deacon was aghast and vowed never to share private information with that pastor.
3. Ignoring Family
There is more than enough writing on pastor and family, but at minimum remember this: we cannot preach to others the importance of family if they can look at our calendar and see we are not practicing it.
4. Rehashing Old Sermons
Crafting and delivering sermons is hard work; this is true. Hard work, however, should not become an excuse for regurgitating essentially the same content week after week. Better to preach one 15-minute sermon and stop than the same 15-minute sermon three times in the same morning.
5. Forgetting Commitments
Missing a lunch, forgetting a prayer breakfast, or not making it to the hospital in time for prayer before surgery. Any of these things can happen to the most diligent pastor. We are human and make mistakes. Flat tires, traffic, or personal sickness are beyond our control. When such things are aberrations they are usually forgiven and forgotten. When we chronically miss appointments, forget meetings, and the like, our credibility takes a hit.
6. Unrighteous Anger
“Be angry and do not sin” is, for many, an easier theologism than practice. We hope our indignation is righteous, but honesty requires us to admit it is not always.
If you want to shoot yourself in both feet lose your temper, lose it often, and lose it publicly. You will be limping for a while.
7. Hasty Decision Making
Hasty decision making can spring from a good intentions and a strong desire to do a great work for God. But, when the cost is not counted—or is miscounted in haste—the results can be disheartening both for the pastor and those involved.
Making decisions hurriedly, without due planning, evaluation, communication, etc, will dampen enthusiasm for the next venture. When people arrive at a badly organized “ministry opportunity,” they may just excuse themselves the next time around.
Take the time to plan thoroughly. Well-executed activities give people confidence that we consider their time and effort valuable.
Credibility is earned over time. It can be lost in an instant through a major blunder or eroded slowly like a riverbank. May we strive to do nothing that undermines it so we may have maximum impact in our churches and God’s kingdom.
Featured image credit, edited for size, color, and caption.