Some of the finest peopIe I have known are in “full-time” ministry. I really do know some extraordinary people! These are godly people who love the Lord and take their calling to live as disciples very seriously.
Unfortunately, I have also known some people who, for whatever reason, served in “full-time” ministry and yet consistently seemed to make some very poor choices, which hurt themselves and quite often their families and their churches. Sometimes these choices killed good ministries.
The following are ten ways to kill a good ministry:
1. Make no attempt to practice what you are preaching. However, people may hear you preach and then wonder if you don’t see the contradiction in your own life.
2. Let your ego rule. In the last two weeks, I have talked with three people in three different states who were really struggling with the behavior of their ministers. In each situation, the minister seemed to be displaying much ego and pride. In each case, the minister lost much credibility with people. One woman said regarding her minister, “You know, he really has such a big ego.”
3. Take plenty of shortcuts. Don’t study, read, think. Just preach someone else’s messages. You might rationalize that you just don’t have time to prepare weekly messages. Over time, however, your messages will become thinner and thinner. Or, perhaps you simply stop preparing. I remember one minister who used to make some very dogmatic statements in his messages. One of his members told me that quite often, on the way home from church, her teen-age son would raise questions about the sermon and dispute certain points. This minister just did not prepare very well, and it showed.
4. Let your temper flair. Give people a piece of your mind. In one case a minister periodically exploded with rage at anyone who would raise questions that caused him to feel either frustrated or indignant.
5. Manipulate. Manipulate. Manipulate. Use these church members when you need to. After all you have done for them, they should be willing to stand up for you and take your side. Use them to do your dirty work. For example, talk with them about the way you are being treated by the elders or another staff member. Get them really worked up. Now subtly encourage them to speak up on your behalf. Then, you remain silent while they do your dirty work.
6. Practice disloyalty. Don’t worry about keeping a conversation in confidence. Talk about people in ways that you would never speak to them directly. Undercut your co-workers, elders, or other church members if it seems to be in your best interest.
7. Focus on the “show” not the reality. One woman described the very sick and sinful home in which she grew up. She said that her father, a minister, was a mean, angry man who would unleash his anger on his family. During the week, he would abuse his family emotionally, calling them a variety of despicable names. Then he would preach on Sunday, projecting a certain kind of image that was the polar opposite to the reality of what his children and wife had witnessed the previous week.
8. Look out for yourself instead of the kingdom of God. Always do what is in your own interest regardless of what anyone else thinks. (This kind of thinking is the total opposite of what it means to be a servant!)
9. Justify your own existence. Communicate to others just how needed and how important you are to the congregation. Do it subtly. Some people use self-deprecating humor around church members. “I’m sure this church could get a much better minister than me.” Then listen to the members chime in: “Oh no, you are great! Where would we ever find someone like you?”
10. Give yourself permission to push against the moral edges. Maybe there is someone with whom you flirt. Perhaps you give yourself permission to view pornography on the Internet. Maybe you have a certain friend that your spouse knows nothing about. You tell yourself that there is nothing wrong with this arrangement. Yet, you recently began sharing very intimate details of your life.
In what other ways have you observed people kill a good ministry? Which one of these have you witnessed? What seems to characterize the ministers who conduct themselves in a godly, honorable manner?