Wednesday, August 7, 2013


My last church transformed before my eyes into the modern definition of a mega-church. What was once reasonably sized and had an intimate feel, almost overnight became completely overrun. In viewing the affect this rampant growth had on the lead pastor of the church, it seemed to me that he began to think of himself as a sort of celebrity. In my last few months as a member of that church, I remember a story he told about the lengths he took to avoid hearing negative feedback from members of the congregration. One step that he took was to have his secretary or assistant screen his mail and cull anything that contained criticism. Sure he tried to put a positive-sounding, Christian spin on this behavior. His argument went along the lines that he could not focus fully on doing God's business when he was distracted by negative thoughts.

However, I think this is a very dangerous attitude that is quite the slippery slope. If the only feedback that is received is completely filtered to include only that which is laudatory, I'm afraid that this will inevitably lead to a completely skewed perspective of oneself. ... "Given all these positive comments, I must be doing a great job!" ... "These people absolutely love me!" ... "This isn't God's kingdom, it's mine!". I fear that this type of attitude can cause these folks to become disconnected from reality and potentially lead their flocks to pastures where they were never meant to go. It can be a dangerous form of self-delusion.

This type of approach parallels celebrities or corporate leaders who fully surround themselves with "yes" men. A posse that only is present to stroke the ego of its sheriff. Any contrary opinions are taken as personal attacks and those who stand up with any voice of dissention are quickly replaced with someone else. It's scary how far once decent, well-intentioned, and principled leaders can be removed from what they once stood for. There is a quote by pastor Mark Batterson in his book SoulPrint, where he states, "However, if we really want to serve people and care about them, we'll need to stop caring so much about what they think. This is the key to serving with integrity." While I appreciate what Batterson is trying to say, i.e. the truth can hurt but it must be told regardless of the consequences, this type of belief can also be the downfall of once very effective leaders.