1Ti 5:22 Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, nor take part in the sins of others; keep yourself pure.
I have been a pastor now for approaching 40 years. I have been the pastor of four churches, one in a rather remote mountain valley, two in small towns, and one in a fairly large city. In each of these cases there were people on the leadership boards (elder board, deacon board, etc) who, as time would tell, evidenced no fruit of having a heart regenerated by Christ. I did not fully realize it at the time because, as we all know, people who crave power and recognition can be very good at hiding their true nature. In fact, some of them can commonly be considered “eminent saints” in their churches. Besides, the climate most of us were raised in loved to remind us that we can’t judge anyone’s profession of faith in Christ. Wrong!
How could I tell they did not really know Christ? Because over time it became evident that they opposed His truth and anyone who stood for it. They were not safe people. They did not do well when they did not get their way. In other words, they loved themselves and not others. Nor did they love the Lord. What they loved was power and glory. They would not stand for Christ’s truth. They were not willing to suffer personal loss for Christ. And they tried very hard to control the pastor. (By “control the pastor” I am not speaking of normal accountability that every pastor and church leader should be subject to. No, I mean that they sought the same kind of control that an abuser craves and used many of the very same tactics to obtain it).
Their religion was almost always one of legalism. A works-righteousness which they tried to enslave everyone in the church with, and often they met with a good degree of success. The church I now pastor was enslaved to that legalism 20 years ago, but after many battles I believe we are now free. I wanted to give you a firsthand look through the eyes of a pastor who has sat through hundreds of church board meetings with church leaders who were not Christians. Perhaps it will help validate those of you who have encountered rank injustice and cowardice by church leaders when you went to them for help. You found that these were people who, in the end, did not hunger and thirst for righteousness. They did not hate evil and love and protect the oppressed. They put the blame on you and enabled your abuser. I want you to know that in many, many such cases the reason for the injustice is that these people were and are false shepherds who mistreat the sheep.
Let me just repeat – I have been a pastor for nearly 40 years. I have been the pastor in four different churches. I have been at my present church for nearly 30 years. My experience has been that there were ALWAYS significant numbers of unsaved people parading as Christians who had worked their way into leadership positions (both formal and informal) in every single one of those churches. Much of my three decades of pastoral ministry has been spent being abused by such people and in doing battle with them.
Is my experience unique? I don’t think so. I have no doubt that such is the case in most local churches. If a genuine pastor who knows Christ is called to be the pastor at the typical church, he should expect that he will meet his worst enemies right within the ranks of the very “team” he is called to work together with. And yes, sometimes (as many of you know) the scenario might be that of a real Christian joining in with a local church, only to find that the pastor himself is an enemy of Christ. Abusers come in all professions and callings. A pastoral position promises, in the mentality of an abuser, power and glory and control.
So there is my experience. I hope that it helps validate you if you have been victimized by people who claim to be Christians and who are in church leadership positions. Four churches. Going on 40 years. Every single case was the same. Unsaved people parading as holy saints, exercising their evil in leadership positions over the flock. Many years of my ministry has been taken up by doing battle with these false shepherds, coming to see through the confusing fog of deception and doubt that they spin, and experiencing the damage that they cause. I should not have been surprised:
Jude 1:12-13 These are hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; (13) wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever.