There is a church in our area that was on the verge of closing its doors permanently. That would have been a shame; this church was once a thriving house of worship in a growing community. Yet in a climate that should have produced growth, they were experiencing death. Why? A Pastoral Parasite was at the helm.
It began with the election of a new pastor. He came with fresh ideas and a new vision to move the church forward. His first staff meeting he initiated by throwing a best-selling church growth book on the boardroom table and exclaiming, “from this moment forward, we are this type of church.” Fast-forward a year later, the pastor was gone along with most of the congregation. The change he had hoped to push wasn’t a new vision, it was a knife wound that almost did the church in. Had it not been for the denomination stepping in, the church would no longer be a presence in the community.
I’ve seen this happen in various organizations over the past several years. It begins with a leader who behaves more like a parasite than a leader. A Leadership Parasite, or in this case a Pastoral Parasite, is a self-serving leader that tries to thrive within an organization by deriving benefits from its host at the expense of the organization.
In this case it was a pastor who wanted a seeker-sensitive church and tried to create that church from an established Pentecostal one. If this pastor had wanted a seeker-church he should have simply planted one in town. However he chose to take over a host church and while benefiting from the resources of the church, (facility, tithes, congregation, staff), he tried to turn the church into something for himself. That is a Pastoral Parasite.
As leaders we owe it to those that we lead to make sure that we are putting our “self” to the side as we lead. A parasite seeks benefits from its host, while a true leader should always benefit the host. While that is an easy line to state, it’s not always so clear in our leadership. Here are four things that I’ve noticed about Leadership Parasites.
A Parasite is Self-Serving
Are the words; me, mine and I your most frequent pronouns? If so, you may need to reevaluate how you’re truly serving. As leaders we serve the church. It’s not the other way around. When we use the church for our own advancement…we are behaving like a parasite! The church world has suffered too much in the past from self-serving leaders. What we need is some self-sacrificing leaders.
Preferring others above yourself is an easy thing to preach, but a difficult thing to practice. The church should not be your platform for bigger and better things in ministry. It should be the field in which you work the harvest and care for His people.
A Parasite Seeks Fundamental Changes
When Jenna and I moved into our home we changed the flooring, painted the walls, and bought new appliances & furniture. Though the home was built in the 80s it now feels like it belongs in the 21st century. Why? We updated the personality of the home though structurally it’s still the same home. If we tried to change the foundation or structure of the home, we’d destroy the house.
When a leader takes over an organization they must understand that making structural changes to the foundation of the church will achieve the same result. A leader has to know, respect and flow with the foundations that were established before them. Yes, the personality of the church will need an update, the vision will need to be refreshed, the structure may need repair, but if you begin messing with the core of the church you might as well bring in a bull dozer and start from scratch.
Pastor, there was a God-given vision for that church before you got there, and just because you arrived doesn’t mean He has changed His mind. A true leader seeks God’s vision not their vision!
A Parasite Misunderstands and Misuses their Authority
Undercover, by John Bevere is a great book about authority. However I’ve watched leaders misuse the principles in that book to create their own spiritual dictatorships. Paul teaches that all authority is from God. Just because you are in authority doesn’t mean you are right. The same God who raised up Moses also raised up Pharaoh. Which leader are you?
A leader needs oversight, and not distant oversight. Who is holding you accountable? When is the last time your authority questioned you? If you are running with out checks and balances, it’s time to come undercover yourself!
A Parasite doesn’t know it’s a Parasite
The most ironic thing about a leadership parasite is the fact that he or she doesn’t know that it is a parasite. Everything seems normal for the parasite. Every problem, every situation, everything that questions the leader is seen as an attack and they never stop to consider that they are the problem. John Maxwell teaches, “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” If you are justifying, rationalizing or excusing current situations, it’s time to ask if you are truly taking responsibility for them. Every leader needs to take an honest and objective look at your leadership from time to time. Maybe it’s time to look in the mirror.
So, what if?
What if you’re a leader, and some of this hits home? First, take your “self” to the cross. Reckon it dead in Christ, and pick up His life and live selflessly. Next, look back at the history of your organization, seek to understand how you got to where you are, where it was headed before you and where God is taking it next. Finally, make sure you are undercover, truly undercover. Then ask your covering to give you an honest, objective look.
What if you’re under a leader, and some of this hits home? Take it to the leader. The Bible is clear, if you have an offense, take it up with the brother or sister (not all their other brothers and sisters, that’s called gossip). If they listen great, if they do not, take it to the elders, deacons, or directors for the organization. If they see no offense then you leave it and decide whether or not you’re called to continue under that leadership. If they do see an issue, trust them to deal with it and leave it in their hands.
The Bottom Line
If the church is ever going to truly be His Church we have to abandon our selfish ambition. Self cannot stand or glory in His Presence. We pray for, believe for, strive for a church of His Presence, but do we truly know what that means. Flesh will find no place for its self in His Presence. When His Presence comes, self dies.
A Parasitic Leader seeks self, and most of the time does it unknowingly under the guise of ministry. Ultimately that parasite leader seems to always find the same end. The organization is left in worse shape then they found it, and the leader moves on believing that the problem was with the people.
Honestly, I’m tired, and I believe the church world is tired of these foolish and immature ways. Let us grow up to a better, wiser way. Let us build the Church of His choosing and not ours. Let us build His House, not our house. Let us seek Him and find His Vision. I assure you He has one, and is willing to share it with whoever diligently seeks.