When The Pastor Becomes Bigger Than The Church
“The power coach…football and men’s basketball coaches who’ve had a record of success over a number of years and have developed a fan base and, at times, they begin to overshadow the institution itself.” – Stan Ikenberry, USA Today December 29th
The December 29th edition of USA Today had a very compelling feature on college coaches who potentially have too much power.Â So much power in fact, that the university itself may not be able to control them.Â Thus a delicate relational balance takes place.
The parallels to pastors and the churches in which in they serve is obvious.Â Here are some thoughts:
In 1988, I was a youth worker in a church running between 80-100 in weekend attendance.Â We had hired a wonderful charismatic 26-year-old pastor who remains a good friend to this day.Â Under his leadership, our sweet little church had purchased land, had vision, and was starting to rapidly grow.Â In one of our monthly business conferences, we were purging our records.Â As a church we often cited our membership of 600+ even though we could not even locate over 400 of those on roll.
An older lady whose family had a long-standing history with the church objected to the changes.Â She stated, “Do we give him (the pastor) everything he wants?”Â At which point a deacon turned and said, “Yes.”Â
I have known many influential pastors in my lifetime.Â WithÂ rare exception, I found them to be the following:
- Extremely Godly men.
- Very humble who often could not explain the success of their church except for the grace of God.
- Great people skills.Â
- Able to make tough decisions.
- Crystal clear about the church’s vision and what God has placed them in their cities to accomplish.Â Duke A. D. Kevin White when referring to Mike Krzyzewski said, “A power guy, to me, is somebody who’s only interested in advancing their own agenda.Â Mike’s is a greater-good guy.Â I think that’s how he’s wired.” – Duke A.D. Kevin White
- They desire and seek out accountability.Â This must be done in the context of relationship and not control.Â Michigan State President Lou Anna Simon says, “Tom (Izzo) and I knew each other when nobody else knew who we were.”
- Their people areÂ incredibly loyal because of what they have invested into them.Â In essence, they are reaping what they have sown.
As former Georgetown coach John Thompson said in the article, “Those people you’re talking about worked very hard to get that kind of loyalty, to get that kind of respect, to get that kind of admiration.Â And most of them are deserving of it.”
If you are fortunate enough to attend a church with a highly influential pastor, support them, resource them, give them the freedom to become everything God created them to be, and leverage them appropriately.Â Les Miles said, “There was a very firm and strong commitment to athletics – certainly football – when I arrived…The great thing is the job that I took, success was expected and supported very fully.“Â The same applies in ministry.
Also, great pastors bring more money.Â And more money allows you to do more ministry.Â When Bob Stoops arrived at Oklahoma, gateÂ receipts tripled inÂ his first seven years.Â Donations also quadrupuledÂ and overall revenue more than tripled.Â Â The school has utilized this additional revenue to improve educational programs and facilities which resulted in increased enrollment.Â Think of increased enrollment as increased attendance and life change.
In the church I attended in 1988, their greatest years were during that “power pastor’s” tenure.Â When they returned to pastors who they could control and were “more accountable”, their attendance and impact in the city plummeted.Â I’m just saying.
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