One of my strengths in ministry is also one of my greatest weaknesses. It’s this: I tend to think the best of people. I’m not trying to make myself seem better than I am. I just honestly and naturally tend to believe that people—especially people in the church—are motivated by love for God and others. I truly expect “Christian” people to act rationally, to want to get along with others, to NOT be sneaky, spiteful, resentful, or abusive. But, of course, those expectations are often dashed by people in the church.
Several years ago, the late, very gifted, preacher and pastor David Foster was one of the bloggers who lead and pastored me, even though we had never met. I recall a post which was typical of his direct and inspired thinking and communicating and one pastors do well to keep in mind:
Churches, organizations, businesses, anyplace where there is a mission and a passion to extend that mission and its influence, are places populated by people, at first, just a few true believers. And as the mission takes hold, and as you grow larger and larger, more and more people begin to populate the organization.
There are two kinds of people that hide in every church in America that will ultimately take you down. One, the bad person; two, the bored person.
There are bored people in all organizations. These people really don’t know what to do, except they do know what they want. They want credit. They want attention. They want power. But they don’t know how to get it. They can’t perform. They don’t add anything to the organization. The problem with them is they look good, sound good, smell good, and they interview great. If you’ve got bored people in your organization, get them out now, today, tonight. They will try to overthrow you. I know. I’ve had it done, and it’s painful.
The truth is bored people are easy to identify. Every bored person in one of my organizations that has ultimately hurt me I could have identified and dealt with. But I didn’t because I didn’t want to be viewed as a bad guy. And ultimately, that’s exactly what I was viewed as, because bored people have to justify their behavior by demonizing the leader.
The hard person to identify in your organization is the bad person. For those of us who are Christians, it is hard to find it in our heart that there are really any bad people. I am not talking about people who are lousy at what they do. I am talking about people who are corrupt at their heart. They have no motives. They are not motivated by power or recognition. They are just bad. And the only thing they care about is tearing things down and sowing discord, distrust, and dissension.
You probably have some bad people in your organization, at least one. If it’s a large one, maybe several. You need to guard yourself against them because they are like a cancer. They spread and they infect other people who are otherwise happy, excited, and on mission.
This is a call to my pastor brothers and leaders of America. Please don’t be naive. Be at the wheel, diligent and alert. For just as much as the Sunday morning service is your responsibility, so is the well-being of the organization, and weeding out those who would harm it. At the end of the day, it is not about the leader. It’s about the people; providing a place where they can find God, grow, and reach their full, God-ordained, God-blessed, God-given redemptive potential.
Bob Hostetler is a literary agent, an award-winning writer, editor, pastor, and speaker from southwestern Ohio. His thirty books, which include The Bone Box and American Idols (The Worship of the American Dream), have sold millions of copies. He has co-authored eleven books with Josh McDowell, including the best-selling Right from Wrong (What You Need to Know to Help Youth Make Right Choices), and the award-winning Don't Check Your Brains at the Door. He has won two Gold Medallion Awards, four Ohio Associated Press awards, and an Amy Foundation Award, among others. Bob is a frequent speaker at churches, conferences, and retreats. Bob was ordained to the ministry in 1980 by the Salvation Army and earned degrees in English Bible from Cincinnati Christian University and English Communications from Bloomfield College. In 2000, Bob (with his wife, Robin) helped to co-found Cobblestone Community Church in Oxford, Ohio. They have two children and four grandchildren. He has been a disc jockey, pastor, magazine editor, freelance book editor, and (with Robin) a foster parent to ten boys (though not all at once). They live in Hamilton, Ohio. You can follow Bob at @bobhoss.