Why Smart Pastors Stumble


The Ministry Advantage

I just finished reading You’re in Charge–Now What by Thomas Neff and James Citrin. The book targets leaders moving into new positions. Whether or not you find yourself in a new ministry role, read this book. It’s a great read.

The last chapter alone is worth the price. The authors give ten traps for new leaders by playing off the book Why Smart Executives Fail by Sydney Finkelstein where those authors list seven destructive behaviors leaders in failing companies show.

Below, I’ve tweaked those traps to make them applicable for ministry leaders.

A pastor can fail if he…

1. sets expectations too high (by never meeting them) or too low (and thus disappointing high performing leaders in the church)
2. makes rash decisions or suffers from analysis paralysis
3. appears to have all the answers
4. ties his or her identity too closely to ministry success
5. fails to see reality (remember the fable ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes”)
6. squashes dissenting opinions and doesn’t keep his role in context (remember, we are not the savior, Jesus is)
7. misses who really holds the power (just because power roles are written down somewhere does not mean they reflect who really holds the power) tries to win every battle
8. bad-mouths the previous pastor or ministry leader

From a morals perspective, a Focus on the Family interview of HB London and Archibald Hart gives us insight in avoiding moral failure. In the interview they discussed how depression from pastoral burnout can lead to loss of vision, loss of ideals, an “I don’t care attitude,” and potentially, moral compromise. Dr. Hart described the progression of steps to moral failure using what he calls the four A’s.

1. Arrogance: I can do no wrong, I can handle life myself, I don’t need anyone
2. Adventurous addiction: I get taken with excitement and become energized with what I am doing
3. Aloneness: I become more at risk as I cut myself off from others
4. Adultery: I turn to sex as the only thing that gives me a kick that can make up for what I feel I have lost

Reflecting on these eight traps and the four A’s caused me to pause to make sure I don’t go down those paths. Often pastors and other spiritual leaders slowly move down the path of moral compromise without realizing it. The small, sub-surface issues we don’t see can lead to devastation in our lives and ministry unless we pay attention to them.

We recommend the book, 5 Ministry Killers and How to Defeat Them, which discusses this in more detail. The book shows how to become aware of these ministry killers and what to do to kill them before they kill us. Click here for a discounted copy.


This week’s article is written by Rodney Cox, President of Ministry Insights and submitted by Russ Olmon, President, Ministry Advantage. For more on this and other helpful subjects, go to www.ministryadvantage.org

For over 20 years Ministry Advantage has been one of the premier church resources that provides coaching and training for pastors and church leaders helping them turn their vision into reality.


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