Inside the church there are leaders who are wolves. They use their power and position to abuse the sheep. They keep young leaders from making a difference by intimidation, limiting communication, changing the rules, hoarding resources and by getting you to respond with emotion and then calling it sin (even though Jesus responded in anger at the abuse of power). I know this is true because I have seen it and experienced it when I was younger. I believe I could tell many stories at this point but this one is a quick one. When I was in my twenties and working in the youth ministry, the pastor at my church preached a sermon on the Garden of Eden and said the reason we can’t find the entrance today is because it’s guarded by angels. This was not the first time the pastor had said something ridiculous. I had no access to the pastor so I asked an elder about the issue. All I did was ask if he heard the comment. He told me the pastor never said that. I told him I heard it clearly and everyone was talking about the comment and clearly he said it. The elder again told me he never said it or anything about the garden entrance. I walked away in disbelief. A few months later I was helping that same elder through a hard time with the death of a friend. We had gotten close because of this death so I asked him again about what the pastor said and he admitted that he said it and that the elders had decided to pretend like it never happened. This experience really hurt me. Having my voice and options crushed was just some of the damage this lie caused. The elders wanted to protect the pastor so they used their power and position to make a young leader think he was wrong.
What is the real cost of this behavior? Many of you are experiencing the same type of treatment. I am so sorry you are in these circumstances. I want to encourage you to not lose heart or to think God is behind these abuses of power. Church leaders need to have positions of respect and they need to be able to make hard decisions but when they use their position and power to stay in their position they will soon do wrong. What can young leaders do when they are in these positions?
1. Stand up and speak the truth in love
Do not be afraid because you are young, or because they pay your salary. The church is only going to change when people stand up against abuse of power. This is dangerous business and you need to be very humble as you stand up. You will also want to make sure your walk and your talk are the same. If you have been taking short-cuts or you have used your position improperly then your words will have no meaning.
2. Count the cost
When I was serving in my second church the pastor lied and some of the elders backed him. I left in five months. This was very hard for me and my ministry. But if I would have stayed, bitterness would have ruled my life. It was not easy, I was out of work and away from the students I loved. God was faithful and led m into new ministry that has given me so much life.
3. Pray, pray and pray
You must be in prayer over these matters. The decisions I made came through prayer, and if you have to make any decisions about abusive leaders you need to pray. Get some people outside the situation to pray with you. The only way to truly know what to do when fighting injustice is to bring it to God.
As young leaders let’s commit to never leading this way. In the next few years you will be in positions of power and authority. The church is going through a crisis of leadership and we will need a new kind of leader who can be compassionate and directive all at the same time. The old ideas of positions and power are gone. People will just leave if you lead this way, we are seeing this everywhere in our churches. We must train and equip a new generation of leaders, who think with their hearts and lead through service.