Scot McKnight on Pastors Who Groom Others for a Power Culture Shaped by Fear

Image: Photo by Marina Vitale on Unsplash

A young Christian entering into ministry once told me that his principal Christian mentor informed him that he (the mentor) had the “gift of intimidation.” Gulp. Power leaders with the so-called gift of intimidation, which is not a gift but a strategy for aggrandizing power through fear, make up the world of politics and business.

And, at times, the church.

Add to this strategy the make-up of a narcissist and you have a toxic church culture that may well appear to everyone as successful, strategic, innovative, observably Christian and biblical, and worthy of emulation. Once the curtains are pulled back, and one might have to say IF the curtains are pulled back, what was observably Christian and biblical becomes ugly, unChristian, unbiblical, and contrary to the gospel.

Pastors who are power-through-fear leaders groom people into their power and fear culture. Here are some of the noticeable features of that grooming. Power, and Laura and I develop this more in our book (A Church called Tov), has the capacity to diminish a person’s ability to empathize and care and make persons reckless and care-less (other than for their own power).

Eight elements of a power-through-fear culture:

  1. Power becomes invested, knowingly or not, intentionally or not, in a single person, the pastor.
  2. The pastor’s approval becomes the only meaningful approval in the leadership and staff. Remember, that for some people the pastor’s approval is God’s approval.
  3. Those approved by the pastor (and his inner circle of approvers) experience status enhancement. “If the pastor approves me, I must be somebody.” In power through fear cultures an inner circle of the approved is formed and those inside know they are special. They are special because they are approved. Hear this: a message of unconditional love by God is thwarted by a pastor who approves of others conditionally. This is nothing less than grooming for the pastor’s power. We don’t need inner circles in churches who are inner because they’ve been groomed to be insiders.
  4. Power pastors have a blade that cuts on both sides: it provides status enhancement on one side and status diminishment on the other.

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Source: Christianity Today