Do you trust your church’s leadership?

by K.W. Leslie, 25 August

If not, you need to do something about it.

Either you trust your pastor and your church’s leadership structure, or you really don’t. Ain’t no third option.

You may claim there is so a third option; that I’ve made this sound like a black-and-white issue when there are plenty of shades of gray. Y’see, we trust everyone up to a point—because everyone but Jesus is fallible. So we trust the leadership of our church to a point. After all, the devil’s constantly on the prowl, 1Pe 5.8 tempting church leaders to fumble and fail, so we gotta be on our guard constantly, lest we crash and burn right along with ’em.

Okay, in principle I have no issue with this reason. Makes sense. Seems consistent with the Christian principle of testing everything. 1Th 5.21

But in practice, it becomes an excuse for holding a church at arm’s length. In practice, it’s not that Christians trust their leaders for the time being, yet stay vigilant lest they slip up: They stay disconnected. Uncommitted. Ready to bail at the first sign of trouble. Heck, at the first sign of discomfort.

Sometimes for good reason. If you’ve been burned by church before, I don’t blame you at all for being slow to trust your new church. But just as often it’s for entirely selfish reasons: We don’t wanna recognize any church leader’s authority in our lives. We don’t wanna be accountable to anyone. We don’t wanna submit to one another out of reverence for Christ Jesus. Ep 5.21 Easier to never recognize ’em as authorities in the first place, and disguise our fear of commitment as “discernment.” Well, I call rubbish.

Relationships require trust.

When we don’t trust someone, we’re never gonna have a deep relationship with them.

You’ve seen how this fact has shattered many a friendship, many a marriage. All these relationships are superficial at best. The lack of trust means every relationship will be an acquaintance, never a friend. In Christianity, it means these folks will never be actual sisters and brothers in Christ; just fellow church attendees. And when it comes to church leadership, it means these leaders will always be “the pastors,” never “my pastors.”

Oh, we might call ’em “my pastors,” but we’re using that label wrong. Which’ll become obvious the moment they test our faith. As soon as they ask or expect us to do something—a task which requires trust on our part—but we don’t trust ’em, we’re gonna balk. They’re gonna be disappointed. And so much for our “relationship,” such as it was.

You realize our relationships with God require this level of trust? He wants us to trust him enough to actually obey his commands.

No, not explain ’em away as “how things ran in the old dispensation, but not today.” Nor “how things’ll be in heaven, but not yet.” Nor “not literally what God wants; it’s just the principle of the thing, you know.” Nor even “We live under grace, so God doesn’t even expect anyone to obey him anymore, ‘for all have sinned.’ ” Ro 3.23

Pick your favorite lame-ass excuse for disobedience. Plenty of teaches not only accept it; some of ’em even teach it. It’s the very reason these churches struggle to get their people to do anything. When our leaders teach us how to evade responsibility, they shouldn’t be so surprised when nobody ever accepts any.

If they’re this kind of dysfunctional towards God, stands to reason they’re gonna be this kind of dysfunctional towards one another. If they don’t love God enough to obey him, of course they’re not gonna love one another enough to do for one another.

Well, unless they’re offered bribes. Like “God’ll give you an extra-special blessing if you trust him enough to pitch in.” Extra jewels in your crown when Jesus returns. Bigger mansions in heaven. If they’re into the Prosperity Gospel, they’ll promise God’ll grant us material wealth now… instead of, or in addition to, material wealth in Kingdom Come. Contrast this with how Jesus described those people who recognize they only did what was expected of ’em. Lk 17.10 Not as many of those as there oughta be.

But I digress. Point is, if we don’t trust Jesus, of course we don’t trust our leadership. We’ll pretend we trust Jesus but do nothing to follow him; we’ll pretend we’re participants in our churches but only attend Sunday morning services and contribute little more. All talk, no actions. As usual.

Have your leaders given you reason to not trust them?

Here’s the messed-up thing: I’ve known Christian leaders who really don’t deserve anyone’s trust. Their interpretations of the scriptures are self-serving and shallow. They’re manipulative, deceitful people. And the people of their churches know you can’t trust a thing their pastors and elders said. Yet, dumbfoundingly, they kept going to their church!

Why? Because “the Holy Spirit didn’t tell us we can leave,” they explained.

Um… yeah he did. You know those books he inspired, which we collectively call bible? In one of ’em, Paul described which sort of people are qualified to lead. 1Ti 3.1-13 If your church isn’t led by such people, it’s not obeying the Holy Spirit. Not following Jesus. Following, instead, fleshly, fruitless cranks. It’s what we’d call a cult. Get out.

The Spirit shouldn’t have to repeat his own scriptures. We should have enough commonsense to recognize these churches have gone horribly wrong, leave before they ruin us, and go find a church which does follow the Spirit.

True, there are cases where the Spirit orders people to stay in godless churches. It’s because he’s about to knock the leaders down, and needs people in the group who can step up at that time, and lead the rest back into the light. If that scenario’s playing out, and he’s tapped you to be there for that reason, you’re in for a really rough time. I don’t envy you.

But most of the Christians who use the excuse, “The Spirit hasn’t told me to leave”—well, that’s more rubbish. They’re lazily accepting the horrible status quo, ’cause it’s easier than actually following Jesus, and standing up for what’s right and godly. If you’re in a cult, get out.

Okay. Cults are a worst-case scenario. Let’s get back to the usual situation: People are in a church, and struggle to trust and follow the leadership. Even though they really do have the sort of character Christian leaders are required to have. So, why? What’s the holdup?

True, they might rub you the wrong way. I’ve met plenty of Christians who—let’s be honest—are kinda creepy. Sometimes because they’re hypocrites, and they’re faking joy when they’re sad, faking rightness when they’re struggling with sin, faking patience, faking kindness, faking all sorts of spiritual fruit. The fakery looks creepy. You’d be quite right to not trust such people.

Often we’re the hypocrites, so what’s creeping us out is their authenticity. Or we’ve falsely presumed they’re putting on an act too.

But the usual deal is we have trust issues. We don’t trust anyone. Not even God. So of course we don’t trust them.

It’s something we absolutely need to get over. We need to stop figuring we’ll never get hurt when we preemptively stay away. We need to risk relationship. Yeah, they’ll fail us; that’s what people do. When that happens, we need to grant ’em the very same grace God grants us.

I know; that’s a big hurdle for some people. Pray for help. Work on it.