By Danny Bell
It’s no secret, and it’s becoming very popular for churches to fail massively both numerically and spiritually. If your church is experiencing healthy growth, you may be out of touch with what the world church is doing right now in the west. But don’t fear … help is here! Below are an easy accessible set of pointers that pastors can speed-dial when wanting to reduce congregational confidence in their leadership. What are we waiting for pastors? Let’s go!
1. Say ‘Yes’ when you Actually Mean ‘No’
I know … this one is a BIGGY and at the top of the list for good reason. I mean, who hasn’t waited all day for pastor to call or drop by when he said he would but never did? This is a massive confidence sapper best done right at the beginning of your ministry. Nothing says “I don’t care about you” more than a promised phone call or visit that never eventuates.
You can also use the old trusty “I’ll pray for you” line when physically helping looks difficult. It’s a great sidestep.
Discerning members will lose faith quicker than the speed of light after they see you slip away into the crowd chatting with this one and that. Nobody can judge you on this one, because they’ll never really know if you actually prayed, and quite frankly it doesn’t matter. Just keep mismatching your rhetoric with your actions. Confidence will fall and you’ll have fewer people to worry about.
Make a habit of being a “yes man”. As you interact with parishioners say ‘yes’ to everyone. Try to be the pastor that pleases, then go home and forget every encounter, except pleasant ones. Specialize in delay … say ‘yes’ but really mean ‘not now you’re boring me’. Remember, you’re the star in your own narrative … smile for the camera and move on.
2. Hold Contrary Beliefs to the Church
There are many in this list that could easily occupy top spot and this is one of them. Nothing evaporates the confidence of brethren more than a pastor who is off key with the fundamentals. Avoid difficult prophetic topics in your sermons and just preach on the “love of Jesus”. Watch those pews empty faster than you can say ‘feed my sheep’.
Cast doubt on Ellen Whites writings. Steer a compromising path through the minefield of debates on the inspiration of her work. Say things like “Mrs White was just a woman of her times” or “there are massive mistakes in her writings”. This will confuse unlearned church folk but enrage the conservatives … your ultimate goal.
Continue to take a pay cheque despite your opposite views to the church. Justify it by imagining you are on a crusade to change Adventism. If members cotton on to you, then make them targets and frustrate them with delay when they ask for answers. Avoid those who pester you about your beliefs and have only private conversations so that there are no witnesses to your heresy. Hide, delay, avoid … in that order, you will survive but your church won’t!
3. Eat Meat
Another major confidence blocker in your church you need to adopt is to go against our health message and eat animal flesh. Sounds simplistic but rest assured damage will ensue and spread out into the community surrounding your church. The subtle evil of eating meat as a pastor won’t produce instantaneous results but they will come. As members catch you at the flesh pots of Egypt, the end result will be loss of confidence among your vegetarians. Those coming in contact with the church who know its stand on vegetarianism will also be put off.
Use excuses like, “my body won’t absorb iron” or “meat is not a test of faith”. This will confuse unlearned members who will still hail you as their leader. The majority of vegetarians however will know something isn’t right when your temper tantrums produced by animal flesh begin to show. Your blood pressure will rise and you will be one of those pastors known for emotional meltdowns … awesome!
A tip for pastors transferring to the west from poorer countries. Use the SOP excuse that your circumstances require you to eat meat. Don’t let on that your country of origin was closer to the Mediterranean diet recommended by experts than your diet now reflects. Continue to frequent the Colonel (KFC) and watch those numbers decline. Go against all that Ellen White and the Bible has to say on meat because nothing sucks confidence from members more than a burger flipping pastor.
4. Become a Latte Sipper
Like eating meat, drinking coffee or tea can erode the confidence of intelligent parishioners. Going against your baptismal vows is a definite nail in the coffin for your ministry. Have a café corner in your church, stocked with your favorite narcotic so you can sip at leisure under the guise of reaching out. Church members who do the right thing and abstain will see your indifference to the health message and tune out when you speak or teach.
If they chide you about it, always bring up the trusty old “Ellen White condemned sugar and butter too” as a diversion from your drug habit. This takes the heat out of what you are doing and places guilt back onto the observer. Don’t let them know that Ellen White never condemned the outright use of sweeteners or dairy like she did with tea and coffee … nice play pastor!
5. Avoid Difficult Topics
Preach bland inoffensive sermons that cause the least waves possible. Have harmony as your ultimate goal for your church and avoid conflict like the plague. This will not only flatline congregation numbers but see you in good stead later on when you become a conference president. Remember, trouble makers don’t get picked for the top jobs, so keep your head down until you’re moved up.
Say things like, “I love my job” which will give the appearance that you are a resilient happy pastor. Most won’t know the real reason you’re on a high, that you steered your career away from difficult tasks making your ministry easy. When wise church members see through your façade, their confidence will drop like a lead balloon.
Get into the habit of saying ‘I don’t know” when asked biblically difficult questions. It’s popular to say this because it makes you look more human (a biblically illiterate one but a human nonetheless).
This will get you off the hook in most cases because in actual fact … you really don’t know, so you need an out for the hard stuff. Church members only come up to the standard of their pastors and so they’ll be biblically illiterate just like you. Their confidence will diminish and nobody will be the wiser. Fantastic!
6. Take all the Conference Junket Trips You Can
This privilege has many bonuses. Not only do you get to tour the world under the mirage of learning something, but it allows you to spend less time at your church. Weekend’s away, pastoral summits, Bible land tours … make sure you sign up for all of them and don’t tell anyone that they’re voluntary. You can fly off to be with your college buddies on a working holiday! For the most part your members will accept this as your normal role, even though you are 1000’s of miles away from your church for long periods.
The best time to do this is when you’re given a new pastorate. As your congregation gets used to you not being there during crucial decisions and events, they will soon grow weary of your absence. Confidence will fall and they’ll begin to invent slogans like “Where’s Wally?” through frustration of not knowing where you are from one week to the next. Meanwhile, when you’re out in the big blue yonder, try not to think about your church back home. Just tell yourself when you get back you will be a better pastor … go ahead and spoil yourself.
7. Be a Feminist
Most people, even women themselves can see how feminism is not about equality at all but about getting a better deal than men. All you need is to continue the hype that women in the west are hard done by and men are the brutes who need to be brought to heel. Pump the feminist mantra in your church and be a role model for young men learning how to be white knights. This will lessen the confidence of normal men and make them absent, leaving mostly passive males in your pews. Do the math, men are more conservative than women and conservative churches grow, so less men, less growth!
Promote fanatically anything to do with helping women and show men how to let their women wear the pants. Put church women on a pedestal and have as your slogan “anything men can do women can do better”. Promote women’s retreats and special days concerning women’s issues annually but have nothing for men. Give the influential jobs to women so that men are pushed out of their natural leadership roles under a new ‘equality’ vibe.
A word of wisdom here, when you see church men gathering in a corner and promoting their own issues, beware. Always view Men’s groups and their causes with suspicion. Continue to promote yourself a feminist (this will win over the gullible), and stand aloof from their misogynistic activities. Heaven knows the world church has too much testosterone already with a gender balance of 70/30 in favour of women.
Higher percentages of males in your church equal’s growth, so especially isolate alpha males and they will leave by default when they can’t abide by your salon style of pastoring. Their confidence will drop and they’ll find reasons to be elsewhere .. a perfect strategy that will have your church looking nice, but useless as teats on a bull.
8. Buy the Latest Car
Most parishioners don’t know that conferences deal very generously with their pastors in wages and remuneration. The perks from spinoffs associated with wage sacrifice can be quite lucrative … especially if your wife works. While you’re rolling in credit you have opportunity to lash out and spoil yourself at the churches expense. Be warned though, when you cruise into the church parking lot on Sabbath, you will get mixed reactions. Wealthy families will high five you but poorer brethren will feel more distant to you.
Our western church pay system harms pastoral families who often make financial decisions that shock congregants. But you need a brand new toy, it’s a pastoral tradition to turn up in a better car than your members. Don’t be afraid of people’s disappointment … if they complain, throw it back on them, that they are breaking the 10th Commandment … ouch!
9. Listen and Act on Tattle-tailers in your Church
Since biblical times we have known about the damage that this does. Even Jesus spelled out a course of action when dealing with sin in the church vs tattle-tailers. Try this little number on however, and throw a spanner in the works by creating a hotline for all the cowards in your congregation. Let them make the bullets and you fire them. Under no circumstances upset or reprimand the snitchers who come to you. They are your eyes and ears, so support them when they want to take someone down.
Bypass Jesus’ instructions in Matthew 18 and sit back and watch the havoc wreaked in your church. Ignore the warnings of the SOP and what the Church Manual has to say. Your goal is to weaken confidence and this will do it like nothing else. When the church is thinned out of those crying under the alter for justice, all you will have left is manipulators who will trade your bidding if you do theirs. A massive win!
10. Use the Board as your Power Base and not the Business Meeting
Finally who can resist taking control of the Board? For the most part, here are all the pastor worshippers gathered in one spot … a lot easier to manipulate than a full Business meeting. Try to ram through decisions in the Board that should normally go to the Business meeting. Slowly but surely give more power to the Board and just leave the Business meeting for reports of things that have already been decided.
Allow unsubstantiated reports about individual members in Board meetings. If they are present, send them outside and say “we need to talk about you”. That way, they won’t hear any accusations said against them and will never know who said it either … perfect! What they don’t know won’t hurt them, and besides, it’s tradition to discuss a person’s faults in executive meetings without their knowledge. An added bonus is that if they ever do find out what was said, their confidence in you to be even handed will plummet under a sense of injustice.
Knowledge is power and there’s no better place to gain it than church executive meetings, where speaking of others faults is legislated and encouraged. Pastor worshippers won’t see anything out of the ordinary and those who feel the sting from the ‘cone of silence’ will lose trust and make scarce.
What are you waiting for?
There you have it … all the hard work has been done by putting together this quick, easy reference guide. The brilliant thing about it is that your conference president won’t notice because almost everyone is doing it! What’s the worst thing that can happen … get transferred to another dead conference? No wonder you love your job. Get out there and be a part of the growing movement!
“When men, standing ‘in Christ’s stead’ who speak to the people God’s message of mercy and reconciliation, use their sacred calling as a cloak for selfish or sensual gratification, they make themselves the most effective agents of Satan. Like Hophni and Phinehas, they cause men to ‘abhor the offering of the Lord.’ They may pursue their evil course in secret for a time; but when at last their true character is exposed, the faith of the people receives a shock that often results in destroying their confidence in religion. There is left upon the mind a distrust of all who profess to teach the word of God. The message of the true servant of Christ is doubtfully received. The question constantly arises, ‘Will not this man prove to be like the one we thought so holy, and found so corrupt?’ Thus the word of God loses its power upon the souls of men” (Patriarchs and Prophets, 580).
Danny Bell – lives in Tasmania and has a BA Theology Degree. He has been a pastor for 6 years for the Seventh-day Adventist Church; a state School Chaplain for 2 years, a Family Court Mediator for 5 years. He has also been editor and regular contributor to papers like, Trench Mail, The Mashup and other online Adventist and Christian publications. He is a Men’s ministries pioneer helping establish it in the Adventist church in Australia and runs a small man-friendly church near his hometown. He can be contacted on his facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/adventistaustralia/ or by email: email@example.com