They were the most difficult words anyone could hear as a pastor. They were the truth but they were also wrong. They were fundamental to his ability to do his job but they were also destructive to his ability to do his job in a Godly way. The easiest solution was to leave the church, but this would not address the issue, although it would make sure it wasn’t his problem. He could do as he was told, but this would be against his morals and would allow the existing problem to continue and maybe get worse. He could fight for what he believed to be right, but this could lead to the end of his job without the problem being addressed. The one thing that was clear, it could not be ignored.
He pays your salary – If you want to keep your job, you will let this go.
He sat down with his senior pastor to discuss the belly rubs a youth leader was receiving from the female youth, his kisses on their cheeks and extended hugs, his invitations to sit in his lap followed by pulling the girls into his lap and his constant flirting. It should have been an easy fix, make the leader change his behaviour and if he didn’t, ask him to leave. Instead, the senior pastor informed him that there was nothing more that could be done if the youth leader didn’t want to change because, “he made the donation that pays your salary.” Not only did this youth leader make the salary donation but he also had made up the church’s considerable budget shortfall every year.
It needs to be made clear that there were no formal accusations brought forward against this youth leader. The parents might have said something if they knew what was going on but this type of behaviour only took place at youth group. Because the youth leader was given respect and position by the senior pastor, they had no reason to think anything was going on that should not be going on. What could he do? He felt he couldn’t leave in case it got worse. He could not stay without doing anything. He could not fight against what he believed was wrong because he would be fired and the female youth would still be at risk. The only thing he could do was stay and keep a close eye on the youth leader.
This situation is a rare occurrence that illustrates the dangers of financial survival dictating church policy. I shared this story with a friend of mine and he summed it up with a shocking statement that went something like this, ‘that senior pastor is like a pimp, taking money in exchange for the right to have inappropriate interactions with young girls.’
What’s For Sale at Your Church?
Your church hopefully will never see anything this drastic. I believe, however, that pastors and church leaders must ask themselves, “who are we pimping our church out to?” In other words, what does money buy in our church? It may not be intentional but most of us do not look at all the people in the church the same way. We can’t help rewarding those who give lots of time and/or money with power and position. We can find it hard to speak out against bad behaviour or theology when it could mean a hit to the church budget. It is human nature to play favourites but human nature is not often in line with God’s nature.
Is your church exchanging money for favours (a crude way of putting it, but a necessary question)?
- Is the leadership made up of those with the biggest earning potential?
- Who gets the leadership’s ear when there is a concern or complaint?
- Does the leadership consider the potential financial impact on the church before it addresses a situation?
Maybe our human point-of-view of how the church should run is upside down. How many pastors or church leaders would pick a ragtag bunch of guys like the disciples to present the most important message ever? They could not fund the undertaking and they did not possess the education to oversee it, but the Creator of the universe saw fit to use them in ways that had previously been reserved for the religious elite. What’s for sale in your church and how has it effected the way you operate?