Team Based – Pastor Led leadership avoids the pitfalls of vanity and believing the pastor is or has to be always right.
By Danny Zachariah, Pastor and Regional Director India Sub Continent
As our denomination continues to discuss healthy leadership, a phenomenon leaders should be wary of is, what I would call, the “Infallibility” syndrome. This is when a leader tends to rate his or her competence so highly that they manage to convince themselves that they are very unlikely to, or even worse, never, make mistakes. It is easy to default to our old pastor-centric model, in which we could continue to convince ourselves, “God called me to this post; therefore, I know what’s best.” Sometimes this syndrome is also fed by those who surround the leader. People who only agree with the leader, indulging in hype and appeals to emotion to stroke his or her ego of indispensability, could dupe the leader into believing they have more answers, information, or knowledge than they do, leading to this infallibility syndrome.
It is more than evident through human experience that only one human has ever been infallible; his name is Jesus. The rest of us need others to achieve any kind of success in ministry and mission. We can try to be infallible or be the answer man. But sooner or later, we all must face up to the fact there is much we don’t know, and there is much we don’t know that we don’t know. Taking a leaf out of ancient Israel’s history of their repeated fallible behaviour, Paul reminded believers in Corinth that “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” (1 Corinthians 10:12). Leaders must specifically be wary of this attitude of mind.
Leaders who fall into the pit of an infallible paradigm will generate systems of domination, coercion, and control. In extreme cases, they can delude themselves into thinking even their “wrongdoing” remains anointed by God. Some church leaders in sex scandals simply managed to delude themselves and carried on their harm and abuse, thinking they had a “right to be wrong.”Read More
Rejecting all criticism. Though some criticisms may not be fair, the tendency to not tolerate any and all criticism that comes our way could be coming from an infallibility complex. Dealing with criticism is never easy, but sometimes those “wounds” may be essential to help us correct ourselves and grow (Proverbs 27:6). There are times when the Holy Spirit may be prompting us to consider the error of our ways and using someone else to help point it out. We must never allow the “stiff-necked” attitude of infallibility lead us to ignore or resist the Holy Spirit (Acts 7:51). From time to time God, in his love for us, directs criticism to churches and congregational leaders to mend attitudes and behavioural patterns, as is seen clearly in Revelation 2 & 3. Acknowledging mistakes and being “easy to be intreated” (easily asked, not stubborn or sour), is a sign of a healthy leader, not a weak one (James 3:17).
Finding fault repeatedly. This is the flip side of the earlier point – taking delight in finding fault with others. As humans, we usually don’t like our faults pointed out to us, but interestingly, many don’t mind being critical of others – even going to the extreme of being hypercritical. If we are prone to seeing the negative in what others do, or are continuously fault-finding and pointing fingers, we need to ask ourselves why. This could be coming out of an intolerance that is fed by thinking we are infallible. Niranjan Sheshadri, in his article, “Why do we seek to find fault with others?” said, “Fault finding is a clever device of the ego … When we find fault with others, there is a silent inference that we are better.”
Leaders must indeed have a critical mind to enable us to see genuine shortfalls in others, but Godly criticism must come out of truth and love. Faults that do need to be brought to attention are always done with grace – always seeking what is best for the other person. It is never done to demean, belittle, or patronize. A humble, caring leader will avoid being “quarrelsome” (2 Timothy 2:24). To borrow a phrase from A Giant Step Forward, “Grace corrects without destroying” (p.61). The “affirming” leader is one known for “calling up” good instead of calling out mistakes.
Hiding personal insecurities. Deep seated insecurities sometimes drive some to put on the brave face of infallibility. Needing to be right always, not readily considering other’s points of views, inauthenticity, never being apologetic, and remaining in a perpetual state of denial, are all signs of personal insecurities that are probably being hidden under the carpet of appearing infallible. The way to turn this around is to be aware of insecurities that cripple our progress. Be honest to face them and even confess them. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable. Be willing to acknowledge there is much we don’t know, and there is even more that we don’t know we don’t know. James encourages us to confess our sins one to another (James 5:16). An excellent tool from CORE that will help us to deal with this is “know yourself to lead yourself.” Like you, I need that mirror to be held up time and again so that I know what it is like to be on the other side of me!
Peter’s exhortation to fellow elders should be the paradigm for church leadership:
Care for the flock that God has entrusted to you. Watch over it willingly, not grudgingly—not for what you will get out of it, but because you are eager to serve God. Don’t lord it over the people assigned to your care, but lead them by your own good example. 1 Peter 5:2-3, NLT