Reading recently about the Mark Driscoll situation at Mars Hill Church as well as seeing the ongoing falling and failings of other spiritual leaders, I thought it time to become a part of the conversation.
Let me first start with stating I don’t condone ungodly or hurtful behavior from anyone toward anyone. With that being said, I don’t think it is time to move from mere condemning of the problems to seeking solutions. For the past decade I wrestled with the question of why so many in spiritual positions of authority and leadership were falling to reprehensible behavior in their lives. I often heard that they were human, just like you and I. Although true, I also knew that even humans (of faith) like you and I are called not to live this way. In addition when becoming a spiritual leader myself, I took to heart the truth that those who lead would be judged more strictly.
I discovered something else while becoming a spiritual leader that lead me to my doctoral research on how one’s status can influence their behavior. I my time as a leader in ministry, sports, education, and business, I have noticed three things: 1) Many leaders do not live and behave in the way they expect their followers to live. 2) People can drastically change when they became leaders. 3) Followers can be guilty of treated leaders differently than their fellow followers.
1. People in Power Behave Differently
When leaders get a hold of too much power and status, their behaviors begin to change. Research shows that the more power people get the more their behavior differs from those without power. Power is said to set off behavioral systems in people which moves them to pursue their desires and wants more than others with little fear of consequences. When power is high, people are more driven by what they can get rather than the consequences of their pursuits. I’ve seen leaders who made unwise decision even when warned by others. I’ve seen leaders who put themselves in situations that most would not, simply because they thought that could handle it. Lastly, I’ve seen leaders who justify their actions and are blinded to their implications of their actions on others. Power can change the way a leader sees the world.
2. People Can Change When They Get Power
Power and status seems to be the drug of choice in most churches, and business organizations. I have often experienced good people become elevated to roles of authority and suddenly become totally different people. Having others look up to you and admire you can be an intoxicating feeling and experience. It can and has changed people’s leadership to where they start leading for the feeling of being admired instead of the need for making hard choices and doing the right thing. Because of the addicting influence of being elevated in the hearts of others, many spiritual leaders (and leaders in general) have unknowingly become slaves to appeasing their followers in exchange of their approval and support. This is a dangerous trap that most spiritual leaders can’t seem to find their way out of.
3) Followers Can Worship Their Leaders
Many followers are not aware that they can actually fall into idol worship of those in spiritual positions of power. Research again shows that the more we admire a person, the more we are to champion their behavior and ideas, and the more likely we are to defend and justify their actions and behaviors. This is a dangerous recipe for wrong worship. Followers can be just as much the reason leaders fall as leaders the reason followers are manipulated or deceived.
I am convinced that many of the ungodly behaviors that happen among the spiritual leaders of our congregations are greatly influenced by the status and power they have. What many of us fail to realize is that only God can handle worship from man; man cannot. To prevent and avoid the damaging behavior among leaders we must become aware of the power of worship and it’s impact on our behavior. There is a real danger in having too much power; it can create an atmosphere that makes moral failings among those who lead and follow an inevitably sad reality among most churches.
In my latest book on Worship (spoiler alert: it’s not about music, it’s actually about worship), I bring a much-needed awareness to how easy it can be for us to worship any and everything except God. I am giving my book away free this weekend as a part of my writing on this issue today.
Free Download here:
None of the Above: The Power & Pitfalls of Worship http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00F1QVI2C/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_awdm_G6ffub1TWCMPC