The Passive-Aggressive Pastor

September 5, 2012

As the guitar sustain slowly faded and the worship leader closed the time of singing with prayer, I glimpsed the senior pastor of the church coming onto the stage. Our second visit to this church, it was the same pattern as previous service. It was announcement time. Then something happened. The house lights didn’t come up during announcements. Is this a big deal? No. At least not to me or my wife (my son, who was sleeping, probably enjoyed this all the more). But this was apparently a big deal to the senior pastor. As he steadied himself at the lectern, the pastor said something to the effect of: “sorry to all of our guests who expect light to read their bulletin. The sound guys usually turn the lights on but they aren’t doing it right now. Can you all do it? (Awkward Silence). Well I don’t know what they’re doing, but I am sure you all want some light to read…[droned on until the lights finally came up].” Mind you the lights were half-dim. Not ideal but I could easily read. If he didn’t mention it I wouldn’t have noticed. Along with his tone, the whole exchange was REALLY passive-aggressive.

Needless to say, our adventures with church hunting continue. But as the above story suggests, church hunting is about more than just someone choosing to belong. Church hunting can tell us something about the character of the church itself, even in the compressed framework of visiting once or twice.

Pastors and church experts already know this. The potential screw-ups that can happen at any given moment cause the pastor to be either proactive or reactive. Almost all choose to be proactive.  They assign more greeters, ask everyone to smile, and put tremendous effort into presentation. These pastors are responding to consumerist tendencies with a marketing scheme. This is the attractional church model, though this concentration on marketing happens at most missional churches as well.

On the flip side are the reactive pastors. These pastors choose not to prescribe a marketing campaign but look to respond to the moment as needed.  This does not mean the pastors eschew marketing, it just means it is a much lesser priority. If  there is a crisis at hand the solution is not sold or discounted, the response to the solution is with leadership.

The passive-aggressive pastor responded to a minor crisis with salesmanship, not leadership.

Have you been in a church where the response to a crisis was salesmanship, not leadership?

How can pastors begin to trust their congregations and their calling enough that they let go of control and respond in leadership?



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Thomas Turner has been blogging on Everyday Liturgy for the past six years. He enjoys reading, writing, cooking and gardening.

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