A Dictator in the Pulpit

wolf-in-sheeps-clothing-scaled500-e1371562470325Many Baptist brothers and sisters have grieved as they witnessed a man with charisma and personality take a pastorate, preach a watered-down, feel good gospel and rapidly increase the membership roll with unregenerate people by appealing to the flesh with various programs.

Building programs invariably follow.  Congregational singing is replaced with a praise band.  Turn down the lights and turn up the sound.  Make it feel like a night club and appeal to that flesh.  Stand up and wave those hands or you’re not worshiping!

Bible study and discipleship are no longer necessary.  They’re replaced with small groups, life groups, recovery groups, and basketball leagues.  The more we conform to the world the more comfortable they will feel when they visit.  If they see that there’s no difference between us and them maybe they’ll come back!

The church constitution, by-laws and covenants have to go.  Way too restrictive on a pastor that only has the good of the flock in mind.  Business meetings are just a waste of time and no longer necessary.  We can do all the Lord’s business with committees packed with the pastor’s friends.   Just trust him.

Ready for more staff members?  You’ll need a Search Committee and a Personnel Committee but don’t worry about travel expenses for them.  The pastor knows a great candidate.  Don’t worry about the candidate’s doctrine or morals.  Just trust the pastor.  No need for the church to discuss and vote.  Pastor’s friends on the committee will take care of vetting and hiring.   They will be sure to let you know if anything comes up that requires your attention.

Have an issue with any of that?  Just meet with the pastor and he’ll set you straight real quick.  His work here is not done until he can retire with full benefits, anoint his replacement, assume the position of Pastor Emeritus and continue to run the show.

A few weeks ago the Lord providentially used a brother to provide me with a small book entitled “God’s Blueprint For A Church”.  The book authored by Kenneth H. Good in 1974.  I wish I had read it 20 years ago.

The following excerpt struck me.  May the Lord be pleased to use it for His glory and the good of His flocks.

Baptists who insist too strongly on the “authority” of the pastor, especially where this tendency has been allowed to develop into a virtual dictatorship, may find themselves ensnared in an unbiblical situation which (apart from the liturgy and the ceremony) more closely resembles the Roman Catholic parish than it does the true church sovereignty of the New Testament.

This has been well stated in Strong’s Systematic Theology. He says, “Hence the pastor’s duty is to develop the self-government of the church. The missionary should not command but advise. That minister is most successful who gets the whole body to move, and who renders the church independent of himself.  The test of his work is not while he is with the church, but after he leaves.  Then it can be seen whether he has taught them to follow him, or to follow Christ; whether he has led them to the formation of habits of independent Christian activity, or whether he has made them passively dependent upon himself”.

Among orthodox or Fundamental Baptists a strong tendency has arisen within recent times toward the development of the concept of pastoral dictatorship.  This has been fostered by those types of associational fellowships which emphasize Sunday School evangelism to the virtual exclusion of expository preaching.  It is often recommended by those para-church organizations which major in the promotional techniques of modern business more than in the worship and faith of the local churches.  Strong leadership from the top has been demonstrated as successful in the modern business world.  This philosophy has been too often adopted by pastors with a “program”.  It has been allowed to flourish where the local churches were inexperienced in anything other than this form of ecclesiastical philosophy.

Young graduates from the schools which specialize in this methodology and replete with plans and programs which they have absorbed from the conferences which promote them so glibly often invade a local church with a “program”.  A key ingredient to these schemes is usually the dynamic leadership of the pastor who must assume virtual command of all that transpires for the execution of his “program”.  The plan often bears more resemblance to the promotional work of the local automobile sales agency than it does to the example of the church in the Scriptures.  Great emphasis is placed upon “success” which is usually interpreted in terms of numbers   To make the program “work” the pastor is usually required to become “the man in charge” in a way which hardly resembles the shepherd of the flock, but more like “the boss” in the sense employed in the modern business.  Adherents of this philosophy in church life (pastors) will probably become dictators.  Followers of the general religio-cultural pattern (church members) will provide the way for such pastors to become dictators.  When this combination exists, as it does in large sections of the Baptist constituency in America, the New Testament pattern of local church autonomy will be seriously strained, if not broken altogether.

Sound familiar?  It’s all too common.  It’s just not Scriptural.

What does the Lord Jesus demand (not expect – demand) of His under shepherds?

Three times the Lord Jesus commanded Peter to feed His lambs and sheep in John 21.

Paul told the Ephesians in chapter 4 that the purpose of the pastor-teacher is to equip the saints for the work of the ministry, to build up the body of Christ.

Peter exhorted the elders in 1 Peter 5 that it is their responsibility to feed the flock of God (teach them doctrine), diligently watch over the flock (protect them from false doctrine) and to not attempt to lord it over the flock (humility), but live their lives as examples to the them (servant leadership).

We have a responsibility as members of a local church to pray for our pastors.

We also have the responsibility to oppose dictators and require them to obey the commands of Christ.

If you’ve got one in your church act decisively.  Before it’s too late.

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About Greg Coleman

I am a Particular Baptist who affirms the absolute sovereignty of the triune Godhead in all things. The fullness of the Godhead dwells in the God-man Jesus Christ. He is the Creator, Sustainer, Redeemer, Disposer and Judge of all that ever was, is now or ever shall be. Jesus Christ is the only mediator between God and men. He was made to be sin for his people and saved them from their sins by his substitutionary, sacrificial death on the cross thereby satisfying the justice and wrath of God against them. The sufficiency of his death to the satisfaction of God’s justice is proven by his physical resurrection from the dead and enthronement in glory at the right hand of the Father. Jesus Christ is coming again to judge the living and the dead. Every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.
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12 Responses to A Dictator in the Pulpit

  1. michael falsia says:

    What is so surprising about a charismatic Pastor in a sovereingn grace Baptist church? The Reformed Baptists have always held a weak and false view o f this modern day heresy? It was only a matter of time before something of this nature would take place! We have charismatic calvinists everywhere today which is a sign of the times! Sola Scriptura what’s that? It is becoming a relic of the past quite rapidly? And few seem to be aware of Satans latest delusion! May God preserve His true Assemby!

  2. Dave Dunbar says:

    Good article, well worth heeding.

    Note, though, that a dictator may avoid some of the worldly things mentioned, and preach expository sermons. A guy like this can come from a good seminary, and hold to sound doctrine, and still be an autocrat. He attempts to nullify the influence of other elders/pastors, and if they aren’t his “yes”-men, he’ll attempt to run them off. I’ve seen it. By the grace of God, we did act decisively, and after an extremely painful 4 months, he was gone. Sadly, he remains in unrepentant sin. Any so-called pastor that acts like a dictator needs to be confronted, and if there isn’t repentance, removed, because he is unqualified.

    • Greg Coleman says:

      Dave,

      Excellent point. The wolves can attack from any direction on the compass.

      My experience and observation is confirmed by your comment regarding “yes men”. The men I’m addressing have an uncanny ability to surround themselves with sycophants.

      I am thankful that the Lord providentially allowed the church you attend to remove the man before he could could establish himself an fortify his position. I pray that your comment will be an encouragement to all who are struggling with a dictatorial pastor.

  3. I’ve experienced many fundamentalist dictators as I grew up IFB. We were taught to see “the man of God” like a prophet of Old.

    I am a strong proponent of Elder rule, but also congregationalism.

    As an interesting side note, I used to attend the church that Kenneth Good pastored. It is (very sadly) no longer a Baptist church. A Master’s Seminary grad took over the pastorate and changed the name to “Grace Church”. That church is today still strongly Calvinistic, expository, and following the old ways (thank God). They are decidedly NOT congregational, but the Elders are some of the best Christian men I’ve met.

    Nice post, brother!

    • Greg Coleman says:

      Andrew,

      Thanks for taking time to comment. Small world, huh? Were you and Kenneth Good at the church at the same time?

      A young pastor described his take on what good ecclesiology looks like by using an automobile metaphor: “The pastors are the steering wheel and the congregation is the brakes”. Basically, if the pastors felt led in a particular direction and the congregation does not, it’s a definite indicator not to proceed immediately. I like that picture.

      God bless and keep you.

      • I was not there when Pastor Kenneth Good was there, but all of the older folks knew him. The current pastor has the same last name and might be the most godly man I’ve ever met.

        I read a few of his old books when I was attending there…

        I really like AH Strong’s writing on Congregationalism. He writes that often heresy comes from the seminary down in the pulpit, not from the pew to the pulpit. Often, it is the congregation that holds to the old ways. I’ve never heard your metaphor before, but I think it is true. In general, I think that when members are added or removed from the body, the body should speak. I think finances should also be open to scrutiny. Personal matters should be dealt with behind closed doors and public matters should be discussed publicly.

        Every anti-congregationalist argues that congregational churches split over the carpet color and wall paper – I wonder if that has actually ever happened???

      • A few interesting notes about Kenneth Good’s church…

        1) From what I understand, Pastor Good originally pastored in the NJ area. He had a church with several Dutch immigrant families who ‘converted’ to the Baptist faith under his teaching. One of those families moved to several different regions of the US establishing businesses and later settled in Oberlin, Ohio. They looked all over the area for a Baptist church and by God’s Providence, found that brother Good had planted a church in the very area only a few years before. The descendants of that original family still make up the majority of people attending that church today.

        2) Members of that original family are close personal friends with John MacArthur and he preaches there occasionally, even though he doesn’t travel much any longer. I’ve met him. It’s a great thrill to hear a great preacher like him in such a small church!

      • One last note, brother…

        I really like the blog! Please keep up the good work and may God bless it for His glory!

        Andrew

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