Monday Morning Insights

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    Pastor, how important is credibility?

    Pastor, how important is credibility?

    We're having a great discussion over yesterday's post about whether or not a pastor who is discovered to have an addiction should be fired.  In the discussion, Cal Habig brought up a great point (I think) when he says that pastors who find themselves in these types of situations have not lost their ABILITY to shepherd the flock, but have instead lost their CREDIBILITY to lead the flock.

    I think this is a great point.  Much of the discussion yesterday revolved around whether or not a pastor involved in some type of addiction (alcohol is the specific one we're discussing) should resign, be fired, or be left in the position while he seeks treatment.

    I think a case could be made for each one of those scenarios, according to the church involved, the severity of the addiction, and the heart of the addicted.

    But Cal's point is this:  more important than whether a pastor who's dealing with this should have his job or not, when does he lose his credibility to lead?  And once the credibility is gone, it's probably best for the leader AND the church for him to move on (regardless of how great a Bible teacher he is or his other ability to lead).

    When credibility is lost, so is the core effectiveness of the leader.

    So... let's take this situation we talked about yesterday.  A pastor is found to be hiding an addiction to alcohol for years; and is only found out when he has a very serious liver problem.  

    Has this pastor lost his ability to lead?  Probably not.  He's been leading with this problem... evidently for years.

    Has this pastor lost his credibility with the congregation?  I would argue:  absolutely.

    The first thought many people have is:  what else has he been hiding.  And when he preaches the Word, some people are thinking:  "Yeah... but..."

    This, more than any other reason, I think, is why a pastor caught in a public addiction or sin must step down, at least for a time.

    The response of the leader involved in this situation is vitally important.  Hopefully, I'll dive into that tomorrow here at MMI.

    Credibility and trust can be restored.  But it will take time.  And in this case, probably lots of it.  And I'm not sure it can be done while the pastor remains in his position.

    What are your thoughts?

    Is there a difference in having the ABILITY and having the CREDIBILITY to lead a church?

    When a leader loses CREDIBILITY, what should he do?  And how should he do it?






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    1. Will on Wed, November 03, 2010

      I believe that there is absolutely a difference and I would probably argue that in some cases the personal ability to lead contributed to the problem in the first place.  A trustworthy leader is far more valuable to the church (or any organization for that matter) than an extremely gifted leader.  Once you’ve lost the trust of the majority of you people then you have lost your ability to lead

    2. Peter Hamm on Wed, November 03, 2010

      Yes there is!

      But if you all knew everything about my life and my heart, you’d probably say I don’t have the credibility… it is very hard to define. Some would argue that only perfectly healthy people can lead.

      I’ve never met one of those in the flesh. Neither have you…

    3. Todd Rhoades on Wed, November 03, 2010

      Agree, Peter… BUT…

      (you knew there had to be a but)...

      Credibility is not what you think about yourself, but rather what others think about you.

      Once a leader has lost his credibility with those he is trying to serve… game over.



    4. Jesse Phillips on Wed, November 03, 2010

      Thanks for this discussion, Todd. You are tremendous at discussing important issues & getting to the heart of the matter!

      Here’s what really disturbs me: it’s really easy to hide addictions, put on a good face & preach a good message.  It’s easy to not be a very good follower of Jesus, but to preach like you are. 

      I think this is a fundamental error in the way we do church.  I think preaching is insufficient to make people more like Jesus.  But it’s our favorite way of doing church, to sit and listen to a sermon. 

      Rather I believe we need to be mentored by godly men & women who deny themselves, pick-up their cross & follow Jesus, who have victory over sin, who love God & their neighbor & their enemy. They may not necessarily be gifted leaders, communicators, vision casters. And I don’t believe they can effectively do this by just talking a message at us once a week.

      I agree, you can’t effectively lead a church if you’ve lost credibility. And I think probably far too many leaders of our churches don’t have credibility, we just don’t know it yet - because of the somewhat impersonal, one-directional nature of the way we do church. They’re just upfront b/c they talk good & look good.

    5. Peter Hamm on Wed, November 03, 2010

      I agree, Todd. Which makes it worse…

      Probably why we pastors keep so much of our lives private, eh? What I mean is, I don’t know what YOU might consider takes my credibility away and I don’t know what the guy sitting next to you might. (What if I voted democratic yesterday… some would want me out of the church if I did that…)

      So do I try to make everybody happy so I don’t lose my job, rendering me unable to provide for my family, since I know first-hand just how long and difficult a task it is to find a ministry position? how many people do I share my real struggles with, my real doubts with, my real “lost” battles? For many pastors, they’ve learned from experience that the answer is none.

      It’s a right strawy problem, isn’t it. And it explains why a man who needs help with something might keep it to himself and his own devices rather than get into some real accountability.

      There are only 2 or 3 people in the whole world I’d share a major “potentially-career-or-at-least-job-ending” problem with. And maybe only one of them is in my church.

      So how much of my credibility is fake? Don’t misunderstand me, I believe I’m called and qualified to lead, but this question of “how good is good enough” needs to stop being answered so differently for leaders than followers. Yes, I agree that leaders are held to a higher standard, but the standard that many want to set is far beyond ludicrous.

    6. Peter Hamm on Wed, November 03, 2010

      Jesse writes [I think preaching is insufficient to make people more like Jesus.]

      YES! THIS!

    7. Leonard on Wed, November 03, 2010

      I think my credibility as a leader is found in an authentic working out of my own salvation in the midst of my church.  It is not found in my success as a Christan. 

      I think me sinning is expected by most of my people, God certainly said I would struggle with it.  Handling sin is what my folks look at.  How do I handle my own, how will I handle theirs is what brings credibility.

    8. Todd Rhoades on Wed, November 03, 2010

      Peter, you bring up a great point.

      In the church, the credibility of the leader is often tied to the necessity of the income the position provides.

      That means that rather than be open about problems, habits, addictions, bad relationships, struggles, and fears; most pastors hide them because they’re fearful for their job.

      And with no job, there is no livelihood.  No way to provide for the family.

      And… let’s be honest.  Many pastors don’t have a great option for a second career path.

      Many pastors have only pastored.

      So when addictions, sins, struggles, occur… they’re screwed.

      Nowhere to turn.  Only 2 options:

      1.  Be authentic; get help, and hope that you don’t lose your job (which you probably will); or

      2.  Don’t let anyone know about your struggles, addictions, and sin so that you can continue to provide for your family and save them and yourself all the humiliation.

      Neither are good situations.

      That’s why sin in the pastor’s life is SO ugly.

      With either decision above, you’re vulnerable.  And you lose credibility.

      So… you’d best find a way to live the life you’re preaching every day.  If consequences of not doing so are catastrophic to you, your family, and your church.


    9. CS on Wed, November 03, 2010


      “Credibility is not what you think about yourself, but rather what others think about you.”

      A pastor can lose credibility through a variety of non-sinful circumstances, from using church funds in a way that the congregation did not like, to preaching on a subject that challenges the flock.  That’s why we shouldn’t be focused necessarily on, “ability,” or, “credibility,” so much as we should be focused on, “biblical qualifications.”  This is a matter of matching those standards laid out in 1 Timothy and Titus.

      And after reading yesterday’s thread focusing on, “addictions,” I think we need to ditch that word and instead use the biblical word of, “sin,” once more.  Pornography, alcohol, idolatry, lust—these are all sins.


    10. Todd Rhoades on Wed, November 03, 2010

      CS -

      No problem with calling addictions sins.

      I could very well argue that just because you have biblical qualifications doesn’t guarantee that you have credibility.

      And biblical qualifications doesn’t mean that you have any leadership skill at all.

      Many churches will close this year.  And a good percentage of them will have leaders that are biblically qualified.

      Don’t get me wrong… I am actually arguing for pastors to be biblically qualified; and major sin is, in fact, a disqualification.  That’s actually my point.

      There has to be balance for an effective church leader.  Ability and Credibility.  And it has to line up with scripture.


    11. Cliff on Wed, November 03, 2010

      Excellent thoughts and comments by everyone.

      Definitely credibility is different than ability. That’s what I think is behind the character essentials for elders mentioned in 1 Timothy 3. Yes, they have to be “able to teach” (ability), but that has to matched with a life “above reproach.” (credibility)

      I agree with Peter’s description of the dilemma…to a point. As a senior pastor, I experience these pressures, but I don’t ever want to be driven simply by the notion of keeping my job for financial reasons alone. People in other work sectors lose their jobs all the time and are faced with tremendous problems in finding another one or (especially in this economy), having to retrain and switch career paths. I think we as pastors, if we find ourselves ousted or (better) having resigned, need to avoid the self-pitying mode and do whatever is necessary to find another job. Maybe that’s just easy for me to say because I’ve not been in that position, but I’d like to think that, after a period of mourning and probably deep depression, I’d get to work supporting my family.

      I also agree and disagree with Jesse’s comments. People are not changed ONLY by preaching, but I wouldn’t say they are changed by LESS than preaching. “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” (2 Timothy 4:2)

    12. CS on Wed, November 03, 2010


      “I could very well argue that just because you have biblical qualifications doesn�t guarantee that you have credibility.”

      That was exactly what I said in how extrabiblical things could affect credibility.  But credibility, except for in the biblical sense (1 Timothy 3:7), should not necessarily be the measurement for someone getting relieved of their duties of pastor.

      “And biblical qualifications doesn�t mean that you have any leadership skill at all.”

      According to 1 Timothy 3:4, leadership, in the context of ruling one’s house, is a biblical qualification.  But it’s not in the general concept of, “leadership,” that is touted today in churches where people are being taught that they need to lead, lead, lead.

      “There has to be balance for an effective church leader.  Ability and Credibility.  And it has to line up with scripture.”

      How do you define, “effective,” here?


    13. Todd Rhoades on Wed, November 03, 2010

      Well… not having your church close would be a start.



    14. CS on Wed, November 03, 2010


      “Well� not having your church close would be a start.”

      Here’s a conundrum: if you were totally obedient to God and what He declares that you, as pastor, should be doing, yet people leave your church and it has to close, were you effective?


    15. Todd Rhoades on Wed, November 03, 2010


      I don’t think that’s a reasonable scenario.

      First of all, the pastor is the only one who was obedient to God?  Everyone else left and wasn’t?  Doesn’t seem possible to me.

      I appreciate you wanting me to qualify the word ‘effective’.

      Here’s a try.

      The church in Acts 2 added to their numbers daily.  That’s AT LEAST 365 in growth in a year.  That’s some pretty aggressive results (or effectiveness) I would say.

      On second thought, I’ll leave the definition of effectiveness to God, I guess.

      There are 300,000 churches in America.  I think most of the pastors of most of those churches feel they are doing what they should be doing.

      Yet very few churches are growing.  Few churches are reaching new people.  Few churches are growing the people they have in a way that changes much of anything..

      Do you think most churches are effective?

      Are most pastors effective?

      You tell me.


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