Seven things that happen when pastors blame others

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This post originally appeared on Chuck Lawless’ blog on Nov. 26. 

As a pastor, I really do understand. Ministry is hard, and some people in churches never get on board. Even Jesus’ 12 disciples had one who never truly followed Jesus; in fact, he turned on the Messiah. Nevertheless, Thom Rainer showed years ago that pastors of Breakout Churches “refuse to blame others. They accept the responsibility that comes with being a leader.”

Here’s what happens when we simply blame others for ministry difficulties:

  1. We stop growing personally. That happens when the problems we face are always somebody else’s issues. We have little need to grow if the issues aren’t ours in the first place.
  2. We risk living with bitterness. We give our lives for a church, but they don’t listen, follow, or sacrifice. It’s still our job, though, so we still show up – but we’re hurting and bitter at the same time.
  3. We miss God’s hand in the difficulties. God often teaches us about Himself and about ourselves in our deepest struggles. If, however, we don’t see a need to grow — and all the problems are really others’—we miss this opportunity.
  4. We start seeing only the negative. We lose trust in other believers, and we’re always waiting for the next problem to come up. The proverbial glass is always half empty; it’s tough to see anything good that God is doing through our ministry and church.
  5. We no longer live by faith. That’s because faith is forward-looking – “the reality of what is hoped for” (Heb. 11:1, HCSB) – but leaders who only blame others cannot see beyond the immediate issues. Hope disappears.
  6. Our preaching likely reflects our outlook at times. Even the best preachers I know sometimes struggle not letting their daily emotions affect their preaching. It’s just really hard to keep the two separate — and it’s easy to subtly cast blame from the pulpit.
  7. We fall into the Genesis 3 trap of blaming others. We have blamed others from the beginning, so it’s not surprising we still do it today.

So, what’s my point? I am not arguing that pastors should just carry the blame themselves. We do indeed sometimes lead people who can be headaches. I am arguing, though, that simply casting blame on others doesn’t help us lead.

We need to ask the question, “Lord, how can I lead Your church better?” We need to be humble leaders who realize our responsibility, daily grow in our faith, challenge our people as needed, and work through the tough times with a heart that honors Christ.

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