A New Tip: Honour Your Pastor, And Your Church Will Grow

kinnon —  May 19, 2010 — 7 Comments

Minding my own business as I deal with the joys of spring allergies, I scanned Twitter earlier this morning. A British pastor I follow, Tweeted a link to a Craig Groeschel blog post – Honoring Your Church Leaders – with the humourous comment, Hope my congregation read this.. 😉

Groeschel’s post begins with him quoting 1 Timothy 5:17, “The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.” He then goes on to tell the story of consulting with a church that had “been in decline.”

Each time the pastor spoke, the elders talked over him and brushed off his comments as meaningless. The longer the meeting carried on, the more obvious their problem became to me.

When they asked me what I thought, I’m sure they expected me to tell them to change the style of their service or add a Saturday night service, etc.

Instead, I told them that their number one problem was that they were dishonoring their pastor. Immediately, the elders became defensive. It wasn’t until I quoted their words and demonstrated what they had done that they realized their lack of honor.

I explained that I didn’t expect God to bless their church until they trusted and believed in the one God had put there to lead them. On the spot, they sincerely repented to their pastor. Four years later, this church has almost doubled in size.

Showing honor obviously isn’t the key to growth. But a lack of honor certainly doesn’t help. As my church honors me as the God-appointed leader, I feel a deeper sense of urgency to hear from God and do what pleases Him.

My Tweet response was to ask, What am I missing here? Or, why does this rub me the wrong way? At the end of this post are links to the Tweets that responded to mine, but let me take a moment to unpack my own response in a little more than 140 characters.

First the exegesis of the passage. Paul is speaking about honouring elders plural who “direct the affairs of the church well – especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.” Groeschel apparently morphs this passage to honouring “the pastor”. In the next verse – 18, Paul continues his teaching, quoting scriptures of a hard working ox not being muzzled (so that it can eat some of the grain that it’s hard work is threshing) and a labourer being worthy of their wages. Note that these aren’t glamourous examples. Paul does not say, ‘a King is worthy of the taxes he collects’. He uses the examples of a hard working animal or common labourers – which I would see lining up with Jesus’ teaching on servant leadership in Matthew 20:25-28. Paul is not talking about status, high position or visionary leadership – he is simply saying, ‘honour the hardworking elders in your midst – they are doing a tough job’.

Groeschel’s theology is that God places one person at the head of the church to lead – “I didn’t expect God to bless their church until they trusted and believed in the one God had put there to lead them,” and ” as my church honors me as the God-appointed leader…” [emphasis added] I’d point simply to Luke 10 where Jesus sends his disciples out in twos, but…

Craig feels the numbers back him up. Four years after the elders repented, the church “has almost doubled in size.” And who am I to question Groeschel who is the Senior Pastor of LifeChurch.tv. His “creative leadership skills are changing the way church is done worldwide. Under his leadership, LifeChurch.tv has become one of the country’s first multi-campus churches, with over fifty weekend worship experiences at thirteen different locations throughout the United States.” And around 25,000 people attend those “worship experiences.”

As an aside, it’s interesting to note that all the people who work with Groeschel on the LifeChurch.tv Directional Leadership Team come from a successful business background. Perhaps this plays a role in what appears to be an example of the Pastor as CEO.

This isn’t meant to be a personal attack on Groeschel. He’s an Evangelical Covenant Church pastor – a denomination in which I have many friends. A number of them have told me about what a good guy Groeschel is – and I would not dispute that. My issue would be with his theology.

Scripture tells us to honour one another. Scripture speaks of plurality of leadership. Jesus calls that leadership to a radical understanding of the nature of that leadership – where the last are first and the first, last. The Western Christian fiction of the visionary CEO-style church leader who is the one who “hears from God” and the “sheep” then follow him is not supported in the New Testament. (Read the comments on Groeschel’s post.)

And if the growth of your church is the ultimate sign of “do(ing) what pleases (God)” then we can safely assume that people like Charles Simeon and David Livingston were abject failures in their God-pleasing skills. (Simeon’s church, where he served for 50 years, was a source of untold troubles to him – yet his wider legacy which includes the Church Missionary Society, still impacts the world today. And Livingston, who saw little fruit in all his missionary endeavours in Africa, is seen as one of the pre-eminent seed planters for the profound growth of the gospel in Africa in the 20th Century.)


Twitter responses to my Tweet: @dashhouse, @Hollenbach, @sonjaquilts, @bradbrisco_kc, @hideyourmilk, @jrrozko, @kgrace and @emergingmummy



A television editor, writer & director since 1978. A Christian since 1982. More than a little frustrated with the Church in the West since late in the last millennium.

7 responses to A New Tip: Honour Your Pastor, And Your Church Will Grow

  1. Is there a third way between what Groeschel seems to be espousing and what he observed in the initial part of that meeting?

    I am a pastor. I have lived (am living) through a scenario where I am being dishonoured through the spread of lies and personal attacks. I resonate with the pastor that “the elders talked over him and brushed off his comments as meaningless.”

    I believe a pastor should be honoured. That does not mean I believe that he should be honoured “above” everyone else (e.g. as king, ceo or guru). The pastor must be equally honouring of everyone else…from the chair of the board to the nursery worker to the thirteen year old who talks and texts through his sermons.

    If you don’t like Groeschel’s response or the theological implications he draws (which I also have some issue with), what would you say to a board that you observed genuinely demeaning the pastor and disregarding anything that he had to contribute?

  2. Jon,
    A great question. Dishonouring is dishonouring. I would call the board on their actions, point out where they have been dishonouring, point them to scripture’s call for us to honour each other, ask them why this is happening and then, unfortunately, expect the worst while praying and having hope for the best.

    If you are part of a denomination, get whoever has oversight for you involved in the situation – after you’ve called the board on their actions. Follow Matthew 18 as best as you are able. If you know who is the source of the lies, confront them.

    I do know how painful slander is – having experienced it from within the church. The pain is awful – but it is worse when you allow the wounding to continue without confronting it.

    I hope that’s somewhat helpful.

  3. Now that I’ve read through this, I see what it is a bit more.

    I do love that he called out the church on dishonouring their pastor. NOT because “touch not the Lord’s annointed” or anything like that (I still get the shivers when I hear that phrase now) but because as God’s people, we should treat each other with honour, regardless of title.

    However, I completely disagree with him about the church numbers connection. I mean, what the crap? You said it well.

  4. Well said Sarah, it’s a classic post-hoc fallacy.

  5. yea..great response. I am for a plurality of elders, AND I would discourage someone functioning in pastoral role to lead nothing more than a small group. Depending on where you stand in the role of apostles, prophets and teachers, I would argue that these gifts would serve much better in the role of eldership.

    I would agree mostly with this post, however I also would agree with the biblical principle that being a person that walks in honor, honesty and integrity will bring a flow of blessing your way. That includes honoring those who are important to you and have a responsibility towards you in the Lord. Honor is not the same as “obey” either. I still honor my mother because she is my mom, but I hardly am required to obey her since I’m a 33 year old grown man.

  6. Remember the famous quote from North Point…”one man has all the answers…”

    I still don’t get why the first thing that every evangelical consultant wants to discuss is church growth. Is there nothing more important in the church anymore?

  7. So this is a year later but just stumbled over it.

    I actually agree with Groeschel. I think it’s only logical that if you honour your pastor (/senior pastors/ leaders/ church members/ people in general) that your church will grow ( and to add, YOU will grow).

    We all make up the Church, we are all the Church. If you don’t honour your pastor(s) (one, two pastors, what does it matter as long as integrity and humility is intact) – then obviously you’ll undermine them, distrust them, disrespect them, be unsupportive of them, disagree in spirit and mind with them…to mention but a few things. Whether consciously or subconsciously, you’ll carry around stinking thinking and bad culture influencing other believers in your church (and misery loves company) and no doubt putting-off those who are not yet saved looking to find the light of Christ shining within you. Consciously or subconsciously. I think that’s so 1 plus 1 equals 2. Naturally you’re dividing your Church, ya’ll are not together in one body one mind one spirit, naturalllllllly (never mind spiritually) you will hamper your church growth….cause guess what – you are the church (and you’re not growing – you’re just infiltrating).
    And your poor leaders are just working their butts off and you’re frustrating their poor ministry.

    I’d even go as far as to quote the ‘honour your father and mother so your days shall be long in the land and you shall be blessed’ scripture (paraphrase). Your pastor(s) are your parents in Christ so heck yea you should apportion to them the “double honour” they are due. And you shall grow…..and heyyy there’ll be blessing (like doubling or more), your days shall be long in the land….if you catch the drift.
    Remember yes the pastor(s) head the Church/ministry but it’s as much your church as it is theirs, well its should be, it should become your vision too, your passion, your prayer, your love….so your responsibility not just theirs (e.g. for hampered growth).

    Simply, if you can’t honour the authority above you, then just leave there to find those you feel you CAN honour but don’t stay and infiltrate it. That’s just sooo off. Humble yourself and honour those around and in authority over you or in due time God’ll humble you I guess. That’s my two cent anyways.

    And before you say….no I’m not a pastor, nowhere close, just a 21 year old church leadership student who thinks she may have fallen into the error of dishonouring her incredible pastors and is en route to fixing it following the revelation from God (not them). …(hence how I stumbled on this post; was studying and praying on it).

    Hopefully you see where I’m and possibly CG was coming from.

    Take care 🙂


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