One of my favorite movies of all time is Forrest Gump. Every time somebody asks Forrest if he is stupid, Forrest replies “stupid is as stupid does.”
There are some really stupid things that pastors should avoid at all costs. You would think that these things would be no brainers but after 34 years of being a believer in Jesus I have seen men and women of God engage in each of these things and they have never turned out to be a good thing.
Don’t get me wrong. I love pastors. I love people who have dedicated themselves to serving God. I just know that at times we all need correction. It is my prayer that if you find you are engaging in one of these things, you will hear the voice of the Lord in Proverbs when it says.
To learn, you must love discipline; it is stupid to hate correction.
18 Stupid Things Ministers Should Never Do
1. Pastors Should Never Put Their Fingers In The Dough
One of the stupidest things a pastor can do is have his fingers in the financial dough. Whether he is directly involved in the counting of the offerings, the one that is receiving the offering, or whether he gets reports on who is tithing and who is not, this is a recipe for disaster.
Nothing will bring down a ministry faster than accusations of financial hanky panky. The farther you can separate yourself from the dough the better.
It does not matter if you have actually done something wrong. If you look like you are involved you will be blamed. If you are the one receiving the offering it comes across as you are just trying to fill your pockets. Especially if you are forceful or manipulative in any way. (see #6)
If you are keeping track of who tithes and who does not, then you are opening yourself up to the temptation of playing favorites or treating people differently based on the amount they give.
I even know pastors who select leaders based on their giving record. Dumb dumb dumb and even dumber! This opens the door for people to want to control because of their gift size.
2. Pastors Should Never Be A Lone Ranger
The Lone Ranger was a wonderful TV show years ago. However pastoral ministry is not about going around doing well all by yourself. The lone ranger mentality opens the door to unbridled authoritarianism and you never have the opportunity to grow beyond what you discover on your own.
Pastoral ministry is about building and growing through relationships. Doing your own thing is not conducive to that.
Not only that, but pastors are not just accountable to God. They are also accountable to others.
Whether it is the leadership in their denomination, or elders in their church, or a group of mentors, pastors have to be accountable.
Even King David was held accountable for his actions by the Prophet Nathan.
If you are approaching ministry as a Lone Ranger, then you are going to be picked off by the fiery darts of the wicked one.
3. Pastors Should Never Be An Overbearing Husband
One of the stupidest things you can do is mistreat your wife. Not only is she your helpmate at home and in ministry but she is the closest member of your support group.
Not only that, but the Bible teaches that if you mistreat your spouse, your prayers will be hindered.
1 Peter 3:7
7 In the same way, you husbands must give honor to your wives. Treat your wife with understanding as you live together. She may be weaker than you are, but she is your equal partner in God’s gift of new life. Treat her as you should so your prayers will not be hindered.
When you mistreat your wife you are telling God you do not appreciate the gift of grace He has given you in her. (Proverbs 18:22) When you are unappreciative of such a wonderful gift, this hinders any other prayers you may have.
So if you want to be successful in ministry, treat your wife right. If you don’t you are just plain dumb.
4. Pastors Should Never Place Themselves In Compromising Positions
There are 2 things that will bring a pastor down fast. They are money and women. I do not believe we have to be in fear of being with the opposite sex, but I do feel it is stupid to pray for them, counsel them, or spend inappropriate amounts of time with them alone.
Not only are you opening the door to the possibility of temptation but you are also opening the door to the ability to have false accusations made against you. Either way, you are not walking as a wise man.
When praying for women, include another woman (preferably your wife if she is available) that is mature in the Lord. When counseling, include your wife or a mature gray haired lady in your church.
Never close the door to your office when counseling a woman.
Do not make female friends that are not first and foremost your wife’s friends. You are just asking for trouble if you do.
5. Pastors Should Never Fake Spiritual Gifting
One of the greatest mistakes that pastors make is to give in to the pressure of being something they are not. Whether it is the pressure to be God’s man of power for the hour with miraculous signs and wonders, or just the simple things like trying to be a counselor when you are really not gifted in that area. It is stupid to try to be something you are not.
God has created you to be unique. He has gifted you to reach the people He has chosen.
When you fake having other spiritual giftings not only is your ministry actually inauthentic, but you are also missing the people that God has uniquely qualified you to be.
This is like pawning yourself off as an auto mechanic when in fact you are an internet engineer.
6. Pastors Should Never Manipulate People
I don’t know how many times I have seen pastors manipulate people. Whether it is with the offering where they lay on the guilt trip thicker than mayonnaise, or whether it is signing them up to clean the church without first allowing them to volunteer. It is still manipulation.
When people are forced to do something then they are being taken from. When people are allowed to volunteer and choose to do something then it is their gift to God.
It is totally stupid to build a culture of mistrust in the people that need to learn to trust you.
7. Pastors Should Never Teach Exotic or Speculative Doctrines But Stick To The Main And Plain
There is a great temptation in our society to have the latest and greatest teaching because our society rewards superstars. However, this is not the way it is supposed to be in the kingdom of God.
The drive to titillate the people with the latest and greatest flavor of the month will, in the end, kill your ministry. Nobody can maintain this model.
Eventually, you will run out of new ideas and new teachings and all those people you attracted with the flavor of the month will go somewhere else where their itching ears will be satisfied.
Stick to the main and plain things. They may not be glamorous. They may not be as exciting as naming spirits and launching prayer teams to fly above your cities, but they will build disciples. They will build solid and lasting fruit in your ministry.
8. Pastors Should Never Let Their Ego Get The Best Of Them
One of the greatest dangers of always being in the public spotlight is getting a fat head. Pride goes before a fall and a haughty spirit before destruction. (Proverbs 18:16)
Regardless if you are the pastor of a church of 50 or a church of 5,000 this temptation happens to all of us.
In our church world today we have people who think they deserve Lear Jets, million-dollar mansions, and the public spotlight.
We also have pastors of small churches who still think that they are above their people. They still think that nobody lives for God as they do.
Regardless of the symptoms exhibited by their pride, the fact remains that pride will lead you to destruction. Nothing is stupider than engaging in behavior that you know will lead you to ruin.
9. Pastors Should Never Beat The Sheep
If this doesn’t take the cake for the stupid is as stupid does award I don’t know what does.
I see pastors all the time beat up on their own sheep. They forget that when they point fingers they have 3 fingers pointed back at them. They also put their sheep under burdens that they were never meant to carry.
I don’t know how many messages I have heard about how we need to do “better” at something. Or how many times I have heard them say that God will not bless them if they do not perform to a certain level. This is nothing than spiritual abuse. They beat their own sheep.
Rarely do I hear messages today that talk about how much God has done for us. How much God loves us. How much God has enabled us to walk with Him.
It is all about us trying to please God rather than God being pleased with us because of what Jesus has done.
10. Pastors Should Never Water Down The Good News
I have heard people say that pastors should never water down the gospel. I chose to use the words “good news” instead since gospel means good news. The reason I did that is that many people use the word gospel for a message and style of delivery that is not really very good news.
The fact of the matter is that a pastor should never water down the good news because it is the only message that gives hope to saint and sinner alike. It is the power of God for salvation. (Romans 1:16)
It is not hard preaching, angry preaching, condemning preaching or legalistic preaching that is good news. It is the preaching of the gospel of grace (Acts 20:24) that is the real good news.
It is not smart to go away from this message. To do so causes you to operate from a different heart compared to the heart of God.
11. Pastors Should Never Surround Themselves With Yes Men
One of the dumbest things a person can do whether it is in ministry or outside of ministry is surrounding themselves with people that always think like they do and always tell you what you want to hear.
Many a ministry has fallen because of this issue. If you cannot handle people telling you what you do not want to hear, get out.
Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy.
People who love you enough to tell you what you need to hear rather than what you want to hear are invaluable.
I have been saved from making some of my greatest mistakes because of such people and I have ended up making my greatest mistakes when I did not listen to people who tried to tell me what I didn’t want to hear.
12. Pastors Should Never Hoard People For Their Ministry
Many times when we are trying to build a church or ministry it is very hard to release people. The last thing we want to do is let people go because it leaves a gap in our churches.
However, we need to remember that our job is to train people to follow God and pursue Him with all their passion. A lot of times that means releasing people to leave.
Pastors who hoard people, try to manipulate them to stay, or do not allow them to leave well are in fact hindering the growth of their churches.
You cannot reap a harvest of new people if you never sow people into their own ministries apart from what you are building.
Jesus released the disciples into ministry on their own. (Luke 10:1) When you try to hoard people and keep them in your own little flock, you are missing the greatest blessing of giving and that is dumb.
13. Pastors Should Never Put Programs And Methods Over People
I can’t tell you how many times I have come to churches that had the bloody and wounded scattered along the path by men who have put their programs and methods above the needs of people.
Either people are put into positions that they are not gifted or qualified for and thus they burn out or they were not given time to buy into the direction the pastor was wanting to lead the church in.
The church is a body, not a business. It is a living organism and when you just try to make people fit into your program or into your method of doing things, many times the end result is tragic.
Jesus came to heal those that are wounded not make them into mindless workers who follow a leader.
Your Sunday school program, discipleship program, or carefully planned Sunday morning service is not as important as the people you are serving.
I have known pastors that have given people the riot act when they did not do the worship music perfectly, or have messed up on the words being projected on the wall, or got the PowerPoint presentation wrong.
I have known pastors that are so concerned about having teachers for a class, or workers for cleaning the church that they do not stop to ask the person how they are doing and if they need a break.
That person’s heart is more important than whether or not your message, the worship service, or any other thing runs smoothly.
You are called to heal the brokenhearted. If you do not remember this, you are being really stupid.
14. Pastors Should Never Focus On Getting Butts In The Seats
I know the pressures that we are under to get people to come to the Sunday services. I know that none of us like to preach to empty buildings. The problem is that our focus should never be based on the numbers of people that come on Sunday.
When we focus on the idea that ministry is that which happens on Sunday morning in a building, then most of the biblical examples of ministry never happen.
Effective ministry is that which happens in the streets. It is what happens when your people that God has given you to shepherd take it into the marketplace.
Instead of focusing on how perfect you perform the Sunday morning church service, focus on teaching your people how to share and express their faith in their lives outside the church.
Instead of focusing on how to get people to come to the church, focus on how to get your people to go into all the world.
15. Pastors Should Never Forget That Power Comes Through Prayer
It seems like the church always falls back to the mistakes of the past. They focus on methods and intellectual prowess. They forget that methods, education, and gimmicks do not have the power to save one soul.
I like what E.M. Bounds said in his book Power Through Prayer.
Men are God’s method. The church is looking for better methods; God is looking for better men. What the church needs today is not more machinery or better, not new organizations or more and novel methods, but men who the Holy Spirit can use – men of prayer, men mighty in prayer. The Holy Spirit does not come on machinery but on men. He does not anoint plans, but men – men of prayer. – Edward McKendree (E. M.) Bounds
When you forget that it is God who draws men to Jesus; that it is Jesus that saves men; that becoming born again is a spiritual experience; then you have entered into folly and that is dumb.
16. Pastors Should Never Quench The Holy Spirit
Let me ask you a question. Who does the work of regeneration? Who draws men to Jesus? Who gives people the empowerment to bring the miraculous into people’s lives?
If you answered the Holy Spirit, then you got the answer right.
Then let me ask you this. How much time are you giving to allowing the Holy Spirit to move? Does He have to make an appointment to show up during your Sunday morning service?
Quenching the Holy Spirit means to stifle or suppress the move and work of the Holy Spirit.
How many of your programs and activities allow for the moving of the Spirit?
How many of them are just planned events with no thought whatsoever of the role and work of the Holy Spirit?
One of the dumbest things we can do is to try to do what is essentially a spiritual work without allowing the Holy Spirit to actually do the work.
17. Pastors Should Never Ignore The Warning Signs Of Burnout
One of the dumbest things a pastor can do is to allow themselves to become burned out. This usually happens because either they are not feeding themselves spiritually on a devotional level, or they are not taking time off to recharge emotionally or physically.
Like it or not, pastors are just human. We are not superheroes. We need to take time to recharge spiritually, physically and emotionally.
When one of these areas of being human is not being taken care of, it will affect the other areas.
So if you are not feeding yourself spiritually or taking time to have your own spiritual life, then it will affect your emotions and physical health. When you are not taking care of your emotional health, it will affect your spiritual and physical health. When you are not taking time to rest physically then you will burn out emotionally and spiritually.
If you do not take care of your whole being, then you are being dumb. If you are ignoring the signs of fatigue, you will burn out and you will not be any good to anyone. That is totally self-defeating and that is dumb.
18. Pastors Should Never Speak Ill Of Other Pastors
We may disagree theologically.
We may use different methods.
We may even be of different streams of Christianity.
However, we cannot afford to take pot shots at one another. Remember, when you speak ill of another pastor, you are just encouraging people to speak ill of you.