Do Pastors Wield Too Much Power?

Several years ago during our weekend services I realized how much power I wielded as a pastor. I’ve served in vocational ministry over 35 years and I knew intuitively that my position brought with it power over people, but not until then did I understand a unique power my position, and every pastor, carries.

When I say ‘power’ I don’t mean destructive power seen in high profile mega-church pastor melt-downs or in the abuse cases in the Catholic church.

Rather I see this kind of power reflected in Peter’s admonition to avoid misusing our position and in the words of the writer of Proverbs.

1Pet. 5.2 Care for the flock that God has entrusted to you. Watch over it willingly, not grudgingly—not for what you will get out of it, but because you are eager to serve God.  3 Don’t lord it over the people assigned to your care, but lead them by your own good example. (NLT-SE) 

Prov. 18.21 Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit—you choose. (The Message)

So, the power I mean is the power to bless others. These simple interactions I’ve recorded below helped me realize this influence I carry. 

  • In one service as I chatted with a couple with two young daughters, out of the blue the mom said, “You want to hear my daughter quote the names of the presidents of the United States?” I replied, “Sure.” As I knelt down, the kindergartener quoted them. I replied with, “Wow, that’s super. Good job.” The following Sunday the grandmother beamed with pride as she recounted that brief encounter. Her kids had told her about it.
  • That same Sunday as I talked with a single mom she said, “My daughter made straight A’s this year. She’s one of the top five students in her school.” I looked at her daughter and said something like, “Way to go. Keep up the good work.” I could tell that my simple affirmation encouraged that mom, and the daughter as well.
  • The same weekend during my improv class get-together on a Saturday, I complimented several in the group on how well they performed. Most of those in my class don’t go to church and they all know I’m a pastor (and they still like me). Yet, I could sense that my genuine compliments meant a great deal to each of them.

As I’ve done the proverbial “put two and two together” I now realize more than ever that our position gives pastors a power to bless others in a unique way. Although everybody has that same ability, I wonder if other people give greater weight to our blessings (or lack of) than they do others. If that’s true, perhaps we should bless others with our words a lot more than we do.

What do you think?

  • Do pastors actually wield this kind of beneficent power?
  • Am I overstating this influence?
  • Do pastors use it enough?
  • Can and do pastors misuse it for their own ends?

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Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • peter white

    Start the discussion It seems to me that the problem is the people believing that a blessing from a pastor carries more weight than one from another member of the body. In the 70s there was a move from church and laity to body ministry, each member important. Many churches have brought the separation back with, by some, even an insistence on being called pastor which is not biblical. I am in th UK.

  • Jason Sanderson

    Completely encouraged by this. I love the heart behind the message. I don’t believe that I am (might be though) taking James 4:17 out of context as it applies to this principle. It also states that in Romans 12 that we should, “rejoice with those who rejoice.”

    Some people have a very healthy respect for those in authority over them. Their words should carry weight with them. It’s an honor to pastor and I commend you for recognizing this and choosing to walk it out.

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  • NapyBlue

    Charles – Just read this post via Outreach.

    As I read the post I thought of those Christians who see their pastor as being anointed when the pastor is simply a sinner like the rest of us. For most of those Christians it began with mom/dad putting the pastor on a pedestal in front of impressionable children. So now these adult Christians see their pastor as more than he really is. I love my pastor but I see him as putting on his pants one leg at a time just as I do. Raising pastors to an anointed level is simply wrong.