SHEPHERDING GOD'S FLOCK


by Peter E. Openshaw

Part 12:
"The Abuse of Authority by Leadership"

INTRODUCTION

Because of the tendency of good but sometimes immature leaders to respond to selfish or needy people with overbearing authority, and because of the influence of "cult figures" on so many people, it is important to be aware of some unhealthy extremes that leaders can go to in exercising their leadership. The subject in this lesson is to give a checklist to help members of churches or organisations evaluate the kind of leadership they are following. It is also shared with the view that this will also help sincere leaders do some "soul-searching" as to whether they are leading out of insecurity, or are responding wrongly to those with needs in their group.

Included here are biblical principles for leaders to follow and also for people to know how to respond when leaders are wrong and are violating their God-delegated authority and position. Extremism on the question of authority is easy to find: some go to one extreme and propound a kind of Christian anarchism where everyone is a law unto themselves with no need for accountability or submission; others go to the other extreme and teach a "pyramid authority structure" that undermines the priesthood of the believer and exalts authority figures to a place God never intended them to have. Those who dare live in the "radical middle" will no doubt make mistakes in finding their way, but will in the end enjoy the rewards of their efforts; deep friendships, godly accountability, the serenity of surrendering others to the Lord and the peace in living in a manner that is pleasing to the Father.

I. CHRISTIAN GURU'S IN THE CHURCH

Charles Swindoll, a pastor, international speaker and the author of many books once shared on the subject of "Christian Guru's". - These are leaders in the church or an organisation who either elevate themselves, or are elevated by their followers to become their "guru". The leader's followers venerate him and subject themselves to him. He is the source of their revelation, doctrine and truth. They give him their undivided loyalty, and unconsciously uphold him as their object of "pedestal worship". There comes with this devotion, a total reluctance or refusal to act without the "guru's" directions or edicts that come from his "headquarters temple". As a result of this he holds great power over them.

It is not our purpose to go into the subject of guru's in Eastern Religions except to state that a Christian Cult always starts from the basis of truth and then gradually moves away through imbalance by the "control" or "charisma" the leader exercises over his people.

In the mid 1970's, a great tragedy happened to a "Christian" group who originally were a Pentecostal church in the USA. The preceeding years saw them move so far out of balance, that in the end they shifted from the USA to Guyana, South America. They ended their lives by following their "guru leader" Jim Jones in committing mass suicide. This downward path took the course of many years to go from truth to error, from light to darkness, from revelation to domination, and from life to death. God in the beginning was faithful in warning them through ministries who shared with this group, until they isolated themselves against the body of Christ. The moved from being in the beginning, Bible believers, who later became Bible burners in public Bible Burning Services. It became very obvious to those outside, that the spirits of pride, rebellion, deception, and perversion, were being fully manifested. In the end, this pathway had only one downward course to run - suicide!

At this time, several books were written, and many Christian leaders wrote articles covering these questions - How could this happen to a former Pentecostal group? How could a live growing church of many years become a cult, and go into this extent of deception? What were the dangers to be avoided? What was the pathway to avoid which caused them to move so far away from Godís Word. What important lessons can we learn out of all this? This incident and its international exposure through television and newspapers with explicit photographs etc., had a profound effect upon the church world-wide that many of us who were pastors had to answer the questions of their congregations, and to many this was the subject of many a leaders' meeting. It became very obvious that Jim Jones had moved away from biblical leadership principles and had become a "guru". May we never repeat that mistake by walking proudly, let us walk in humility with a spirit of servanthood.

This placing of leadership upon a pedestal is essentially idolatry and in time God will break the pedestal and cause the "idol or guru" to fall before all. This process of "leadership idolatry" begins very subtly and unconsciously over a long period of time and so it does not surprise us when "great leaders" in the body of Christ fall through the exposure of their sin usually in one of three areas - the gold, the glory, or the girls.

The last decade around the world, has seen many great church leaders fall in these three areas. The effect upon the church is hard to bear because of betrayal. To the world, their fall causes them to reproach the church of Jesus Christ, and to blaspheme His name. Even the world has a high character standard for those who are church leaders. God is to be the only object of our devotion, service and obedience.God alone is to hold the highest place in our lives and if a leader calls a person to go contrary to God's Word and the principles of the kingdom of God, then it is to God we maintain our stance in our walk and choose "to obey God rather than man."

< II. DICTATORS IN THE CHURCH - THE "IDI AMIN'S" OF OUR DAY

On the other extreme, we have seen the "dictator" who seeks to control his church by the strong hand of his authority, his personal strengths, or his powerful charisma. The dictator, can diabolically control others through the intimidation of his presence through fear, or by the manifestations of power which he can exercise. This is why Jesus said a person is known by their fruit, and not by any gifts and signs that may follow them.

Dictators seek to rule by force and cruelty and God reprimanded this type of shepherd in his word to Ezekiel:

Ezekiel 34:4 "But with force and with cruelty have you ruled them."

Peter, in his epistle calls upon the elders to:

1 Peter 5:2 "Take the oversight not by constraint ... neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being examples to the flock."

A "dictator" desires to control and rule by force. It is having a spirit that wants to rule over people for whatever desire they may have. It may be due to their own insecurity in which they tend to "bully; or maybe due to a lack of self acceptance in which they feel the need of veneration and awe by those under them to satisfy this unconscious need; or the desire for power and a reputation of being a strong leader. There are many reasons why a person rises to become a dictator. They can come about through weak and indecisive leadership and then someone takes the matter in hand and finally emerges at the top of "the pecking order". We are to be aware of those who grasp for authority. Remember David came to this conclusion in Psalm 131:1 where he shared:

Psalm 131:1 "Lord my heart is not haughty, nor my eyes lofty, neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me" (KJV).

David in his maturity and experience knew that God was the promoter of man and that God raises up one and puts down another, because He is God. Usually "dictators" place themselves outside the Word of God and become a law unto themselves. As in the natural so too in the church. A dictator sets up his own government of "yes men" and then establishes his own law of government. The principle of "appeal" is done away with after time and the only way to escape from their control is to escape and be a refugee in another church until God brings a healing to the escapee.

Over the last ten to fifteen years there has been a tendency in many circles for this kind of situation to occur and came about as a result of the "discipleship movement". The truth of discipleship is of God, but the extremes came along when people took this truth to the extreme. People felt they could not do anything, go anywhere, etc. without checking out with the "discipler" over them. Many even paid tithes to those over them and there came a "pyramid structure" of relationship. Alas, at the top of the pyramid there is only a place for one man and this man or woman after time became the authority over all which brought a control over individual lives and a dictating of their movements and actions in everything. Many Christians who became involved in this became very hurt and left their churches. As a result and because of concern regarding this "movement" and its consequences in people's lives, it was even challenged by Church Leaders in different countries who shared that many good truths had been taken to extremes and that this was not the intention of those who preached this.

III. THE NEED FOR BALANCE

The important factor regarding leadership is not to be a "Christian Guru" nor a "Idi Amin" in your church. Jesus shared and demonstrated a true leader is one who serves and is willing to lay down his life for his sheep. Inherant in every person is the dangerous tendency in what Richard Dortch in his book. "Fatal Deceit" calls falling victim to the subtle pull of power. In Uganda where I served as a "pastor to pastors", as well as in many countries of the world, all seek position and power. They will take it by various ways: by "spiritual" means and be the "guru" to their people, or will take the "power and position" means and be a "dictator". The book "Fatal Deceit" by Richard Dortch is highly recommended reading for all. It will help one to assess his own heart with its subtle desire for recognition and power. It is important that we do not get sucked into the "power trap". The way to blessing and authority is to follow Jesus and His example and allow Him to make the changes in your life as He did to Joseph, Jacob, Abraham, David and others. Paul shared these words and should be our prayer:

1 Timothy 1:16 "Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show forth all long-suffering for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on Him" (KJV).

We minister out of God's mercy and truth, trusting in the One who has called us to prepare and equip us for the work of ministry to which He has called us.

IV. THE USE AND ABUSE OF AUTHORITY

In the Book "The Father Heart of God" by Floyd McClung there is a chapter on the subject: "The Use and Abuse of Authority". The following checklist is based on some of the principles from this book which is also recommended reading. Another book that may still be available from Christian Bookshops is titled, "Peopleís Church - Peopleís Tomb".

A. THE USE AND ABUSE OF AUTHORITY

The following checklist is a guideline for every Christian and even those in leadership to check whether the organisation, church or group they are in has moved, or are moving out of balance, into the area of abuse of authority. If a number of these areas can be ticked as affirmative, then there is a danger that your particular church or group is moving down the road to becoming a cult, and that it is possible that the leadership is moving in a cult spirit which opens the doors to demonic spirits of control, manipulation, pride, witchcraft, deception and error.

International Evangelist Bill Subritzky from New Zealand shares the following:

When excessive authority is vested in pastors, this often causes them to become remote from their congregation and can lead to their downfall. Godís people have the free choice of whom they follow and in whom they place their trust. I would once again draw attention to pages 26-27 where we look at the Greek word "peitho" in Hebrews 13:17, and the conclusion which states the following:

"This obedience is a response of the heart and actions of the people of God to their leader in voluntary submission that has come as a result of an inner persuasion through trust and confidence that has been earned by the leader over a period of time by his example of servanthood and his obedience to the Word of God." The following is the checklist:

1. INSISTENCE OF SHARING ALL THINGS IN COMMON

Insisting and emphasising the giving up private ownership, and of owning possessions and things, can be a way of controlling people's lives. In this, people are made to feel guilty if they have anything of value. It can be they are made to feel it is wrong to have a new car or a nice home. They are put under a guilt trip if they have anything luxurious and if they donít have a thrift shop mentality.

2. TREATMENT OF WOMEN

When women are not given any authority, or are not recognised as equal to men through respect for their opinions, then authoritarianism is sure to follow.

3. THE POWER OF LEADERS

The scripture teaches us to submit to those whom the Lord has placed over us. This is seen in Acts 20:28-31, 1 Timothy 1:3,4,11, Titus 1:13, Titus 3:1, and Hebrews 13:17. The question is: how much and where? The Bible makes clear that in specific areas leaders do have authority, but there are very definite limits to this authority. For example, a leader does not have right to tell people what to do in their personal lives.

If you think through all the illustrations in the Scriptures where elders and apostles were exercising authority, can you think of any instance where any of the leaders, even in the crisis days of the early church in Jerusalem, ever tried to dominate or control a person's life? Even Peter made the clear comment that Ananias and Sapphira could have kept all their money and property. Doing what everyone else was doing was not mandatory. The sin was not in what they kept, but in lying. There are no illustration in the New Testament that are even remotely similar to the control being exercised by some elders or leaders over God's people today.

Leaders do not have the right to confirm people's personal guidance as to whether they get married, continue working in full-time Christian service or go to another place in that service. It is a privilege to pray with others about their personal guidance, but not a right. Obviously a leader can give a word of caution or counsel from the Word for a person, but that should be shared as a friend. To confuse the two is to bring people under condemnation and make them feel obligated to do what a person is saying because he is an authority figure.

4. TURNOVER IN LEADERSHIP

If there is rapid turnover in the leadership team every two or three years it could indicate that the leader is not the kind of person who can win long term friendships due to instability in his life or an overbearing personality. It can also indicate that through continuing turnover of leadership that an underlying reason and goal may be to keep young and inexperienced leaders under his control.

As time goes on and as they mature and can begin to voice their opinion which may be contrary to the leader, a "program" for moving them on and out of the church will provide this type of leader a team he can continually control and direct his way. It is very important for those in an organisation (or church) to ask how long those working closely together actually stay with their leader.

5. TURNOVER IN PEOPLE

Another aspect similar to the previous item is regarding turnover in people. What is the maturity level of the congregation? Is there a balanced spread of age groups and an even distribution of occupations within the church? Does it have learned or professional people as well as ordinary and unlearned people? Does it cater to all peoples? Does it have a regular revolving door where people come in and after a time go out? Do people feel they have freedom to question leadership without fear of intimidation or of being cut off and relegated to being labelled as a "problem maker" or "stirrer?"

I know of one church overseas which had grown steadily since it commenced in 1974. In 1989 it had almost 5,000 people attending, yet its members had a average spiritual maturity level of only three years in the Lord. This particular fact was shared with me by the pastor who founded the work and who to this day continues to be the overseer of the organisation. This fact really concerned me. - Here was a church which had been operating for 15 years yet had a maturity level of only 3 years in the Lord. Something was desperately wrong!

I discovered that as the people grew in the Lord, they began to question a number of certain things which resulted in confrontation with the philosophy of the leadership in that they were not in submission. In the end they left and joined other churches. Sadly, this particular church currently continues in this same philosophy of misusing authority. The consequences of this have seen a drop to below 2,000 people - a loss of 3000 people.

The tragic thing in all this, is that many lives get hurt by authoritarianism and a scattering occurs. Some recover and find their place in another church, but sadly some fall away and backslide, disillusioned by the church and its leadership. It always pays to discern the maturity level of a congregation as leadership reproduce after their own "kind". Another principle is, "birds of a feather flock together." What is the maturity level factor equated with the age of the church? This is the test!

6. THE LEADER'S REACTION UNDER PRESSURE

If the leader is consistently defensive, it may show that he is insecure, unsure of himself and his work. He may try to exercise a great deal of control over others and is often unsure of himself and may express his insecurity through authoritarianism. Some leaders who control will attack others verbally and put others down, to elevate themselves

7. EXCLUSIVENESS

Any time a group (or a church) has an exclusive view towards its role, it could be an indication not only of pride but of authoritarianism. Do they recognise all other committed Christians as believers and a part of the body of Christ? Beware of those who categorise some Christians as being more special to God, or having a revelation, or experience, or doctrine, or method that produces the fruit of pride or exclusiveness.

8. THE PSYCHOLOGICAL MAKE-UP OF THE LEADER

Does the leader have in his nature a need to control others within his environment? There are some people who have this psychological flaw. The Lord can use this man, but he must have God break this in his life or he will tend towards authoritarianism and manipulation. Sometimes this trait surfaces in the beginning of a ministry, or it could come out later in a time of crisis or conflict.

9. GROUP CONFORMITY

There is always a need for conformity, particularly among organisations that have policies and procedures necessary for the accomplishing of their goals. However, these policies and goals should be open for the scrutiny of all in the body of Christ, and should be made with the counsel of godly people. They should be explained to those who join before any commitment of membership is made, so that individuals understand what would be expected of them beforehand.

10. LEAVING THE GROUP

When individuals want to leave are they made to feel guilty, or is pressure put on them to stay? On the other hand, are they bruised and hurting, and choose to leave so as to escape from the abuse? Are they hurt when they leave, and are they smarting under either the verbal abuse given by the "hard taskmaster", or the silent "freeze out" that has taken place? Have they been made to feel like second-class Christians if they leave? Would they feel comfortable in returning for a visit or have they been made the object of "curses, threats and judgements" by the leader who has intimidated them by his controlling spirit?

On the other hand, there is sometimes the other method which is the manner of forcing anyone out of the organisation if they raise questions of concern as to how the some of that church's or organisation's matters are being handled. I personally know of one church organisation with a real mission emphasis which took the position when one of its minister's (of over 20 years of pstoral experience) raised questions in his desire for a moral failure in the orgainsations leadership to be addressed in a scriptural way, this organisation responded by wanting that minister out of their organisation and the country concerned within three days no matter what it would cost. The result being, the moral failure of the organisations leader was swept under the carpet and church continued as though nothing had happened. The pastor concerned returned home to his country and home church, cut off and ostracised by the rumours of misconduct that mysteriously floated around that he had been sacked from the mission field.

11. POSSESSIVENESS OF STAFF AND FELLOW WORKERS

Does the leader make those who work with him feel obligated to stay? Is there constant pressure used by the leadership to manipulate people into staying? Do they feel somehow they have to break out in order to leave? Is "guidance," "prophecy," "personal words," or "covering" used as a way of keeping people in the group? This kind of possessiveness can often lead to great hurts and makes people feel very condemned for leaving.

12. ATMOSPHERE OF MISTRUST

Do the leaders use rules, regulations, scriptures and policies to control people's lives? Or do they create an atmosphere of grace and trust? Do the leaders rely upon people's maturity, or do they continually imply that people cannot be trusted and "laws" must exist to regulate people's behaviour?

Obviously there must be a certain amount of submission, particularly in a missionary organisation that have developed policies and procedures in order to be more efficient in achieving their goals. But even those policies should be based on trust and not forced on those who disagree. Hopefully potential areas of disagreement will be discovered before a candidate joins a missionary society, but if not they should be given the freedom to leave (if conflict does arise) with appreciation for one another and a simple agreement that it is best for a parting of ways.

13. QUESTIONS AND CRITICISMS

Can members of the group bring up their questions or make constructive criticism without the leadership becoming defensive? Are the leaders secure enough in the Lord to encourage people to share hurts and disappointments, or ask questions about things they disagree with, without fear of recrimination or being judged as "critical", "rebellious", "disloyal" or "have a wrong spirit"? Are the leaders accountable to somebody else besides themselves and 'the Lord'? Are they open to be corrected?

14. OVERWORK

Does the leadership make the members of the group feel obligated to work long hours, burning the candle at both ends? Some leaders drive their people and make them guilty for having personal time for hobbies, recreation, vacations, etc. Does the leader give people the feeling they are on a "guilt trip"? This form of manipulation has been so rife in the Body of Christ in the last number of years. Leaders can be guilty of burning their people out and placing them under condemnation for wanting the time necessary to be refuelled and refreshed in order to keep doing their work with emotional strength that they need. God made His creation and nature and placed man into this environment so man could enjoy God's creation which can minister to one's soul. There is a vast difference between working FOR God and "working WITH God".

15. MORAL IMPURITY

Often those who become authoritarian or manipulative have compromised morally and are practicing some form of immoral form of conduct secretly or are living in sin.

16. ROLE CONFUSION

A leader can become authoritarian or abusive in his leadership if he does not learn to distinguish the difference between personal counselling and visionary inspiration. It is one thing to stand in front of a group and inspire the group with 'the word of the Lord' for the direction of the group; it is quite another thing to be involved in personal counselling. If the leader approaches personal counselling in the same style and manner as he would inspire the whole group, he can come across as overbearing or overwhelming those he is speaking to. His role in counselling is to remind them to seek the Lord and put God first in obeying His Word. It is not his responsibility to tell people what to do, or to correct the errors in their life, but more to encourage them to be open and obedient to the Lord.

17. OWNERSHIP OF POLICIES AND MAJOR DECISIONS

Do the leaders give the people an opportunity to feel involved at the grass-roots level in decisions that are being made in the group? Are decisions handed down arbitrarily from the top without the opportunity for others to participate in the decision?

Do people feel they can be a part of shaping the policies of the community and not be rebellious if they question them? Is responsibility given for a role, without authority to make the decisions in that position? Is there freedom to make decisions and to even to make mistakes? Do all directions come from the leaderís office (or through his facsimile) to you? Are you permitted to be a contributor to decisions with the knowledge that your input is welcome?

18. OVER-EMPHASIS ON MAN'S RESPONSIBILITY

Too much emphasis in this area without God's grace and mercy produces condemnation and doubt about God's love and forgiveness. It is the loving kindness of God that leads men to repentance.

19. TAKING TOO MUCH RESPONSIBILITY TO CORRECT PROBLEMS IN PEOPLE'S LIVES

People must be free to respond to the Lord when they are ready to do so. Trying to be the Holy Spirit for people always leads to conflict and hurt. This can also be manifested by misusing the altar call. It is making people continually aware of their needs that they become dependent on the leader and his prayers rather than their going to God for their answers. In this the leader calls for regularly for everyone to come so he can "pontificate" by "blessing the people". This is not to say altar calls are wrong, God forbid! It is the motive of the leader if he uses the altar call for the wron reason.

This also covers an area that has been happening in the Charismatic scene is that the leader gets so involved in counselling people that the people become so dependent upon him that he now becomes the "oracle of God" or the mediator between God and man. A true leader will always direct the people to go to God for their answers and that he stands "alongside" them and not "over" them.

20. DENYING THE PEOPLE THE RIGHT OF APPEAL

If someone disagrees with a decision or is denied the right to go to others for counsel when they disagree with a leader, is to "box" a person in. The leader is at the very least exerting undue pressure on the person concerned, and may be revealing a basic insecurity and an unhealthy need to be in control.

21. NOT ADMITTING FAULTS, OR REFUSING TO LEAD FROM A POSITION OF WEAKNESS

The leadership may make mistakes or somehow be a part of a situation that is unjust. This can include putting people under immature leadership and then blaming them for not co-operating, or exploiting their financial generosity. In such circumstances we should admit our failures and weaknesses and ask forgiveness from those who have been hurt. If a leader does not do that he will tend to blame others for their reactions and accuse them of "having the wrong attitude" and of "being in rebellion".

22. TEACHING THAT A LEADER SHOULD ALWAYS BE OBEYED BECAUSE HE IS "GOD'S ANOINTED"

The favourite scripture used is "touch not the Lord's anointed." inferring that if we speak against our leaders we will incur the judgement of God. This must be balanced against other scriptures that share that a leader can be investigated for misconduct and sin and that if the charges are proven he is to repent or be rebuked publicly that all may fear. The Bible teaches that all Christians including leaders are exhorted to live godly lives and that leaders are to meet the qualifications listed by Paul's instructions to Timothy and Titus.

V. GUIDELINES FOR CHURCH DISCIPLINE

We should teach people to obey God and His Word, and not men. Obviously people need to deal with independence and an unbroken spirit, but that must be dealt with in an opposite spirit; gentleness and love. When there is a need for confrontation over bad attitudes, the following scriptural guidelines should be followed:

A. Go in a spirit of gentleness and humility, looking to ourselves lest we too, become tempted in that same thing. - Galatians 6:1-3.

B. Always hear both sides of a matter and thoroughly look into all the points of view before a judgement is made. - Proverbs 18:17, Deuteronomy 17:2-7, 1 Timothy 5:19.

C. Follow James 3:13-18, James 5:19-20 and Matthew 18:15-18. Follow the spirit of love outlined in these passages. Seek in every way to be redemptive. Never put people in a position where it is hard for them to return or seek counsel or find help from others. Remember that the portions of Scripture on church discipline in Matthew are preceded by injunctions to 'not despise one of these little ones' (speaking of straying or lost sheep) and to forgive our brother 'seventy times seven'.

D. Be like Samuel in 1 Samuel 12:23 and pray for those you are concerned about, to make sure you have God's heart for them and are not reacting to them out of your own hurt or disappointment. Even the disappointment that comes out of love for a person whom you know could have done much better. We must pray until we have God's heart for a person, then go to them when we sense God has prepared their heart for the correction. Timing can be everything.

E. Follow Proverbs 11:14, Proverbs 15:22 and Proverbs 24:6. When there is a difficulty with a person's attitude, seek the counsel of a mature, older pastor on how to respond. There is great protection and wisdom in seeking the counsel of others, especially from older more mature men outside one's group or organisation. The willingness to seek this counsel shows a caution that reflects maturity and a real desire for what is best for the person involved.

VI. HOW TO RESPOND TO LEADERS WHEN THEY ARE WRONG

The principles above give us guidelines on how to respond to those that we are correcting when we are in a position of leadership or when we are going to a brother or sister in need. But what do we do when the leader over us, or any person in a position of authority, is wrong, either in their attitude or their actions? The following guidelines may be helpful:

A. Make sure the facts are correct. Don't judge a person wrongly, and don't accept a charge against a person on word of just one person - Proverbs 18:17, Deuteronomy 13:12-15, and 1 Timothy 5:19. It is very important to hear all sides of a conflict before a judgement is made.

B. Pray for the leader and make sure that you have no critical spirit or root of bitterness in your heart towards them. If you have been hurt or disappointed, make sure that you keep on forgiving until your heart is free of hurt. Make sure you maintain a heart of love, since love covers a multitude of sins, (refer 1 Peter 4:8). It is possible to lose objectivity about a situation through taking on the hurts of others. If you counsel with people who have been hurt by an authority figure and you take on their pain, you can take sides in the conflict and lose the opportunity both to offer sound biblical counsel to the one who is hurt (e.g. to forgive and pray for the ones who hurt them) and to be a minister of reconciliation and healing in the broken relationship.

C. Pray for the leader that he will have a revelation from the Lord about the wrong that he's done or that he will know the right thing to do if he needs wisdom in the situation. It is extremely important that we intercede for him as an indication of our genuine commitment to the person and for God's best in the situation.

D. If the leader has done something wrong and there is no change, seek humility if you are to speak to them. If it is an obvious wrong, such as stealing, being involved in moral or sexual sin, being dishonest etc., and you have gone to them and they did not repent, then go to another godly person in the body of Christ and ask them to go with you to talk to the person again - Matthew 18:15-18, Luke 17:4.

E. If there is no response and it is not a matter of serious disobedience to obvious moral principles, then do not go to others in the body of Christ others when you disagree with a decision could put you in a position of causing a greater sin than the one you are concerned about in the life of the leader. There are strong warnings in the Scriptures about taking matters into our own hands and trying to correct them. Even David would not attack Saul in spite of his great sin because God had put him in that position of leadership. David trusted God to bring an answer in the situation - 1 Samuel 24:6. See also Numbers 14, Ephesians 4:26, and 29-32. If there is no response and it is a matter of moral wrongdoing, then take the matter to the leaders of the person's church, organisation or denomination.

F. If the leader is authoritarian or immature or very unwise, you have one of two options: you can stay under his authority and continue to pray for him after you have gone to him to share your concern, or you can leave the group. It is important that you do not stay and become critical and bitter. You have the freedom before God to leave at any time that you feel the pressure is too great for you. But do not stay and become a source of division. If you do stay you should have the faith that God is going to bring a change in the situation and that he wants you there to be a blessing to others and for your own personal growth. God will vindicate you if you keep your heart right and continue to pray and believe the Lord. If it is a matter of moral impurity or compromise on orthodox doctrines such as inspiration of the Scriptures, the divinity of Christ, the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus, his atonement on the cross - then after bringing due notice to the person you should leave the group. To stay where there is moral impurity or doctrinal heresy could lead to a compromise in your own life.

G. If you are unsure as to what to do, seek counsel of godly people outside of the group. Go to a mature pastor or a leader in another organisation, even if your leaders tell you not to do so! Every believer has that right.

VII. THERE IS A NEED FOR GODLY LEADERS

At the same time, after looking at the abuses to authority, it is important to affirm the great need for godly leaders. To become a wise leader means years of experience which of course includes making mistakes and failing. The Scripture gives many examples of failure on the part of those who went on to be greatly used by God; this includes Moses, Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, David, Peter, Paul and many others. There is a great need for wise fathers in the Lord who will take Timothy's under their wings and encourage them and train them in godliness and wisdom. Where there is abuse of authority, obviously there needs to be correction, but even more important there needs to be restoration and the kind of counsel and commitment that redeems one who has failed.

The leader who does that is indeed a rare and blessed person. - "May their kind greatly increase."

God bless you