The office of pastor is to be respected and honored by the church. Yet, these recognized leaders of the church are still humans battling the flesh like everyone else. They are no -and cannot be expected- to be perfect.

But what happens when a pastor abuses his power or treats the church in a harmful way? How should a concerned church member act?

These are not questions to be taken lightly. To question a pastor’s integrity is a serious matter. Not only will such accusations affect the pastor, but his family and the entire church body as well. Therefore, here are nine essentials to keep in mind before you do or say anything:

First, you must be praying for your pastor. I certainly wouldn’t advise you to do anything else until you can find yourself in a place where you can honestly pray that God will bless and minister to him. I know this may be difficult if you have been hurt or offended by him, but it is essential:

I Thess. 5:12-13 We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves.

Second, resolve to be a blessing to him. This may sound counter-intuitive, but again, it is biblical.

Hebrews 13:17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

Third, ask God for wisdom in discerning whether or not you should approach him and, if so, how.

James 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.

Fourth, if you determine to speak with your pastor concerning the issue, commit to keeping it a private matter between you and the pastor. Do not air personal grievances in public.

I Timothy 5:19 Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses.

Fifth, resolve to speak the truth in love and with proper respect for a pastor.

Ephesians 4:15-16 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

Sixth, listen respectfully and strive for peace. Give your pastor the benefit of the doubt as much as possible.

Romans 12:18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

Seventh, don’t respond rashly. Rather, take time to consider what you have heard from your pastor. Consider saying, “Thank you for responding to my concerns. I certainly want to take the appropriate time to consider everything you have said. Perhaps we could meet again soon if I have further questions?

Proverbs 11:12 Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense, but a man of understanding remains silent.

Proverbs 15:1 A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

Eighth, prayerfully consider the conversation and consider the pastor’s viewpoint. Remember, unless you have served as a pastor, there are certain pressures and stresses that you may not understand. Further, keep in mind that because of confidentiality, the pastor may not be able to share everything he knows. Sometimes this puts pastors in a difficult position in which appearances can be misleading.

Ninth, If and only if you have prayerfully considered the issue and determined that you have been truly offended (or that an injustice/abuse of power is being performed against the church), follow the commands of Christ regarding conflict resolution:

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

Keep in mind, the first step is a private conversation between you and the person who has sinned against you. Your goal is to seek resolution -not establish greater hostility. Also, there is nothing in this verse prohibiting the offended brother from attempting this step multiple times. However, keep in mind that this is a private conversation and the details must not be made public at this point.

Hopefully, resolution will be made and the issue will be eliminated. Don’t ignore the possibility that God may change your heart toward the matter during this process as well.

However, if resolution is not found, it is time to take one or two others with you. I would recommend the most trusted leaders in your church -even if they do not agree with your claim. The point is not to have more people argue for you, but rather to have trustworthy folks observe the conversation and help you keep an objective viewpoint. They may be able to help you see the issue from a different angle, or be able to communicate more effectively with the person you are confronting. Again, remember, this must be done in love with the goal being restoration. This step, like the previous step, may be repeated more than once until resolution is found, or all agree that the conversation is not bearing fruit.

At that point, if you still have an issue, it is time to consider taking the matter before the church. However, remember that in the case of a pastor, you must have the “evidence of two or three witnesses” (I Tim. 5:19). This may include the witnesses you have had in the previous step -if they agree that an offense has taken place. Charging a pastor with a sinful offense is not only a serious matter, but it will have a great impact upon the church body for years to come. Even more, it will have an impact on the pastor and his family for years to come. Further, your entire community could potentially hear about the matter. This is not to be taken lightly.

With all of that being said, there still are situations in which it is appropriate to bring a pastor’s offense before the church. I would suggest requesting a meeting with any official leaders in your church prior to this step as an intermediate attempt to resolve the issue and avoid public controversy. If nothing is resolved, I would suggest asking the leaders for help in arranging for this step.

In such a meeting, it would be wise for church leaders to restrict non-church members from attending. This is a matter for the family and should be kept among those to whom it pertains.

Of course, a congregation will want to enter such a meeting with prayerfulness. Therefore, announcing the meeting beforehand (without great detail) may be in order.

Ultimately, whatever the congregation determines should be the end of the matter. Just as you would expect the pastor to abide by that, you should also be prepared to peacefully abide by that as well.

May the peace of Christ rule over your congregation for the sake of God’s glory!


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