Saturday, March 02, 2019

The Allure of Toxic Pastors

(Cancun - 3/1/19)

Linda and I just finished reading The Way of the Dragon or the Way of the Lamb: Searching for Jesus' Path of Power in a Church that Has Abandoned It, by Jamin Goggin and Kyle Strobel. It's excellent! The interviews with Dallas Willard, Eugene Peterson, Jean Vanier, and others are inspiring and instructive.

Chapter 8 is on the allure of toxic pastors and leaders. A toxic leader is:


  • "someone who maintains power and significance by manipulating followers through their own fundamental drive to be powerful and significant."
  •  someone who dominates and controls others.
  • someone who wields their personality to cement their power.
  • someone who relegates others to positions of dependence on them, rather than on Christ.
  • someone who subverts systems designed to hold themsselves accountable.
  • someone who quickly establishes scapegoats when they fail.
  • someone who does not develop other leaders, because they pose a threat to their own power.
  • someone who creates "an unhealthy symbiosis between themselves and the organizations they lead, such that their absence would equal the collapse of the organization."
  • someone who has ceased living "according to the way of Jesus - the way of love,  humanization, and truth, giving himself (or herself) to the way of manipulation, dehumanization, and deception."
Why do churches with toxic leaders do nothing about this? Because, say Goggin and Strobel, this is what we want. "These are precisely the people we believe possess the "it factor." This is what we are looking for." 


"The reason we desire toxic leaders, according to Jean Lipman-Blumen, is because toxic leaders promise to “keep us safe, anoint us as special, and offer us a seat at the community table.” We want a sense of safety, significance, and belonging, and they are offering it in exchange for loyalty." (P. 148)