Some causes of bullying in churches and Christian ministries

Peter Adam

As we look through this list, note that these causes may shape leaders who bully, and may also be reflected in the people who submit to a leader who is a bully.

  • An unconverted natural sinful tendency to be proud, to dominate or control or be successful,
  • The idea that this is such an important job that the end justifies any means to achieve it.
  • Leaders who think that they are above the basic Christian disciplines of love, service, humility, respect for others, self-discipline, self-restraint, and a willingness to be corrected by others.
  • Extreme self-centredness and self-focus.
  • A desperate need for approval and applause from others.
  • Forgetting that the NT pays much attention to the moral character of those who do gospel ministry, and to the motivation and style of that ministry. [See Titus 1 for moral character, and 1 Corinthians 13 for motivation and style which must be love].
  • A tendency to blame others when things go wrong, and to neglect to reflect on your own contribution to this state of affairs, leads to bullying.
  • A desperation about the failure of the church and gospel ministry which leads to the view that ‘anything that succeeds must be of God’.
  • A worship of present and obvious success.
  • An activism which leaves no room for reflection or critique.
  • A refusal to be challenged, corrected, or rebuked.
  • A tendency to focus on the Bible verses which describe what other people should do [e. g. ‘obey your leaders and submit to them’ Hebrews 13:17, and neglect the Bible verses which describe what leaders should do: ‘not domineering over those in your charge’ 1 Peter 5:3].
  • A belief that people doing gospel ministry are a race apart, and cannot by questioned or disobeyed.
  • The relentless tendency of people in ministry to compare themselves with other ministers, with the resulting envy, despair, or competition, superiority, and pride.
  • The deliberate fostering of ‘celebrity’ and ‘image’ in contemporary Christianity.
  • A long-term link between the entrepreneurial spirit and Christianity within evangelicalism.
  • A foolish trust in gifts which obscures questions of character.
  • An inadequate theology of church members, their insights, gifts, and responsibilities under God.
  • A leader who has promised such wonderful success, and begins to bully people in order to achieve it.
  • A confusion between ‘my kingdom’, or ‘our kingdom’, and God’s kingdom. [What matters is the growth of ‘my kingdom’, or ‘our kingdom’.
  • Sadly, those who have been bullied can tend to bully others.