In his instructions to elders/pastors, Peter insists that they must not lead for love of power, which is to say they must not “domineer” those in their charge, but rather be “examples” to them (v. 3b).
How might a pastor or elder “domineer” his flock? In other words, what makes a man a pastoral bully?
Here are some ways.
A man can “domineer” or “lord it over” his flock by intimidating them into doing what he wants done by holding over their heads the prospect of loss of stature and position in the church.
A pastor domineers whenever he threatens them with stern warnings of the discipline and judgment of God, even though there is no biblical basis for doing so.
A pastor domineers whenever he threatens them with public exposure of their sin should they not conform to his will and knuckle under to his plans.
A pastor domineers whenever he uses the sheer force of his personality to overwhelm others and coerce their submission.
A pastor domineers whenever he uses slick verbiage or eloquence to humiliate people into feeling ignorant or less competent than they really are.
A pastor domineers whenever he presents himself as superspiritual (his views came about only as the result of extensive prayer and fasting and seeking God. How could anyone then possibly disagree with him?).
A pastor domineers whenever he exploits the natural tendency people have to elevate their spiritual leaders above the average Christian. That is to say, many Christians mistakenly think that a pastor is closer to God and more in tune with the divine will. The pastor often takes advantage of this false belief to expand his power and influence.
A pastor domineers whenever he gains a following and support against all dissenters by guaranteeing those who stand with him that they will gain from it, either by being brought into his inner circle or by some form of promotion.
A pastor domineers by widening the alleged gap between “clergy” and “laity.” In other words, he reinforces in them the false belief that he has a degree of access to God which they don’t.
Related to the former is the way some pastors will make it appear that they hold sway or power over the extent to which average lay people can experience God’s grace. He presents himself in subtle (not overt) ways as the mediator between the grace of God and the average believer. In this way, he can secure their loyalty for his agenda.