Why do we have power-hungry pastors? The Anthony Weiner debacle is a microcosm of a greater issue related to why certain people crave positions of power and influence.
In his run for mayor of New York City, Weiner seems to be blind to the incredible humiliation he is bringing upon his family, himself and the office of mayor in general. Why would someone with all this baggage think it would never surface publicly in a very public run for office? I believe these are symptoms of power hungry people who fit a certain psychological profile that attracts an increasing amount of dysfunctional people to politics while concomitantly repelling seasoned, mature leaders.
God-ordained public service should never be about a person’s desire for power, but should arise out of a servant’s heart to meet the needs of the people they represent.
Jesus modeled this when He washed the feet of His disciples and when He said that the greatest in the kingdom of God are those who serve (John 13; Mark 10:43). Of course, we have power hungry leaders in every sector of society—not just in politics—and this includes the church.
I believe power hungry people are the cause of numerous problems and divisions within the marketplace and church, and we need to be honest with them and speak into them when necessary, lest they sabotage great organizations.
Since their drive for power will stop at nothing to achieve their ends, more mature leaders need to counter their dangerous ambitions instead of continually feeding into them.
The following are some of the signs of power-hungry pastors.
(I believe all leaders, because of our fallen nature, have to deal with some or all of the following issues at times in our lives. But some have totally given in and live out these issues as a lifestyle of choice.)
1. Power-hungry pastors only relate to other “power” people.
Power hungry people are constantly going to social events, parties and conferences and frequently joining boards of powerful organizations that will connect them with the most influential people—irrespective of whether they truly have the time or talents for it or genuinely want to connect with these people on a human covenantal level.
They are always looking for the next person who can do something to help them climb the social ladders in their spheres of influence, which causes them to use people instead of serving people.
2. Power-hungry pastors are constantly dropping names and speaking about their accomplishments.
There are certain leaders whom I have heard speak several times, and every single time they have spoken, either to me in private or in public gatherings, they have mentioned prominent academic institutions where they received their degrees or dropped the names of high-level leaders with whom they have access.
After a while, it becomes obvious they are attempting to flout their power and accomplishments so they can receive accolades or respect from others instead of it being a sincere attempt to give their audience context for their life narrative.
3. Power-hungry pastors are in competition with other peer leaders.
Power hungry leaders are always jockeying for position, fighting with other leaders they deem a threat to their influence, or are attempting to marginalize others with faint words of praise or outright gossip and slander.
(Immature Christian leaders usually don’t engage in outright slander, but tend to marginalize others subtly when in the company of those they don’t know well.)
Essentially, power hungry leaders will not rest until they become the “big dog” in the organization.
4. Power-hungry pastors are all things to all people.
Power hungry leaders often are like chameleons who adapt to the color of their environment. For example, I have met political leaders who speak as biblical Christians when they are speaking in churches, but when they are with secular humanists, they speak about their antibiblical values.
The only thing power hungry people value is their own power. When they are with Christians, they speak religious lingo, and when they are with secularists, they speak secular lingo. I don’t think even they know what they truly believe!
Unfortunately, many sincere Christians get fooled by these people’s surreptitious words and believe anything they hear. After such people are elected, these Christians are shocked by what they really stand for!
5. Power-hungry pastors are driven by selfish ambition instead of by love for people.
Though they may work many hours visiting their communities and churches and being among their people, their ultimate goal is to be in power, not to meet the needs of the people.
This is more obvious when it comes to candidates for an elected office. But pastors and church leaders have also fallen into this syndrome and act this out in the context of their own denominations or congregations.
6. Power-hungry pastors love the praises of men.
At the end of the day, power-hungry people live to hear other people sing their praises. They have such low self-esteem that they need to continually feed their egos by being the center of attention in every event, party and gathering they attend.
Consequently, they are easily insulted when they deem others not bowing down to kiss their rings and can quickly turn on these people.