The Subtle Art of Sabotaging a Pastor
Dearest Grubnat, my poppet, my pigsnie,
The reports of your progress warm my blackened heart. When you were assigned to one of the Enemy’s ministers ten years ago, his infernal Majesty and I knew you’d have a rough go of it. The zeal of one new to the pastorate can be a daunting challenge to even the most cunning of our comrades, but we also believed that time breeds all wounds and that your task would become easier the longer your patient remained. You now prosper from that sweet spot of pastoral fatigue and assimilation. The shine of newness is gone. And up pop the cracks in the ministerial armor.
There are many temptations common among the Enemy’s undershepherds but one universal temptation of them arises from their flesh and it is this: they want people to be pleased with them. Wanting to be liked is not a sin, really — to use the Enemy’s terminology — but it can be quickly turned to one at the hands of a spiritual disintegrator as shrewd as yourself. Some tacks you might consider:
Suggest to your client that he works for the people, not the Enemy. This will not be a hard sell as they are faces he sees every day. Remind him who pays his salary. The quicker you can get your patient to see himself as a professional, as an employee, the better.
Strike up with your fellow workers to send in to his office, voicemail, and email inbox parishioner after parishioner with demands, requests, and philosophical banners to wave. Through them propose hill after hill to die on, all save Golgotha.
Keep his head spinning. Even so-called “innocent” concerns can be proper distractions from Who your patient is ultimately beholden to if they offer plausible substitutes for the “first importance” of the Bad News. The slip into people-pleasing mode can be masked as subtly as a serpent slithering in the tall grass (no offense intended to his Majesty).
Help your patient to see all that he lacks. Stroke his discontent. The less satisfied your patient is with what the Enemy has done for him and all the Enemy has given him, the more alluring the validation, approval, and praise of others will be. Empty him of his confidence by highlighting his failures so that therefore his head will be far more easily swelled with adulations and self-confidences. Then pop those like a pin to a balloon and start again. It is easy for a pastor to move to pride—it is his default setting—so this should not be too difficult for you.
Turning your patient into a man-pleaser may require employment of what we have come to call the “rope-a-dope” technique, outlined as follows: First, make things very comfortable in the church for your patient. When he is very much pleased with himself and neither sober nor watchful, but drunk on ease and set to pastoral autopilot, then it is time to strike.
Bring in reinforcements to stoke division and dissension in his flock. Put him on the defensive. Demoralize him. Make him feel as though he has more to prove, more to be. Prod him to strive to enter the unrest. Make arrangements to see that he comes to shepherd under compulsion, not willingly, much less eagerly, and suggest that he view the sheep of his flock as problems to be fixed or resources to be used.
If you can steer him into a position of prideful domineering, that would be most excellent, but the key in all congregational unrest is not just to divorce the people of a church from each other or from their leaders but to divorce the leader from faith in the Enemy. Hype his understanding, if you must, so he will lean on it. Or deconstruct it, if you must, so he will fall back into man-pleasing. Whisper, “Yea to you when all men speak well of you.”
Convince him that difficulty is something strange, undeserved. Convince him that allegiance to himself is a suitable substitute for allegiance to the Enemy. Convince him to seek peace at all costs, especially at the expense of the truth of the Bad News. Your patient is a needy, insecure little man. Ply him with the tenuous, vaporous security of being liked as if it is the end all, be all.
And these are but the rudiments of but one temptation. There is always more to do and much to learn. More to come, if the Enemy delays.
Sign up to receive a daily digest of new articles from Desiring God.