Issue #32: How to Deal with Church Bullies
Every pastor has put up with bullies. Maybe you’re facing one right now. Church bullies are the worst, because they often carry out their sinful actions in the name Christ. They feel justified in their behavior. Some even believe God has called them to behave that way.
I know of one bully who believed it was his duty to vote no on every matter the church presented and every idea the pastor put forward. Why? He was called to hold the church accountable.
Another church bully showed up at church every morning to make sure the pastor arrived at his office on time. When the pastor pulled in at 8 am, the bully would pull away and go home.
Those are mild examples. Some church bullies are out for blood. Certain bullies rally church members for secret meetings with the goal to fire the pastor. Late night phone calls are made to create an unrelenting storm of chaos and gossip. These are Satan’s men.
So how do you deal with a church bully? Let me suggest six things.
Prayer. I know this is obvious, but we need to be reminded that our fight is not “against flesh and blood” but “against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). Our fight is spiritual. Therefore, we must use spiritual weapons. In this case, prayer is your greatest ally. Take your bully to the throne of grace. Imagine grabbing him (or her) by the back of shirt and dragging them into God’s presence. Plead with God as if the bully is sitting right next to you.
Confrontation. Bullies are often cowards. When confronted, they typically buckle under pressure. Don’t be afraid to lovingly, calmly, and truthfully, confront your bully. I remember when I had to confront a problematic woman. I called her on the phone and said, “Ann, you can’t keep gossiping like this. You’re tearing down the church.” She said, “I won’t be kicked out of my own church.” “No one is trying to kick you out, Ann. But I am telling that you must quit sinning like this, or we will have more discussions.” Did she stop? Not completely, but it got a lot better.
Coalition. Get others involved. Don’t do this alone. Most likely, the people you trust see your bullies’ actions. They know something needs to be done. Present the problem with a solution and get their support. Bullies want you to isolate and be afraid. Get numbers on your side.
Minimize. Do everything you can to take away or minimize your bullies’ power and responsibility. Make sure his ministry involvement is minimal or non-existent. This will weaken his power and influence in the church. Bullies thrive on power. But when it’s taken away, they become like Superman wearing kryptonite around his neck.
Laugh. This may be surprising, but bullies hate laughter. They want to come to church and be mad. They thrive on negativity and drama. Make the church a happy and fun place to be. Angry people will change or leave.
Love. I know it's hard, but you must love your enemies. Love your bully. Love them out of the church or love them to make changes. And if they decide to stay and cause issues, love them anyway.