One sign of a good leader is knowing when to say when. Good leaders always know when it’s time for them to step down from a leadership role. It’s hard to believe, but there are a few occasions when a Bible study group leader should remove him or herself from their leadership role. If they don’t, they risk losing their reputation and a position of leadership if a pastor/elder has to confront them. What are some of those occasions when a leader should step down? I can think of four:
- When there has been a moral failure – “We all like sheep have gone astray” says the Scripture. But when a person commits a moral failure, they should remove themselves from leadership, seek forgiveness and restoration, and leave their leadership role for an agreed upon time. The pastor can help guide the person into a short-term or permanent departure depending upon the particular moral failure.
- When the group leader does not submit to the leadership of the pastor or other elders – Hebrews 13:17 says, “Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.” If you are a group leader who cannot submit to your pastor or staff leaders, it’s time to remove yourself from leadership. The Bible clearly says that it is of no benefit to you or the pastor(s) if you do not submit to their leadership. I have friends who are pastors who have shared horror stories of church members and lay leaders who think its their job to police the pastor and his staff – and it isn’t…but you can’t convince them of that. A lay leader may have been at the church longer than the pastor, but that doesn’t give the person the right to harass, poke and prod, or generally make life miserable for the current pastor, thinking “I was here before him, and I’ll be here long after he’s gone – this is MY church!” No, it’s not…it’s Jesus’ church.
- When the group leader gossips, slanders, or causes disunity – How many people have approached their pastor when they didn’t get their way? I’ve seen a few cases over the years I’ve been in ministry, and none of them were pretty. A disgruntled group leader can cause a lot of damage by gossiping about his or her pastor, by speaking ill of them and/or their ministry, or by causing general unrest and disunity. If you’re prone to speak ill of the pastor behind the scenes, it’s time to go. Don’t be the source of disunity. It is not Christ-honoring, nor does it give the church a good reputation in the community.
- When the group leader stops supporting the church financially – If a group leader decides to suspend giving to the Lord as a means of hurting the church or the pastor, it’s time to step down. God loves a cheerful giver, and someone who “takes their ball and goes home” is not being a cheerful giver. In fact, they are acting like a financial terrorist, seeking to harm the church and find a way to apply pressure to a situation so that they can have their way. You and I are accountable to God for our financial generosity, and we are commanded to give to the Lord’s work. We only hurt ourselves and our relationship with God when we use money to try and put pressure on our church’s leaders. When that happens, the whole church loses. And if you’re in leadership and you’re hurting the church, it’s time to go.
I hope you will submit to the leadership of your pastor and staff. If you get to the point that you can’t, it’s best to step down from leadership. The pastor is charged with looking out for your soul, and he will give an account to the Lord for his ministry. You owe it to yourself and your fellow church members to step down if you cannot follow the leadership of your pastor. If he’s wrong about something and you are right, rest assured that the Lord will deal with him. Your job is to follow your pastor’s leadership, because as the Word says, it won’t be profitable for either of you if you don’t submit.
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