Interview: Cliques Among Pastors Can Be Very Harmful

A group of people put their hands together.
A group of people put their hands together. (photo:
By Li ShiguangSeptember 20th, 2023

As the saying goes, birds of a feather flock together. It means that people will spontaneously gather together according to their own preferences, personalities, and other characteristics, thus forming various communities.

Brother Wang Zhenhai (pseudonym), a pastor of a church in a city in North China, told the Christian Times, an online Christian newspaper in China, that in his years of service, he found it easy to have his own clique, even among pastors and co-workers. It is very harmful for pastors and co-workers to form cliques.

Brother Wang is a church leader with church management experience. He said that as a pastor, one must have a sense of boundary.

"The last of the fruits of the Spirit is self-control. Goodness requires self-control, and integrity also requires self-control."

He explained, "Let's say a person is good; this would have been good. However, if someone takes advantage of it, this kind of goodness will become stale and could have negative effects. For instance, people may steal money from believers in the name of Christianity, and church workers may put their trust in those who have ulterior motives, which eventually caused the church to split. Apart from being cheated of money, what's worse is that some people lose their faith because of it."

"As a church leader, I manage many full-time colleagues. For example, one would be very close to the ones who are more compatible with his or her character and temper and also be closer to them. It's human nature, but other co-workers may think that he or she favors that co-worker on a lot of things," said Brother Wang.

Therefore, Brother Wang believes that as church leaders, it is very important to treat fellow church workers in a fair or equal manner. You can't "hate this person, despise that person, like this person, or value that person" because of your own preferences or other reasons. Of course, there will be personal relationships, but they should not be disclosed publicly because it will affect other church workers.

He said, "As a servant of the Lord, especially a pastor of the church or a co-worker of the church, you must be open-minded."

"In God's family, there is no right or wrong in many matters, and everyone will stand on their own point of view. There is probably something right and reasonable about each of these views. There may be different approaches and methods for different points of view, but the end point is always the same," he added.

Although Brother Wang is a church leader, he said that he does not have the power to "make a decision only by himself" and that all major matters of the church need to be decided collectively through church meetings. As the head of the church, he claims that the only thing the head of the church can do is give a little guidance to his colleagues at some key points. Those who serve must not engage in paternalism and need to have an open mind. Many churches were vibrant and growing very fast, but there may be a conflict of interests between pastors and co-workers. So the pastors may spontaneously begin to look for "teammates," that is, people who share their views. In this way, cliques developed along with cliques of pastoral colleagues, dividing the church.

One pastor said that in 1994, there were a dozen churches in his area that contained more than 4,000 members. By 2009, 15 years later, the number of churches had grown to more than 50, but the number of believers had dropped from more than 4,000 to just 1,000. The number of churches has greatly increased, but the membership has greatly decreased because of divisions within churches. "Therefore, the unity of the pastoral staff is very important, and there can be no cliques within churches," he concluded.

- Translated by Nicolas Cao 

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