Can The Pastor Do As He Likes?




I recently received an e-letter asking, “If the church is a 501(c)(3) entity, does the pastor have the right to appoint [and remove] members in position (for whatever reason)? or should such a process be done by way of a vote among the church membership or trustees?”

I responded to that writer’s question with, “The answer will be found within your church By-Laws.  Some churches have a ‘Democratic’ form of government, where the congregation [Membership] has all authority; While other churches are under virtual dictatorship by the pastor.  Most church by-laws have Boards of Directors or Trustees with the pastor a member of that board; but what ‘rights’ the pastor has, is alwaysdefined in the By-Laws.”

Biblically, the pastor should be able to “Cast the vision” for the direction of the church.  Further, he should be able to appoint men and women to those positions who will see that the vision is implemented.

Because the pastor has extraordinary accountability to his God [for God’s Flock], God’s intent is for the pastor to have extraordinary authority.  But that authority must be balanced with accountability to other pastors and ministers.  Question – Can pastors “Go off the deep end?  Become despots; begin to teach heretical ideas, practice immorality; even become mentally unstable because of a chemical imbalance?”  Of course they can – and some have.  The answer to these challenges however, is NOT in having the sheep of the flock attempting to judge the Shepherd over divisive issues which occasionally arise.  This is totally un-biblical – resulting in a division of the church.  Rather, it is wise to have mechanisms within the Church By-Laws, providing for pastoral accountability to other Ordained ministry.

God’s order of authority is always “Theocratic” in nature – which means that the pastor, led by the Holy Spirit, should have a great deal of authority.  Well written by-laws will give the pastor that level of authority,but with accountability to other pastors and ministers who could be called upon, if the pastor were to be accused of immorality, heresy, or other sin.  It would then be the previously agreed-upon ministers who would be called upon to investigate, review, and judge the facts to see if he has, in fact, forfeited his right to continue as a pastor.  To read more fully of what we have to say on this subject, please read two other On-Line Articles:  Church By-Laws  and   By-Laws, Discipline, and Structuring for Lawsuits.

Also – please read the scripture, Heb 13:17, and see where the pastor [and other leaders as well] will one day be required to stand before God, “To give an account for the souls of the people they were given charge over.”

It would be an excellent idea to write adequate language in your Church By-Laws, which would address this issue.  The sample By-Laws found in our “More Great Samples” Manual, have provisions for the above.

Can the pastor do as he likes?  As I said above, the answer is always to be found within a church’s By-Laws.  However a wise pastor, realizing he does not possess all wisdom, will surround himself with spiritually mature men and women of wisdom; integrity; leading righteous lifestyles; excellence in their personal lives; understanding of financial principles; and having a “good report” within the congregation and the community.  He should not be looking for “Yes Men,” but men and women who will contend for what is right, according to scripture and the law of the land.  These are the qualifications of Board Members and Trustees..

Other desirable characteristics of Board Members would be: 1. He is a person of integrity, demonstrated by a lifestyle of honesty and purity; 2 He has demonstrated he is in alignment with the vision and direction for the church, as cast by the senior pastor, 3. He has been consistently faithful in giving tithes and offerings; and 4. Demonstrating that he has a vision for, and “Sees the ‘Big picture,’ the worldwide church.”  That is – he has a heart, and a compassion for international ministry and missions.

A wise pastor will seek counsel of those around him, but he then must go to his God to get a clear leading of the Holy Spirit, to know what the Lord would have him do.  The bottom line is, that all spiritual responsibility rests with him.  Hopefully, the By-Laws will give him authority commensurate [equal], to the level of his responsibility.

Having said that, the legal responsibility falls jointly upon the Board of Directors, except where they [or the By-Laws] have expressly delegated authority to the pastor, in which case he will bear responsibility alone.  If a pastor takes upon himself authority to act, that has not been delegated by either the By-Laws or by express action of the Board, he will be held accountable to his actions by both the law and the IRS.

The above information is provided as a service to the Body of Christ by ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANCE

If you would like more information about similar issues, please consider “The Church Administration ‘How To’ Manual”  This Manual, endorsed by three CPA’s, an EA and two attorneys, was updated in January, 2011, for the 12th time since its original publication in 1991.

Copyright © 2009 By Administrative Assistance

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