Dealing with Church Bullies

Church PewsLast week I shared an article by Thom Rainer identifying nine traits of church bullies. This week’s Perspectives focus is another article from the same author, who now moves “from descriptive to prescriptive.” Highlights of his article are below. To view the entire article, go to

How do we deal with church bullies? How do we prevent bullying? Here are nine suggestions:

  1. Fight bullying with the power of prayer. The most common targets of church bullies are the pastor and church staff. Ask humbly for people to pray for them daily.
  1. Seek to have an Acts 6 group in the church. Check out the manner in which the Jerusalem church dealt with murmuring and complaining.
  1. Have a high expectation church.Higher expectation churches tend to be more unified, more Great Commission focused, more biblically defined, and more servant oriented. High expectation churches don’t offer an environment conducive to bullying.
  1. Encourage members to speak and stand up to church bullies.Bullying thrives in a church where the majority remains in silent fear of church bullies. Bullies tend to back down when confronted by strong people in the church.
  1. Make certain the polity of the church does not become a useful instrument to church bullies.Many churches have ambiguous structures and lines of accountability. Bullies take advantage of the ambiguity and interpret things according to their nefarious needs.
  1. Be willing to exercise church discipline.Church discipline is a forgotten essential of many churches. Bullies need to know there are consequences for their actions, and church discipline may be one of them.
  1. Have a healthy process to put the best-qualified persons in positions of leadership in the church.Bullies often are able to push around less qualified people who have found themselves in positions of leadership.
  1. Have a healthy process to hire church staff. A unified church staff is a major roadblock for a church bully.
  1. Encourage a celebratory environment in the church.Joyous churches deter bullies. They like somber and divided churches.

Church bullying is more widespread than we often like to admit. Actually, last week’s article was forwarded to more people than any Perspectives article in a long time. That’s an indication that the article hit home with many of my readers, who very likely have encountered a church bully.

As stated last week, I encourage you to remember that church bullies, like you and like me, are “poor, miserable sinners” for whom Christ died. They, too, are in need of the forgiving and life changing grace of God.

Accordingly, our goal should not simply be to “run off” church bullies from our congregation, but to seek and pursue ways of helping bullies become blessings! That will not always work. Yet while such an endeavor is easier said than done, it’s certainly a worthy effort to consider!


Giving Thanks for People and Other Blessings

Credit: Ben Earwicker Garrison Photography, Boise, ID

Credit: Ben Earwicker
Garrison Photography, Boise, ID

If you haven’t done so in a while, I recommend making a list on this Thanksgiving day of the people and other blessings for whom and for which you are most thankful. It’s a fairly safe guess that most of our lists would include some or all of the following:


  • Parents
  • Spouse
  • Children
  • Grandchildren
  • Siblings
  • Pastors
  • Teachers
  • Friends
  • Neighbors
  • Public servants
  • Health care providers
  • Police and fire men and women
  • Military service men and women


  • Health
  • Home
  • Food
  • Faith
  • Freedom
  • Forgiveness
  • Peace
  • Prosperity
  • Safety
  • Security
  • Vocation
  • Employment
  • Income and financial resources

Perhaps this outline will be helpful in preparing your own list. Where possible, be specific. Fill in the blanks. Name the family members and friends for whom you are thankful and let them know they made your list.

This Thanksgiving, take some time to thank God for these very important people and blessings!

“Oh give thanks unto the Lord, for he is good and his steadfast love endures forever!” (Ps. 106:1)

A Little Girl Named Katelyn

Offering PlateThis past weekend Terry and I joined the celebration of the 60th anniversary of Pilgrim Lutheran School in Houston. In 1966 I taught the fourth grade there for four months, filling in for a young mother on maternity leave. My classroom duties began three days after our wedding and ended days before we moved to Springfield, Ill., to attend Concordia Theological Seminary.

After speaking at the banquet Saturday night, we attended Sunday morning Bible class, ably led by Rev. Wayne Graumann. With wife Kathy at his side, Wayne now serves as Pilgrim’s interim pastor after retiring from Salem Lutheran Church in Tomball, Tex. He was preceded by my good friend Bill (and Carol) Diekelman, who served at Pilgrim for six months prior.

During the Sunday service I noticed across the aisle a little girl who was crying while the offering was being gathered. Looking more closely, I detected a coin in her little clenched hand. About that time she looked toward the back of the sanctuary at the ushers who were making their way from front to back. I deduced that she was deeply upset about missing the offering plate.

Her mother was saying something to her that was impossible for me to hear. But I surmised that Mom had suggested her daughter could still deposit her offering since the ushers would pass by again on their way back to the front of the sanctuary to place the offering plates on the altar. Unaware of the dilemma, the ushers walked right past her pew, which catalyzed additional tears.

After briefly pondering if and how it would be appropriate to help, I quickly got out of my seat, walked across the aisle, knelt beside the little girl and asked her mother if her daughter was crying because she missed the offering. Mom’s answer was in the affirmative. So I asked the mother if it would be okay for her daughter to go with me to the altar to put her offering in the plate. She readily agreed. So did the little girl, whose sadness suddenly turned to satisfaction.

Hand in hand a little girl and a man she had never met walked down the center aisle and up the chancel steps. When we stood at the altar, which was much too tall for her to reach, I asked if I could pick her up so she could reach the plate. She nodded in agreement. I picked her up, she completed her mission, and we walked back together to her appreciative mother. On the way I noticed no small number of smiling worshipers who had witnessed what had transpired.

Although I didn’t know it at the time, I learned from her mother after the service that the little girl’s name is Katelyn. She is four years old. When I saw the coin she placed in the plate I was reminded of the biblical story of the widow who gave all she had. And I was thankful that I did not let my initial concern about possibly making a scene or interfering in a parental matter prevent me from taking what turned out to be a most rewarding risk.


Ebola VirusWhat very recently was a word foreign to most languages is now a household word around the world. It’s a word that strikes fear in the hearts of people in the healthcare profession, people who fly internationally, and people who unknowingly have been or will be exposed to what appears to be an almost always fatal virus.

Tuesday’s Austin American Statesman printed a story from Washington by Tony Pugh of McClatchy Newspapers. It says, in part: “Health officials Monday were scrambling to identify and monitor a large number of healthcare workers at a Dallas hospital who could be at risk of contracting Ebola after they cared for Thomas Eric Duncan, who died of the disease last week in the hospital’s isolation ward.”

“It’s unclear how many caregivers could be at risk, though records show about 70 helped care for Duncan. Dr. Thomas Frieden, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said he wouldn’t be surprised if more workers develop the disease in the coming weeks.”

Already one of the workers at the hospital has tested positive for the virus, even though she had worn protective clothing in her “multiple contacts” with Duncan. “She had gone to the hospital, Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas, on Friday night after she began running a low-grade fever.”

The worker is a 26-year-old nurse at the hospital, identified by her family as Nina Pham. Please join me in prayer for this young lady, her family, and all others who have been exposed to this dreaded disease. Lord, have mercy!

Living Generously

Girl JumpingThat’s the focus of the current sermon and Bible class series at Zion Lutheran Church in Walburg, Texas, the congregation to which Terry and I belong. Senior Pastor John Davenport and new Associate Pastor Kevin Hintze are ably leading the congregation in a sensitive yet direct exploration of the relationship between people, possessions and the God to whom they belong.

Some of us discovered that relationship long ago, thanks to parents, grandparents, pastors, teachers or other significant people in our lives who taught us that though in many ways we are richly blessed, those blessings do not really belong to us. They are not possessions we own but treasures entrusted to our care by the generous and gracious hand of God.

Occasionally, even those of us who know that truth need a gentle reminder. It’s so easy to forget, especially when times are good and financial resources are plentiful.

But when times are tough and adversity strikes, the things in life that we value so highly quickly become less important, replaced by the significant realities that truly matter. That includes faith, family, forgiveness, health, home and heaven.

Jesus said: “Do not be anxious … Your heavenly Father knows what you need. But seek first the kingdom of God … and all these things will be added to you.” (Matt. 6:31, 33)

And St. Paul wrote: “He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way …” (2 Cor. 9:10-11)

With that promise on your mind and in your heart, live generously!

Another Move

House 1Not long ago Terry and I counted the number of times we’ve moved since our marriage on January 29, 1966, which was also my 23rd birthday. But I digress. The number we counted at that time was 15. Earlier this week, that number climbed to 16.

A few of our close friends and colleagues knew before the move occurred. We didn’t know exactly where we were going to end up, so we spoke in general terms to them and many others who had heard the rumor. To all who inquired we emphasized the primary reason for this move—to eliminate the beautiful but rapidly becoming onerous winding stairway with 18 steps.

Terry and I considered the reality that someday I might not be able to climb those steps to get to my study. In addition, many of the folks who come to our home for an overnight stay are close to or even beyond my age. That generates concerns for their stairway safety and, in some cases, creates impenetrable barriers to their access to our guest rooms, all upstairs.

Of course, we have liability insurance, which we hope will never be used. Oh, one more thing— I’m often the one who ends up carrying our guests’ 40-pound luggage up and down the stairs, which is always happily done, yet somewhat cumbersome, to say the least!

Not yet having succeeded in finding a home that meets our needs, we are temporarily ensconced in a very nice, significantly smaller, fairly new, single story rental home, awaiting clarity on move #17. We anticipate that will occur next spring.

Those who have moved recently enough to remember can testify that the process is always interesting, sometimes traumatic, often exciting. This move for us, and the one to follow, is a strange mixture of all these emotions. Perhaps I’ll keep you posted.

In the meantime, tiring and testing though it has been, this move, like most of the others, has generated within us a strange sense of calling. That includes the clear hand of God in the selling of our previous home and the purchase of the new one yet to come. We’re excited to see how it all turns out, clearly convinced that home is where the heart is and where God is honored!

A Person’s Reputation



Today’s article marks the end of the fifth consecutive year of Perspectives articles! While I’m occasionally tempted to cease and desist, I receive enough feedback from those who appreciate these weekly blurbs to persuade me not to stop. So, at least for now, I plan to continue.

In a previous season of my life I had a few most unpleasant experiences, putting it mildly. The particular incidents of which I’m thinking today are those affecting any person, not just me, who is the subject of a lawsuit or other biased, judgmental, defamatory communication.

While I could list a number of egregious results, the one of greatest concern is the harm done to personal and professional reputation by allegations and accusations that are totally unfounded. If you’ve ever been the target of a lawsuit or other spurious charges and allegations, you know exactly what I’m talking about. If you have not had that experience, count your blessings!

The most troublesome part of dealing with untrue or only partially true statements, written or spoken, is how to set the record straight. How can the injured (see the Fifth Commandment) person possibly tell the rest of the story, including the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, to everyone who has heard the malicious allegations?

The problem is simple but complex: The person who speaks or writes untruthfully about you communicates that hurtful message to unknown numbers of people. Some of them you know; others you don’t know. Some of them know you; others have never heard of you.

Unless these people also hear or read the actual truth about you, whether from you or others who know the person you really are, they may form a false impression as a result of what they have unilaterally heard or read. Our sinful human nature all too often delights in hearing bad things about people, even good people, including people we know and love.

The meaning of the Eighth Commandment: “We should fear and love God so that we do not tell lies about our neighbor, betray him, slander him, or hurt his reputation, but defend him, speak well of him and explain everything in the kindest way.” (Luther’s Small Catechism)

Remember those words, dear friends. And when you hear or read something derogatory about any person, check it out before believing it’s accurate and true. A person’s reputation is a blessed gift, hard earned, and way too important to discard on the testimony of anyone who is not interested in defending and speaking well of that person. My childhood Catechism used to say it this way: “We should fear and love God that we may … put the best construction on everything.”

God bless you abundantly!