Twelve Leaders Who Will Kill a Church

John Maxwell has said, “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” This is true in business. It is also true in churches. All churches. And especially revitalizing churches. By definition revitalizing churches are not healthy. Many are teetering on the brink of death. Some of these churches have had poor leadership in the past. Some may even have experienced one of the twelve leaders who will kill a church.

The Insecure Leader

Ministry is attractive to insecure leaders. It must be. Because there are many insecure leaders in churches. These are leaders who need affirmation from others. Consequently, they don’t really lead. They take people where they want to go. The problem comes when different people want to go in different directions. Pleasing one means displeasing another. I have seen insecure leaders drive churches on a journey to nowhere until eventually, they just run out of gas.

The Reactive Leader

The reactive leader gives his people leadership whiplash. They never know where they are going. He reads this book. Or attends that conference. He listens to some other podcast. And each time he changes direction. Reacting to what he reads, hears or experiences. The result is a series of starts and stops that keep the church from gaining momentum.

The Jealous Leader

Sometimes this leader is jealous of other leaders in other churches. They wish they had that leader’s people, resources, opportunities… Sometimes, they even try to mimic that leader’s style. But sometimes they are jealous of other leaders in their own church. A pastor comes to a church where a key lay-leader has established himself. When the new pastor arrives, one is jealous of the other. Or an existing staff member has become the go-to person in the church. And then a new pastor shows up. The result can be a power struggle between leaders that leaves the church divided and defeated.

The Factious Leader

Jealous leaders often become factious leaders. Especially if they are not in the first chair. And when jealous and factious leaders are also insecure leaders… Well, that’s a time bomb ready to explode. Factious leaders tend to repeat patterns. I knew of one man who joined a church after being a part of a church split. Within five years, he was in the middle of a splinter at his new church. Fifteen years later, I got a call from a friend in yet another church. This same man had joined there. And guess what… Yep. He was at it again.

The Sneaky Leader

Sneaky leaders are particularly dangerous. You can not prove they started the fire. But they always have the hint of the smell of smoke around them. Over time, sneaky leaders may even learn how to disguise the smell of smoke. I call them the Eddie Haskell of church leadership. They are genius at charming their way into the hearts of church members while wreaking havoc behind the scenes.

The Lazy Leader

Sneaky leaders are often lazy leaders. And let’s face it. It can be easy to be lazy in vocational church leadership. Typically, there is a high level of trust and a low level of accountability. Church members assume you are doing your job. Lazy leaders have learned how to appear busy. But their busyness lacks positive production.

The Stagnant Leader

Lazy leaders are often stagnant leaders. They are not learning. They are not growing. But it’s not just lazy leaders who become dinosaurs. Anyone who does not stay current will soon find that the world has passed them by. As I write this, I am reflecting on how much ministry has changed in the past three decades. It is truly amazing. A stagnant leader will kill a church!

The Whiney Leader

Ok. A whiney leader may not kill a church. But they can sure be annoying! Whiney leaders often poor mouth about how over-worked and under-paid they are. They complain when superiors hold them accountable to do their jobs. They love being the martyr. And if they have attracted a following, their supporters will make it hard on anyone who makes the whiney leader whine.

The Selfish Leader

Selfish leaders have lost sight of the role of spiritual leadership. Rather than lead for the good of the church and the glory of God, they “lead” for their own personal benefit. This could be for the accolades of others. It could be self-gratification for a job well-done. Or it could be for monetary gain. The result is the same. Selfish leaders will kill a church.

The Controlling Leader

We’ve all met the controlling leader at one time or the other. To be sure, some who are accused of being controlling are just being leaders. They are holding people accountable. And leading the church forward. But a true controlling leader is more than that. He operates from an ends justify the means mindset. And he is one of the twelve leaders who will kill a church.

The Angry Leader

Some controlling leaders are also angry leaders. In fact, some of them use their anger to control. Angry leaders cause the people they lead to walk on proverbial egg shells. They never know what will set the leader off. Sometimes a leader goes through a season of anger. This is understandable. It is also manageable if the leader gets help. But sometimes the anger is so deep-seated that it totally disrupts the church.

The Unaware Leader

The leader who lacks self-awareness is the most dangerous of the twelve leaders who will kill a church. A lack of self-awareness will prohibit any of the previously discussed leaders from recognizing their leadership problems and accepting responsibility.

The good news is that any leader who fits the above descriptions can overcome their leadership issues. It begins with having people who are able to speak truth into your life. In this article from May of 2018, I shared Five Helpful Voices for Church Leaders. Jesus’ church deserves healthy leaders.


Rob Paul is a church revitalization strategist with over three decades of experience serving established Southern Baptist churches in pastoral ministry. He has helped churches in Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia to experience revival and revitalization by God’s grace and for His glory. He is currently serving as the senior pastor of Huffman Baptist Church in Birmingham, AL. To find out more about Rob Paul Ministries and the work of church revitalization, visit Church Revitalization Resources.

1 thought on “Twelve Leaders Who Will Kill a Church”

  1. I’ve seen them all over the past 50 years as I have been active in 14 different churches in three different states; fortunately none of succeeded in killing the church I was attending, but a couple came very close. Hope this helps to expose many before the damage is done!

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