There are a number of leaders today who teach the importance of an “honor culture” within organizations – particularly churches. An honor culture is an atmosphere of respect for the pastor or leader, often to the point of intense loyalty. Growing up as a preacher’s kid, I can understand a pastor’s desire to have loyal and supportive church members. In fact, my dad (pictured above) was kicked out of a church by a disgruntled elder who engineered his dismissal over doctrinal issues, but by the time the congregation discovered the elder was wrong, it was too late. So there is certainly a place for civil respect and honor for the role of pastor.
However, there are many cases when the highest honor can be respectful disagreement. During the difficult years when we struggled to convince my dad he couldn’t live on his own anymore and needed nursing care, I often gave in out of respect. But a family friend who’s a professional counselor reminded me the scriptural mandate to “Honor your father and mother” isn’t always about following their wishes. Sometimes he told me, honoring your father is about doing what he needs, not what he wants. He encouraged Kathleen and I to think more about my dad’s safety and health than his wishes, and do the right thing even if he disagreed.
That advice totally changed my attitude about what “honor” really means.
Back to our conversation about pastors, I believe in honoring them, but that sometimes means disagreeing. The questions are – are pastors mature enough to accept that disagreement as honor rather than disloyalty, and is the church or staff member mature enough not to abuse the privilege? Even serious disagreement can be expressed in a respectful way.
While my father and many other pastors have been hurt by out of line church members, I also know many instances where pastors were dangerously close to the edge, but because no one was willing to confront, they crossed the line into personal or organizational disaster.
“Honor” does not mean looking the other way. Sometimes, it means disagreement.
What’s your take?