One or two of these in isolated instances are likely handle-able. A pattern of any one or any combination of these signs in a pastor or the leadership culture of a church likely indicate a stalled or dying movement.
1. Insulation from criticism and/or interpretation of any criticism as attacks or insubordination.
Of course there is such a thing as malicious attacks, divisiveness, and nitpicking busybodies. But too many leaders treat all criticism as on par with those sins in an attempt to deflect or retaliate against any challenge to their sense of authority or rightness. In some cases it gets really bad when affected leaders treat any question, no matter how innocently or sincerely asked, as an affront to their authority, or when leaders cultivate a system that prevents questions, criticisms, challenges even reaching their eyes or ears. The minute leaders start insulating themselves from valid criticism is the minute they begin exalting themselves. And exaltation of anyone but Christ is death. Self-reflection, accountability, and openness to sharpening/correction are musts for healthy biblical leadership.
2. Paranoia about who is and who isn’t in line.
If a leader is constantly worried about who’s on their side and who’s not, who’s saying or thinking what about them behind their back, who can be trusted and who can’t, who are allies and who are obstacles, etc. etc., he is entering a world of insecurity that is hostile to the confidence of Christ’s righteousness. And really, most times a leader frets about who may not be unquestionably submitting to his leadership it is a sign he’s already lost credibility and trust. (Very closely related to this red flag is the tendency some pastors have to think of their people largely as statistics, consumers, assets, or liabilities, rather than as, you know, people.)
3. Need to micromanage or hold others back from leadership opportunities or other responsibilities.
Was it Luther who said, “All of us are ministers; some of us just happen to be clergy”? I don’t know, but I like it. Good leaders don’t just hand off responsibility but authority. A leader who micromanages trusts only in himself. Therefore, a leader who won’t trust other gifted and authorized leaders doesn’t trust God. And leaders who don’t trust God cannot lead life-giving movements.
Pastor, you can’t and shouldn’t do it all yourself. It’s not healthy for you and it’s not good leadership of your church to attempt shepherding it as a one-man show. Nobody wins in that situation, no matter the glory it may earn you and the comfort it may afford others. That’s all temporary, and therefore so will be your movement.
4. Impulse to horde credit and shift blame.
Leaders who claim all the credit and clout for successes and deny any responsibility for failures aren’t leaders but self-righteous glory-hogs. Self-righteous glory-hogs will eventually find themselves denying responsibility for the failure of the movement they spent a lot of time taking the credit for. Healthy leaders on mission understand that double honor comes with double responsibility.
5. Progression has become reaction.
Ever heard pro-Calvinism preaching that sounded more like anti-Arminianism? Or vice versa? Good leaders know that emphasizing what they’re for more than what they’re against is vital for fostering forward momentum. It’s okay to criticize or debate in appropriate measures, but so many pastors and leaders make the common mistake, fed by their emotions and the easy provocation of soapboxing, to rail and rant. Such stirring can draw a crowd and stir that crowd’s emotions, which can create a false impression of a coalescing movement. But a collection of naysayers and bitter critics can’t sustain movement over time. The content of our message can absolutely include what the message is not but if the shape of our message is what it is not (or what we hate or who we’re against, etc.) we triumphantly and enthusiastically shoot ourselves in the foot over and over again. It will be a frustrating — and ultimately failing — endeavor of Sisyphean proportions attempting to sustain a movement if it is known more for its denials than its affirmations.