Would you believe it is possible to kill a church through the process of showing too much kindness? Hard to believe, isn't it? However, it is true and in a growing number of churches it is slowly killing any chance they may have to live out the mission it has been designed to accomplish.

Would you believe it is possible to kill a church through the process of showing too much kindness? Hard to believe, isn't it?

However, it is true, and in a growing number of churches, it is slowly killing any chance they may have to live out the mission it has been designed to accomplish.

As a pastoral leader, I find myself face to face with troubled people all the time. Vanity, envy, pride and hatefulness can't even scratch the surface of the list of personal turmoil afflicting every corner of the human condition. I have been put squarely in front of infidelity, bad grades, drug addiction, disrespectful teenagers, undisciplined spend thrifts, thieves and bullies, and they are all from a wide variety of homes, offices, cultural circumstances and economic realities.

There are those who perpetually testify they're committed workers of the church and passionate students of Christ, and yet show up late and do sloppy work. Yes, a pastor's life is filled with the need to address issues of what has been termed "pastoral care." Unfortunately, pastoral care has come to be predominantly understood as wrapping your arm around someone's shoulder or holding the hand of a tired soul who finds himself under personal distress.

Are these important aspects of pastoral care? Of course, they are. However, the breadth of pastoral care also includes two other very important items of emphasis: admonition and spiritual accountability.

A pastor –– a "real" pastor –– is significantly different then a person who does generic ministry or even a preacher. A pastor –– a real pastor –– functions as a leader, guide and protector as well as provides an environment of transformation and trusted voice of correction whenever needed.

People, in general –– and Christians, in particular –– are floundering under the weight of abundantly wrong behavior and completely inappropriate spiritual honesty, both in and out of the pulpit. Christians, congregations and even denominations are severely suffering because the men and women standing in pulpits all across America have all but abdicated the hard part, the risky part, the "they might not like me because of what I have done" part, of pastoral care.

Admonition has the meaning of offering criticism and correction while the word “accountability” carries the understanding of having an obligation and willingness to accept personal responsibility for your actions. Both pastors and the congregations they serve need to search their hearts on this issue.

Congregations and pastors alike need to return to the biblical notion of honoring the legitimate role of pastoral leadership if they want to display honest and healthy Christianity. Part of honoring the lost art of pastoral care is to remember pastors do not work for anyone but God. They are not placed among others to please them but rather to please the God, who called them to lead, serve and guide a local fellowship of professed believers.

They certainly can and do and should partner with a local congregation, but that does not mean they should have the mindset of being an employee of 1st Baptist, 2nd Presbyterian or 3rd Avenue Lutheran Church.

An important part of the pastoral role is to say, "No." You cannot effectively pastor anyone if all they hear from you are platitudes or warm and fuzzy rhetoric all the time. Not only is it OK to say no, it is also expected for a great pastor to declare with gusto, "That's not right before God, and we are not going to do that."

It is OK to tell an out-of-control trustee to stop the nonsense and get back to doing God's business. It is OK to tell folks in and out of your church it is sinfully wrong to hate people because they are different from you. It is perfectly reasonable for a pastor to proclaim and hold Christians accountable if they intentionally disrespect their parents, teachers or, for that matter, themselves.

More times than you might think, people may not like being corrected, but they will come to appreciate your pastoral care in the long run. The worst thing that could ever happen to any church is weak, placating, theologically compromised and philosophically unsure pastoral leadership.

Pastoral leadership from every sector of Christian expression needs to stop worrying about how folks are going to react and start worrying how God will react if you don't stand up for what is right.

The Christian Church absolutely, positively and without question deserves better leadership, and it needs it now.

The Rev. Ed Schneider is pastor of The Rock church in Oak Ridge, Tenn., www.therockoakridge.net.