When Raju went as a missionary from Tamil Nadu to North India he was back home like a ball thrown against a wall within three months.  The whole congregation was puzzled.  Many questioned the young man’s commitment to his faith.  Needless to say, Raju was very depressed. 

Eventually, the truth behind his abrupt return was revealed: The mission agency had sent Raju to be groomed and trained under a senior missionary, but that mentor turned out to be a "tormentor". 

Sadly, Raju’s story can be the biography of many disillusioned young men who have left full-time ministry due to a stewardship crisis presently affecting the church.

Stewardship is an oft-used word in evangelical circles.  The term is usually limited to applications of time, talent and treasure.  This lop-sided understanding of stewardship, however, has left the leadership of many Christian organizations bankrupt. 

A leader, correctly understood within the Christian context, is a steward of the followers, co-workers and personnel under his or her care.  Often, that care involves simply being a loving brother or sister in Christ. Unfortunately, instead of loving other people, many leaders often exploit or discourage them. 

This is the malady I see currently eating up the vitality of the Church. Even pagan kings like the Pharoah and Darius, we read in the Bible, were wise enough to recognize the basic precepts of leadership by accepting and making use of the services of Joseph and Daniel by encouraging them to use their capabilities, skills and talents for the good of a nation. 

It makes it all the more unfortunate and unconscionable that within many Christian organizations today we do not have this same generous spirit. 

When Mentors become Tormentors  

I have noticed several reasons for some leaders’ departure from true leadership and stewardship.

Envy:  King Saul was a classic tormentor who harassed, persecuted and insulted David. According to the Bible, Saul was simply envious of David.  The people praised David ten times more than they did Saul.  It was not flattery, but sincere appreciation.  Indeed, David surpassed Saul in wisdom, faith and boldness.  But Saul could not accept this fact.  (I Samuel 18: 5-9) 

Senior leaders often look upon young followers who have talent, ability and competence with envy and suspicion. Instead of doing the right thing by recognizing, appreciating and encouraging young disciples, some leaders try to keep them down.  Where are the Barnabases? (Acts 4:36: 9:26-27; 15:37-39). 

Insecurity: Saul was unsure of his position.  A more competent person—David—was around and he could not tolerate it.  Like Herod, who killed innocent children because he perceived one—Jesus—could end up being a threat to his rule, Saul hunted David.  Saul wanted his son to succeed him and he could not allow any likely rivals to survive.    

In spite of India’s much touted tradition of being a democracy, many churches in this country operate under de facto hereditary leadership.  Like Saul, some leaders marginalize all perceived competition and choose their son or son-in-law to or nearest relative to succeed them.  

Rule or ruin:  An anecdote illustrates this unfortunate philosophy of leadership best: A certain bishop who had held his position for 15 years wanted to bifurcate his diocese at the end of his tenure.  The executive committee members questioned his intentions.  The bishop revealed that he wanted to go down in history as the last bishop of such a large diocese.  He desired to be remembered as an emperor, while others after him would, in comparison, be regarded merely as chieftains or petty kings.  Such hypocrisy!  I know of another leader who intentionally created several problems before he left so that his successor would be bogged down.  Both these examples illustrate the “it’s my way or the highway” mentality that plagues the leadership of some Christian organizations in India.

Me only:  This generation is often referred to as the "me only" generation.  It is characterized by a sole focus on one’s own welfare and apathy toward anybody else’s.  Some are ready to sacrifice moral principles, ethics and dignity to achieve personal fulfilment. Sadly, Christian leaders are not exempt from this thinking. 

One consultant to a Christian organisation told me, "A Chief Executive wanted a salary revision for his organisation.  He asked me to design a proposal, which was advantageous to him.  He insisted that he get the maximum benefit while others got only marginal benefits."  What a shame!

“If I suffered, others have to, too”:  Many leaders suffer, work hard and swim upstream to attain their position or goals.  They feel they have the right to inflict suffering on others as a result.  They insidiously spiritualize this suffering.  Of course, God has called us to suffer, but that does not permit a leader to go out of his way to make life miserable to his subordinates and co-workers. 

The Strategy of Tormentors 
I have noticed some common tactics that bad leaders employ, to the detriment of young disciples who often end up leaving the organizations they initially committed their hearts to.

Impossible tasks:  Senior leaders use this tactic to put off upcoming leaders. They assign impossible tasks.  Saul did something similar by sending David to war against his enemies, the Philistines, hoping for his failure (I Samuel 18:21).

Insignificant tasks:  Politicians frequently transfer subordinates to insignificant positions.  Unfortunately, some Christian leaders do as well.  A good writer in an organisation is shifted to administration.  A young pastor is assigned to routine jobs like addressing envelopes and sticking stamps on them. Is it any surprise that they feel discouraged?

Insufficient appreciation:  Environments hostile to discipleship are those where successful tasks are not appreciated. Credit for an achievement is often given to the boss instead, while the contribution of others is ignored.  This can frequently drive a young, upcoming leader to depression.  

Personal Gain, Kingdom Loss

The net result of perverted stewardship and corrupted leadership is a loss for the Kingdom of God.  Many organizations are left without proper successors and young followers often fall away, discouraged and disillusioned.  Many potentially great leaders have become casualties because of the unethical behaviour of senior leaders.  God calls such leaders to repent and to rediscover the true meaning of being a steward-leader.