A Lesson on Leadership and Blame for Regular Pastors

American politics has largely devolved into a giant game of blame. The American partisan voter plays this game, as do news anchors, political pundits, and cultural commentators. The rules of this game are quite simple. Anytime something good happens under your watch, take credit for that good thing. Anytime something bad happens under your watch, blame someone else.

This game is played 24-7-365 in American politics, and there was a fascinating example that played out last week in President Biden’s press conference. After a terror attack in Afghanistan took the lives of a dozen US soldiers and dozens of Afghan civilians, the President spoke to the press. The final question he was asked was about responsibility – meaning, it was about blame. The President said something about being responsible for things, but true to the rules of our political game, he quickly pivoted and blamed his predecessor.

Immediately after the press conference ended, others players jumped into the game. Those on the right were quick to blame the President for his leadership over the disaster in Afghanistan. Those on the left were quick to excuse President Biden by blaming some combination of Trump, Obama, and Bush.

Don’t miss the undeniable fact that everyone in American politics plays the blame game. This game is nothing new to American politics or politics in general, but within my lifetime the game was taken to a new level of intensity by Senator then President Barack Obama. To listen to Obama, everything was Bush’s fault. Donald Trump was more than willing to play this game, essentially blaming Obama and the Democrats for all of societies ills. Most recently, the left has volleyed back with intense condemnation of President Trump and the Republicans, blaming them for just about anything and everything.

I have no illusion that the blame game is winding down, cooling off, or going away. Odds are, we’re stuck with the blame game for the foreseeable future. Nevertheless, the American people deserve leaders who will lead, accept responsibility, and not reflexively jump to blaming someone else when bad things happen on their watch. Truth be told, there’s nothing more pathetic than a leader who only knows how to lament the failures of his predecessor as if those past failures are too great of an obstacle for him or her to overcome in the present. We have settled for low, whiney, manipulative leaders.

Furthermore, not only do we need true leadership from our politicians, but we also need true leadership from our pastors. I know too many pastors who refuse to lead and refuse to accept responsibility because they only know how to play the blame game. Too many pastors abdicate the responsibility of leadership by constantly blaming their predecessor, their staff or deacons, the ecclesiology of their church, or some other scapegoat.

Pastor, when you accepted the responsibility of pastoring a congregation, you took on a position of leadership. Don’t allow yourself to get caught up in the blame game. We all know that incoming pastors often inherit difficult, challenging, messy situations – but that’s always been the challenge of leadership! Inheriting a messy and being able to move forward in a productive way is the reason we need leaders (just consider the example of Hezekiah in the Old Testament).

Regular pastor, lead your church, take responsibility for your people, and don’t get lost in the blame game.