The “Earl Grey Pastor” – doing nothing is not the answer

The “Earl Grey Pastor” – doing nothing is not the answer March 30, 2016

Faith is not belief. Belief is passive. Faith is active. – Edith Hamilton

What’s an Earl Grey Pastor?
TeaI just heard the term “Earl Grey Pastor” from my son-in-law priest on Sunday. It’s quite a revealing term. It’s the pastor who is interested in office hours, Biblical study, worship design, pastoral care, but not in moving the church into new spaces of growth in ministry or relevance.

It’s a passive stance…it’s a risk avoidance stance…it’s an insecure stance…it might even be an attitude of avoiding work. I’m sure there are many reasons that a pastor is in the office drinking tea.


My last post was about disruption…the Donald Trump model. It’s being the BOSS, the micromanager, the autocratic leader. That’s push leadership.

The musical conductor influences the choir or orchestra, and draws out their participation and empowers high performance standards. That’s pull leadership.

Both of these models require skill. Both of these models require clarity of purpose and vision and the ability to articulate them.

As William Willimon shared with me when I was doing research for my article on conflict (get it free HERE), pastors typically avoid conflict. Being passive might be a way to avoid conflict, however it avoids the inevitable by not addressing small issues. Small issues fester and ultimately become a bomb.


The issue I encounter with pastors is the perception of having to be “nice.” Being nice, in this case, is pleasing people by not addressing behaviors that create problems, or by not taking a stand by expressing an opinion for programs or principles that will help the church be relevant to the congregation it serves.

Pushing and bossing people is irritating. Doing nothing new and not leading is also irritating. Today’s thinking church member wants to be challenged and to have their pastor be their spiritual leader.

I’m still concerned that our church polity expects pastors to be the CEO, as well, and that’s a conflict.

Let’s have some tea.

Please comment below.

Hugh Ballou
The Transformational Leadership Strategist TM
Read about me on Forbes

(c) 2016 Hugh Ballou. All rights reserved.
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