A pastor friend of mine shared with me of a difficult time he just had at the church he leads. Turns out there was a small group of folks who thought the church should move in another direction (by ‘another’ they meant ‘Their’ direction). This isn’t exactly rare (sad to say) but no matter how common place it is the results are always the same. The Bride of Christ is wounded and sometimes killed.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat and listened to hurting ministers tell their story of betrayal and devastation at the hands of a few grossly misguided, control freaks. Lately it has made me search for patterns of behavior and signs we pastors can be aware of in order to head these things off before they blow up in our face. Turns out there are several characteristics these people and situations share and I thought I’d pass a couple on to the ministers who read this blog for whatever it’s worth.
- One is that a group you were formerly close to begins to shut down. They withdraw from ministries and serving the body of Christ and begin to occupy their newly freed up time with get-togethers for gossip. It’s almost as though they’ve joined a sort of spiritually dysfunctional Amway or something and they now seem driven to ‘reshape the future’ at their church.
- Another is that, as the church grows, these people see it as a bad thing and fight for more and more of the pastor’s time (this creates an obvious tension as the pastor of a growing church has less and less time to spend with the original few folks).
- There is a sense of entitlement that can develop in pockets of like-minded people. Even though these folks usually opt to go into a form of early spiritual retirement (i.e. They no longer serve) they still feel the church owes them a kind of spiritual tenure when it comes to important decisions and leadership issues.
- There is a critical spirit toward both leadership and new people perceived as ‘taking over’ their coveted former positions.
- There is a paranoia that warts and flaws they have—and/or pains they’ve shared will be used against them if they ever try anything (read: attempt to cause disunity).
There are a lot of other signs, but, in the days ahead, I want to focus on the one that may seem out of place on this list—the one that you (the reader) might be the most confused about. It’s the last one.
I admit, I never really paid attention to it much myself until I noticed a definite pattern not only from hearing so many other pastors describe their ordeals but also with some who have behaved this way at Southbrook.
We’ll call this last one, Knowing Too Much.