Arm-chair “Experts”

We are planting a church from nothing. We start in our home with the few people who invite and come. From there we begin to evangelize and after a time, we have a nice group. We grow both spiritually and numerically. Then we move into a rented place and are eventually looking towards buying property and building.

This problem creeps up with the new people who come into the church through the outreach of the church (or just a drive by that drops in). Let me describe this family to you.

 

The Problem of Expert Helpers

The Introduction.

They see your church sign or receive a tract from your, and come visit in a service. Thereafter they are completely enchanted with your church. It is the best and most biblical, fundamental, etc. (just read what descriptors you put on your church sign and they will repeat them all). Often they will come and put their arm around you (the pastor) and pledge allegiance forever to your church and to you. You say “Great!”, you really like this (that is if you don’t have a lot of experience).

The Revelation.

After applauding your church for how great it is, they begin with “their ministry.” One is music, another is Bible teaching, another is disciplining, another is evangelism, and is preaching on Sunday mornings. But they offer their services to you. You as pastor are burdened with a million things, and barely one or two you are doing right, so you accept joyfully their offers and try to place them and encourage them in whatever area they claim to have gifts from God in.

The Disunity.

Then the trouble comes. These people are totally out of sync with you, your church, and often the New Testament in its entirety. Often in this stage the couple become very clannish. Before they enter this stage they must, absolutely must, build strong relationships with anchor people in your church. This is always dependent on how their ministry pans out. If they are very good at convincing then they will target your movers and shakers, your deacons, and your high tithers. If they are not good at convincing through mental force of logic, then they will attack the weaker, less intelligent members trying to impress these members with their service, dedication, devotion, great biblical knowledge and experience, etc.

The Rebellion.

At this point, they display open rebellion and begin to delineate in great detail and with great conviction all the problems that your wonderful church has. The bottom line is this. They are the remedy, you have done it all wrong and goofed up horribly and maybe should even think along the lines of stepping down and not just letting them take over and direct things, but be pastor. Of course any sane pastor will refuse, and then the dilemma, how do I handle this mess?

The Dilemma.

Let’s just say most of the times these people take us broadsides, and we are either didn’t see it coming, or even seeing it coming, there was little we as gentle, peaceable, meek, and humble pastor could do.

One option is to openly confront these members in open session in a church service and rebuke them. This generally doesn’t work well, and even so we as pastors are forced into it anyway. The results and problems of open confrontation are as follows. (1) It is extremely difficult to establish what they did wrong. Even doing so, you have to make a decision. Let them speak to your church as an antagonist against the pastor, in which if you say nothing you concede guilt, or you defend yourself and look like a bully (which is exactly the tactic they use, they are the poor innocent and you the mean ogre). The common accusation here is that the pastor is a dictator, and only the pastor’s view is the only view allowable, and everybody else is a numb-numb in a quickly form personality cult around the personality of the pastor. Dialog and exchange of ideas are always to give him a floor for his ideas in your church, but you are a bully to insist on Scriptures contrary to him. (2) These people have done this before a half dozen times and already knew the outcome long before they first visited your church. They will do their little temper tantrum, cause a split or many people to not even go to any church, and they will be forcibly kicked out, and the pastor will stay, and try to pick up the pieces.

The experienced pastors usually measure themselves at this point as to how good a pastor they have been over the last few years by how many members they lost to the wolf in sheep’s clothing. If the pastor gets kicked out, or asked to leave, or pressured by low attendance, lack of sacrifice economically by the members, etc. then the pastor is a “loser” as per his own perspective. Some pastors, really good spiritual men, at this point just abandon the ministry altogether concluding it was all of God to show him he is not called. I won’t judge the pastor at this point, but I will judge the wolf.

(3) A further problem here is the issue around which this expert helper has made his mark on your church is now in doubt. Great doubt by your people. They do not know what the Bible teaches on the issue, where you stand, where the church stands or should stand, and where they should stand. Generally the fortunate pastors who preacher on issues and touch on it are lucky. For the rest of us, we must deal with the issue while it is hot in the church (famous hot potato). Many pastors refuse obstinately to ever deal with such issues, and they suffer worse.

 

SOLUTIONS AND NON-SOLUTIONS

Let’s just say that the whole point of the church is to employ your members (mature and faithful members) in the work of the Lord. This is the “loop hole” which these guys use to enter your church. We cannot close that loop hole because God has left it open. So there are some things up front that we can use to protect us down the road.

(1) Maturity

One of the passages that bear heavily on these types is 1 Timothy 3, specifically verse 6.

1 Timothy 3:6 Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.

By not being a novice, let’s just be honest, the idea is a little difficult to grasp in reality. It can be talking about not new to Christianity, somebody who has various years of living a victorious Christian life under his belt, or it may be talking directly about not a novice to the ministry. Besides being a faithful Christian for years, this person has shown himself faithful in discharging ministry tasks for a good while.

By any means, the point is that he is not a newbie. This is the wolf’s most dreaded problem. He is mean, undermining, a expert at being a traitor, and very craft at creating confidence and getting people to his side. By his craft is a hidden one. The pastor (and every legitimate servant of God) always builds his rapport with his people through service. He serves them. He sacrifices for them. They understand this and interpret it as being love from the pastor to the people. Sometimes the people don’t get it at first, but if the sheep doesn’t run away at first problem, they will eventually come around and come to understand that the Pastor is there to help and serve them, nothing more.

For the pastors out there, some sheep are really messed up. No not the drug addicts or wife beaters. They are messed up and know it. But others are messed up in their heads, and don’t know how messed up they are. I would prefer to understand the wolves I have personally known to be messed up in the head sheep, because I hope they will one day get to heaven despite what they do to me and God’s work. But any sheep stuck on a barbed wire fence will probably bite the person trying to help them. This we as sheep tenders must understand and let fall by the wayside without comment or letting it bug us or get under our skin.

But maturity is a guideline to protect us. We need to understand that anybody that ministers, stands before others, or speaks officially or with authority is put out there for the rest to emulate. This is the thrust of Hebrews 13:7,17.

Hebrews 13:7 Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation. 13:17 Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.

Oversight and being an example of a mature Christian as so highly intertwined that it is impossible to separate the two. The wolf always wants power, notoriety, and influence over the flock, but he is seldom willing to be put up to the light of examination by biblical criteria. Oh sure, he will do so, but only to gain an entrance, and then not a very profound and deep investigation of his personal life or where he came from and what he did at the last place he was at. Usually he will tell you openly he left the last place because the pastor “unjustly” persecuted him. Usually this is only after he has discerned where you stand on the issues, and usually he will always be your position on whatever was the problem. A little investigation at this point is very helpful, but he will never be specific enough to allow a phone number, pastor name, church name, city and state to be known so you can easily do this. If you press him he will give one from 2-3 churches back where he left with a good reputation.

1 Timothy 3:6 Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.

Returning to 1 Timothy, the condemnation of the devil is that he rebelled against the legitimate authority of God because he estimated his own opinion above that of the authority over him. Rebellion and being a traitor is common among the followers of the devil and those that oppose God.

Paul also speaks of being lifted up with pride. Let’s be very clear here about the importance of arrogance, pride, and haughtiness in their moral makeup. This is what makes a wolf a wolf. He has no pity for others except for a show to convince others. As quickly as he will publicly “pity” a brother, just as quickly he will privately slice somebody’s throat.

Satan’s problem is that he evaluated his own take on things as being a better take than what God’s take on it is. Therefore since Satan thinks he is right, and he thinks God is wrong, he has abandoned God’s way for his own highly over estimated way. Problem is it don’t work. So Satan comes back to steal from God what God legitimates has because His will works, and thus thievery was born.

All of this is intertwined with the warped high exaltation of his own self. Good servants are humble. Wolves only pretend to be humble. Good servants can serve other’s wills and desires without problem. The wolf will serve others hating them in his heart, and always swearing that once he is “in” or in authority, all will serve him.

Let’s talk for a minute about good pastors. A good pastor must have a good sense of direction, and he must always be forceful in pressing people to do God’s will. He is not wishy washy. But the difference between a good pastor and a wolf is that the pastor is very meticulous about not introducing his own will into the matter, and being authoritative with God’s will, and very loose with his own wishes, will, and desires in a matter. A good pastor will never obligate others just because he thinks things should be this way. He reserves authority for what God has commanded. So he is very particular at what he pushes and what he humbly, and less forcefully “suggests.”

Your first warning of a problem is when a church member is haughty, bragging, or exalting the virtues and strengths of himself. At that point the pastor should restrict that person from all ministry. It should be a unilateral restriction because he already shows his Satanic pride.

(2) Testimony

1 Timothy 3:6 Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7 Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.

One of the key points of ministry is how a person has established himself in the community. The good ministers of God always have a good testimony among the brethren and among the unsaved. He is not a personal that wears moral problems on his jacket label. He controls his life such that others do not see anything that others can legitimately incriminate him with. The wolf is very crafty here. While he knows the game inside and out, yet the whole point of all his effort is to do the evil things in his heart. So he is very much a hypocrite, always leading a dual life. This is really easy to catch people in because little by little these things come out. A pastor should be aware and quick to preach on these things so as identify improper conduct way before the wolf can make it a personality clash issue. The pastor needs to lay ground work for establishing improper conduct for a Christian, and this is to head off the popularity of the wolf with the less spiritual among his flock. The more spiritual members will fall in with the wolf anyway, but they will have many doubts about this little things, and from there they will be quick to follow the pastor against the influences of the wolf. Normally the wolf has little success among the firm, mature members, and generally he convinces the young and spiritually immature.

1 Timothy 3:4-5 One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; 5 (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)

We see a repeat of the above point of maturity because what can a man do in a church with people if he in his own character is wrong and to be faulted? Nothing is the answer. He is excluded from the ministry totally by God. What he does has Ichabod written over it.

My point here is that usually these people have a wacky family life. Sometimes they are divorced and remarried, but even not carrying that burden, they simply don’t have a model family life, nor a model marriage. The wolf’s family and wife and well learned to not reveal the truth to people in the church, but at the same time is very hard to hide these things for long. This emphasizes an important point. Never give duty, authority, or official recognition too early to anybody. How long should you wait? I don’t know. But in general 6 months to a year or two is not bad. Normal people want to serve and minister so you cannot frustrate normal Christians or you will run them off. But it is highly ridiculous that a Christian couple can go to a new church where nobody knows them and within the month they have responsibilities and ministries.

In relation to the wolf, you need to protect yourself and your flock. It is not a sin to let a person who has a good testimony preach or teach, but this should be tempered against letting him prove himself and establish a testimony first.

(3) Experience

1 Timothy 3:6 Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.

Part of not being a novice is having experience. Here we need to understand that God allows churches and pastors to use new immature members to do some things, but not teaching, preaching, or officiating. We see a pattern of a faithful Christian establishing his faithfulness BEFORE he enters into serious ministry.

It is extremely disturbing to see people appointed to Sunday School teacher, music director, service officiator, etc. when they cannot even show up to their ministry on time, they come unprepared, or in general they should themselves untrustworthy in what is their responsibility.

Here let’s make a clear point. People who are the main ministers in a church should rarely miss a service, and this goes for their wives and families. It is disgusting to see the warring between husband and wife when a man wants to minister and his wife is dragging him out of the ministry. Also it is very hypocritical of some ministers to never be able to sit under somebody else singing, preaching, teaching, etc. If they are not in the limelight, they seldom come or are distracted and non-attentive.

(4) Faithfulness

The above point could be summed up as being faithful. A person who is not faithful will never make a good minister. Every Christian at some time or another fails in his Christian life. It is difficult to always be faithful. The point here is the intensity in effort at being faithful. The public reward here that a Christian wants or expects for his faithfulness, as well as the amount of anxiety and distress a failure in faithfulness causes the person. This are good or bad signs in regard to discerning the heart of the person.

We have identified the marks of a wolf and the criteria to filter them out. Now what if he is in.

 

Wolf in the Sheepfold

Personal confrontation is always a last resort in things within the church. Discipline can be used to correct some people, but usually discipline only works on people who admit their guilt. The wolf will refuse to do this. His image is what he is seeking, so he will generally never admit to ever doing anything wrong, but he will constantly present, remind, and inform your church members of everything you and they do wrong.

Hard preaching is our best weapon

2 Corinthians 10:3-5 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: 4 (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) 5 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;

The key to this passage is the meekness and gentleness of Christ. This is what our weapons are in 2 Corinthians 10. Notice that the enemy is identified as “imaginations” or a reckoning, computation. This is what the false prophet thinks. He reasons that his doctrine is more biblical or better than what the Bible really presents. Also there is always the element of pride. This pride exalts itself against God, and God’s authority, and on earth against the legitimate authority of God’s “men of God.”

In Ephesians 6:13-17, God speaks of the weapons and defense of our faith. Interesting that the only offensive weapon God provides for us is the Word of God (v. 17). Good hard solid preaching is how we attack those that are against the purposes of God. I did not say those that attack us. Big difference.

Reason

It is really very interesting the thinking of these wolves that come as expert teachers. On one hand they despise the church structure as unnecessary, outdated, and incompetent. Yet the question needs to be made, if that is so, why are you wanting to enter local churches, wanting to pull people out of local churches by you yourself being in them?

On the other hand they want to reform and fix what is wrong in the church. Yet they themselves don’t go out and start local churches but they want to come in and fix our church (which isn’t broke).

 

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