Loyalty 6… Signs of Disloyalty 3: Criticism

Image

Hi there, my name is Benjamin Conway, and I am the pastor of Tree of Life Church in Dagenham.  We are currently looking at the topic of Loyalty – something you need to cultivate as a leader. 

As soon as someone gets to the passive stage of disloyalty (stage 2, as discussed here), you need to know that the next step is criticism.  It’s an easy step – someone gets to the stage where they are annoyed and offended to the point where they stop building the house, they are now in a position to start criticizing how the house is being built.

Someone quits the children’s ministry – not because God is leading them to a new opportunity, but because of offense.  Leave it a while because they will next start to subtly attack the children’s ministry:

“They don’t care for the kids anymore…”

“It’s too worldly…”

“It’s too religious”

“If I was still there, I would…”

They have now stopped building the wall and started ripping down the wall.  They have stopped living for the vision and started finding fault with the vision.  You can only move into the critical phase if you have first stopped working.  People on the team don’t rip the team apart – only the people who have left the team spectate and criticize the team!

When someone is critical you need to watch out – you have an explosion coming.  Now – you might not know that person is critical because they may take their criticisms elsewhere.  But you need to know that a critical person is hard to help.

At this stage, someone will ask “what about a legitimate criticism?”,  That’s a great question, and there are three simple ways to tell the difference between a legitimate criticism and a critical attitude that will lead to disloyalty.

1.  A genuine criticism can be resolved.  Let’s say you were round someone’s house and broke a lamp or something.  They may have genuine reason to criticize you.  But if you buy them a new lamp of equivalent value and style, then it has been resolved.  A critical attitude cannot be resolved.  The person is offended and nothing will make them happy.  You can try a few times but it won’t work.

2.  A genuine criticism is reasonable.  Other people can see it – if you are wise, you can hear the truth in it yourself.  A critical attitude is unreasonable.  A genuine criticism is that the sound quality at the back of the hall was not good today.  A critical attitude wants you to resign, the board to resign and all the elders to resign as they don’t have the right revelations.

3. A genuine criticism is constructive.  The person giving the criticism wants to help, wants to move things forward – they are looking for unity, restoration, progress and building.  A critical attitude is destructive – it wants to rip things apart, it wants to hurt, it wants the win.  Often people who are insecure end up in this stage quickly – the only way they can feel good about themselves is ensuring everyone else feels bad about themselves so they lay into people.

Dealing with this phase is difficult.  People are warm – they are getting hot and are ready to explode quickly and they move onto the political phase quickly.  We will discuss that next week, but let’s conclude this week with three steps to handle critical people in your church, business or camp:

1.  Don’t give them responsibility.  They have probably taken themselves out of any position that involves work in the passive stage, but now they will look for a position that involves responsibility over other performance but no actual work.  Don’t do it.  Don’t be pressured by it.  If someone explodes because you didn’t make them an elder, rejoice – they would have exploded AS an elder at some point and it’s good that didn’t happen.

2. Don’t let criticism from those with attitude get to you.  Don’t even respond to it.  You are not criticism led, you are Spirit led.  That’s a fact.  You should not even respond.  I don’t respond to emails that just tear down, I don’t respond to people who rip me apart and attack our church.  I don’t respond – not even one bit.  I don’t move, I don’t change what I am doing, I don’t fret about it, I don’t lose sleep over it.  Their behaviour is their responsibility.  Their attitude is their responsibility.  I am responsible before God to do what I am called to do.

(As an aside, Facebook is the best way to criticize me if you want to – it has a block button and everything.  It’s awesome!)

3.  Don’t fight fire with fire.  When someone comes at your with criticism, the temptation is point out that they are not all that.  It is a real temptation to tear them to pieces.  Don’t do it.  Bless those who curse you.

Advertisements

Loyalty 5… Recognizing Signs of Disloyalty part 2, Passivity

Last week we looked at the warning sign of an independent attitude.  The next step to disloyalty is what I call passivity.  Essentially someone goes dormant in an organization.  That is a clear warning sign that they are offended and heading towards betrayal.  Disloyalty and offense is not the only reason someone goes passive, but it is a major reason so watch out when it happens.

What does it mean to go passive?

It means to stop building with you.  A deacon will resign.  A trustee will step down.  An elder will shut down their Living Church.  A Sunday school leader will quit.  An assistant pastor will still do his paid job but will be effectively working union rules, dropping any task that they are not explicitly paid for. 

Now there are many reasons why someone will go passive.  A new baby, a promotion at work, marital difficulties, depression.  But when it comes out of disloyalty, out of offense it will happen suddenly… as the leader you may be the last to know.  It will probably not happen face to face but via email or even text.  This sudden step down is a big clue something is wrong.

People who serve a church either serve as Mary’s or as Martha’s.  Mary people serve after sitting at his feet, find their identity in Christ and enjoy serving as God flows through them.  They are working with God and are grateful to you for providing them a place to release their love and God given talents.   You could take all responsibility from Mary, stand them down from any position and they would be happy and still be there on Sunday.   Why?  Because their identity is in Christ not their role.  Change the role and they will be happy because Christ is still the same.

Martha people on the other hand serve out of pressure, out of insecurity and out of fear.  They, like Martha in the bible, will miss the sermon to serve, not relax when serving, and always judge others for not serving like them.  These people find their identity in their service not in Christ.  Take that serving from them, our should they find themselves in a position where the task is too difficult, too mundane, too lowly for them they will lash out at others.  They will put others down, try and sabotage others and point out their flaws… often their job is undone whilst they are doing someone else’s task because that helps their self image better.  Eventually the cycle of Martha is too painful and the person throws their hands up and quits. 

This is a major problem if this happens.  Remember Martha’s identity is in serving.  Now she isn’t serving anymore she needs to assure herself in her identity and to do that she pulls down everyone in leadership and everyone serving.  Passivity quickly leads to critical attitudes.  Stopping building nearly always leads to starting to tear down.

What to do with someone in the passive zone?

1.  Hit it head on.  Ask them why they are standing down, what they are doing instead, and whether they plan on resuming duties at some point.  Their answers will help you know what is going on.  I don’t recommend asking someone outright whether they are offended, it’s a rare person who can admit it! 

2.  A notice period.  Even volunteers should be expected to do a short notice period.  Why?  Because they take time to replace.  But in terms of seeing whether someone is offended, whether they work a notice period is a massive key as to whether they are offended.  Offended people down tools and go.  People who are being led forward to another ministry by God will make sure there is a clear handover of tools.

3.  Don’t make it easy for them to turn critical.  Ensure people know they are not in that position any more.  Ensure you get your keys back.  Change all the passwords.  Don’t let them stand there and watch where they used to serve.  (Side note… This is why retired pastors should leave their church)

4. Help them see their identity is in Christ.  We have to be careful as pastors and leaders when we see people who overserve.  It is so lovely to have the task done we forget our overlook we are hurting a person.  Ensure the person is in the service, ensure people around them are helping them see their worth.  See if they will do a Freedom in Christ course. 

5. Don’t be hasty to give them the task again.  This sort of cooling down takes time.

Loyalty 4: Recognizing Seeds of Disloyalty I

Image

It is difficult to tell who will be loyal and who will stab you into the back.  Sometimes someone will swear blind they don’t know then go on to be your best leader (like Peter), others you give all the jobs to and they then are the ones who betray you (Judas).  However, there are clues and one of the first clues is what I refer to as an independent attitude.

An independent attitude never seems to fit in with the group.  They might be a little upset at the leader, they might be annoyed at someone in the group, or just generally upset with the way the group does things.  They might have started out keen but there is something different going on now: an independent attitude has taken root.

It’s a subtle first sign to a betrayal, but it is as real as can be and you need to be able to spot it.  It could manifest in a number of ways: the pastor of a church could say “let’s all fast this Wednesday” and the person fasts Tuesday.  That sounds minor but let me tell you this: always be careful around people who take no notice of the calendar or the clock. 

This week it was independence day in Uganda.  They celebrated, we didn’t here in England.  Why?  Because we are a different nation.  We don’t follow each others’ calendars and clocks.  When people are part of the same group, they follow the same calendar.  It’s a really simple way to notice who is loyal and who is not.  Not following the calendar: it’s not a big deal, but it is the first step down a slippery slope that ends with you getting a knife to the back!

I am not against being independent and I am not against people having an independent attitude, the issue is that when you want to be part of something bigger than yourself – which is the only way to find true significance – you have to join in in such a way that you flow with the group, the church, the business, the organization.  You can’t play by your own rules and join in the big game. 

At our church, a big big part of our culture is what we call Living Churches.  They are groups that meet in the evening for a couple of hours in houses – we have 10 of these groups meeting every week and groups every weeknight.  So most weeknights I am out visiting and encouraging the groups.  I run two myself, my wife runs two, and when we are in we consider that time to be very precious family time.  So I don’t do much evening visits with people.  Some people get upset – they want me to be there for them in the evenings but they never go to a Living Church.  They are not flowing with our church.  They are not getting involved in something bigger than themselves.  An independent attitude.

It’s harder to be involved in something bigger than yourselves.  It is much harder than you can imagine.  At Tree of Life Dagenham we often have up to twenty people serving in the main service – children’s ministry, making teas, ushering, etc.  We all meet at 9am and pray for 10-15 minutes – that way we are serving like Mary out of our intimacy with the Lord, not like Martha.  It takes effort to be there for 9am, but if you can’t follow the group calendar or clock you have an independent attitude, and that leads (eventually) to disloyalty.

Does this happen in the Bible?  Yes!  Absolutely, Joab was David’s right hand man.  To use modern terms, he was the assistant pastor.  But it is clear throughout Scripture he was there doing his thing, not David’s thing.  David was a man of peace, but Joab was a task man – he missed David’s attitude and heart and went on doing his own thing.  He didn’t understand David’s vision, David’s behaviour, David’s grace – and in a fit of offense did things his own way.

Pastor Joab was nodding in the staff meeting, but went out the door and did what he wanted.  He never left David’s ministry – he enjoyed the benefits of being in the ministry but never submitted to the vision.

For example, in 2 Sam. 18.5, David is explicit to everyone: show grace and gentleness to Absalom.  Forgive him for his rebellion.  That was David’s way.

In 2 Sam. 18.12-14, Joab kills Absalom to protect David.  It looks loyal.  It looks fanatical.  But he is doing it his way, not David’s way.  This is an independent attitude – it is in the organization but doesn’t care about how the organization does things.  Worship leaders who play songs that are not on the churches’ white list, assistant pastors who preach crosswise to the pastor when he is out of church, ushers who welcome people and then tell them the latest gossip, elders who run the Living Church how they want and teach what they want the way they want.  It’s an independent attitude – and people who have one will never manage to be part of something bigger than themselves, and therefore are never significant.

An independent attitude is only a few steps away from stabbing you in the back.   In 2 Sam. 12.28 Joab tells David unless you get off your backside and do what I want then I will name this town after myself.  That is one of the biggest hallmarks of an independent attitude – people with one want a name for themselves.  I remember a worship leader who wanted to lead worship but leave before the sermon started.  Forget that!  That’s an infectious attitude.  I’d rather turn the CD player on.

I’ve seen this attitude lead to branch pastors renaming the church and making it their church, I’ve seen this attitude leading elders to turn house groups into their own personal church. 

(Incidentally, that’s why some pastors hate branch churches and small groups – they are so concerned about a Joab taking over, but let me say that the rewards are always more than the risk.  Always always disciple people and release them.  For every Judas stabbing you in the back you get 11 good guys.  Ok, so one of them might always stick their foot in their mouth, two of them might be sons of thunder, one of them might be the poster boy for doubting but as you disciple and release they will work miracles and build the kingdom.  It’s worth far more than the pain of one betrayal!)

Always beware of people with independent spirits.  People who don’t follow your calendar and clock.  Church starts at 10am and they substitute that for their own personal arrival time.  Conference is August 6th-9th, but they go on holiday then even though they have known about it for a year.  People who want to name things after themselves – they run their own small group programme rather than plugging into yours.

I’m not saying any of these things are wrong, but if you keep seeing signs of independence that is not a person who is with you.  Until the signs change, don’t promote that person.  It will save you pain, it will save you loss, it will save your dreams.

For more teaching on this subject, please see our website: www.treeoflifedagenham.com/dream-killers.html

Loyalty 3: An Analysis of Loyalty

Image

To read part 1 of this series, click here.
To read part 2 of this series, click here.

So far, we have discussed how to stay loyal, how to engender loyalty and that loyalty truly is the number one component to a successful ministry.  Today we are going to focus on the quality of loyalty – what it looks like and how to recognize it.

The truth that everyone must realize is that if loyalty is one of the key ingredients of a successful life then loyalty will always always always be challenged and tested.  When your loyalty to someone is attacked or challenged or rocked, you need to consider what information you have, where it comes from and you also need to consider your own heart too.

Firstly, you must analyze the past.  Paul to Timothy “Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands” (2 Tim. 1.6).  In other words, Paul said “Timmy, remember your gift comes from me and my ministry.”   Timothy was a young man in danger of deviating from his call and losing his destiny.  So Paul reminded him of the past.  You too need to consider your past.  Remember the things the Spirit has shown you.  Remember the people who prayed for you when your marriage was a mess, when you lost your job, when things looked bleak.  Most people are disloyal because they don’t think about the past. 

I will never forget how inspired I was by Will Graham, pastor of Victory Church International, as I heard him preach for the first time in August 1998.  As I heard him preach about his vision of church planting and impacting Europe for the gospel and God’s unconditional love, and having conferences that invited the entire five fold.  I fell in love with the message and I will always honour the man.  That sermon is re-played in my mind again and again.  I remember that message.  Because of that I am loyal to Will- – he is always the first person I invite to our conferences.  What you remember determines your loyalty.  If you are disloyal it is often because you have forgotten where your gifts and vision came into flame and who helped you fan the flames.

A few years ago someone told me to be careful around a certain preacher because they lacked integrity.  I laughed and told them “you don’t realize that this person is my friend, we go back a long time.”  I am not going to listen to mindless gossip about my friends – it’s called loyalty.  How do I do it?  I remember how that person has helped me, counseled me, been there at 2am when I was falling apart.  Remember who stirred your gifts up!  Remember who imparted wisdom to you!

Secondly, you need to analyze the person.  Paul told TImothy: “continue in the things you have learned… knowing of whom thou hast learned them” (2 Tim. 3.14).  When people invent seditious stories and slanderous reports, think carefully about what they are saying.  Analyze the person concerned and see if it makes sense.  Someone accused me of being in ministry for the money.   If you believed that you failed to use your brain: you failed to analyze!  I had a place in five different universities to study medicine, I had a lucrative career in the city, I was offered a phenomenal job writing computer code, I was offered a place on a think tank.  There are many different ways I could have earned more money than what I do right now.   I did not give up on several awesome careers to be counting people’s pennies and making a living that way for the money – I did it because of the call on my life.  A little analysis would show this to be obvious!

Paul told Timothy: “you know my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience, persecutions, afflictions…” (2 Tim. 3.10f).  It amazes me when people who know you personally are swayed by someone who doesn’t know you at all.  They forget your generosity, they forget your goodness, they forget the hours you spent loving them, praying for them, how much money you gave them, how you have put up with things over and over and fixate on a bit of gossip and end up being disloyal.  Loyalty comes from analysis, disloyalty comes from a carnal reaction.  Before being disloyal, stop, think, and think again.

Nearly every minister – in fact every person – I have heard negative things about when I finally got to know them I found they were nothing like the rumours.   Get to know people personally!

Thirdly, analyze the words you hear someone speaking.  “Hold fast the sound words, which you hast heard of me” (2 Tim. 1.13).  You must always double check what you hear a pastor preaching or anyone saying to you.  Is it accurate?  Is it Biblical?  Also think about what someone is saying now compared to what they used to say – some start off on the Bible then deviate and go onto some seriously weird teachings.  When a preacher defects from the Word, you should defect from that preacher.  When the church leaves the Word (and goes into barking, clucking, screaming, shaking and whatever), then leave that church!  We have to consider people: are they honest, are they gossips, are they critical, are they mean?  Analyze!  Consider!

Analyze the people bringing rumours and gossip – are they silly, mean people? Are they living for Christ, are they ministering with life and fruit?  If not, why listen to their gossip and rumours?  Why let unfruitful people stop you being fruitful?

The reason many people are unfruitful is because they don’t stop and analyze what is going on.  They forget people, they think wrong things because they are moved by rumours and so on.  The lie runs around the world before the truth is even dressed.  The weeds grow faster than the grass – but stand on the Word, analyze what is going on and make good choices.  That way leads to success.

For more information about Benjamin Conway, please visit our Facebook page.
For more information about Tree of Life Church, please visit our website.

Stay tuned for next week’s article where we develop the theme of loyalty more and discuss the Seeds of Disloyalty and how to recognize them.  That is going to really help pastors and leaders – please let them know about this blog!