The Number One Quality for Leadership 03: The Five Steps to a Backstab

No one just grabs a knife and stabs you in the back. There are five clear steps that are always there before you are stabbed in the back by someone. This blog post will outline those steps simply and effeciently – but I have gone into more detail in other places (for example, here). But this is the simple outline of these five steps. and I want this blogpost to serve two purposes: firstly, to enable any leader reading to spot those who are on the road to backstabbing them – not to make anyone paranoid but to help them show grace and restoration to those people and help them repent and change path; and secondly, to ensure that those people being decieved and conned by satan to think that the only way forward is to stab a leader in the back to realize that it will hurt the leader but destroy you and to identify the path you are on and help you get back on track.

  1. An Attitude of Independence. The first step to someone stabbing you in the back is just a little step but trust me the path is towards betrayal! When I say an attitude of independence, I mean someone who just does not fit in with the rest of the group. That attitude comes because someone feels let down, upset and annoyed at the way the group does. There is an over-attachment to doing things “their way” – when that attitude takes root be careful. It’s like you say “let’s fast Tuesday” and they decide to fast Wednesday because it suits them. Be very careful of anyone who ignores your calendar or clock! Now – you can be independent, but you cannot be part of something more than yourself AND be independent. When you join a group bigger than you, you need to flow with the group. You need to turn up on time, you need to join in and do things the groups’ way, and with a good attitude too – a team attitude. I was recently stabbed in the back by someone – and the first sign was they kept booking their annual holidays overseas the same week as Heal the Nations. They wanted to go on holiday more than be in our church conference. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it is a sign someone is not loyal.
  2. Passivity. The next step is someone goes dormant and downs tools. You have to stop building the wall before you can criticize the wall. A deacon will suddenly resign, a trustee will suddenly step down, an elder will stop having their small group and may or may not tell you. A pastor will still do what they are paid for but it seems like they are wokring union rules! Now there are many reasons why someone goes passive – a new job, a baby, depression – but one of the reasons is they are offended and on the path to betrayal. They are stopping building so they can stand back and criticize. You cannot criticize what you are building (more on this here).
  3. Becoming a Critic. After being passive for long enough they are no longer emotionally attached to what they were previously building, the next step is the person becomes a critic. They start to mention how worldly, uncompassionate, religious the church has become. They start to tell people “well, if I were still involved, I would…” hoping no-one has the sense to say “why aren’t you still involved?”. Passive is them stopping building, now they are attacking the building. They are ripping the team apart – which they can only do now they are no longer on the team. When someone is critical, watch out, they are bubbling over and ready to explode. I am not talking about genuine, reasonable, honest criticism which if you listen to and resolve, the person is happy and all is well, I am talking about a critical attitude that nothing can appease. People at this stage are difficult to appease. Make sure you are not letting them have a position of leadership.
  4. Going Political. Every critic needs a base, so the person goes political. They start infecting others with their bitter root (Hebrews 12.15). I will know someone is at that stage when someone other than the critical person comes to me and says “Do you know about Brother X? They are a little disheartened at what is going on at church”. I wonder why Brother X told them and not me, and I wonder why that person did not tell them to shut their mouth and talk to me, but what is happening is that someone is building their political party. A church without factions can move forward, but when people start building their parties in the church then it gets stuck. If you are a pastor and you have spent blood, sweat and tears building a church from nothing and taking it forward, do not let a donkey rip it apart just to get a piece of the pie they presume they are entitled to. What will be happening is secret meetings – secret prophetic meetings because you are not prophetic enough, secret this and that meetings because your teaching needs corrected, secret intercessor meetings praying for your (hard and ugly) heart! People will literally do anything to build a power base inside a local church rather than go into all the world and make disciples. Watch out because when the person feels their power base is powerful enough – you are now going to get a backstab. The person is villifying you because the more demonic they paint you – the less people will be horrified at their immature, disloyal behaviour!
  5. The Backstab. Here is the moment you are betrayed by the kiss of Judas. It starts with an independent attitude, then passivity, then criticism, then politics, but now it is about to try and rip part of your ministry or business or church out of your hands and into theirs. Or if they are brazen enough, they may go for the whole thing. This is not fanciful teaching here – I have seen this happen over and over – not just in the Tree, but in other churches and ministries many times. We need to be wise as serpents, gentle as doves – not gentle as ostriches putting our head in the sand and ignoring problems! A back stab will take one of three forms – firstly, it will be an attack on your capability. Secondly, an attack on your character. Thirdly, an attack on your credibility.

An attack on your capability will sound like “this person is not capable of being a pastor, look at this mistake they made (it might be a real mistake, you have made them and so have I – or it might be imaginary)”. Notice your backstabber has been passive for a while, so during that time they made no mistakes because you cannot make mistakes doing nothing! They will harp on about money you wasted, an evangelistic event that did not work or a decision that did not work perfectly. This is how Absalom stabbed David in the back – assaulting his capability to rule with his words.

The second attack will be against your character. They will say you do not pray enough, are not kind enough (kind here being a synonym for “letting me have my own way”), not generous enough or too harsh. Generally I have found people assualt personality and pretend it is a character issue. I love that everyone in the kingdom has a different personality, it gives life some variety. But some people are loud – some people are quiet – that’s not character, that is personality, but suddenly you are being character assassinated because of your personality!

Finally the backstab will attack your credibilty. This is the most desperate form of attack – it’s just a flat-out lie – you cannot pastor, you cannot lead a team, you are unsupportive, you cannot get this ministry out of debt. There will be no evidence, because there is no logic at this stage, the person is driven entirely by emotion – rage, offense, bitterness. They will not accept any explanation. They want the church split. What they want is their bloody half of the baby they feel they deserve, and they will happily rip your church in two, kill it, and destroy everyone to get it. People will follow the backstabber, normally out of pity, and others will stay, and others will be so confused they just stop going to church. This is the saddest moment. For how to deal with this if you are in the middle of it go here.

That’s the five stages. They are pretty much standard for anyone who is going to split a church. If you are a pastor, without being cynical, be wise! If you are on this path, repent, you will come out worse than anyone if you rip a baby in half to get your dead half.

Published by Tree of Life Church

We are a growing network of growing churches, with services weekly in Dagenham, Guildford, Watford, Croydon, Brentwood and Dorset. We are also planting churches in Cambridge, Suffolk, West Midlands and Hemel. Find out more at www.tree.church, www.tree.church/youtube and www.tree.church/app.

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