Over the last few weeks, we have looked at a particular type of actor you may find in your church (or business or ministry, etc). We have looked at people who are pretending to be your friend, and we have called this kind of pretending over-familiarity. We found out that this kind of pretending, a form of friendship to a leader with no corresponding respect, led to Jesus Himself being unable to work miracles.
When we all want to have miracle ministries, we must therefore learn not just to recognize but we must learn about how to handle over-familiarity. Here are five ways to help you as a pastor handle people who are over-familiar.
- REBUKE OR RETRAIN THE PERSON. When Peter was over-familiar with Jesus to the point he tried to correct Jesus about the plan of salvation, and tell Jesus what God’s will for Jesus’ life is, Jesus looked him in the eye, and immediately said “Get behind me, Satan”. Peter had reached a place where he lost his respect for Jesus, he got presumptuous and was in a bad place. Had Jesus not dealt with this, Peter would have lost his destiny and ministry. Imagine thinking because you were Jesus’ friend you now have the right to correct Jesus and tell him what to do. That’s not divine order at all. Imagine reaching a place where you felt you could say “Hey Jesus, that’s a bad plan, let me tell you a better plan”. That’s a tragic place to be. I have had people tell me Heal the Nations was a bad idea, that I should not travel overseas to minister, that I should not give away so much money. These are all things that God Himself told me to do. I had a pastor once, one that I promoted and platformed tell me I was not allowed to plant another church unless I had run it by him! Over-familiarity. Wendell Parr once told me I needed to take care as I was so friendly that people around me would presume over-familiarity with me. Now I have never called someone satan, but there have been a few times I have had to rebuke people right there and then.
Now it’s easier when you can retrain people rather than rebuke them, and training about this is important. Remember people are destroyed by what they do not know, so teaching on this will help people how to win and deal with this temptation.
You need to teach people never to presume on privileges and never ever to complain about privileges. Pastors and elders should not be behaving like spoiled children whining that their brother got a better Christmas present than they did. I have met spoiled pastors whining that another pastor gets more privilege than them! Children in the pulpit! Try being grateful! I had an elder once phone me up and whine and moan that they were not getting to preach more – I thought if I let them preach they would just whine and moan from the pulpit, that’s not going to feed the people. I tried to explain what kind of attitudes would lead to me giving them the pulpit, but they suddenly felt “led of the Lord” to leave our church!
- REMOVE YOURSELF FROM THE PEOPLE. Obviously if it is your church that’s not possible. You need to rebuke and retrain them, and quickly. But as a travelling preacher, I have been to churches where they have treated me terribly. I don’t go back, life is too short and there are so many places that really like me and what I do. If you go back to Mark 6, when the synagogue in Nazareth was over-familiar with Jesus, He went out of Nazareth and went and preached elsewhere. One of my biggest mistakes in my life is not doing this quicker. Now if your ministry is young and you are new to it, I recommend going everywhere you are invited, because no matter how badly you are treated, you need experience in ministry and it’s all experience. But when you get to the place where you can make choices, choose the people who actually like you. I actually thought I had to minister in places where I was utterly unappreciated (generally due to over-familiarity and envy) to make me humble. Thankfully God set me free, and I now spend my life preaching in places that love to have me there. I’ve got to the point where I have been prepared to remove a whole church from the Tree of Life Family because they are not honouring me.
- REWARD YOURSELF. This one might be the most controversial, but read the Bible! Jesus was happy to ride a donkey into town when His disciples had to walk. Jesus could have afforded a dozen donkeys easily enough. He was happy to have a snooze in the back of the boat when the disciples are rowing (not rowing, rowing). Sometimes as the leader, you need to distinguish yourself from the people who are following you, especially when you are a leader of leaders because you cannot afford to get into over-familiarity. Do not be ashamed to reward yourself and distinguish yourself. It might save your disciples from being over-familiar. There is of course a balance to this, but most people in the UK are on the side of not distinguishing themselves enough.
- REARRANGE THINGS. One thing I have found is that the over-familiar do not like changes, they like comfort. If things are in the same routine, they feel as comfortable as you do and they can ignore the fact that you are the one God has called to lead. So, mix it up. Get up after the first song and lead the congregation into a time of singing in the Sprit. Preach on a totally different topic, take things in a new (but godly) direction.
- REMIND PEOPLE. The most important antidote to over-familiarity is gratitude. Stop getting upset that your lead pastor gets paid more than you as the youth pastor, be grateful you get paid to preach the gospel. Don’t get upset you haven’t got the pulpit, be grateful you have someone preaching the Word to you in such a powerful way. Don’t get upset your prophetic word was not allowed in the service, be grateful God speaks to you!
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