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.

The Number One Quality for Leadership 02: There Are Steps to Stabbing Someone in the Back

When Judas betrayed Jesus to the Romans, that wasn’t a one off event that just came out of nowhere. It was the end result of a process that in my experience is exceptionally predictable. For those of you in leadership, you might not be able to stop someone taking these steps but you can see it coming and help yourself and your people handle it.

Every leader should be aware that a dagger in your back does not come out of nowhere, and you can see certain actions and steps and think… That person is not as loyal, as faithful, as on fire as they used to be. They are not able to betray you with a kiss tomorrow but they are on the way!

There are two very simple reasons why you must understand disloyalty is a slow process. Firstly, so you can see it coming when someone is being disloyal to you. But secondly, if you are serving a larger ministry or business than yourself, you can spot the devil and your flesh leading you down the process of being disloyal so you can head it off at the pass and avoid totally ruining your own life. Being disloyal will stab the other person in the back and hurt them, but it will hurt you more.

I have seen many pastors recover from a stab in the back, but I have seen very few of the people who did the stabbing recover. And those that did, it took a long time and in these perilous times, you cannot afford to take that kind of time off!

David had already dealt with disloyal with Absalom. Absalom was upset with David and started leading people away from him. But David having the heart after God he had did not want to destroy Absalom but restore him. He told his men not to kill Absalom. But then David had further disloyalty when Joab killed Absalom.

Disloyal people do things their way in your name and that will mess up any ministry. You need to become aware of the steps. In my next post, I will sum up all the five main steps.

But until now, just think about yourself. Are you disloyal to who God has placed you with? Are you doing things your way, even though there is no moral imperative to, other than you like your own way. Are you handling Absalom the way you want to or the way David told you to? Are you walking down a path that might hurt a ministry, church or business, and more importantly destroy you? If so, time to be found faithful, repent and do whatever you can to be full of faith – faithful.


The Number One Quality for Leadership 01: Let’s Find Out What it Is.

If I asked you what is the most important quality necessary to be a leader, I may get several answers. I would imagine you are not at a level where you would think it was some sort of ability, like a charismatic manner or a good preaching gift.

So you would assume it was some character issue, and that is the truth. But which one? Actually, the quality has nothing to do with the people you lead and has everything to do with how well you can be led.

The quality is loyalty, often called faithfulness in the Bible. I have found over the years it is not the superstars who make the best pastors and elders and Deacons but the loyal. The disloyal make the worst leaders in the world. The worst leader in Heaven was Satan, the worst leader on earth was Judas.

Paul tells us that in stewards it is essential that the man is faithful (1 Cor. 4.2), it’s great for a leader to be friendly, but far more important that they are faithful. It’s great for a leader to be on fire, but faithful is so much greater. The greatest leaders are the most loyal people.

In the Spanish Civil War last century, there were four columns of troops about to attack Madrid.

The general was told you cannot beat a city with only four columns. The general said he had a fifth column, people inside the city and disloyal to the city! This gave rise to the phrase “fifth column”, disloyal people inside the organization working to destroy it.

Satan has his fifth column too, people inside the church or organisation disloyal to the leadership, and the culture and values of the organization. The combined effort of the Roman Empire, the Sadducees, King Herod and the Pharisees could not lay a hand on Jesus, but when Judas got involved they arrested Jesus in a day. Disloyal people inside the gates are far more dangerous than any enemy outside!

Satan does not find it easy to launch assaults at me from the outside, I am anointed, wise and live right. So Satan has to seduce people in the church to come at me. He has to find his modern day Judases.

It’s the same in any church or organization. You have to understand that loyalty is the essential quality for leadership. Nothing matters more.

Satan’s desire is to build a 5th column in every church out of disloyal, bitter, offended, two faced people. If those people are not dealt with wisely and firmly, they will destroy the church and satan will rejoice.

I have had to deal with disloyal people before and it is not easy. The purpose of this series of blog posts is to help you understand how loyalty works, and to help you walk in loyalty and also build loyalty into your people. I have taught on this before, but in this series I hope to capture the basics in one place.

We had to deal with a disloyal man in Tree of Life. He went from church to church in our family of churches and caused chaos. He lied, he treated people badly, and he did not have our heart. He went to another ministry but in the end they found out about him and removed him. He came back to us, and having the kind heart I do, I moved to take him back, but another pastor gave me a Scripture. The Scripture said:

10 Warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them. 11 You may be sure that such people are warped and sinful; they are self-condemned. (Titus 3.10 and 11, NIV)

I realized what I had to do. Not let this person back in Tree of Life. That was not an easy decision for me at all. It’s not easy to take someone who you hope will turn out well, someone you love and want to help, and bless them: but I had to realize that this person just by being in our church was disruptive. The root of it all was disloyalty. They wanted their kingdom over God’s kingdom, they wanted their way over the Tree of Life Church way.

When Lot’s men were causing conflict to Abraham he sent them out. We cannot have churches of strife and dishonour. We cannot allow disloyalty to invade our churches. Disloyalty always ends up in murmuring, lying, slander, hatred and strife. We cannot allow these to continue. It’s like smoking kippers in a house, soon the whole house smells of kippers. Disloyal people infect the whole atmosphere of a meeting.

On of the reasons tbe UK has so many tiny churches is that we allow disloyal people to hang around and cause chaos. Secret home group meetings, people going to three or four churches hoping at least one of them will platform them, people who have no love for the pastor, the church, the church’s dream or culture. They pretend to love the church while trying to get what they want out of it, but it’s sheer hypocrisy. It is fake love.

If you are not with someone, you are against them. That’s not my words, that is the words of Jesus and we would do well to heed them. If someone is not for your vision but for their vision, they are causing di-vision in your ministry.

Now as a pastor you have two main responsibilities to your church. Firstly, to build a community that loves one another. Again, Jesus Himself said that if we love one another that we are truly His disciples. Having people around who do not love the church and are trying to use the church for their agenda will stop that flow of love like nothing else.

The second job as a pastor, as a good shepherd, is to lead people to green pastures and still waters. Green pastures is your feeding ministry, and still waters is your culture. Sheep won’t drink when the waters are choppy, but disloyal people love choppy water. They love stirring the pot, they love whispering, they love it when everyone is agitated. When these people cause drama, people will stay away from your church and go somewhere safer.

I know that to do what God has called me to do I need a team of people. In fact no one can walk in God’s dream for their lives without other people. You are not that amazing, you need a team. So make sure you have loyal team. And ultimately, I would rather work alone than work with disgruntled, angry, foolish, disloyal people who cannot work with me.

If someone is not for you, they are against you! Selah.

How to Make People Better Leaders 24 Be Secure Yourself

I am going to end this series today, with what is a key to raising up other leaders. It is a very important truth, easily stated and understood, but can be hard to work out in practise – it is this: be secure in yourself.

If you raise up leaders and are part of a growing organization, one of the greatest joy about that is you will raise up people who surpass you and pass you by. You need people around you who know more than you and can do things you cannot. But insecurity stops many people from doing that.

I know a lot of leaders who deliberately surround themselves with people who are sub-par to make themelves look good, because they are not secure in Christ. Like Saul, they could not bear to hear a song that claims someone has slain more than them.

As you lead and develop leaders, let me tell you the truth. Let me tell you reality. It is only in developing others that we are success. All other legacies and measures of success crumble, fade, fall apart and end. But what we do for people will last forever. Selah.

How to Make People Better Leaders 23 How to Confront Someone

If someone on your team, in your church is not doing what they should be, whether that is gossiping, lying, treating people badly, you need to confront. I spoke about that last week. Today I want to give you some quick bullet points on HOW TO CONFRONT SOMEONE.

  • Sooner Rather than Later. The longer the wait – two things will happen. Firstly, you are more likely to bottle it. Secondly, the person will keep doing it wrong and causing more trouble. The shorter the wait – firstly, you will not have to remember all the details, they will be fresh in your mind so that you will not be contradicted by someone chancing it; secondly, it means the person might still be soft and raw after doing it, so you have a real window to help them.
  • Confront the Action Rather than The Person. We are not in the business of condemning people and making them feel useless, we are in the business of discipling people by supporting them, encouraging them, loving them – while we explain to them why certain of their behaviours are wrong.
  • What the Person Can Control, Rather than Anything He Cannot. If you ask someone to change something they cannot control, you will just frustrate them.
  • Kindly Rather than Roughly. Give everyone the benefit of the doubt, assume that they did what they did with a pure heart and with good motives. Many areas are open to interpretation and do not assume you know why someone did what they did.
  • Specifically Rather than Generally. Do not tell someone “do better”, be specific. If there are no specifics, perhaps you are just jumping to conclusions. Perhaps your assumptions are false and you need to check them!
  • Calmly rather than angrily. We all get angry in different ways, I tend to sarcasm when I am angry. Confronting someone over their behaviour is the wrong place for sarcasm! Trust me, I have learned that the hard way. Anger means you are dealing with the person, not the situation. Be very careful.
  • Narrowly not broadly. Never use the word never. Always avoid using the word always! If I tell someone “never ever do that” – it’s not a rule, when actually I want my leaders to be thinkers and leaders, not slaves to rules. I will tell them – think about this, is this the right time to do this, is this the right way to do it, because mostly it is not. The exceptions to this are moral issues. You can very much tell anyone in your church “Never commit adultery”, “always treat people kindly” and so on. But in things that are not moral, but a matter of style – such as “never preach three hours” – maybe there is a time for it, and you need your people to be aware of that. Selah.
  • State Your Feelings Rather than Vomit Them. Nothing wrong will telling someone “I was disappointed by that”, “that really wound me up” and explain why. But stop those feelings and harness them before you have the actual conversation! Don’t vent at someone while confronting them.
  • Future Minded not Past Minded. Can you give the person a plan for the future? Ok, they did something wrong, and you are standing them down as an elder let’s say, but will you reconsider in a year. Is there something they can listen to? How can they prove their character is changing, and you can trust them again? Give people a plan to progress (don’t be upset if they throw it in your face, but still give them a plan).
  • Affirm Rather than Assassinate. I have had to stand down a couple of elders in the last 12 years, it is not easy, but I have never stood them down as a friend. Some people talk about the confrontation sandwich. Bread of friendship, confront as leader, bread of friendship. That way the conversation starts and ends affirming the person has value.
  • Positive Rather than Negative. Make sure that person walks away knowing not just “I have messed up” but “my leader loves me and cares for me, and has my best interests at heart”. Or at the very least you know you tried your hardest to convey that to them.

Confrontation is a time to grow. It’s like pruning a tree to enable more fruit.

How to Make People Better Leaders 22 Love People Enough to Confront People

It’s hard work to reward people for good behaviour. Well done for starting another two churches, here is a payrise. Well done for ushering so well, here is a card. Well done for forgiving that person, let me praise you. It takes energy and effort and time, but it is fairly easy.

Confronting bad behaviour is much harder. Most of us know there is a chance that we will be disliked, rejected, upset someone, even make them angry and no one wants to do that.

But here is a principle that I have found is ABSOLUTE AND TOTAL TRUTH. This principle cannot and will never be broken. Have I made it clear that this principle is invioable? It truly is. Read it carefully: Not confronting bad behaviour will always make things worse.

The whole church (or business) will suffer because there is someone in it not behaving well, with the best interest of the whole church in their heart. Secondly, you will suffer. You will be less effective if a leader you have raised up is lying, gossiping, failing to represent and reflect you and your intentions, coming with their own agenda and so on. Finally, and most importantly, by you as the leader of leaders failing to confront someone you are a thief. Yes, you are. You are stealing an opportunity for someone to repent, grow and get on track at a crucial part of their life! Do not be a thief – be the opportunity someon needs.

Gently, in love, let that person know what they are doing or failing to do that means they are not helping themselves or the church.

The main reason we do not confront is pure selfishness, we are more concerned about being disliked than the whole church being healthy. And confrontation is not always bad, often it leads to change, and the person grows and we grow and it’s awesome. But you must do it right – which will be the subject of next week’s post, but right now – the key is simple – it must be done!

How to Make People Better Leaders 21 Don’t Let Them Lower the Bar

You need to encourage the leaders you are leading to raise the bar as high as possible. Let’s say you put 100% effort into running the ministry, and you delegate it to someone else. Let’s say the youth ministry. Let’s say the new youth pastor only gives 80%, you are happy with that, because you were doing too much anyway and you are just glad the youth are being cared for. And 80% isn’t too bad, it’s still very good, right? But when the youth pastor delegates to a youth leader, what if they only do 60% of what you are talking about. Then they delegate, only 40% gets done. If your youth group grows anymore, some of your leaders will literally be doing nothing.

If your goal is mediocrity rather than excellence, people you are leading will produce what is barely acceptable, and the people they are leading will not even do that, they will lower the bar so much you will not believe it.

Excellence is not about capability, it is very much a character issue. The success of whatever you are leading will never go beyond your character, and excellence is a character issue. You should expect your leaders to turn up on time, do their paperwork, get involved, use their initiative and do what is excellent. If not, you have to have a word with them, and if they do not become excellent then you need to start dealing with that. It’s part of the job of leading leaders.

If you expect 100% from your leaders, they will expect 100% from the people they are leading, and that will mean you lead a near to 100% excellent organization.


How to Make Someone Else a Better Leader 20 Understand Emotional Space

When you learn something new or encounter a new idea, it generally starts on a visual level. You see it. We use seeing language a lot with new ideas – “oh I see it”, “I can see that now”, “It’s all clear now”.

So, step one is a visual step. People need the space to see a new idea. Let’s stay God speaks to me, and tells me as the leader of Tree of Life Family to start a church in, let’s say, Cardiff. Now what I need as a leader of leaders is for the other leaders to SEE IT. I need to paint a picture of how I am going to have meetings, where they are going to be, what is going to happen. I need people to see Tree of Life Cardiff. Then they see it, they go “I see it”, and that’s awesome.

Now for me, and for many leaders, that seeing is enough, we want to go to the DO IT stage next. Just hire a hall, pick a date, start advertising. That’s great, but as a leader of leaders, and as someone committed to raising leaders, you need to give other people stage 2, FEEL IT.

Just because someone who is with you sees it, does not mean that they immediately feel it. That is an assumption I have made too many times and got it wrong most of the time. Many people need to SEE IT, then FEEL IT, then DO IT.

We must give people space to FEEL IT before we move to the DO IT stage. People need a chance to process their emotions and that cannot be done instantly.

People might see that we are going to plant a church in Cardiff, they might see why we need a church in Cardiff, they have seen that God is calling us to do it. but they have not yet processed their emotions – for many reasons:

  1. They might not feel confident enough to step up. If one of our pastors is going to be in Cardiff, people may realize and SEE that someone else might need to preach more at home, but they might not FEEL capable or confident to do that.
  2. They might not feel up to the change. All progress requires change. They might not feel like change is good – they like things the way they are. They struggled to change enough to get where they are, and now you are talking about more change! It takes time to process those feelings. We have to allow people the emotional space to do that.
  3. Other leaders who are with you, that you are leading, will not have the faith you do. That is not an insult, you are fellow workers and you know you could not do what you do without them, but there is a reason you are leading what you are leading. People need space to feel what you feel automatically because it is your dream. If we fail to give them that space, we will bruise them. Trust me, I know. Most people’s first reaction to growth and increase is not excitement, it’s terror! We need to let people have emotional space.

I am not saying be duplicitious with people, but it is not necessary to tell everyone all your dream all the time. Do not tell someone what it costs to go on TV every month if they are struggling to believe God for a new sofa. You will bruise them. Do not tell someone how much travelling you do a month if a twenty-minute commute to work crushes them. Do not tell people how you had to correct someone else in the team over a certain sin, if they are struggling to forgive their family. Part of being the senior leader is protecting people from the whole weight on your back. You delegate what people can take and what they are designed to do. You need to know your team and in your planning for the future you need to plan FEEL IT time for your people as you present new ideas. That time needs to be in your timeline.

There are two special groups of people who you need to make sure get enough FEEL IT time when you are stepping into something new:

  1. Anyone who is going to be involved. Often when I am planting a new church, I have a good idea of who will be pastoring it. often before they have an idea. That’s part of the grace of God on my life as an apostle. I often see the call of God on someone before they do. Now, previously I would wait until they saw it, but that is not enough. I need to wait until they FEEL IT too. If you need someone to fly an aeroplane for you, make sure they feel it before they get in the cockpit.
  2. Anyone who is leading anyone who is going to be involved. If you take someone’s assistant from them, they are going to FEEL something, and you need to let them process it.

Make sure that people have the emotional space to process the change of the progress you are making, that way you will effectively raise leaders who will then be able to raise leaders themselves.

How to Make Someone Else a Better Leader 19 Have A Leadership Brother

We grow better with company. You should find someone about the same level as you, same sort of age, income, influence and ask them to be your leadership brother.

Then, on purpose, you share your challenges, your insights, what you are reading, what you are learning and what you are dreaming. Let them share with you.

There are many benefits to this:

1. It forces you to work out how to communicate your new learning and insights. That is very powerful.

2. It builds your relationship with another person. No one has enough close relationships.

3. It holds you accountable to keep learning and growing.

4. You will learn so much and have so many conversations that are actually fruitful.

How to Make Someone Else a Better Leader 18 You Become a Better Leader

The better a leader you are the better a leader you can make people. If you want to lead leaders – what are you reading? How are you reading the Bible? What is your plan for prayer? What are you doing daily to grow and develop?

You becoming better, you walking with God, you learning to lead, you developing the character and capacity to lead better is never going to happen by accident. It needs a plan, a daily routine and a commitment not to be distracted. I am currently in Alabama, but I have still prayed daily, I have still read large parts of the Bible, I have still studied and developed – because I have a plan, and I stick to it. It is in my calendar and is the most important part of my calendar. I guard my time that I spend walking with God and developing myself, because nothing else matters as much.

If you do not pray and study the Word and work on yourself daily, at least Monday to Friday, you are not going to ever develop the capacity to lead leaders. It does not have to be the same thing every day, for me it works better if it does. I have a set amount of time daily that I pray, read the Word, listen to sermons, consider certain situations, make certain declarations, and I guard that time “religiously”. Because I want to grow. I am reading new books and I am on three different courses right now because I need to grow. My future and the future of many others depends on me growing.

Another key that might help is this – can you learn more in wasted time? Terri Savelle changed her life by listening to CDs of preachers in her car over rock music. That could be any of us. Waiting for a plane? What can you do? Stuck in traffic? What could you be listening to?