Loyalty 8: Signs of Disloyalty 5 – the Backstab

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This is the final posting on signs of disloyalty, but there will be a couple more posts on the concepts and the importance of loyalty coming up!  My name is Benjamin Conway, and I pastor the Tree of Life Church, and you are going to have a great time reading this blog!

So far we have looked at the signs of disloyalty, and found out that it starts small – with independence, then with some passivity, then criticisms, then it starts to leak out as the person becomes a church politician and tries to build a power base based entirely on criticism and negativity.  This is not pie in the sky – these things happen in businesses, in families, in churches all the time.  We need to be prepared and we need to be aware.  The Holy Spirit is a gentle dove, not an ostrich that puts its head in the sand and pretends problems are not there.  The reason we have to spot the signs of disloyalty – the subtle independence as someone doesn’t do your study, but their study; the passive person who suddenly drops off all the rotas, the person who “is only trying to help” but is just ripping down everything the people who are working are doing, and then the person mingling around the church during the teas on a Sunday letting everyone know they are not as happy as they used to be – is because disloyalty ends up with a backstab.

Just like a kettle that is getting warmer and starting to steam will eventually boil over, disloyalty that starts with passivity if not checked will end up with a backstab.

This is the final stage of disloyalty – you will be betrayed.  When the person gets enough of a power base they think they can do something about it, they will start to attack you openly.  There are three different ways this attack will come:

1.  An attack on your capability

2.  An attack on your character

3.  An attack on your credibility

The first one is about your ability to lead and run the church.  People will point out the mistakes you have made (if you are part of a successful, growing ministry you will have made mistakes, you will have taken risks some of which won’t have worked, you will have made mistakes.  That’s what people doing things do.  Passive people never made mistakes because they are risking nothing, doing nothing, reaching no-one, helping nobody, and doing no good for the kingdom), will harp on about money they feel was squandered because an outreach programme didn’t work, will claim that you no longer are capable of making good decisions.  This is how Absalom dealt with David – every time David acted as a mediator, 

The second attack that offended, religious people make is against your character.  They will tell you that you don’t pray enough, don’t read the Bible enough, that you don’t give enough, that you are unloving, that you are too mean, too harsh, too soft.  What generally happens is people find things about your personality and attack them as if they were a character flaw.  Character is about integrity, personality is about who we are.   It’s awesome that God creates everyone different – some people like comedies, others action films, other romance.  What happens is that when people want to assassinate the character of someone who has good character they attack their personality.  Some people are loud, others are quiet.  So if you are loud, they tear you apart for being abrupt, for being a party animal, too shallow, for being this and that.  If you are quiet, you are attacked for being timid, and too quiet, and not charismatic enough.  If you like a certain sport or TV programme you are called worldly, if you don’t watch sports or TV you are called a Pharisee in an ivory tower.

The third attack is your credibility.  People will just blatantly say you can’t do it – you can’t run the team, lead the church, get the ministry out of debt.  They won’t even offer evidence – they are not thinking logically they are boiling over with rage and they don’t want to have a discussion they want to have an argument.  They won’t accept any explanation for their behaviour and their opinions.

When people start making blatant attacks against your character and your personality – then everyone around has to make a choice to stay loyal or not.  This is when a church splits.  People follow the backstabber, others stay.  Others get so confused they drop out of church completely.  

If you haven’t spotted the signs before this point, and you are being backstabbed then you need to take urgent and rapid action to protect your heart and your future.  This is why we try and notice disloyalty and deal with it earlier!

But if it is at this late stage there are a number of steps you should take today:

1.  Remove the backstabber from all positions of leadership immediately.  You are not about to let this person keep having influence you give them.  In Scripture, pastors appoint elders not the other way around!

2.  Don’t get upset at people leaving – some of them were never with you in the first place.  Better you know that now.  Focus on those who stay.  Show them love, preach life and grace to them, help them walk in victory.  Keep going for their sake.

3.  Deal with bitterness.  Get rid of it.  Forgive the backstabber.  Love them to pieces.

4.  Don’t let them back into your inner sanctum of friends again.  Not after a significant amount of time and proving.  They can be welcome in the church if you feel comfortable, but keep a fence between you and them.  Don’t give them the bullets to shoot you with.

If you need any help dealing with backstabbers – or you have experience or wisdom you want to share please comment below!

Grace and peace,

Benjamin

 

Loyalty 7: Signs of Disloyalty 4: POLITICS!

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The next stage of disloyalty after turning critical is turning political.  Political people damage a church and need to be handled carefully and firmly.  You know when you are boiling a kettle, before it boils over you see and hear the steam escaping.  That is the political stage – it doesn’t boil over yet, but it will start to be noticeable.  Remember the Bible is clear: a bitter root is infectious (Hebrews 12.15).

It amazes me when someone comes to me and says “Do you know Brother X?  He is getting a little disheartened at church.”  I wonder why Brother X told that person, I wonder why that person didn’t challenge them, and I wonder why that person is telling me.  The answer is that people just before they betray a church get involved in church politics.  A church without politics is a church moving forward.  If you remember the previous stages (independence, passivity and criticism) of disloyalty and offense, you will remember that before the political stage, the person has stopped helping the church and is now looking for reasons to pick the church apart.  Because misery loves company, they are looking for ways to now influence other passive and independent and critical people and build a power base in the middle of your church.

Pastor – you have spent blood, sweat and tears building the church – don’t let a donkey rip it apart by playing politics.  It is easy done!  I found when our church was 5 people no one really wanted a power base, now we are larger people want a piece of the pie.  We have had people sneak off with our elders and offer them roles in their churches, ask for secret offerings for their businesses and secret investments into their stock, people holding secret prophetic meetings because we are not prophetic enough.  People will try anything to build their power base out of your ministry rather than go into all the world and make disciples!  And the way they do it is through church politics.

After the service, where everyone else is packing, serving, cleaning and counting, you wander around infecting people.  “The preacher went on too long today”, “too harsh”, “too soft”, “worship was a bit bland today”.  The politician wants power – they want the church to accommodate them and only them.  The favourite phrase of the politician is “a lot of people are saying that…”

This process could take a lot of time.  Absalom spent two years in the passive state, doing nothing in the kingdom, then suddenly became a politician (see 2 Sam. 15.3) visiting people that the king could not help and told them “it’s a pity the king has no time for you”, “it’s a pity he is not taking care of you.”  Politicians tell people what they want to hear: “David’s getting older, finding it tough to cope, just a figurehead…”

It happens in churches: “how did you find the service?  I thought it was dry today”, “as a faith church, you’d think there’d be some miracles today”, “our pastor works a little hard”.  It’s infectious.  They make their snide comments as a way to disparage other people from loyalty, to discourage them from serving.  To build their own power base.

A politician will go around the church seeking who they can devour… seeking who they can influence.  You need to teach your people how to resist politicians.  You need to resist them yourself! 

There are a number of ways to deal with politicians.  Here are three:

1. The North Wind Face

Read Proverbs 25.23.   It says that as the north wind drives away rain, an angry face can drive away criticism.  You can drive away small, infectious thoughts with one angry face.  You need a face that says “I am not going down that line”.   People start to come out with their political lines, give them the northwind face.  As a young man in a charismatic church I was sitting next to my house group leader, one of the kindest people I have ever met.  At the end of the service, the pastor – who had started the church in his house and taken it up to hundreds, took a second offering.  Being a Baptist boy, the idea of a second offering offended me and I started to get offended and disloyal.  I turned to my house group leader and said to her “what’s he taking a second offering for”.  My tone was critical, my question was disloyal.  Well, this lady looked at me and glared.  Her face said about 4 pages – and the largest type in the four pages was “who are you to ask such a question?”… her northwind face drove away all my critical attitude.  You need a face like that!

2. Fire Test

In Acts 28.3, a viper jumped out the fire and bit Paul.  How did the viper get in the fire?  The fire was made of sticks, and the viper in the cold would have been sleeping and looked similar to a stick.  It wasn’t until the fire started that its true nature was revealed.  Vipers look harmless until the fire starts!

Time is a good fire – test people with time.  Let’s you know who the snakes are.  Difficult circumstances is a good fire.  Change is a good fire – change some procedures and that will show you who is a snake in disguise as a stick.

Be wary of promoting or devoting to people who have never been in a fire – you don’t really know them.

3. Teaching Like This!

We need to explain to people that as they warm up that they are in danger of boiling over and let them know how to deal with this.  Let them know at the danger of offense is that it stops you dreaming big because it floods your thoughts with small thoughts.

Some people don’t like me teaching on loyalty.  Some pastors say not to do it, then they get stabbed in the back.  Let’s not sweep stuff under the carpet, let’s deal with this and create a place where people are free from politics and free from disloyal, offended, critical, passive, independent church politicians.

Loyalty 4: Recognizing Seeds of Disloyalty I

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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

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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!

 

 

The Reality Gap (part II: the danger of Idealism)

Ever been to a perfect church?  Ever heard a perfect sermon?  Ever been in a perfect time of worship?  Ever received a perfect offering?  Ever had a perfect leader’s meeting?

I doubt it.  

Nothing done on earth is perfect.  You might as well admit it as the evidence is totally in your face screaming at you.  However, many Christians are looking for a perfect church or a perfect service or perfect sermon.  The problem is that the search is futile.  It is absolutely futile.  And because you are always looking at the ideal you will never engage with the real.

I know so many Christians who don’t go to church because it’s not the perfect church, they don’t go to a mid-week group because it isn’t perfect, they won’t teach a certain study because it is not perfect, they won’t serve in a particular department because it is not perfect.

Pastors can be the same.  They never delegate their leadership because the other person won’t do it as well as them (what a guy preaching the first week ever isn’t a good as someone with 10 years experience and 5 years training?! Duh!) even though they know they need to start delegating and raising leaders.  They get upset about a time of worship because it wasn’t swinging off the chandeliers.

There are three main problems with idealism:

1. You ignore the real.  You are waiting for the perfect guitarist to join your worship group, you will miss the guy who is practising really hard, full of life and full of energy and wants to serve and honour you and the church.  Now, I’m not saying appoint the guy who doesn’t turn up at practice, turns up late, runs down the church but loves their ministry, and generally isn’t a team player and lacks the character of Christ.  That’s just bad leadership!  But don’t let the perfect blind you to the good and improving right in front of your nose.  

Remember when doing this that gifting and ability is always easier to develop than character.  Put character first when choosing leaders.  There are 16 qualifications for leaders in 1 Tim. 3, and only one of them is about gifting and ability.  Loyalty to the church and to you, a passion for Christ, a heart for evangelism and discipleship – you cannot beat those in any volunteer!

2.  Idealism paralyses you.  If you are waiting for the best time to do something, YOU WILL NEVER DO IT.  I know so many people called to plant churches waiting for the right circumstances.  It will never come, just start.  Don’t strike when the iron is hot, keep striking until the iron IS hot.  Then strike some more.  Do it, do it, do it.  That’s how you start a church.  Right now, Tree of Life Network is starting a food bank.  We don’t have a building, things are going on right now, it’s not the perfect time, but if I wait for a perfect time I will be waiting forever.  Don’t wait for the ideal time, wait for a good time and do it.  Even do it in a bad time – God is bigger than the times!

3. Idealism causes you to become negative.  You hear a sermon with 99 good points but all you think about is the 1 point you don’t agree with.  You go to a church with 99 things you agree with but all you can focus on is the 1 thing you don’t like.  Idealism means you can never sweat the small stuff.  

Now I know everything should be Biblical but the truth is that no two of us agree 100% on anything.  Some things are no negotiable but other things are really not a big deal, even with the non-negotiables, we can endure a lot of give and take if we know someone is real and we know their hearts and we know they are for us.  People come to me after church sometimes and tell me what I said wrong, and what I said they didn’t agree with.  Other people get healed, get their marriages restored, get filled with the Spirit and get lifted and encouraged.  They chose to focus on the bits that lifted them.

Beware the dangers of idealism.  Sometimes it can take you away from interacting with and engaging with reality.