Issue #29: Church Bullies and Cowards. Pastor Craig's Story
Craig is the pastor of a normative size Baptist church (50 people). Like most pastors, he loves to preach the word and shepherd God’s people. Part of shepherding is protecting the sheep from danger, and in today’s world, the attacks on the Lord’s flock are legion.
For church leaders, it does not surprise us when our people are tempted by worldliness and satanic ideologies. We expect the Devil, our flesh, and the world to be our biggest enemies. But, often times, the church’s greatest enemies aren’t outside our walls but within.
Like many small churches, Pastor Craig’s congregation was ruled by a power couple. The man was both a deacon and the church moderator. Apparently, his goal was not only to rule but intimidate.
I will let Pastor Craig share what happened next.
“I noticed that he was becoming more and more aggressive in the council meetings and called him out on it privately one night. His practice was to intimidate people to stop them from talking by standing uncomfortably close to them when he wanted them to stop talking. When I told him he shouldn't do that because it was intimidating, he told me that was his intention. I should have done something about it right away, but I didn't. It finally got out of control one night when he attempted to quiet my wife in a council meeting. I stood up to him eye to eye and told him that he needed to stop. He (in a very commanding voice) told me to sit down. One of the other council members stood up and the situation quieted, but then he did the same thing to another woman in attendance. She told him directly that he was making her feel uncomfortable and he only moved closer. He was trying to get her to stop talking. He had told her to stop talking. Multiple women began to tell him he was acting appropriately, I stood up and went over to him and told him to back off. He once again looked at me and said sit down or I will embarrass you. I honestly wasn't sure if we were going to go to blows or not; the tension was so high. Fortunately, his wife came over whispered in his ear and he got up and walked away. One of the council members stood up and said I make a motion to adjourn, and the meeting was over.”
Sheesh! Why is it always a deacon?! I heard a story once about a seminary professor. The professor began his class by taking attendance. When he came to one man’s name, he realized this was a pastor who once got into a fight with a deacon at his church and punched him in his face. The professor stopped class to verify the story. He then walked over to the pastor and said, “I want to shake the hand of a man who punched a deacon.”
That’s a funny tale, but it just goes to show that stories like Pastor Craig’s are not uncommon. Far too often, the pastor’s biggest enemies are inside the church. To compound that, these enemies seem to make their way into leadership.
But take heart. Not only is this not uncommon. It’s not new either. It appears that the Apostle John instructed one his churches concerning an unruly leader in 3rd John. Gaius and Demetrius were godly men worth imitating (3rd John 1-3, 12). But Diotrephes was self-centered. He “likes to put himself first” and “does not acknowledge” apostolic authority (3rd John 9). Imagine that—a church leader who was self-centered, egotistical, and unwilling to submit to biblical authority. He also “refuses to welcome the brothers, and also stops those who want to and puts them out of the church” (3rd John 10). Such men should not be considered true Christians based on their behavior. Furthermore, they must be confronted. John said, “So if I come, I will bring up what he is doing, talking wicked nonsense against us” (3rd John 10). In other words, his sin must be addressed.
That’s what Pastor Craig had to do with his unruly deacon. Here’s the conclusion to his story.
“The deacons and I called him for church discipline. He refused, saying that he was the one who was offended. He and his wife eventually left the church, but not before writing a multi-page letter to the deacons and the personnel committee saying that all the problems in the church were because of me.”
I am sure you are not surprised to see that the man who caused the problems accepted zero responsibility or talk to church leadership. Bullies are usually irrational and thus avoid rational conversations. We’re also not surprised to see that he then left the church but not before blasting the pastor to everyone in the church with an extensive letter. This man, and those like him, are cowards.
Wolves often infiltrate the church. Satan will send wolves to devour the flock. Don’t be caught off guard when these wolves arise from among your own members. Paul said this would happen. “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them” (Acts 20:28-30). There are exterior enemies, but the fiercest foes are inside the church.
Bullies must be confronted. You cannot allow bullies to devour the church. They must be confronted. It is the job of the shepherd to intercept the wolves before they get the sheep—even if that means you get wounded in the process. Often times, Shepherds would return home with bites and lacerations after a night of protecting the flock. Brother pastor, it is your job to ensure these church bullies don’t hurt the church.
Bullies are usually cowards. Don’t be afraid of them. Like we read in Pastor Craig’s story, bullies typically have loud barks but small bites. When they’re confronted, they usually get offended and leave. Lord knows, we would love to see repentance. But in most cases, they don’t come back, and the church is better for it.