Friday, February 25, 2011

Anatomy of a Church Raid

If someone wants to start a new work, I’m all for it. Starting new churches is a great way to expand God’s kingdom. After all, that’s what I did. I pulled together a core team of seven people and together we launched, specifically targeting unchurched people. After thirteen years we can confidently say that God has blessed this ministry with much fruitfulness. Without His favor and the help of loyal people, whose heart beats faster at the mention of the Great Commission, none of this would have been possible.

But the underhanded way to start a new work is by raiding the pews of another church.

It is only after a church-raider succeeds in convincing others to follow him that he can pull out of an existing church to form a new work. To accomplish this he must drive a wedge between Christians by getting them to polarize and take sides over issues he creates. He does this by attacking another’s teaching, leadership style, or character, to bring about the ending of friendships between believers. He must do this loud enough and long enough in an atmosphere of criticism, rumor, and charges, and behind the scenes, until people believe him and are willing to follow. Only then can he show his hand and make his move. If he reveals his hand too soon, he fails to gather support.

Typical features of a church raid:

1. The one who is leading the raid will declare that he is innocent and has been falsely accused.

2. Just about everyone will believe him; even some of those who do not follow. He is seen as the innocent party who is being mistreated, while the pastor happens to be the real villain.

3. The leader of the raid will portray himself as simply too meek and too spiritual to criticize.

4. His followers will vow that they are in no way being influenced by him.

5. The leader of the raid will declare that God told him that, “we are right and they are wrong”, and that the church they left had some real problems such as leadership issues or shallow teaching. (After all, with God on your side, anything is ethical, is it not?)

6. People who follow a church-raider believe they are leaving problems behind. They are not. Eventually, every congregation has conflict and when it happens in the new work, they won’t be able to blame their previous church, only their new leader.

Let’s just be honest here. When someone leads a raid, it is almost always connected to leadership issues, relationship tension, vision, the direction of the church, or somebody just got tired of playing second fiddle. Just normal workplace baloney. This is where the real trouble begins, along with all the backroom conversations. The involved people will then spiritualize the issue and quote scripture in an effort to justify their actions and the damage they left behind.

Any group that starts a new work under these circumstances has already sown the seeds for its own ruin.

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