An Inside Job
One weekend in college before Juli and I were married, I went to spend the weekend with her at her parents’ home in the suburbs of Chicago. She met me at the door and asked me to go wait for her on the back porch where her dad was watching television. When I came out on the back porch, I heard the television airing the news about two well-known TV evangelists who had fallen into sin. The conversation became very awkward. Even though these two men weren’t from my particular variety of faith, I was ashamed. I had no good response except, “Yeah, this is bad.”
Just about every person who lived through the eighties knows these two stories. I remember there being a prideful “not in my church” attitude among many in ministry leadership at that time. Often this was offered up in condemning tones. No one ever said it, but too many of us thought it could never happen in our own churches. It occurs so often now we hardly blink an eye. You can’t sweep the evidence away anymore. These ministry implosions have left in their wake scads of wounded saints, destroyed ministries, failed marriages, and angry kids. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to keep saying this will never happen in my church.
One of the things I’ve noticed about these implosions is that, almost to a number, they’re all inside jobs. No one came into these churches from the outside and destroyed them. It wasn’t some government decision that caused each disaster. There were no external forces tearing at the seams of these churches. It commonly begins on the inside, and is usually perpetrated by one or more persons in leadership. It’s always an inside job.
Why are we so surprised at this? After all, we were warned in the New Testament that this would be the case. (See the list at the end of this article) There we find numerous warnings about various sorts of agitators and trouble makers, not outside the church, but inside. Such alarms are sounded over the possibility of disturbances in most of the New Testament letters. So consider yourself warned. No more being caught off guard.
It makes sense I guess. After all, what better way for the enemy to cause trouble than right inside the church? It makes sense when you think about it, foxes always do the greatest damage when they’re inside the henhouse. Likewise, the weapons of the enemy will be most destructive when they’re used to stir up trouble and strife inside the church. This is his best opportunity to discourage and render followers powerless.
So what should we do about this now that we know the possibility of an inside job exists? For starters, rather than being caught off guard we ought to anticipate that it could indeed happen in our church. We say to ourselves this won’t happen in my church, we are a Bible teaching church, or my church is solid, our passion for the Lord and our zeal for the lost is exceptional.
Let me remind you however, if your church is any of these things it is exactly the one your enemy seeks to target. Maybe this is why Jesus told us to be shrewd like serpents. (Mt. 10:16) Does this mean we are to hold all leaders suspect? By no means, but it does raise the need for a new kind of discernment and accountability among leaders. It means that power is best kept in check when it’s shared.
Perhaps it’s also time to take another look at the traits we consider important when looking for leaders. This too, might need a re-evaluation. One thing has become clear through recent events, the time is ripe to shore up our biblical understanding of power and its place in the body of Christ. We must consider whether the church is best led by the leadership strengths of one individual or does leadership best reflect the heart and character of God when it’s shared in humble cooperation?
This over-dependence on human strength is revealed in the way we fill ministry positions. The popular church leadership notion is to fill staff needs with high performers. Just read through some ministry job ads, and you’ll get the idea. There one can find ample postings using terms like “fast-paced,” “high-energy,” and “able to build dynamic, high-performing teams.” I can’t help but wonder…where are the ads looking for humble leaders with a deep trust in God? Where are the searches for men and women of prayer and a deep faith in the Lord? Perhaps high performers produce results, but it begs the question, if the results we’re looking for require a peak performer, then for what reason does God need to show up?
Assuredly the church scandals that came to mind as you’ve read this article were most likely birthed by someone known as a high performer. And let us not forget the appointment of David as king over Israel? He wasn’t exactly the front runner for that important political position, was he? It seems backwards to us, but God’s ways are not man’s ways. Perhaps it’s time to reevaluate all of this, to stop running ahead of God and renew our dependence on him and maybe, just maybe, we can avert another inside job.
For further study.
1 Cor 5:1
2 Cor 11:13-15
2 Th 2:3
1 Tm 1:6, 7
1 Tm 4:1-5
1 Tm 6:10
2 Tm 2:14-18
2 Tm 3:13
Tt 1:10, 11
2 Pt 2:1-3
1 Jn 4:1
2 Jn 1:7-11