A friend recently told me about a church that did something unspeakable.
During Sunday services, the picture of a church worker was flashed onto the video screens. The worker was identified by name along with a crime that he had allegedly committed.
And then the congregation was told to stay away from this individual.
However, when someone contacted the local police department, the individual in question hadn’t committed any crime at all.
But not long afterwards, it was discovered that that church’s pastor was sexually involved with a woman. He later resigned.
I know the name of the church and the name of the pastor because I visited there on three occasions … but I didn’t stay because I could sense something was wrong.
And I was right.
As I mentioned in my last post, I’m still smarting from reading revelations from Frank Pastore’s book Shattered about a coup that some Christian leaders from my college and seminary wanted to execute many years ago.
You can read that article here: http://blog.restoringkingdombuilders.org/2014/03/10/blackballed-by-christian-leaders/
Employed by the school, Frank had been invited to a clandestine meeting of men he respected, during which time he was told that this group was plotting to overthrow the school’s president.
Frank wanted no part of it … but when he wouldn’t agree to their scheme, they slandered Frank until he lost his reputation … and his job.
Over the past four years, I’ve learned a lot about power plays inside the body of Christ … and they make me as sick as they made Frank Pastore.
Let me share with you four things I’ve learned about Christian power plays:
First, plotting in secret to get rid of a pastor or Christian leader is wrong.
Frank Pastore instinctively knew that plotting to overthrow the school president was evil. I assume that the school has written grievance procedures for handling such concerns.
But for some reason, the plotters felt that using those procedures wouldn’t help them reach their objectives.
In the same way, factions in churches – including the official board at times - may meet in secret and plot to force out their pastor, even though church bylaws almost always specify the correct way to do that.
Why do such groups meet secretly?
Because the plotters lack the patience to do it the right way … or plotting makes them feel powerful … or they don’t want anyone to know who they are … or they don’t believe they can succeed unless they go underground.
I’ll bet those plotters tell their kids and grandkids all the time, “The ends does not justify the means.”
Then why is doing wrong okay for them?
Second, the key to getting rid of any leader is to smear his reputation with falsehoods.
The Gospels tell us those who plotted to kill Jesus had to resort to lying to get rid of Him.
They accused Him of sedition against Rome and blaspheming against God. History records that both charges were false … but they worked at the time.
In Frank Pastore’s case, when he didn’t join the plotters, he says: “… they put a kinder, gentler hit on me – character assassination by slander and gossip. To my face they acted as though nothing had changed. But all the while, they were destroying my reputation.”
How in the world can professing Christians do this to a fellow believer?
Over the past few years, I’ve heard dozens of stories from pastors who have been forced out of their churches. And in nearly every case, the plotters have lied to smear the pastor and gain adherents.
But friends, make no mistake: resorting to lies to get rid of a Christian leader is satanic.
And when a believer joins forces with the father of lies, it’s always soul-damaging.
Please resolve that you will always tell the truth about Christian leaders – even those you don’t like – and that you will not pass on information unless you know it’s true.
Third, plotters will vilify anyone whom they view as a threat.
After his initial meeting with the plotters, Frank Pastore knew too much. And when he wouldn’t go along with the plotters, they marked him for blackballing.
I can’t prove this, but my guess is that the pastor in my introductory story chose to vilify that worker by name because he knew too much about the pastor’s extracurricular activities.
Here’s how things often work behind the scenes:
Person/Group A does something wrong.
Person B observes/knows what they did … and Person/Group A knows that they know.
Person/Group A insinuates to Person B: “If I/we find out that you’ve told anyone about what we’ve done, I/we will make sure that you are blackballed.”
Because Person B has his own skeletons (don’t we all?), and doesn’t know what Person/Group A knows, Person B agrees to keep his mouth shut.
But because Person/Group A can’t take a chance that Person B will talk, Person/Group A privately blackballs Person B anyway.
This should never happen among Christians … but it does – all the time – especially when an innocent pastor is forcibly terminated.
One would hope that once Person B knows about the plot, Person/Group A would repent and drop the whole thing, but they usually don’t because …
Finally, the end game of the plotters is to take over their church/school/Christian organization.
Why did the Jewish leaders plot to kill Jesus?
Because He was becoming too influential … and they wanted their power back.
Why did the plotters in Frank Pastore’s story want to stage a coup against the school’s president?
Because they hoped to have more of a say on who the next president would be … and if they helped to choose him, they would have more say over school direction.
Why do factions and church boards plot to get rid of their pastor?
Because they believe the pastor has acquired too much authority and they covet that authority for themselves.
When I went through a horrendous conflict in a church that I served as pastor 4 1/2 years ago, I could not initially understand what the plotters were after.
My father-in-law – a veteran Christian leader – told me frankly, “Jim, it’s the same thing in every situation … this is all about power.”
Galatians 5:16 says, “So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.”
When you don’t like your pastor … or your school’s president … or a self-proclaimed Messiah … you can handle it by the Spirit, or by the flesh.
Handle it by the Spirit, and everybody wins.
Handle it by the flesh, and everybody loses.