By: Gregg O'Connell

In 70% of the churches I consult, there are terrorists who are long-term members. These are not like the terrorists you see in the news on television, or read about in the newspapers. They are (usually) not physically dangerous. However, they do harm the body of Christ, often unintentionally.

My definition of terrorism is “people who fight unfair.” Many churches have a group of 10-12 people who say “no” to much of what the leaders propose. They work behind the scenes, undermining behind the back. They stir up trouble.

These are political. They love congregational meetings. They want a vote. They are sometimes eager to obtain a position on a decision-making board.

Often, the group numbers about 10-12. They are usually led by one or two. The one or two highly influence 4-7 and a fringe group of around 7 -12. They make a lot of noise. They cause pain to leaders. They feel, and often sound, like 25-40. They disrupt the congregation’s progress. They derail many of the leaders’ plans, hopes, and dreams. They are privately described by the pastor as “a thorn in the flesh.”

Are they a problem? Not really! They are a symptom. The problem, their problem, is control. They want, need and long for control.

Focus on these issues:

  1. You are not the only church with terrorists. Don’t take it personally.
  2. These people have trouble with change. The world is changing and they have drawn a line in the sand. Their battle cry: “In this changing world, you are not going to change my church!”
  3. Diagnose their life outside church. Their need for control may come from other circumstances.
  4. They aren’t necessarily bad people. Their behavior doesn’t always reflect that they are unbelievers.
  5. However, they may not have salvation. You may need to share the Gospel of grace with them.
  6. Bad behavior in the church is cause for church discipline. Speak the truth in the spirit of love.
  7. These are people who don’t just disagree, but are disagreeable. Scripture says “we do not battle against flesh and blood only, but with principalities and powers”.
  8. You may need an outside specialist, who is not emotionally involved, to help overcome this group. Do not let them hold your church hostage!
  9. Dealing with this group often comes just before a breakthrough to church health and growth.
  10. The closer you get to breakthrough, the more difficult this group seems to be.

God loves these people, but sometimes, for the sake of the bride of Christ, the church, you have to practice “tough love.” It is a difficult call. On the other side of the tough love lies a liberated ministry.

Kent Hunter, founder of Church Doctor Ministries, is known as the Church Doctor. His most recent e-books are The Future Is Now and The J-Dog Journey, available at no cost. Contact him at (800) 626-8515, by emailTwitter, Facebook, or visit www.churchdoctor.org.

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