09 May, 2014

Who's Drilling the Holes?

Sometimes lessons in life can be hard to swallow. Even more so in ministry. When you are in ministry, you tend to give people the benefit of the doubt, which can lead to a lot of heartache and frustration.
There is a saying that goes, "Make sure everybody in your boat is rowing and not drilling holes when you’re not looking. Know your circle." It is really hard to believe that anyone who is "in the circle" could actually be working against you, but after nearly 24 years of being a pastor, I have to reluctantly admit that I am forced to admit that over the years, the people who have done me the most harm in ministry have been those who were supposed to be "in the boat" with me.

Many years ago, when I was first starting out in the ministry, I was helping a minister I know move into his new parsonage. When we were nearly finished unloading the truck the elder pastor told me have a seat for a minute and offered me a cold drink. Sitting there, he told me that what he was going to say was going to sound very harsh and critical, but to pay attention to his words. He told me that this was the voice of experience talking and I would see it for myself down the road but he wanted to help spare me some pain. He said, "when you move into a new church, watch carefully who comes to move you in, for in that group you will find those who will be the very ones who will try to move you out."  He said that he was not talking about all of them, but in that group who comes to help you, there will always be those who are actually there to help themselves by getting close to you so that they might gain favor. After 24 years and 5 moves, I have to say that this advice was extremely wise, even though I did not really receive it too well at that time. I thought this man was bitter or something. But looking back, with every move I've made, in that group that came to move me was the person or persons who did me the most harm in my ministry. Just as this man warned, they draw near to you, wanting to get close, but their motives are selfish. They are there to gain power and influence. 

Please understand, that this does not mean that everyone who comes to help is that way. Not at all! But I've come to understand that the wolf in sheeps clothing blends in well and it takes a keen spiritual eye and nose to detect which is which. After all, they all "look" the same! Those folks have a pretty well standard method of operation. They get close to the pastor and his family. They invite them to dinner and over to the house. Then they begin inviting other families from the church to join them, but then ever so slowly, they squeeze the pastor out of the mix and they have successfully drawn other families in the church into their own circle, rather than into the pastors circle. The wolf himself will always stay within the pastors circle trying to give the appearance of being "on board" with him, but all the while, they are "drilling holes in the boat" as they suck off individuals and families and draw them away from the pastor and his vision and into their own circle of influence and power. Now that the pastor is no longer invited to the parties and dinners, they subtly begin conversations about the church and pastor and then "out of concern" they say something like, "I know Pastor Garrett means well and is doing his best, BUT...".  And with this, there is a division started in the church. When this happens, one of two things is going to happen. Either that pastor will eventually be forced out (which is their goal, because they are not being given enough recognition and power) OR they will
begin the hole drilling by either starting their own Bible study or by trying to get others to leave the church with them. The hole driller usually is not the first out the door. They try to bleed off as many "key people" from the church first, hoping that the drop in finances will cause the pastor to pack up and go, allowing them to begin the whole process over again with a new pastor. If that does not work, they will eventually leave the church themselves, but they will never take their finger off the pulse of that church
because they are ever hoping and believing that the pastor will leave and they can come back and rally the troops by getting everyone they influenced to leave to come back and support the new pastor. (Read: support them as they give it another shot.) If you've been around the church long, you've seen it over and over. Everytime a new pastor comes in, all the "old-timers" come running back. Trust me, it is seldom because they "love this church." If they loved it, they would have never left. There is a selfish motive. ALWAYS.
The real trick is in getting the other people in the boat to recognize just who is drilling the holes. 

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