Well Intentioned Dragons

Church members can be well intentioned but quite easily become "dragons" for their spiritual leaders and pastors. 

I've been reading Well Intentioned Dragons by Marshall Shelley.  Shelley is the editor of Christianity Today and a great author of multiple books.  In Well Intentioned Dragons, he shares how all too often key church members can create a destructive spirit to the work God is doing in a local church body.  Frequently these people are dedicated members, often over a long period of time, but come against the leadership in an inappropriate manner.  Most of the time these people have no idea what they are doing.  They assume they are simply being obedient to the Lord, but they discourage and subtly attack their leaders - keeping the church from moving forward and reaching the lost by sapping the Pastor's energy with their criticism.  

Here are two, of many, types mentioned: 

The Bird Dog - sniffs out items for the Pastor's attention.  Loves to be the Pastor's eyes, ears and nose.  "If I were you, I would ..."  "We need more ..." "Why doesn't the church do something about ..."  The worst type of Bird Dog's point out things that leave the Pastor feeling defensive and not quite spiritual enough.  These people often give the impression they have more spiritual perception than anyone else.  In reality, these people should respond to their own suggestions and begin to serve or establish the ministries they think need to happen themselves.

Captain Bluster - This type of person thinks they are right and everyone else is wrong, and they don't mind saying so.  They will say in the middle of a church business meeting "I don't like what you said."  They are a steamroller who flattens anyone in their way with their overwhelming certainty that their way is the only way to do things.  Compromise is unspeakable.  If this type of person has settled an issue privately but isn't completely satisfied, they will likely bring it up again and again.

Shelley explains, "The distinguishing characteristic of a dragon is not what is said but how it's said. Even though these people are well intentioned, sincerely doing what's best in their own eyes, they aren't quite with you.  Often they have a spirit that enjoys being an adversary rather than an ally.  They have a consistent pattern of focusing on a narrow special interest rather than the big picture, which leads to tangents rather than a balanced church life.  Theirs is a spirit quick to vilify and slow to apologize.  Dragons usually cannot bring themselves to accept responsibility for something that has gone wrong, and hence, they resist asking anyone's forgiveness ... they destroy enthusiasm, the morale so necessary for church health and growth.  People no longer feel good about inviting friends to worship services.  The air is tense, the church depressed ... they sap the Pastor's energy and, just as damaging, goad them into reacting instead of acting."

The Dragon's Lair (Oftentimes dragons are hiding here):

-In the beginning, the pastor's strongest supporters

-Often work overhard initially at befriending the Pastor

-Start to compare Pastors to the former Pastor

-Overly spiritual, underly kind, courteous or gracious

-People that at one time had a calling to ministry, but for some reason didn't respond

-Most dragons see themselves as godly people, adequately gracious and kind, who hold another viewpoint they honestly believe is right.  And they can't let it go ... but every Christian must understand - it's not how you see yourself that counts ... would your Pastor say you are a blessing or curse in their life & ministry?

"Obey your spiritual leaders and do what they say.  Their work is to watch over your souls, and they know they are accountable to God.  Give them reason to do this joyfully and not with sorrow" (Hebrews 13:17, NLT).  

Many houses have the rule: "If momma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy!"  I think we should adopt the rule: "If Pastor ain't happy, ain't nobody happy!" as well.

Questions to Consider:

Are there things that I am doing that make me in any way a well intentioned dragon for my spiritual leaders?

It's one thing to bring up a point, but chiefly, in what spirit am I doing this in?  

Am I discussing controversial issues at the right time and with the appropriate people? (Matthew 18:15-17)

Am I willing to consider another viewpoint, or am I stubbornly assuming I am right? (Galatians 6:3, Proverbs 26:12, 1 Corinthians 8:2)

Am I getting hung up on the little things, and disobeying God's heart for unity? (John 17:20-23)

What do I need to pray more seriously and fervently about, and talk and complain less about in my church?

Would my church be served better if I found another church to serve?  Would it be more unified if I stayed or left?

Am I able to say I was wrong and apologize for contentions and divisions I have created?


In the next blog, we will look at "Slaying Dragons" with practical tips for leaders on how to create a positive culture and creatively handle problems.