I’m not perfect. I tell my church all the time, “check everything I say with the Word. Even I disagree with some of the stuff I’ve said in the past.”
Being corrected when I mess up is fine with me. If my doctrine is wrong and verses can be pointed out that correct my error, I’m ok with this. I’ve learned a lot from thoughtful people who graciously present verses. Don’t mind that one bit (although it can be embarrassing).
Then there are other people.
There is no grace. There is no desire to help. There are frequently verses thrown around, but rarely are they used in context or even fully quoted. There hasn’t been much thought applied.
These people take it upon themselves to try to completely change my entire doctrinal framework. They aren’t content to fix one point I said; they will not rest until they move me into a completely different theological camp and take the church with them.
One guy told me that if I didn’t make our church Catholic he would be forced to leave. “Well, we’re not going to become a Catholic church.” I seemingly unnecessarily explained. I just didn’t get it. Did he really think that our church would drop everything and follow his whims? Did he honestly expect me to change our church’s entire structure, doctrine, and practice for him?
He did. He honestly did.
I used to go to church as a “layman.” I disagreed with lots of what a church taught or did. I never once had the idea in my head that the entire church should change for me! I mean, the arrogance of that is astounding, and I’m no paragon of humility over here either!
I also know that when people leave a church they have to do it in a way that sounds spiritual. What better way to leave a church than to tell the church you’ve moved past them in maturity?
This kind of thing hasn’t happened just once. The Catholic guy was the most extreme one, but all kinds of people have taken it upon themselves to not just correct me, but change the entire church to fit their particular brand of spiritual awesomeness.
These people have issues. I learned pretty early on not to change a little for them, because it’s never enough. They will continue to push and push until they get their way. Identify these people at the beginning and save yourself some hassle. They don’t want to help you or the church; they want to control it.
Don’t give them an inch. They will ruin people and maybe you. Here is a pattern of behavior that may help you identify these people:
–they are usually white males between 40 and 60 years old. They are older than you.
–they have some family issues that are obvious. As a guy’s family falls apart, he often becomes more arrogant and tries harder to prove he’s spiritually mature.
–they take leadership roles in the church—board member, they teach occasionally, do announcements or lead singing, etc. They don’t do these out of service but to be massively pleased with themselves for doing these roles. Typically they do these things before their family falls apart. One reason people are motivated to do church leadership is to cover for problems they know they have that haven’t manifested publicly yet.
–they spend a lot of time alone and read one brand of theology books very slowly. They will always tell you about the book they just read.
–they will ask you testing questions and lecture you when you don’t answer them correctly. They don’t initiate conversations with you to hear you, but to spout their insights.
–they will tell others how bad your theology is.
I have several faces of guys in my head as I write this. They all did these things. Perhaps it was coincidence they were all the same. Perhaps it’s a pattern I can help you identify to help you avoid problems. Be careful out there.