What Can Make a Church Healthy?
By Dag Heward-Mills
In a truly healthy church, what one "principal qualification" of its leaders proves absolutely vital—yet is most often overlooked? Friendliness, perhaps? A vibrant personality? Or even people skills?
"While all prove beneficial," attests world-renowned pastor, author and evangelist Dag Heward-Mills, "the sometimes surprising, yet critical component is loyalty"—that permeating attitude of faithfulness and authenticity which stands as "the very foundation of discipleship."
Stage One: The Independent Spirit
The Lord has shown me eight important stages a person progresses through when he or she is becoming disloyal. The first stage is to develop what I call an independent spirit.
The independent stage is so subtle most people do not recognize it for what it actually is --disloyalty. When a person belonging to a group, ministry or company develops an attitude of unhealthy independence, he or she becomes more and more autonomous within the setup. The rules of the organization no longer control his or her behavior. While still an active part of the church, this person does what he or she wants to do in spite of contrary instructions.
Watch out for the Independent Ones
Pastors, watch out for deacons and church leaders, and keep an eye out for coworkers and volunteers who have independent spirits. You may schedule several meetings, but the person with an independent spirit will decide to attend only those he or she feels are important. This person obeys only certain instructions, requests or guidelines from you – the ones he decides are truly important.
Now, there is nothing wrong with being independent. I believe in independence. Correctly understood, independence is a vital character strength, and we thank God for the capacity to think and act independently in the right way and spirit. However, if you are a part of a denomination, group or company, you are not completely independent. You want the ministry or organization to benefit from your presence and efforts, so you have chosen to submit and exchange some of your autonomy for the overall good of the mission of the church or organization.
I Had an Independent Spirit
Many years ago, I belonged to a group that had branches all over the country. I even founded a branch of this group. As time went on, I began to have difficulties and disagreements with those in leadership at the headquarters of this group.
At that time, I thought my superiors at the headquarters were out of step spiritually. You see, the branch group I was leading was growing. Many souls were being established every week.
The overall directors of the organization would call for meetings at the headquarters. They wanted every branch group to come into town for these meetings. But I never went to the meetings and didn't encourage any of the members of my branch to attend.
I always reasoned to myself, "Those meetings are not important. What I am doing on this branch campus is important. I am winning souls."
I Was Wrong
But, I was wrong. I had an independent spirit and didn't even recognize it. The overseers found me to be a successful leader in my little branch, but they could not control me within the organization. At that time, I just attributed the conflict to lack of vision on the part of my overseers.
The point I'm making is this: If you belong to an organization, you are not completely independent of that organization. Therefore, you cannot just do only what you think is right. You must comply with directives coming from the leadership. If you feel you want to be more independent, then you should resign.
Pastor Joab – The Independent Killer
Were there people in the Bible with an unhealthy spirit of independence? The answer is yes. Throughout the Second Book of Samuel, Joab is described as someone who did what he wanted to do. He was part of David's army. You might say he was part of David's ministry team. He was one of David's right-hand man. He was very powerful, yet he had an independent spirit. And this independent spirit manifested itself many times.
The first example of Joab's independence was in the murder of Abner. Abner was commander-in-chief of another section of the armies of Israel. David, as the head of government, decided to make peace with Abner after years of conflict. The King even called for celebrations of this peace agreement by feasting with Abner. (2 Samuel 3)
But when Joab heard that Abner had been entertained in the palace, he was furious. He chased him, caught up with him and requested to speak with him privately. It was a trick, and Joab killed him.
When the King opted for peace, his right-hand man decided to do otherwise. Although he was supposed to submit to the wishes of the king, he went ahead with his own plan. People like this are dangerous. Joab could have plunged an entire nation into war through his independent actions.
There are people like that in church. The founder or Head pastor often shapes and carries the vision. He leads the way because that is the responsibility of the role he plays. All associate pastors and leaders in the church must support and flow with the leader's vision. An independent 'Pastor Joab' will only cause confusion and strife in the church. Leaders must take note of such people serving under them in the church or in their organization, because they are only a few stages away from open rebellion.
Excerpt from Loyalty & Disloyalty: Dealing with Unspoken Divisions Within the Church by Dag Heward-Mills. Copyright © Carpenter's Son Publishing, used by permission.
Proclaiming the Gospel to millions for over 20 years, Dag Heward-Mills Ministry leads the Healing Jesus Evangelistic Campaigns, oversees Bible training centers, schools, a hospital, an orphanage, and hosts church leader conferences, to advance the saving power of Christ.
Bishop Heward-Mills is founder and presides over Lighthouse Chapel International, an organization with more than 1300 churches in 60 countries, including 63 in the U.S. For more information visit www.DagHewardMills.us
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