Compromise is not ALWAYS wrong.
I’ve sat in many marriage counseling sessions listening to stubborn people who refused to lower their unreasonable expectations. Many times I’ve encouraged young entrepreneurs to reconsider their business plans and embrace the ideas of another. I’ve even found that pastors can find certain moments of compromise necessary. How the nursery workers will be scheduled, what brand of coffee will be served, and when the youth group plans on holding the carwash are all decisions which might be made without consulting the senior pastor of the church. This isn’t to say that a control-freak, like myself, lacks strong opinions even about these things. (Every other week, Starbucks or Dutch Bros, and Saturday at 10:00am – for the record.)
A pastor, like any other leader, must be willing to compromise on the little things. Otherwise, he diminishes into a mere caricature of an insecure boss who can’t help micromanaging his people. However, there are certain areas in which a pastor must never compromise. The fundamental doctrines of the Bible must never be compromised. These are the very beliefs that make us uniquely Christian. The message of the gospel of Jesus Christ must never be compromised. Methods of evangelism may change but the message of the gospel never does. These are obvious. Yet there is another area of ministry in which many pastors are under extreme pressure to compromise. The leadership of that local church belongs to you! It was entrusted to you by our very Lord and Savior. And there are many in this world who will attempt to wrestle that inherent responsibility away from you. Therefore, I want to encourage you to…
Stand Up to Bullies
Joshua 1:9Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lordthy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.
My friend Matt leads a church he and his dedicated wife planted many years ago in the heartland of the United States. When it came time to name the local church, to which they would dedicate the rest of their lives, they chose a name that reflected their personalities as well as what they hoped would be the predominate characteristic of this community of believers. They named it Charity Baptist Church. Love would define this church!
Several years into the life of the new church they had experienced tremendous growth. People were getting saved, baptized, and being discipled by this gifted couple. The church not only experienced “conversion growth” but they also saw “transfer growth”. Christians who felt the Lord leading them to come alongside this pastoral team left their own churches in a noble effort to help establish a new church. Yet, not all of these transferring Christians turned out to be so noble. Actually, they turned out to be bullies.
Hey Pastor! Have you realized that God is not the only one who has a plan for your church? There is also an enemy, an accuser, an old dragon who hates you and your work. And just as God has commissioned you to accomplish His plan, so has he commissioned his own agents to seize control of your local church and halt the progress you are making for the Kingdom of Christ! These bullies are more concerned doctrinal minutia, obscure passages, and personal preferences than they are with souls being saved, disciples being trained, and missionaries being sent. They come to you with cash in hand, smiles in faces, and a string of broken churches behind them.
Matt and his wife felt the Lord leading them to cancel one ministry program in order to start another. Sunday school would be replaced with midweek small groups. This change would provide more ministry opportunities while requiring less rented space. Bible study would remain a priority while Christian community would be enhanced. The benefits were many and the drawbacks few. After a very strategic campaign to introduce the change to the congregation they slowly, with great intentionality, began to cancel the established Sunday school classes and reformat them into small groups with new locations. This change was received with great excitement and celebration from those who had been saved and discipled at Charity Baptist Church. Even several of the well-established Christians saw the obvious benefits and potential of this shift in method. Yet there were 4 to 5 families in the church who were not happy.
After establishing a game plan this group of religious traditionalists set a meeting with the pastor. Their demands were clear. Their ultimatum plainly spoken. “You will restore Sunday School to its’ rightful place or we will leave the church and take our tithe with us. Think carefully pastor because we’ve done the math. Our combined giving makes up over 50% of the church’s total budget. If we leave – you don’t get paid. Your family will go without.” I wonder what Jesus thought of this tactic? I wonder what the Apostle Paul would have said to these men and women?
Matt was a hero for the cause of Christ. “I don’t want you to go. But if you feel that you must, I understand. I feel very strongly that the Lord would have us move to Small Groups. There are many churches around here who still have Sunday School and I can help you locate one if you’d like. As to the financial implications? I can get another job. I’m not afraid of hard work.” WOW! That’s Courage!
He would not compromise to retain a crowd!
He would not compromise to keep a ministerial income!
Here’s a simple truth. If you don’t stand up to a bully – they will never stop pushing you around. And, as Matt demonstrated, you can do this with kindness and grace.
These bullies have plagued the church since the days of the Apostle Paul. This scenario plays out every week in pastoral offices across our country. If you don’t turn down the music – I’ll leave! If you don’t preach on my pet topic – I’ll leave! If you don’t decorate the auditorium the way I like – I’ll leave! If you add that instrument – I’ll leave! Each of these demands come from religious traditionalists. The mistake they make is twofold! First, they think they are the ones who provide financially for the servant of Christ. Yeah, that’s not how it works! Second, they think the servant of Christ can be manipulated and intimidated. HA! Okay – look – when you spend your mornings at the feet of The Risen Savior – very little can scare you. If our ministerial forefathers weren’t intimidated by the lions of the Roman Colosseum, I’m pretty sure your little tithe isn’t going to get me to sell out.
You’ll not only have to stand up to bullies, you also must…
Expect to be Criticized and Shunned
Matthew 11:19 The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. But wisdom is justified of her children.
John 15:20 The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you.
Some religious traditionalists will be sitting in your pews. Some religious traditionalists will be standing behind other pulpits in your city, state, and nation. They are not content leading their local congregation. No, no, these Nicolaitans deeply desire to have control over your local church as well. They salivate for power. They pine for influence. Like the politicians of this world’s system they yearn and crave to rule a kingdom. Beyond the plot of land to which they’ve been tasked they secretly dream of entering the Master’s home and taking His place. Since this is not possible, they must be content with criticizing the work of fellow servants. And, with a bit of luck, gain control through criticism.
Open Criticism is one tactic. Religious Shunning is another.
This more subtle attack takes place when a pastor of a local church refuses to compromise his beliefs and begins to utilize methodology that has not yet been approved yet by denominational leadership. The punishment of isolation is used as a tool to bring a wayward pastor into submission. One knows when they are caught in this compromising situation when they begin to reason, “I know God is leading our church to do this. However, if I did – I would limit my influence, no longer be invited to preach in certain places, and would no longer be accepted by my friends.”
And so, the minister of Christ chooses to compromise. Look, I get it! It’s truly not easy to stand alone. It’s not easy to put your financial future at risk. It’s not easy to be criticized by others. It’s not easy to disappoint people. It’s not easy to do the right thing. It’s much easier to compromise.
You’ll be bullied from those in the church, you’ll be shunned by those outside the church, but you must always…
Love Those who Hate You
Over the last few years I’ve come to a liberating conclusion. I don’t have to hate someone that hates me. This is another powerful implication of the gospel. Jesus loves those who nailed Him to a tree. Jesus loves those who mocked Him, spat upon Him, and slandered His good name. Because He loved me, I can love Him. Because He love me, I can love others.
Does it shock you that there are people who don’t like Josh Teis? Ha! It shocks me. I’m a likable guy, at least my mom thinks so. What’s so funny about this concept is that I know I now write for two extremely different audiences: my local church and friends in ministry. What my local church may find shocking, my friends in ministry know very well… there are a few people who don’t like Josh Teis. And yes – I am now referring to myself in the 3rd person. So, what can we do with the ones who hate us?
Matthew 5:44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.
Every time someone tells me of a ministry leader who doesn’t like me, I make it a point to say something positive about that man’s character, family, or ministry. Every time someone feels the need to relay a slanderous comment, later that night I’ll spend a moment of prayer for both the brother who told me and the brother who slandered. There are former friends on my daily prayer list who have felt it necessary, for whatever reason, to shun me. No, it doesn’t feel good. But there is a solution. Love those who think of you as an enemy!
Whatever you do, don’t win against the Devil by refusing to compromise your theology, philosophy, and methodology – simply to lose to the Devil by compromising your spirit through hate.
Finally, you must also…
Know That We Stand with You
I Kings 18:22 Then said Elijah unto the people, I, even I only, remain a prophet of the Lord.
I Kings 18:3-4 Now Obadiah feared the Lordgreatly: For it was so, when Jezebel cut off the prophets of the Lord, that Obadiah took an hundred prophets, and hid them by fifty in a cave, and fed them with bread and water.
Hey Elijah! You’re not alone! There are many other courageous brothers and sisters who have refused to bow the knee and compromise Biblical Truth. At times you and your wife may feel all alone. WE KNOW HOW YOU FEEL! We felt the same way. But this is what we’ve found. There are a lot of people like us!
We have discovered that there are many ministry leaders out there who don’t demand conformity in the realms of ministry philosophy and practical methodology. The basis of these relationships have more to do with who you are in Christ than how you deliver a sermon, how you sing your songs, what you wear on vacation, or how express your theological musings. Frankly, we just don’t care. We figure that you have a walk with God and a Bible in your hand. We can share ideas with each other but, in the end, you’re going to do it your way and I’m going to do it my way. Your songs might be different. Your preaching style might be different. Your dress might be different. We might even have minor theological differences! GASP!!!
One of the things I’ve heard more than anything over the last five years is this, “I thought I was the only one.” Ha! Yup! I thought so too. But there are a lot of us over here. It seems that God always has a remnant who have refused to compromise.
Have you ever been tempted to compromise? Have you had to deal with bullies in your local church? Have you been criticized or shunned because you refused to compromise? Honestly, do you ever feel alone?
I want to hear from you! Comment Below:
Also – please share this post if you think it might be a help to someone who is refusing to compromise the faith!
For the entire story – listen to this recording of a recent Idea Day Panel Discussion on the topic of Church Planting. https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/church-planting-episode-25/id1069672009?i=1000414603496&mt=2
I wrote about the unbiblical practice of hyper-separatism and Second Degree Separation in this Blog Post: http://joshteis.com/2017/12/11/six-degrees-of-separation/
Idea Day has been one of the greatest things that has ever happened in my life! I’ll tell you why in one word: FRIENDS! Heather and I have met more lifelong ministry friends through this silly little gathering of ministry leaders than we ever thought possible. Honestly, if you’re feeling alone (no matter how conservative or progressive you think you are), you’ll feel welcome here! Register for the January Idea Day here: http://ideaday.net/events/summit