I think there’s a union somewhere – the Difficult Deacons Association. They send out one or two to almost every Baptist church (hopefully only one or two). When one member of the DDA moves on, another one is appointed to take his place. I also have had a trickle of folks from the Cantankerous Members Union at my churches.
We get upset about the Difficult Deacons (or Exasperating Elders) or the Cantankerous Members and try to figure out ways to silence them. I’ve actually known of pastors who sought to put such people on church discipline because of their lack of support for his “vision” for the church.
But no ministry is undermined and destroyed by Cantankerous Members, Exasperating Elders, or Difficult Deacons the way it is by fawning supporters who refuse to hold a man of God accountable. The most dangerous man is the one who is constantly affirmed, placed on a pedestal, never challenged, defended by his people no matter how wrong he is, and who is treated as divinity instead of a flawed servant of God.
I do a daily through-the-Bible devotional for my church to get them involved in Bible reading. This year we are taking a chronological approach and recently have been looking at the kings of Judah. It is amazing how many of them started out well and fell into sin in their later years. Why did they fall? Generally, the root cause was pride. Hezekiah was rivaling David as the greatest of kings until he became impressed with his own greatness and splat. Over and over again that story is repeated. Service to God would bring honor from God which would eventually (somehow) inflate the king’s pride and he would then…splat.
Your greatest enemy in ministry is not the guy who snipes at you, the person who challenges you, or the critic who demeans you, it is the applauding masses who think you can walk on water and do no wrong. Your greatest enemies in ministry are those people who will refuse to hold you accountable for your sins and tell you how great you are no matter what you do.
Your passionate supporters make you feel good but they can allow you to become sloppy in spiritual disciplines and still say, “We love you, pastor.” They will allow your heart to drift away from God and still say, “What a great man.”
Of course, I enjoy those people who affirm me more than those who challenge me or even demean me. But if I surround myself with yes-men and women who only applaud my actions and agree with everything I say, I’ve taken the first step toward spiritual self-immolation. If I am wise in my church I will value the opinions of people who disagree with me and who see the world differently. The assumption that my perspective is above challenge is the first step in a prideful fall.
So, thank you God for every Difficult Deacon who has annoyed me, every Cantankerous Member who has challenged me and even made me angry. They have kept me away from the precipice of pride and have reminded me that your wisdom and my wisdom are not the same thing.
1. In the SBC, we have to stay away from hero-worship. We have had some great men lead us, but none of them is above sin and none of them is above criticism. The idea that any man, because of what he has done in the past is above censure is ungodly and dangerous. When you adopt such an attitude you are contributing to the destruction of good men. Gratitude and respect are good and godly, but when we refuse to hold men accountable or to see their faults, we have strayed and become enablers of their sin.
2. Too often, we have treated dissent and criticism as if it is the act of an enemy. To question or even criticize an entity or its leaders is not an act of disloyalty and those who do so should not be treated as foes of the gospel or of the entity. There has been much dissent that is clearly ungodly – that hardly needs to be argued. But the act of disagreeing or dissenting from the actions of an entity is not a sinful act and should never be treated as such.
The SBC must do a much better job of this!
3. We need solid, godly leaders at the helms of our entities but we do not need Marvel comic book superheroes. We have to realize that our entity heads are flesh and blood. Men. Imperfect but hopefully men of God. No entity’s future ought to be tied to a man. No man ought to be considered indispensable. We need entity leaders not entity lords. I believe that many/most of our entity leaders get this and understand their place. Sometimes, perhaps, we forget.
How Do You Destroy a Good Man?
1. Heap praise on him for everything he does.
2. Refuse to ever listen to or accept any criticism of anything he does.
3. Attack anyone who would dare to say anything negative about the man.
4. Defend the man vociferously no matter what the accusation. He can do no wrong.
5. Put him on a pedestal of virtue and honor.
Take a good man, subject him to that kind of adulation, and there are few of us who won’t fall into sin.
(Just for clarity, because I know a few of my members read this. I am blessed right now because I have the best group of deacons I’ve had in 35 years of ministry. I wouldn’t call any of them difficult. On the other hand, we meet twice a month for lengthy meetings where were are free to disagree – a right they take full advantage of! I would classify none of these men as members of the DDA and each as a valuable asset to our church!)