Pit Bull Ministry
- 2008 18 Jan
For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men?
1 Corinthians 3:3 (NLT)
I don’t have good luck with dogs. For some reason, any dog in a three-mile radius that is not inside a fence or on a leash is likely to chase me down, snarling and apparently ready for some calf-bone.
Sometimes, I have the same luck with Christians.
There is a snarling, snapping, flesh-tearing evil among us. Pit bull ministry.
What is “Pit bull ministry,” you ask? Let’s take a look at some examples of Christians engaging in such behavior. Territorial: These church (or ministry) turf-defenders act like Christianity was their idea. If they have any brilliant ideas for church growth, or are using a standard that really works, or even if they have extra funds, they aren’t about to share with another ministry in need lest others become too successful. They might not get the credit they feel they deserve. Besides, if they help too much, the other ministry might surpass them, helping even more sinners into heaven. God forbid.
I work with an international missions organization that faces persecution in some of the countries they’re located in because of anti-conversion laws. I phoned a similar U.S.-based high-profile ministry once who encounters the same kinds of problems in the same countries to ask how they handle certain security issues in print so we could learn from them (they work in the same areas and know who we are). The man on the phone sounded suspicious and said, “Which ministry are you calling from again?” When I told him, he responded, “Uh, I can’t talk to you right now, I’ve got to go…” Click. We’ve had many such encounters with this same ministry at many levels.
“This is my ministry,” territorial Christians say. “I’m not helping you enjoy the same level of success. It’s my hard work that has put me here.”
All the while, God is drumming His fingers, rolling His eyes, and thinking, “What about My ministry? What about the ideas I inspired, the anointing I bestowed, the money I sent, and the lives I changed? Did you think that was you?” Jealous: There’s a fine line between territorial and jealous, but I’d say that territorial is preventative, and jealousy happens after the fact. These church folk can’t stand to see your ministry or class flourish while theirs is waning. They take it as a personal attack, rather than asking themselves some hard questions such as: am I doing this for the right reasons? What do the people I’m teaching really need to hear? Might God be ready to use me somewhere else, outside my comfort zone? And for leadership: Am I ready to respond to the Spirit’s leading in making way for new areas of teaching for the good of all?
Once, a couple we know began to teach a Sunday school class at a local church in our small town. It was a much-needed curriculum for young parents, which comprised a large cross-section of their church attendees. Understand, in this particular church, most of the Sunday school teachers had been teaching the same classes and material for fifty years. While it was probably good stuff, it hadn’t changed to meet the needs of the current members. Here is the review this couple received from the Sunday school board who “non-renewed” their class at the end of the year: “You’re taking too many people away from the existing classes.” Huh?! Vicious: We’ve all taken part in this on occasion. Back biting, gossiping, whining and complaining without doing something about our grievances, and generally causing dissention in our ministry through the back door (behind backs) instead of talking out or lovingly confronting the problem like a mature adult. I am as guilty as anyone on this. I have foolishly acted like a rabid dog plenty of times, and am mending my ways.
I heard about a church where one of the pastor’s kids (P.K.) was doing something mildly inappropriate in front of church members. People were upset. People were offended. People thought the pastor had a serious character flaw to raise a P.K. that would act this way. Did any of these people—people who had been attending this church for years—talk to the pastor about their concerns? Not one. A church visitor finally spoke up. The pastor, who had raised several well-behaved and nice kids was grateful for the head’s up by his visitor and addressed the issue with his child.
Attacking: Steeped in the “log in the eye” principle that Jesus spoke about, this graceless way of handling conflict is a near epidemic in many churches and ministries. People with agendas feel threatened when things are changed or decisions are made without their knowledge or approval. These people search a three-mile radius for opportunities to attack the jugular of anyone who disagrees with them, implements change, or who stumbles in their Christian walk. Instead of asking questions or looking into the “why” behind other people’s ideas, decisions, and behaviors, these people go on the attack, making uninformed assumptions. Having never seen their own shortcomings or failures, they are not able to identify with the struggles of others and are not able to imagine what it’s like walking in another’s shoes.
Put the dog down: It’s hard not to feel territorial and competitive sometimes. But really, could you ever see Jesus duking it out with His disciples, jealous when they had a good idea or when people in the crowds wanted to talk to them…to touch them? We’ve got to sit back and remember WHOSE ministry this is and WHY we’re doing it. As believers, we’re all supposed to be on the same team. We’re supposed to be encouraging each other and building each other up for the work of the Great Commission, sharing everything we can to reach a lost world.
Imagine what could be accomplished for Christ if people didn’t care who gets the credit, if we all started working together instead of against each other, and if we extend a little more grace toward each other? Remember, whenever we get territorial, we make it about us…and our strength…and our resources. God is no longer in it. Let’s put the snarling dog down before we have any more casualties, and do whatever we can to help others achieve their amazing potential!
Julie Ferwerda is the author of The Perfect Fit: piecing together true love, and has written for publications such as Marriage Partnership, Focus on the Family, and Discipleship Journal. Find out more: www.JulieFerwerda.com.