“Foxes aren’t wolves, and they certainly aren’t weeds. The bible helps me deal with each appropriately.”
The above is another of my leadership philosophies. Like most of my personal philosophies it has been developed throughout years of me making embarrassingly bad decisions and pathetic attempts at dealing with troubled people.
Because of my track record I am now adept at spotting the amount of time & energy church leaders waste dealing inappropriately with unhelpful people in their congregations. This is a simple philosophy to explain but a real stress-saver, so here goes.
Church is going great for you; you’re preaching well, Ministries, Departments and Teams are progressing nicely, but there is a problem. A few people with influence in the church are murmuring negatively in ever-increasing circles about the vision you & your team have carefully communicated. You can tell that the culture of the church is being polluted. What you have here are Foxes. Foxes spoil fruit.
Here’s how to deal with the situation, or indeed anything similar; catch the foxes. (Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom | Song of Songs 2:15). Ideally catch them in the act of fruit-spoiling but certainly catch them. Foxes are influential; they have enough weight to trample crops and leave a trail of confusion in their wake. So catch them and catch them quick. If we adopt Samson’s approach, and I have on a few occasions, it seems that bringing foxes together and giving them a roasting works a treat (Judges 15:4), though I am careful not to condone Samson’s motive. It is surprising how some foxes respond well to this and become great sheep.
Here is another situation. Everything is going well in your church just as before, but there’s this one guy. You know the one. That guy who always seemed a little too friendly/complimentary/spiritual (delete as appropriate) yet whose star has risen despite not holding any officail leadership position. People like him, but you and your team have had your Spidey Senses tingling for a while. Then you discover that he’s been inviting fringe congregation members to his house for teaching/study/mentoring (delete as appropriate) and they’ve dropped out of church activity to make room in their week to do so. Something smells a little lupine around the place.
Here’s how to deal with the situation, or indeed anything similar; shoot the wolf. I really must state clearly here and now that I am meaning this metaphorically and not literally. The simple facts of the matter are that wolves kill sheep (“I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock” | Acts 20:29). So once facts are proven and after much prayer and shrewd planning, take your shotgun (shotgun = perhaps a fellow leader or two and a prepared statement) and let the wolf have it with both barrels making it clear that they are not welcome in your flock. Sure, you might lose a congregation member or two if they’ve become enamored with the guy, but you’ve saved the flock. Wolves rarely turn into good sheep, they just trot on elsewhere, so be prepared to offer another local pastor some advice when the guy turns up in their foyer.
Here is one more situation. You look out at your congregation and there seems to be a scattering of people who love to worship with you, they rarely miss important meetings and are generally pleasant. However, they have never bought into the vision or values, never actively contribute, are usually ambivalent about God’s agenda in your church and can be somewhat off-putting to others. From a distance they blend in, they look like your crop, but on closer inspection they have a different root; they’re weeds.
Here is how to deal with this. It’s simple. treat them just like any other member of your church. Feed them good stuff, bless and care for them and don’t single them out. I know it cuts across good gardening principles, but it seems that when it comes to church, weeds are Jesus’s business (Matt 13:27-29). It looks to me as though Jesus knows we will not deal with this one well. Perhaps we would trample some of the good crop getting to the weeds or even uproot a few healthy sheaves accidentally. Either way, the long and the short of this one is, leave weeds alone. After all you’ve got enough to handle with sheep, foxes and wolves.
Catch ‘em, shoot ‘em and leave ‘em.
Hope this helps.