church cartel

Problem People: Super-Elders, Shadow Governments, and Church Cartels

Super-Elders and Shadow Governments

What do we do about the problem people in our churches?

In his upcoming second edition These Sheep Bite: A Fearless Guide to Church Leadership, (available soon exclusively on Theology Mix), Dr. John I. Snyder writes:
“Act high, think low, assume their worst, act your best,” was the advice of historian Gertrude Himmelfarb to those entering a life of politics. In other words, try to imagine and prepare for the lowest motives others might have, but take the high road when acting yourself. Expect that your opponents will get down and dirty, but don’t go there yourself.

This is also excellent advice for pastors. You’ll find that often there’s no measurable difference between the world and the church in this respect. This came as a surprise to me, and I wish I had learned about it before I became a pastor. If you’re expecting all or most church people to be kind and gentle, you’ll be in for some rude surprises.

Many churches have members who for various reasons assert more authority and power than what’s permitted by the by-laws of the congregation. They become super-elders, a power within a power—a type of shadow government apart from or behind the legally established powers. Even people who have no official authority whatsoever manage to achieve control by other means and run the church from behind the scenes. Frequently, they’re with the finance department of the church.

Shadow governments, super-elders, and power brokers, inhabit and manipulate the church for their own agenda. Pastors who don’t fall in line with their wishes soon find themselves without a church. If you find yourself in such a situation, you might want to check your church’s by-laws or constitution to find out the lines of authority and set up some boundaries for them.

Five Dangers of the Church Cartel

Similary, in his article, Five Dangers of the Church Cartel, Thom Rainer writes:
A church cartel is an alliance of bullies, bully-followers, carnal Christians, and even non-Christians in the church. Its ultimate goal is to get its way. It feeds off of selfish power.

We don’t like to talk about church cartels. After all, it’s not the Christian thing to do. But they exist in too many churches. And if they are not exposed, they will continue to wreak havoc.

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