June 20, 2008
Church Pirates Beware (Part 2)
Ed Young Jr. responds to your questions about church piracy.
UrL: Some people are taking issue with the idea that a pastor's sheep can be stolen because the sheep really belong to Christ. Where do you think the church member's loyalty should reside - with Christ, the church, the pastor, or all three?
Ed Young Jr.: I agree that church members and attendees don't belong to the pastor. They are God's people, called by him to serve him above all. Pastors are called to shepherd them, not own them.
The issue of pirating, though, isn't about the members' loyalty or about attendees finding another church. We tell people all the time that if Fellowship Church isn't for them, they should leave. And we lovingly direct them to any one of the phenomenal churches in our area.
The issue with pirating is all about what happens in the church leadership - specifically the staff. I've discovered there are several types of people around you: those who are with you, those who are for you, and those who use you. Pirates are the ones you thought were with you, but who end up using you for their own agenda. They are the people you, as a leader, pour your heart into. They're the people you laugh with, cry with, and share your life with, the ones you mold and shape.
Pirating rears its ugly head when those leaders that you cultivate work behind your back (and the church's back) maliciously and intently to gather their own "kingdom" and head out the door. The real issue is betrayal.
I have no problem with leaders being cultivated in the church and then being sent out to start new churches. But the key is that they are sent. When someone on your staff usurps the authority of the church, starts a rogue movement, and does their own thing, then you are dealing with a pirate.
UrL: Employees leaving a corporation to begin their own business often sign a non-competition clause requiring them to operate a predetermined distance away. What do you think is an appropriate geographic distance for a church planter to operate who was nurtured and given their start at Fellowship Church?
EY: This is an interesting question, because it brings up a core issue that many people seem to be missing in this whole thing: ethics.
In the corporate world, it is illegal to work for someone and, at the same time, work to steal their clients. You are getting paid by that person and pulling the rug from underneath them at the same time. You will go to jail for that. And that's why there are non-competition clauses.
I'm not saying that the church should be run like a business. I'm not saying that we should model everything we do after the corporate world. I don't think we need to sign non-competition clauses. I'm simply pointing out that the ethics of this situation are all out of whack.
In the church, our ethics should be so far above the corporate world that competition isn't even an issue ("above reproach" sound familiar?). To use the old adage, there are plenty of fish in the sea. It's not about placing some building in a certain position on a map. It's about ethics and how you go about fulfilling your call.
UrL: Is competition always bad? Lyle Schaller wrote a book titled From Cooperation from Competition in which he calls for more churches to compete in the same area for the same people. This, he says, will cause all the churches to improve their ministries. (It's free-market capitalism meets seeker-driven church.) Should we be upset by the presence of a competitive church down the street, or should we celebrate and welcome it?
EY: Simply put, no, competition isn't bad. I believe it helps us become better at what we do. It's the thing that drives us. Everything we do at Fellowship is about competition. We're in competition against the evil forces in the world to reach lives. That's the same battle we all face. But pirating has nothing to do with competition.
We celebrate every church that is preaching and teaching God's Word and going after those far from God. We're all called to depopulate hell by making it hard for people to go there.
But so many of these comments are about sheep swapping; they are so concerned about the competition down the street that they miss the point of reaching the lost. I'm not worried about competition. Again, there are plenty of people for every church.
We are here to reach the lost. And I think every church leader would agree with that. But when someone in your staff becomes a pirate, the mission is jeopardized. The focus shifts from reaching out to the world for Christ. Instead, we have to deal with issues that Christ never wanted us to face when he prayed in John 17, "My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you."
It ultimately comes down to one question: who are you reaching? Because pirates are all about reaching into the church first for their own agenda rather than reaching out to the world to save lives and fulfill Christ's agenda.