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6 traits of a church disrupter

Nov. 2, 2017 | by Thom Rainer

He is present in almost every church. In fact, the “he” may be a “she,” but in this article I’ll use the masculine pronoun for the sake of simplicity. 

He is the church disrupter. Unlike church bullies, the disrupter rarely attacks leaders directly. He is good about stirring up dissension, but he seems to always feel like: “God led me to do it.”  

Unlike the typical church bully, he can have a gregarious and pleasant personality, and thus be able to attract a following for a season. 

Things to watch for 

 The disrupter is just that. He disrupts the unity of the church. He disrupts the outward focus of the church. And he disrupts the plans of church leadership. So, what are some key traits to watch for with church disrupters? Here are six:

1. He often seeks positions in the church so he can attract attention. So be wary if he asks to lead the student group or the praise team or become chairman of the finance committee. He loves to exert his negative influence through key and visible positions. 

2. He often votes “no” in business meetings. Again, this tactic is yet another attempt to get attention. 

3. He loves to say, “People are saying . . .”  Don’t believe it. He wants you to think his perspective on an issue is more widespread than it really is in reality. Another, parallel approach the disrupter likes to use is: “If we had a secret ballot vote, there would be a lot more dissenters.” 

4. He tries to get followers at the church for his cause of the moment. That is another reason he seeks positions of influence in the church. Not because he cares so much about the church, but because he is involved in political machinations. 

5. He often assures the pastor and other church leaders how much he loves them and supports them.  And then he goes and stabs them in the back. 

6. He loves to use “facts” loosely for his case or cause. Accuracy is neither required nor expected. 

Responding to the problem 

So how should pastors and other church leaders address the problem of church disrupters? Allow me to suggest a few ideas. 

  • Determine you will love them as Christ loves you and them. It’s tough, but it can be done in Christ’s strength. 

  • Pray for them. Seriously. 

  • Be on the watch for them. Because they can be so manipulative and deceptive, they can cause chaos before you see it coming. 

  • Get other leaders to help you address the disrupters and their disruption. But, be aware, they will be shocked that you perceive them that way. 

  • As soon as possible, get them out of key leadership positions. While they may not be a problem today, they can become toxic later. 

I have my theories on why church disrupters act the way they do, but that is a topic for another article. In the meantime, be wary of church disrupters. But love them and pray for them anyway. 

That is the way Christ would respond. Tough, sure? But demonstrating love when the world shouts, “Don’t get mad, get even!” is always the difficult path on which to walk. 

Photo source: istock


Thom Rainer

Thom Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. He is also a former pastor, seminary dean, and leader of a consulting firm. Rainer is the author or co-author of 25 books, including his latest release from B&H Publishing Group: Who Moved My Pulpit? Leading Change in the Church. His 2013 book, I Am a Church Member, has sold more than one million copies.



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