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Home » All Resources » Articles on Preaching » Erik Raymond, Do You Know the Most Dangerous Person in Your Church?

Do You Know the Most Dangerous Person in Your Church?

Erik Raymond more from this author »

OrdinaryPastor.com

Date Published: 11/7/2011
In addition to leading and teaching, pastors are called to protect or guard the flock.

In addition to leading and teaching, pastors are called to protect or guard the flock (Titus 1:5, 9; 2:15; John 21:15–19). Therefore, it logically follows that it is important for pastors to know who is in attendance and membership within the congregation. There are obviously many practical reasons for this, but one is certainly to protect the flock from potential harm.

So I ask you, “Who is the most dangerous guy at your church?”

Here I am not so much aiming at an individual as I am looking at a type of person.

Sure, we all can spot the unbeliever who doesn’t fluently speak the language of Zion, we can identify the person from doctrinally anemic backgrounds because they keep cutting themselves with the sharp knives in the theology drawer, and of course, any Calvinist can sniff out an Arminian within 20 seconds.

But I submit that these types of people are not the most dangerous people who attend your church. At least, they are not in my experience.

Instead, the most dangerous person at your church is the apparently smart guy who is unteachable.

When I say "unteachable," I mean that he has it all figured out. He is the classic “Don’t confuse me with the facts, I know what I believe” guy.

This is the guy who seems to have a lot of biblical knowledge. He can drop the 30 lb. words and effectively argue his point. Very often, he is quite involved and appears to have things together. However, he is dangerous because of the reason you would not think; he is unteachable.

Let me give you some reasons why and how he is dangerous:

1. He Is Gospel-Eclipsing

The great commission has learning embedded in it (Matthew 28:18–20). This means that being a disciple is being one who is always learning. Therefore, to have it all figured out is to deny who you are. As Christians, we have to be people who are learning; this includes everyone from pastors to children.

2.  He Is Critical

If this guy is not being moved by the ministry of the Word, he is likely gathering bullets to shoot at leaders. He sits quietly during the sermons and teachings only to pick apart everything like a Monday morning quarterback. His unteachability looks the exact opposite of what James 1 teaches:

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore, put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. (James 1:20–21)

(Please note this is not a repudiation of constructive criticism. This is desperately needed. There is a difference between constructive and destructive criticism, however.)

3. He Is Divisive

This is dangerous for the church in that it invariably brings division (Titus 3:10). This type of boiling pot eventually spills over, and when he does, he hurts unity and people.

In my experience, division in the church usually is a result of somebody being unteachable. This type of thing has a long legacy. Consider how Diotrephes liked to put himself first and stir up division. How did he do this? He did not submit to the teaching of the Apostles (3 John 9–10). He was unteachable.

This is obviously dangerous for his own soul but also for the church. Just as Diotrephes had influence in that congregation, so too the unteachable guy no doubt has influence in your local assembly. The influence of an unteachable guy is a vehicle for division.

4. He Is Joy-Robbing

A church that is teachable brings its leaders joy. A church or church member who is not robs them of joy. It’s that simple (Hebrews 13:7, 10). I can attest to the fact that this is very true.

5.  He Is a Time-Waster

Let me be careful how I say this. I don’t mean that labor in the ministry is a waste of time. But what I do mean is that unteachable guy is one who continues to take up pastoral leadership’s time with arguments. He just keeps resetting the same issue over and over again. He can find anything to nitpick and be critical about. So in this sense, he is a waste of time. Or, as Paul might say, the labor is in vain (Philippians 2:16; 2 Thessalonians 3:5).

So what do you do with him?

Pray for him

Forbid it that pastors become callous and unmoved themselves! The desire is for growth in the gospel. Therefore, pray (Colossians 1:9-14; 2 Peter 3:18).

Minimize his influence

Pastors should always be careful about who is appointed unto leadership. In this case, it would obviously make sense not to just put the Bible trivia champ in charge of teaching and leadership items. This is because the Bible trivia champ could also be a spiritual MMA champ on the side.

Watch him and the sheep

If this guy is a Christian, then he must be cared for, too. The pastor must do this while guarding and caring for the flock. This is the type of thing that keeps pastors up at night (see #4 above).

Lovingly aim to teach him 

Keep on keeping on (Titus 2:15).

Confront where necessary 

When there is sin involved, Jesus is clear (Matthew 18:15–18).

This type of thing weighs heavy upon pastors and church members alike. Therefore, even the consideration of such things should cause us to pause, evaluate our own hearts, and pray for receptivity of the word of Christ (James 1:20ff; Colossians 3:15).


Erik Raymond

Erik is a pastor at Emmaus Bible Church (EmmausBibleChurch.org), a church plant south of Omaha. Converse with Erik on Twitter at @erikraymond.

Reviewing the various comments, I appreciate Dr Kauffman's (#6) post. The accurate use and application of scripture is to be much desired. Carelessness in teaching God's word can do great damage. [delete comment]
Dav Ross
November 8, 2011
Did anyone spot the irony of my own comment. :) Peace to all. [delete comment]
Dav Ross
November 8, 2011
Great article, to which I would add: "he or she is the writer of anonymous letters feigning concern ". By the way, some people in here take stuff way too personally. It must hurt your walk with God to be carrying so much anger. [delete comment]
Daniel Lang of Crosswinds Christian Ministries
November 8, 2011
So as long as people don't ask you any hard theological questions or ANY questions at all. As long as they are brainless empty sponges silently sucking up your spoon fed spiritual milk they are good decent Christians. But God forbid that someone who is possibly full grown and no longer in need of milk but comes to you with the desire for some strong meat, and maybee possibly this person spends a great deal of time studying the word and goes to a job where NO ONE cares about the Bible or God or any spirituality and GOD FORBID he should come to a man who is "supposed" to be MORE learned in theology than himself so he comes looling for a fellow peer to talk about what he thinks is your shared passion and what do you do? SHUN HIM!?! Label Him as dangerous?!? as someone who is a waste of time? and should be minimized and blocked? I remember a time when I wanted to get back into Karate I had been a fifth degree black belt and I just wanted to get fit and find some friends who shared my interest I when the teacher(a third degree black belt) found out I knew MORE THAN HE DID He became intimidated and wanted to know why I was even there as I knew the stuff better than he did well maybee that is your real problem you are intimidated by the thought that someone might be more knowledgeable than you in the one thing you are getting paid to know about so HE really is a threat-to be minnimized and gotten rid of. You can smell an arminian well I cam smell a wolf in sheeps clothing in the time it took to read this article. [delete comment]
Dr. Luke Kauffman
November 8, 2011
Travis . . . Are you a pastor? Or are you broadbrushing all pastors as tools of negativity in the local church? If you were to say that to my seminary students, you would have to give much documentation for them to be persuaded to leave a calling of being local church trouble makers. You realize that if you throw enough mud to a screendoor, some will eventually stick, and not melt away. I am a pastor, and I felt the pain you carry, for that is a pastor's heart. [delete comment]
Fernando Villegas
November 8, 2011
John E Miller, Scripture says a lot more than 2 Timothy 4:14-18. Scripture also speaks about being humble and teachable in spirit (e.g. Prov 1:8-9; Acts 18:24-28). Again, your comments contribute very little to the conversation, as you have not demonstrated how the article is in contradiction even with the text you just cited. Furthermore, I have a personal bone to pick with you, and yes, I take it personally, because earlier you asked me--completely unrelated to anything the conversation was about--if I was a Seventh-day Adventist, because as you later told me, you googled my name and discovered my denomination and wanted to confirm that's who you were talking to. Then you threw out statements that you had "grave reservations" about our beliefs, and you misrepresented our beliefs in a very unfair way. I took the time to respond to some of your "reservations"--USING SCRIPTURE TO DEFEND MY BELIEFS--but you didn't care. You had me all figured out after a quick google search. Then you had the nerve to leave the conversation under the excuse that you didn't want to "hijack" the thread, when you were the one to get us off track in the first place. What you did was unkind, unChristlike, and above all else COWARDLY!!!! So if you are a man of integrity, I would hope you do one of two things. Either you respond to the arguments I made earlier in support of my beliefs, or you offer a sincere apology--that comes across as a sincere apology!--for the way you have treated me. Do one, do the other, I don't care. This isn't for me. It's for your own integrity. But know that I will call you out on this everytime you type a word on this site. [delete comment]
Travis A. Berkey
November 8, 2011
"Do You Know the Most Dangerous Person in Your Church?" My answer is the pastor, because of his amount of influence. [delete comment]
Trevor Payton
November 8, 2011
Good article. Thanks very much! I'm a Calvinist, and I love my Arminian friends, so I think it would probably good if we'd learn to joke with each other about it...that could actually help to bring unity, because humor tends to decrease tension. :) Anyway, I've only been in ministry for 5 years, but I can easily identify with what the writer is saying...it seems that we're taught (and expected) as pastors to always be warm and friendly, but it's also important that we're always ready to speak a word (sometimes a firm word) of correction. If we're afraid to make the difficult steps and decisions in ministry, then maybe we need a fresh dose of courage and boldness. At the end of the day (and at the end of time), the goal of our ministry is the glory of God more than the comfort of people. [delete comment]
Dr. Luke Kauffman
November 8, 2011
# 20 . . . If they are teachable, Paul tells Timothy that they must be taught. In Bible study more is taught, and little is caught. [delete comment]
Dr. Luke Kauffman
November 8, 2011
# 20 . . . If they are teachable, Paul tells Timothy that they must be taught. In Bible study more is taught, and little is caught. [delete comment]
Ephrem Hagos
November 8, 2011
What do you do when the most dangerous persons in the churche exhibiting all the signs are the theologians, priests, evangelists who do not know at all the Scriptures? [delete comment]
Luis Alvarez
November 8, 2011
Lets not overlook the words of Dr. Luke Kauffman, his etymology of the word heretic is interesting since it seems to me that history corroborates it. In the Catholic world, when we have issues with a fellow Catholic we go to another room of the house and start an order - but, we remain in the house. History shows that when Protestants have issues with each other they don't go to another room - they leave the house and start another house or as we recently like to call them another "ecclesial community." What I'm saying is that heresy begets divisions/schisms and all the rest - the devil doth loves it much. I urge a very slow look at John 17, especially verse 21. I pray for the unification of Christianity for it was and is our Blessed Lord's High Priestly prayer. Peace to you and yours. [delete comment]
What does the scripture say? 2 Timothy 4:14-18. Preach the Gospel, teach the truth according to the Holy Scriptures. Leave the consequencies and the adversaries of that truth to God. Thank you Moderator Villegas for your kind words. [delete comment]
Fernando Villegas
November 7, 2011
I think all of us would do well to examine ourselves daily and make sure we remain humble and teachable. John E Miller, what's up with your comment? There's no reasoning presented, no context. It's just a snide, useless, unkind, unChristlike remark. If you're going to take the time to post, why not write something worthwhile that actually contributes to the conversation? Pastor Sung Kim, I get where you're coming from, and it's unfortunate that his words came off in a negative way. But try not to let that get in the way of his primary point, which I believe is actually quite valid and quite needed. Personally, I interpreted that paragraph more of as a caricature of the stereotypes most of us hold, whether consciously or unconsciously, of the type of people we consider "most dangerous." And the statement about the Calvinists and Arminians came off to me not as targeting Arminians, but rather targeting Calvinists, some of whom seem to have an obsession with allegiance to what they would consider "theological orthodoxy." I agree with you, though, that it is easy to cause divisions through the words we use, whether intentionally or not. So he probably could've been more careful with his wording. [delete comment]
Berno Nilsson
November 7, 2011
In Church we shape people by the Word of God and the fellowships. Is there anyone being able to look at them self as parttaker in the process of shaping the mind and attitude of the type of person written about here? [delete comment]

November 7, 2011
Great article. Thank you Erik. [delete comment]
Don Hatch
November 7, 2011
Paranoid???? As Betty said, And we need to remember that sometimes - just sometimes - that "most dangerous person" can be us! Great article brother Erik! [delete comment]
Pastor Sung Kim
November 7, 2011
I have to say that I'm a little offended by the wording in this article, especially at the beginning. Pastor Raymond writes "...and of course, any Calvinist can sniff out an Arminian in 20 seconds". I'd like to give him the benefit of the doubt and hope that he would say the same thing in reverse and hope that he's not just targeting Arminians (which I am). It's divisive talk like this that separates the Body of Christ and I hope he realizes that. By the way, I'd be curious how he could "sniff out" an Arminian in 20 seconds. I'm a pastor as well and I'd like to know that "trick". Most times when we have a visitor, the first 20 seconds isn't reserved for "Do you believe in OSAS"? Just sayin'. [delete comment]
Pilar Gateman
November 7, 2011
I don't think the writer suffers from paranoia. I believe this is a very real thing. If the writer suffered from paranoia he would be suggesting that these people exist everywhere. One comment I would make regarding this issue is that sometimes, in extreme cases you need to be very forthright and speak directly into the situation - firmly. One of our jobs as pastors is to protect our flock from wolves. [delete comment]
Pilar Gateman
November 7, 2011
I don't think the writer suffers from paranoia. I believe this is a very real thing. If the writer suffered from paranoia he would be suggesting that these people exist everywhere. One comment I would make regarding this issue is that sometimes, in extreme cases you need to be very forthright and speak directly into the situation - firmly. One of our jobs as pastors is to protect our flock from wolves. [delete comment]
Pilar Gateman
November 7, 2011
I don't think the writer suffers from paranoia. I believe this is a very real thing. If the writer suffered from paranoia he would be suggesting that these people exist everywhere. One comment I would make regarding this issue is that sometimes, in extreme cases you need to be very forthright and speak directly into the situation - firmly. One of our jobs as pastors is to protect our flock from wolves. [delete comment]
Pilar Gateman
November 7, 2011
I don't think the writer suffers from paranoia. I believe this is a very real thing. If the writer suffered from paranoia he would be suggesting that these people exist everywhere. One comment I would make regarding this issue is that sometimes, in extreme cases you need to be very forthright and speak directly into the situation - firmly. One of our jobs as pastors is to protect our flock from wolves. [delete comment]
Pilar Gateman
November 7, 2011
I don't think the writer suffers from paranoia. I believe this is a very real thing. If the writer suffered from paranoia he would be suggesting that these people exist everywhere. One comment I would make regarding this issue is that sometimes, in extreme cases you need to be very forthright and speak directly into the situation - firmly. One of our jobs as pastors is to protect our flock from wolves. [delete comment]
Pilar Gateman
November 7, 2011
I don't think the writer suffers from paranoia. I believe this is a very real thing. If the writer suffered from paranoia he would be suggesting that these people exist everywhere. One comment I would make regarding this issue is that sometimes, in extreme cases you need to be very forthright and speak directly into the situation - firmly. One of our jobs as pastors is to protect our flock from wolves. [delete comment]
Dr. Luke Kauffman
November 7, 2011
The writer may be making a viable argument, but his exegisis of Titus 3:10 is totally unjustified: I assume he is seeing "factious," as the translation for "hariretikos." The english translations sounds much like ther Greek pronounciation -- "heretic." In its most pure translation the Greek adjective is "to choose." Therefore, Paul is talking about one who will not submit to the Word of God, and therefore is a "hairetikos," or a heretic, as the solid translation is - - not devisive or factious.i [delete comment]
Matthew Roberts
November 7, 2011
Been there...won that battle. Thanks for truth today! [delete comment]
Kelly Mcclendon
November 7, 2011
Good article. This might be implied in the last point - or it might need to be an additional point... You must be willing to let them find another church. [delete comment]
Some might raise the question, "Does the writer suffer from paranoia?" [delete comment]
Excellent article! Thank you. We need the reminder for sure. And we need to remember that sometimes - just sometimes - that "most dangerous person" can be us! [delete comment]
There's a few in my church. Good article, Brother, and Amen! [delete comment]

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