As someone with 25 years of active involvement within the Christian church, I have seen and experienced many joys and disappointments. I am well acquainted with the beauty of fellowship and common union. I am also well acquainted with the ugliness of church politics. Sadly, over the years, I have had front row seats to some scandals and church splits. I’ve seen ministers fall into sinful practices, and I’ve seen congregations fall apart when these issues came to light. I’ve seen leaders abuse the authority that they had been given, and I’ve seen the wounded casualties that they left in their wake. I have seen manipulations, betrayal, envy, strife, divisions, gossip, and dissensions. I have seen the bitterness of an offended few spread like a cancer to infect the body, resulting in rebellious mutiny. I have also seen virtuous, humble leaders, anointed men and women of God, sacrificed at the altar of disenchanted, self-righteous cynicism. I have seen these leaders slandered, defamed and ousted from their own ministries, kicked out of the very places that they sweat and bled to build, by the very people that they spent their lives serving.
I am not a distant observer who has remained untouched by all that I have seen. I have felt the pain and confusion, shed tears of frustration, anger and disillusionment, and have faced the temptation to commiserate with bitter, wounded people who received their scars in “the house of friends.” What has grieved me the most over the years has been the utter lack of loyalty, honor, and integrity that I have witnessed. The church is far from perfect. It is full of people. Anywhere that you have people, you have the potential for conflict, misunderstandings, and drama. It would be great if the moment that someone became a Christian, all of their problems, issues, and emotional baggage would simply disappear, but that’s not the way it works. Growth is a process, and maturity doesn’t just happen overnight. It is formed step by step, day by day, moment to moment, by the challenges we face and the choices we make as we encounter those challenges.
As Christians, we are called, first and foremost, to be loyal to God, but there is also a place for loyalty to the people that God has positioned in places of authority in our lives. If God has called you to be an active part of a ministry, then He has also called you to be in a place of submission to the leadership. Loyalty isn’t something you can manufacture. It springs from a place of love and trust that is born in relationship. So, if you don’t love your leaders, you really can’t be loyal to them – even if you want to. It’s that simple. However, just because you may not necessarily be loyal to a particular leader at this point in your relationship with them, that doesn’t mean that you can’t conduct yourself with honor and integrity where they are concerned.
What if you have a disagreement or grievance with your leaders? Have you discussed it with them? No? Then just keep your mouth shut. If you’re not willing to talk about it with them, then you shouldn’t be talking about it with anyone else. What if you have talked about it with them, but you disagree with the outcome? Then you’ve got to carefully choose your response. First, consider the possibility that you are wrong and that there are factors you were unaware of that were considered in making their decision. Then quietly accept it, trusting that they have sought the Lord’s guidance. Don’t go around complaining and causing problems, rather, give them your support. Don’t go around trying to collect a group of people in an attempt to gang up on your leaders and force their hand. If you don’t think you’re capable of this, perhaps it’s time for you to move on to another church or ministry. Pray about it. If God releases you to leave, then go; but conduct yourself honorably as you go. That means you leave quietly and do not do anything that can be interpreted as treachery. No gossip, no slander, and no stirring up dissension. If you can’t do this, then you need to take a serious look at the condition of your heart and check the spirit you’re operating under because it is not of God.
Loyalty isn’t blind obedience, and it isn’t a naive belief that your leaders are perfect either. Those who are loyal, know the areas of weakness and position themselves to assist in those areas. Your leaders have a difficult job to do that often involves making tough decisions. It’s impossible for them to please everyone, to keep everybody happy at all times, and that’s not their job anyway. They are called to seek the Lord, to communicate the vision God has given them for the ministry, and to lovingly lead the way. Your job is to love, support, and co-labor with them. If you truly love and support them, you will also protect them. “If you want to get to them, you’re going to have to get through me first!” You will not entertain any kind of gossip or back-biting. In fact, those who would try to accuse and slander your leaders would know better than to say one word to you.
- 2 Chronicles 16:9; Psalm 15; Hebrews 13:17; Romans 12:17-18; Ephesians 4:29-32; Proverbs 11:13; 1 Corinthians 3
- Loyalty by Bob Sorge
- A Tale of Three Kings by Gene Edwards