They stood in front of my gate. A group of angry men. Impatiently, they rang the bell again and again. They had demands to make. Emotions ran strong. Who were they? Angry Hindu fundamentalists? No. Surprisingly (or not), they were a group of pastors from our city. One obstacle we often face in starting Disciple Making Movements is resistance from traditional pastors.
I went to the gate cringing inside. How would I answer them? I knew why they had come. I’d broken their “rules.” We had done some things that went against their church traditions. It violated their ability to control. That was a tough day. I had to lean hard on God for His grace to answer them. It was difficult to do that with honor, while still standing firm in the convictions of my heart.
I would not give in to them. But, I also would not be rude. Instead I needed to choose to remember that my battle wasn’t with flesh and blood. I resisted the real enemy, but showed honor to these leaders.
An Opportunity to Grow Stronger
As we pursue Disciple Making Movements among the unreached, we will often be faced with challenges. These are chances to grow in humility and strength of character. Learning to respond with grace, is a wonderful chance to become more like Jesus.
Our Lord was no push-over. He resisted his true enemy Satan with great force. He also knew how to put a Pharisee in their place with a well-worded question. Jesus taught us to love our enemies and do good to those who persecute us. His way is one of peace, honor and love. It is with these that we must respond to criticism and misunderstanding.
The barrier of resistance from Pastors and traditional churches can be overcome. We will have victory in our lives if we refuse to fight, become bitter, or retaliate (even behind their backs). Instead, we must answer them with gentleness, humility and the Word of God.
“Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.” Romans 13:7 NIV
Some Tips For Handling Resistance From Pastors
1) Never fight. Always honor.
Another great “go-to” verse on this is Romans 12:10. It tells us to “be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” When other Christians come against us with criticism or condemnation, don’t engage in argument. You will be able to tell if they are genuinely asking questions from concern. Some though, are simply offended at the loss of control. Don’t fight them. Try hard not to let their aggressive spirit take hold of you.
Instead, act in the opposite spirit. When they criticize you, bless them. Be intentional to speak positive things about them, their church and ministry. Don’t let yourself fall into an arrogant “I know better than you do” position. Not even in your heart.
2) Don’t publicize everything you do.
Many DMM practitioners get themselves in trouble by being too public. Especially about things that go against church norms. Are you allowing women to baptize? You don’t need to tweet about it or put that on Facebook! Letting local believers who aren’t ordained serve communion? That is important. But no need to brag about it at the local pastor’s meeting. Using an unusual contextual practice? Do it quietly.
I am not saying we should hide what we do. But there are some things we don’t need to bring attention to. This is not helpful when you are networking with traditional Christians. Instead, tell the stories of transformed lives. Focus on those things in what you communicate to those not likely to understand.
3) Refuse to gossip about those who oppose you.
It is very easy to fall into gossip with other DMM minded people about how terrible this or that pastor is. Don’t do it! It will only make you feel worse. Seriously, this is a big deal. You can not afford to let this obstacle push you into sinful behavior. Determine to speak well of others whenever you have the opportunity to do so. No “traditional church” bashing! It’s ungodly and doesn’t further your DMM cause any way.
4) Train developing leaders and believers to know the Biblical reasons for what they do.
You may feel this is difficult. Perhaps the believers are very new in their faith. Again, this seems like a problem but it’s actually a blessing. The potential for opposition and sheep stealing helps us to ground our new believers in the Word of God. Train them to know God’s word. Teach stories from the book of Acts to them. Memorize scriptures with them about the priesthood of all believers. Talk about the Bereans and how they took everything to scripture to find answers.
5) Be willing to bear the cross of being misunderstood.
If you have a high need to be liked and understood, lay that on the altar and give it to God. Jesus wasn’t understood. Many opposed Him and even thought He was possessed by a demon. It is natural that as His followers many will not “get” us and what we are doing. Embrace this as part of the cost and determine to let it grow you in strength as a person.
6) Keep doing what God has called you to do. Stand firm and “Just Do It.”
Don’t be dismayed when criticism comes. Expect it and be ready to respond with godliness. In no way let it deter you from your vision to rapidly multiply disciples among your people group! Stay strong in your calling and commitment to follow Biblical principles in all you do. Move forward. Focus on the Lost and on making strong disciple makers among the new believers.
Partner and Influence Those You Can
There are some people we can influence and partner with. Not every traditional pastor or Christian is going to oppose you. Some will be open. They will want to listen and learn. Answer their questions with honesty and integrity. You are called to reach the lost, not convert the church to any particular way of functioning. Stay focused on Jesus and His call to make disciple makers.
God will help you to grow and become more like Him as you push through this obstacle. He will give you victory and peace.
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