DMM Obstacles: Resistance from Pastors and Traditional Churches

resistance from pastors

They stood in front of my gate, a group of angry men. Impatiently, they rang the gatebell again and again. They came with demands. Emotions ran strong. Who were they? Angry Hindu fundamentalists? No. Surprisingly (or not), they were a group of Christian pastors from our city. A sometimes unexpected obstacle we frequently face in attempting to start a Disciple Making Movement is ugly and unkind resistance from traditional pastors who don’t understand.

Let me continue my story. 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 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 kindly. It was difficult to respond with honor while standing firm, holding to the convictions of my heart.

I would not give in. I also would not be rude. Instead, I chose to remember that my battle wasn’t with flesh and blood. I resisted the real enemy but demonstrated honor toward these leaders.

An Opportunity to Grow Stronger

As we pursue Disciple Making Movements among the unreached, we will often face challenges. These are opportunities to grow in humility and strength of character. Learning to respond with a gracious spirit, is a wonderful chance to become more like Jesus. That is what it means to be a disciple. We learn to imitate our Master.

Our Lord was no push-over. He resisted His enemy Satan with great power. He 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 persecutors. His way is one of peace, honor, and love. It is with these qualities we must respond to criticism and misunderstanding.

The barrier of resistance from pastors and traditional churches can be overcome. We will experience an internal victory if we refuse to fight, grow bitter, or retaliate (even behind their backs). Instead, we must learn to answer 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 verse which relates to 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 can tell if they are genuinely asking questions from real concerns. Some though, are sadly 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, bless. Be intentional in speaking positive things about them, their church, and their 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 stories of transformed lives. Focus on these things in what you communicate to those not likely to understand.

3) Refuse to gossip about those who oppose you.

It is 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 difficulty with traditionalists push you into sinful behavior. Determine to speak well of everyone (even those who oppose you) whenever you have an opportunity. No “traditional church” bashing! It’s ungodly and doesn’t further your DMM cause anyway.

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 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 as a person of integrity and Christ-likeness.

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 should 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 significant obstacle. He will be with you and give you victory and peace.

What will you apply from the above article? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

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