SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Frank Page, president and CEO of the SBC Executive Committee told attenders at the Midwest Advance leadership summit that there are dragons in Baptist church life that have to be dealt with very carefully. As he spoke on church conflict during a breakout session in the organizational leadership track, Page said he wanted to encourage the pastors and staff members and help them navigate around “dragons” that devour Baptist leaders.
He mentioned 15 kinds of dragons who pose danger to pastors and ministers.
- The Baptist Bird Dog – This dragon sniffs out things for the pastor to do. The bird dog always has a suggestion of something the pastor should be doing.
- The Super Spiritual Bird Dog – This dragon is similar to the first one, but he will find things the pastor should be doing and of course he will remind you of how spiritual he is in prayer, Bible study and discipleship.
- The Wet Blanket – This person is always sowing discouragement. He or she doesn’t want new things. “There are reasons why we should not do that here,” they will say. These are “dark cloud people,” Page said.
- The Entrepreneur – Page said there are enthusiastic, sales-oriented people in church who will pounce on people to get them on their team, to sell them something or persuade them to be on some cause or project.
- The Sherman Tank – This person explodes. They speak with an exclamation point. They are known to steam-roll over people and are convinced that they are right and others are wrong.
- The Fickle Financier – They use money as leverage. This kind of dragon will use money to get their way and will often threaten to withhold funds from church giving in order to get their way.
- The Busy Body – This person wants to be in everybody’s business. They listen for juicy bits of gossip and love to pass it along strategically in conversations in order to influence matters.
- The Sniper – He will avoid face-to-face conflict but he picks off the leader with potshots. He will often say, “You know, we really need to keep the pastor in prayer for some of the things he is involved with.” When pressed for those matters it is always confidential but arouses suspicions.
- The Bookkeeper – This dragon keeps a list of all the wrongs a pastor or leader has done. He or she gets offended easily and is quick to tell people about the list of wrongs.
- Merchant of Muck – This person is always willing to tell you about the wrong things going on in the organization. No solutions, just problems.
- Legalists – This dragon has a list of absolutes that are either right or wrong. It may be type of songs that are sung in worship or how the pastor dresses or the kind of car driven. This dragon knows the rules and is going to try to lord them over the pastor.
- Termite – This person always spreads negative thoughts like a cancer throughout the body of Christ. The disease is divisiveness.
- Straighten-Outer – This dragon always wants you to fix something. They don’t want to be involved, and they don’t want to be quoted, but they want you to intervene in some matter. Page said it is best to listen to them and then just move on.
- Perpetual Victim – This person has some trouble in their past. The have been hurt. They are always willing to tell you how bad they have it. Sometimes they are struggling with mental illness. Page said, “Respond with great care.” He described his daughter Melissa’s struggle with depression and her eventual suicide. Page said don’t avoid these people, but help them get referrals to qualified counselors, and don’t try to counsel too many people as a pastor, as it can be counter-productive.
- One Agenda Person – This dragon is a good person with a ministry they have and they are passionate about it. They want your total support and will demand it. These folks often drift from church to church when they don’t get their way.
Jokingly, Page said at the beginning of the conference that participants should not “point to anyone in this room.” But he said all leaders have these kind of people in their ministries.
He spent a good amount of time sharing tactics for dealing with dragons. Some of those include: “face into the wind” (deal with the critics head-on), Don’t let the dragons choose the battlefield. Stay in control of yourself and your environment. Deal with mean people lovingly and firmly. He added, “Learn what you can from the opposition. You may need to hear from your critics, and you may be blind to a fault.”
Page concluded saying “hot anger” is often a smokescreen for some other matter going on in the critic’s life.”