The Wolves Are Coming

Acts 20:29 For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.
31 Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.

Having spent most my ministry trying to help troubled churches I learned that churches are troubled because they have troubled people in their membership, and generally have no processes or norms in place to resolve conflicts. In this troubled mix there is one disconcerting behavior that always puzzles me: the deliberate and aggressive attempt to harm another person. This seems so foreign to the teachings of Christ that I am always surprised the aggressors don't immediately see the glaring inconsistency and stop the harmful behaviors, but experience has taught me they often don't or won't see it.

There are common threads in this dark garment. It can begin with the smallest thing, something that may go unnoticed by everyone involved but this one antagonist, a mild slight or disagreement can fan the flames of their aggression. Most adults have figured out ways to overlook the mild irritations and differences that come with living and working with others. They wave their hands and move on... but not these folks. These things become personal to them even if the event or issue has nothing to do with them. Strangely... some of these folks seem to look for opportunities to be offended.

They may then manufacture all sorts of offenses, and small weaknesses in their assumed opponent's actions or personality will become high crimes to them. This excess seems to be the mechanism they need to justify their own malicious intent and actions. They will use their slanted rendition of these “sins” to create a following of people who seem to have a predilection to involve themselves in these sorts of conflicts. I've even known them to hire private detectives to attempt to dig up “dirt” about some poor object of their contempt.

They then take action intended to bring harm. This is actually the meaning of some usages of the Biblical word "evil". I've seen them do almost everything from attempting to injure a person's standing in the church or on their job, to contacting the IRS with derogatory information to start an investigation. Their persecution seems limited only by their lack of demented creativity. And if the pastor doesn't support their jihad they will often turn their malicious attention upon him or one of his family members.

What can be done to prevent this kind of conflict? Some promote counseling or mediation, and there are some cases that can be helped or remedied by these methods. But there are a striking number of cases that involve aggressors who have personality disorders or other psychological problems which can prevent the success of this kind of intervention. In fact, in some cases, that sort of intervention will only increase the problem. For these cases a church or other organization must have already prepared itself for this type of conflict. They must have already established norms in the congregation and clear methods to derail this sort of action before it goes to far. Paul clearly prepared the church for the “wolves” long before they came to harm the congregation. Reasoned, sound, Biblical preparation for conflict resolution is a Biblical imperative.


  1. They are already here! What sets off the lingering, growing aggressiveness to the point that it seems inevitable that they will leave and drag as many in their wake as possible? I am not good in these situations, often waiting too long to intervene. Long term, I end up very thankful for the healthy number of people who, when forced to witness such behavior, react with a shrug, a roll of the eyes, a "whatever"... and calmly carry on... often attempting to befriend and minister to the troublesome party.
    Conflict resolution needs a lot more attention than it gets.... at least from me. Thanks!!

  2. Thanks Greg, I too am so thankful for those "healthy" people. I have a number of life-long friends whose faithful friendship was born from this kind of adversity.



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