How a Sociopath took Control of a Church and Drove the Righteous Away – A Personal Encounter With Evil
Oh that there were one among you who would shut the doors, that you might not kindle fire on my altar in vain! I have no pleasure in you, says the LORD of hosts, and I will not accept an offering from your hand. Malachi 1:10
[The following is a first hand account of an unsuspecting pastor’s sad experience with a sociopath. This pastor was alienated from his flock and ultimately driven out of his church. The wicked man remained and enjoyed power and control and the worship of the people. The pastor, now much wiser in regard to the mentality and tactics of evil abuse, tells his story as a warning to genuine pastors and churches. Here is a real-life lesson in the cunning subtlety of evil. Most all of you will recognize the very same evil tactics that have been so often used by your abuser against you].
Many years ago I was called to plant a new church in a small community. After a number of years diligently and faithfully teaching Bible studies in homes and meeting rooms of businesses, a core of professing Christians formed with the desire to be part of a new conservative, Bible-believing church. We had very few resources but were able to use the facilities of other churches in town by holding our services on Sunday evenings.
Then, along came Jack and his family. Jack was a local businessman, a professing Christian, and everyone was excited about this new addition to the small team. Jack was very willing to do whatever he could to help. The group gladly assigned him some administrative tasks and he performed them diligently.
One day during his lunch break from work, Jack stopped by my rented office to “talk.” He said that he needed to confess to me that he had an ongoing battle with alcohol. He really didn’t ask for any hands on help from me, but just made his confession and then asked for prayer. Of course I thought this was a noble thing. Here was a man willing to confess his sin and addiction it seemed.
Not long after Jack’s “confession,” myself and two of the fledgling church board members were at a community event attended by many people from the town. And then here came Jack. Everyone, including the rest of the crowd, noticed him. Why? Because Jack was obviously drunk. On top of that he was holding his infant child, trying to navigate up some precarious steps in his inebriation. A man I did not know shouted to everyone, “Look out for that guy! He’s drunk and he is going to hurt that baby!”
Wonderful “Christian” testimony to the community, right? But that’s not all.
Jack spotted me and the others and headed straight for us. He sat down beside us! There was no mistaking it. Everyone with me saw it. Jack was wasted.
And this is when things started to go south and really get weird.
The next Sunday, Jack acted as if that incident had never happened. This guy who was so quick to “confess” his sin to me now made NO mention of his rank, open, scandalous actions. And guess what? No one else did either, except me. At the next church board meeting I told the board members that Jack needed to be removed from his responsibilities in the church and that he needed to be confronted with his sin and disciplined if he would not repent.
Then one of the board members, a long-time friend of Jack’s, spoke up. “No! He doesn’t need to be accused of sin! That was a cry for help from him to us!” Of course what this person meant was that we should do nothing except to continue to “love” Jack where he was. And that is exactly what happened. Nothing. Now keep in mind that this was most certainly not due to ignorance or lack of biblical teaching. Several of these board members had grown up in Bible churches and I had taught them myself for quite sometime. But when Jack’s buddy on the board made this “cry for help” statement, everyone else kept silent. No one backed me up. Not one. Nada.
Jack had already won. And guess what else? Jack knew that he had won.
The very next day after that board meeting, Jack waltzed into my office where there was a second desk for administrative work to be done. He sat down at that desk some 20 feet away from me, said absolutely nothing to me, and went about his paper shuffling. It was all very calculated and planned. His ally on the board had no doubt told him of my call to confront him with his sin and that nothing was going to be done. His arrival in my office the next day was a loud and clear statement from him to me that, “I am in, and soon you are going to be out.”
He was right.
Jack continued his undermining tactics to win the flock as his allies, and they followed him like lambs to the slaughter. There were one or two exceptions, but most everyone fell hook, line, and sinker for Jack’s deception. After all, siding with Jack meant lots more perks and bene’s for them. Jack had money. Jack had contacts. The church just “couldn’t lose Jack.” But their pastor had become expendable, whether they admitted it or not.
Shortly after, an unsaved man who attended the church (he paraded as a Christian) came into my office one day and pulled out a list. Every experienced true pastor knows what that means – “the list.” He had a list of complaints about my ministry. Now remember, the church-planting organization I was with at the time was still paying the large majority of my salary. And yet, here was this man complaining about the length of my sermons, about how I wasn’t personable enough, and on and on. After he left, I called the board chairman and told him about it as this man’s actions affected the entire ministry.
At the next and board meeting then (Jack was in attendance), Jack’s friend on the board spoke up and said “We have a problem we need to deal with. Pastor, your sermons are just not hitting home with us.” I was teaching and preaching in the very same way I had for years, and currently was preaching expository messages through the Pastoral Epistles so that this new church could be grounded in God’s instruction for His church. This guy went on — “Now, everyone, it is the job of this board to be sure that the people in this church are hearing what they want to hear on Sundays.” Yep. He really did say that. Guess he hadn’t read the verse in those very Pastoral Epistles about people laying up ear-tickling preachers for themselves in the last days!
In other words, Jack had obviously been whispering in this fellow’s ear, winning him as an ally of evil, and putting him up to saying these things to the board. I spoke up at that point. “I have always preached God’s Word and I am going to continue to do so without change. No one is going to tell me to stop doing what Christ has commanded me to do.”
Did I receive any “hear, hear” from any other board members? Nope. Nothing. Dead silence from them. One of them later told me, “I agreed with you in my heart.” Yeah, thanks.
Before that board meeting was over, Jack got in one more dig. He had gotten wind that the other man had given me his “list” of complaints and that I had discussed that incident with the board chairman. And Jack said, with such a pious and holy look on his face and tone in his voice, “Pastor, it just makes me sick in my gut that you betrayed that man’s confidence to you by talking to someone else about his list of complaints.”
Well, the Lord is very, very good to His own. Three days later I received a letter in the mail from another church far away asking me if I would come and candidate for the vacant position of pastor in their church. I did so. They called me. And my family and I left that town and that church where we had labored so hard for all those many years. I still remember with fondness and a real sense of loss those first early days when we had nothing, met in the back room of some business, and the small group would take up an offering of a few dollars to pay for my gas expenses to drive there. The pre-Jack days, you see.
Go and proclaim in the hearing of Jerusalem, Thus says the LORD, “I remember the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride, how you followed me in the wilderness, in a land not sown. Israel was holy to the LORD, the firstfruits of his harvest. All who ate of it incurred guilt; disaster came upon them, declares the LORD. Jeremiah 2:2-3
Something Wicked This Way Comes is the title of a book and a movie I once saw. That is how I look back now upon the day Jack showed up. Something wicked came my way.
I have never been back to that church. There is a large, fancy new church building there now. The church boasts about how the Lord has been so good to them in giving them that building and using them for the cause of the gospel in that community. I have driven by it a couple of times and was struck with a sense of loss and sad irony. There is that building. There is that supposed church which the Lord used me to plant. And here I am on the outside. This must be very much like what an abuse victim feels when her abuser remains welcomed in the church she used to belong to.
And yes, Jack is still in. He reigns there to this day. The people say, “Oh, how Jack has grown. What a fine godly man.” I know better. I know now that Jack’s initial “confession” and even his blatant public drunkenness in front of me and other church members were all tactics of an evil man. His design was to neutralize any ability myself and the church might have to call him out on his sin. After all, he had effected a “preemptive strike” by confessing his sin to me right off! Now, so went his thinking, we could only “show him the love of Jesus.” And his tactic worked with the vast majority of the church members.
I know these things now. And more importantly, so does the Lord of the Church who sees and knows the very depths of a man’s heart. Jack will be called to account on that Day, and so will all of those professing Christians who refused to confess Christ by standing for truth and righteousness no matter the cost.