Small, struggling churches are vulnerable to hostile takeovers, just like small, struggling companies.

With companies, the stronger company will pay off the target company’s debts and may give some cash to the owner in return for not starting a competing company right away. The deal is done and everyone leaves satisfied.

With churches, someone moves in and quickly volunteers their substantial Bible knowledge and shows a great willingness to help. Next, they bring a couple of friends “from the other church.” Sometimes they are single and sometimes they come with a family. Often, they are a bit more fundamentalist than the existing congregation, but they have the time to do the jobs that have not been done in a while – like working in the nursery, cleaning and waxing the floor, decorating the children’s wing.

Then the first all-church business meeting. The new members outnumber the old-timers, and begin to make changes. Within a few months, they begin to act like Absolam, undermining the authority of the pastor, and soon they suggest the pastor should be asked to leave, and to put one of their number in his place to “grow the church” and “preach the authentic Gospel.”

Shortly, the pastorship becomes formal and the church votes to end their former denominational affiliation. From struggling church to stolen church in less than a year. Often as not, the new church is a cult, needing space to grow.

Not all new workers are there to steal your church. I myself have come into a struggling church, full of passion and energy, but always taking pains to submit myself to the authority of the pastor and the deacons. I do not suggest any changes in structure that have not been addressed by the pastor first. You need people like that, who move into the congregation as a gift from God to help restore its vibrancy.

But you need to be aware of the presence of destructive cults. If you need to learn more, surf on over to the F.A.C.T net (for Fight Against Coercive Tactics Network).

(Thank you to Tracy at the After Cult Life blog for the link!)