Dealing with Antagonists in Your Church – Guest Blogger & Renegade Pastor Don Ross

I’ve asked Don Ross to continue his series of posts on Church Revitalization (or Turn-Around Churches). Don is an Advanced Coaching Alum, a Renegade Pastor and the Lead Pastor of Creekside Church in the Seattle, Washington Area.

Hope you find this helpful:

Dealing with Antagonist – By Dr. Donald E. Ross

Last month I said, “’Antagonists’ are individuals who thrive on conflict and they use conflict to create tension in the church. This tension is used to help them gain power, which they again use destructively.”

As I led my church through its turnaround, I faced several antagonists, some quite severe. I was coached by Antagonists in the Church by Kenneth Haugk.  Part of what I’m sharing with you comes from this book.

So how do we deal with an antagonist?  First of all, it may be helpful to consider the various levels of conflict that you will face in a church.

Five Levels of Conflict in the Church

  • Level 1. Problems to Solve: The focus here is to find a solution.  Anger may surface, but finding resolution to the conflict is the goal.
  • Level 2. Disagreements: The objective is colored by self-protection. There is a shift from openness to guardedness, yet no open hostility.  Sarcastic overtones are used in conversation.
  • Level 3. Contests: Conflict is seen from a win/loose viewpoint.  The objective is not to solve the problem. The only thing that matters is winning and putting one’s opponent “in their proper place.
  • Level 4. Fight or Flight: Here the primary objective is hurting their opponent, getting rid of them or both.  The good of the church is not a concern.  Being right and punishing those who are wrong dominates.  The leader’s two choices of fight or flight have crystallized.
  • Level 5. Intractable Situation: This is conflict run amok.  The conflict in level four is to punish the opponent or get them out.  Conflict at level 5 is to destroy the opponent, regardless of the cost.

Obviously the first two levels of conflict are common and found in all healthy organizations, including the church.  When level 3 starts to surface it is almost to late to gain a solution and of course, levels 4 and 5 are incredibly destructive, personally and to the church.  Here is how to respond to an antagonist.

“Warn a quarrelsome person once or twice, but then be done with him. It’s obvious that such a person is out of line, rebellious against God. By persisting in divisiveness he cuts himself off.”
Titus 3:10-11 (The Message)

10 Tips for Church Leaders Dealing with Antagonists

  1. Don’t deal with it alone.  Join or develop a small group.
  2. Be willing to live with it if you can and your church can.
  3. Be willing to wait for the antagonist to fully manifest before dealing with them.
  4. Get your facts documented.  “The one with the paper wins.”
  5. Make sure you are above reproach.
  6. Watch your words and how you communicate (face to face, phone, e-mail, etc.)
  7. When appropriate, bring other leaders into the mix.
  8. Be prepared for criticism.  It will happen if you do the right thing or nothing, so do the right thing.
  9. Act decisively and confidently once a decision has been made.
  10. Lead clearly and courageously after a confrontation.

To learn more about “Dealing with Antagonists” see the website below and click on “Articles”.

For information on the Turn-Around Church Coaching Network, see 

Posted On: September 20, 2012
Posted as: Leadership

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