Women in Church Combat: A Cautionary Tale

We must move away from “engaging the enemy” and toward fighting for a common cause

Lillian was a strong, charismatic woman who founded her church's women's ministry. Her vibrant personality made almost anything she tried a success. She was like a beloved sergeant in the military—close to those under her care, an advocate for them with the church leaders above her, and militantly passionate about their growth and development. She had created an atmosphere in the ministry that challenged and excited women. They came just to be around her and supported anything she tried to institute in the church.

The trouble began when she was diagnosed with cancer and had to resign from her position during chemotherapy. She struggled as she saw her beloved ministry pass to other hands. Because she'd been the only head of the women's ministry, she felt very strongly about how it should be run. She tried to communicate this clearly to church leaders, but in the end, she had no choice but to watch her position be handed to the most willing but, in her opinion, unqualified person.

Tabitha was delighted with the opportunity to take over the women's ministry. She felt Lillian's ideas were outdated and suited only for the older women of the church. She couldn't wait for the opportunity to gear things toward the younger women who had never been much engaged in the activities Lillian had planned.

That's when the battle commenced.

Instead of seeing Tabitha as a replacement sergeant for her troops, Lillian saw her as the enemy who infiltrated those under her care, intent on leading them into destruction. And instead of seeing Lillian as a wise woman with years of experience, Tabitha saw her as a sentinel who guarded her "city" so zealously that no one could go in or out, turning it into a police state.

Unfortunately, no one recognized the battle lines being drawn.

Church Battles Are a Covert Operation

Any historian will tell you that modern warfare is much more complicated because everything is covert. No longer do soldiers line up on a battlefield and shoot at each other. Instead, warfare has become a mind-bending puzzle of hide-and-seek, of gleaning intelligence, and of trying to outsmart the enemy.

The same is often true of church battles. A church battle can rage without the church at large even knowing about it. Other members of the church had no idea of the conflict between Lillian and Tabitha. Even the church leaders were largely unaware that the two women were slowly arming "troops" of their own to support their "mission." These troops consisted of those who worked closely with them. Both women were strong leaders, so they easily convinced those around them that their ideas were right and that it was noble to fight for their cause. It wasn't difficult for each of them to form a "band of sisters." But everyone was in camouflage, so the larger church didn't recognize that the troops were coalescing.

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April 08, 2013 at 8:00 AM

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