Church Pirates Beware (Part 2)
Ed Young Jr. responds to your questions about church piracy.

UrL: Some people are taking issue with the idea that a pastor's sheep can be stolen because the sheep really belong to Christ. Where do you think the church member's loyalty should reside - with Christ, the church, the pastor, or all three?

Ed Young Jr.: I agree that church members and attendees don't belong to the pastor. They are God's people, called by him to serve him above all. Pastors are called to shepherd them, not own them.

The issue of pirating, though, isn't about the members' loyalty or about attendees finding another church. We tell people all the time that if Fellowship Church isn't for them, they should leave. And we lovingly direct them to any one of the phenomenal churches in our area.

The issue with pirating is all about what happens in the church leadership - specifically the staff. I've discovered there are several types of people around you: those who are with you, those who are for you, and those who use you. Pirates are the ones you thought were with you, but who end up using you for their own agenda. They are the people you, as a leader, pour your heart into. They're the people you laugh with, cry with, and share your life with, the ones you mold and shape.

Pirating rears its ugly head when those leaders that you cultivate work behind your back (and the church's back) maliciously and intently to gather their own "kingdom" and head out the door. The real issue is betrayal.

I have no problem with leaders being cultivated in the church and then being sent out to start new churches. But the key is that they are sent. When someone on your staff usurps the authority of the church, starts a rogue movement, and does their own thing, then you are dealing with a pirate.

UrL: Employees leaving a corporation to begin their own business often sign a non-competition clause requiring them to operate a predetermined distance away. What do you think is an appropriate geographic distance for a church planter to operate who was nurtured and given their start at Fellowship Church?

EY: This is an interesting question, because it brings up a core issue that many people seem to be missing in this whole thing: ethics.

In the corporate world, it is illegal to work for someone and, at the same time, work to steal their clients. You are getting paid by that person and pulling the rug from underneath them at the same time. You will go to jail for that. And that's why there are non-competition clauses.

I'm not saying that the church should be run like a business. I'm not saying that we should model everything we do after the corporate world. I don't think we need to sign non-competition clauses. I'm simply pointing out that the ethics of this situation are all out of whack.

June 20, 2008

Displaying 1–10 of 35 comments


July 19, 2008  7:36am

It wouldn't be a problem if pastors were interested in pastoring and not being the king over their little kingdom. Some pastors refuse to partner with the person that feels called to leave and decide to entertain a spirit of retaliation against the one leaving. Some pastors develop the "stabbed in the back syndrome" and spend years whining and preaching about the situation.

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July 13, 2008  10:54pm

I oversee a relatively small ministry in my church. I am blessed because the pastor I serve under (and who shepherds me truly, disciples me Scripturally) is a man of vision and courage. Even within the ministry I've be entrusted with, we have betrayal. And at its core, it's an ethical issue. It is not an issue of protecting any earthly kingdom. Our institutions however effective of ineffective will all pass away, and praise God for that. I believe Ed's emotion on this topic doesn't detract from it's central message that deception by church staff or leaders is never okay, and if you are an assistant pastor or ministry coordinator and are meeting covertly with members of your church or other staff members, you are deceiving somebody – either the pastor who has been given authority by God to lead your particular local church or yourself into thinking that somehow the ends justify the means. It's clear from the posts here that many of the writers do not know Ed Young, his heart, or his ministry as the pastor of a local church. Boil it all down, and that is the position that Christ has called him to. One of the things I've always admired about the church he leads is that he is entirely honest and unpretentious about the fact that it is not for everyone, and that's fine. As church attendees or members, if it's not the church for you, great. Leave, and find a church that is. The New Testament is very clear that we are to commit to a local body of believers for our benefit and to join together to benefit others (blessed so that we can be a blessing). Ed's not addressing people leaving the church; he's confronting key leaders or staff who use unethical means to divide the local church, another issue Scripture is pointedly clear about.

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Dane Blankenship, Sr.

July 13, 2008  9:33pm

Hey Ed, Thanks for the great new term "Church Pirates" I have experienced this in the worst possible son was on our staff and he asssited other "church pirates" on his way out to none other than the Dallas area. Your thoughts are right on target. Myself, along with our church family, are left with the significant pain of betrayal. The persons left behind are always confused and are forced to "choose sides" You feel "stained" having been placed in this situation with the constant reminder of the pain by the "always against you" existence of the ill-started church. Their outreach strategy is not to share the love of Jesus but to share their dislike of the church they once covenanted to build. To each of you that have endured this horrible experience I hurt for you. They don't teach you how to deal with anything like this in seminary. Thank you, Ed, for exposing these "pirates" Simply having a name for the pain helps. Knowing that there are others out there is bitter-sweet. To all of you who have yet to experience this, you might consider getting down on your knees and praise Jesus that you have been insulated from this "kidney stone" of ministry.

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June 26, 2008  12:12pm

If you are not in ministry or have not ever experienced the betrayal and undermining of a staff member, you cannot begin to understand the damage it does to a church. Usually, when a staff person undermines, it is for self-centered reasons and their intent is to makle themselves look better than the person they are undermining. Very rarely is it for the advancement of the Kingdom. The point of this matter is not Ed Young or his church but an ever increasing problem in churches today. When these scenarios take place they always take the focus off of our purpose as a body - reaching the lost. As a pastor's wife, we have experienced such an atrocity. The results- an injured body. It usually leads the body into a competive spirit of who is leaving and who is staying and who's side are you on and not about the Kingdom of God. For those of you who are senior pastors or intend to be - count your blessings if you have not encountered such - your time may come.

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June 26, 2008  11:21am

Let's not turn this discussion into a question of mega-church vs. minor church. I was in a small church with only lay pastors, no recognized pastors and no formally recognized eldership. And we experienced piracy to such a degree it split the church and destroyed many good things in the process. You're naive if you think that a different form of church government or worship style is going to protect you from that. As the Bible has so clearly shown, we are to obey our elders and submit to their authority. We are commanded not to be divisive and cause flock splitting. Even if we feel that the shepherds are leading the sheep wrong.

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June 26, 2008  8:53am

God Bless You All, I think the underlying issue is conflict. Conflict is a major issue affecting the church and until we properly deal with handling conflict this issue of piracy will continue to manifest in the church. If conflict is not resolved, "church-hurt" begins to build up which is very dangerous and members begin to leave. I feel this is a sensitive issue that with WISDOM, churches need to begin addressing. If we want to be an example of Christ to others in the world, we must FIRST be that example to our Brothers and Sisters in the church and handle things as Christ would. Yours Truly, Jennifer Taveras President of Cornerstone3

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June 26, 2008  7:34am

Ed Young, Jr is simply confirming that christian pastors in America are operating a profit making business and not a church. Their egos and their finances are stoked by cold hard cash so they don't like it when their "best paying customers" are stolen by the competition. Its all about the cash and that's why I don't bother going to church anymore. Until the christian church gets back to Jesus and off of their addiction to cash I recommend that all church goers simply say no when the collection plate comes by. When the profits are gone from church then we will see who really believes and who is just a profit making business man in spiritual robes.

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June 25, 2008  1:27pm

I can see where both sides are coming from. Iam not in shock to see how much the article and the blogs are in line with what our church is going through. God had spoke years ago to my husband and I about our calling, when we went to our pastor we were indirectly shot down. Hey it was o.k. with me at that time i was comfortable,then four years later God told me to move. I didn't want to go, but i wanted to be in his will more than i wanted to be comfortable.Note no one came with me.Here Iam another four years later. I have been questioned by detectives concerning my pastor locally and federally. Iam crushed and my pastor has stepped down. However God did not call my husband and I to take that church over. We are ministering to hurting people in the midst of our pain and trying to get them to the place where their focus isnt their pain, but on those who don't even have a relationship with God. Now that is real pain! Please pray for the restoration of those who have taken the bait of satan. Let us all remember to consider our own spiritual candition before we point at someome else, we need to have a heart of compassion not condemnation!

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June 25, 2008  10:52am

Xenofon: "...subject of Spiritual Fathering. Yes, and you may not understand this if you are a spiritual orphan, God has given us pastors and all the five-fold ministry, the anointing to be *spiritual fathers of certain people* with the sole purpose to bring some answers, stability, honesty, protection and mostly love in their lives." Def: Cult of personality: intense devotion to a particular person I strongly encourage you to rethink what you're doing, and determine if it is mentoring and advising because if you are setting yourself up as a "spiritual father" to "some" christians you are opening doors that you, or anyone else engaged in that behavior, have no business opening. All christians are sign posts pointing to G-d, the real spiritual father...anyone trying to be something more than a sign post has left the job, and has gone wandering into the wilderness.

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June 24, 2008  7:00pm

Wayne Boyd: "But, it must come with the blessing of the pastor and the church that staff person is leaving." Okay, I'm curious, where does it say in the New Testament, any translation, that this rite of separation is a "must" i.e. biblically mandated codified writ of behavior expected of all believers seeking to start their own church? note: Ed may be a fine pastor, all around nice guy, and the best christian this side of 1000 AD...I wouldn't know, I live in California, so his pastoral skills, his personality, and his faith are not in question. What is in question is his perspective on his role in that church. This is not a slight against the man, nor am I challenging his "leadership" position, it's a reality check on his perceived "ownership" on that which belongs to G-d.

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