In the past two years of learning on the job I have come to recognize a couple dangers I like to think of as community killer numbers one and two. Both of these are evidenced in Scripture and the recorded experiences there of the community in its early days, but you must have to experience them first hand to really understand the danger they pose. Most Christians are very hesitant to name them for what they are, probably because both are nominally Christian.
The first are sometimes referred to as “wolves in sheep’s clothing.” They are all the charlatans out there who have recognized most Christians for what they are: easy targets. Basically they find a group of Christians who have not yet learned what sound doctrine is or how to understand what Scripture is teaching, and then they step in with a teaching that will gain them followers, power and often material gain. The Bible is constantly warning communities to guard against false teaching.
(One exacerbation of the danger this enemy poses is in itself a false teaching that has opened many Christians up to danger. A false understanding of the nature of prophecy and revelation is currently sweeping the Church. How are Christians supposed to defend themselves against false teaching and charlatans when many of them have come to believe that God is handing out new revelation in the form of predictions and teaching not found in Scripture?)
Number two on the list of enemies to new communities is quite simply Christians from other communities. When a new work is started with a vision to do something for God and not just sit and absorb, that is a very attractive thing. Other Christians, disillusioned with their own communities will want to come and join the effort. That is often the worst thing that can happen. These people tend to come with their own idea of what they want to get out of the new group and it is seldom the same vision with which the group was formed.
This was illustrated in an almost comical way this week. One of our groups met to decide whether they were going to continue to exist. The other group had completely lost its vision and way in a flood of well meaning Christians from other communities. Would this second group carry on alone? Somehow, a man was invited to group that night and it was only his second time to attend. He hails from another community where he is “not being fed.” You guessed it. A whole hour was spent arguing and addressing this man’s view on what the group should really be. Yes, as amazing as it sounds, this man in his second visit to the group already felt enough ownership and freedom to nearly derail the whole meeting and as a result the group itself.
Maybe a standard practice of church planting should be to put up a sign declaring: “No transfers welcome.”