Dealing with Negative People
One of the things that I have discovered as a pastor is, just like bad toxins can infect a health human body, negative people have a way of infecting the church. After being exposed to negative people, some healthy people become sick.
Everyone hopes and prays that the negative individual will get help and change their ways... some of them do, unfortunately some of them don't. Yes, with prayer, love and care, an unhealthy person can become healthy. However, some negative people become so toxic that they have a way of infecting others around them... taking the main focus off of Jesus Christ and His calling for the church and places the focus on the agenda of the negative/toxic individual.
As a pastor, church leader, Christian, etc.... you can do one of two things. You can either address the toxic person and give him/her an opportunity to change or you can sit around and watch the Church become sick and die.
So, the big question is... how do you identify toxic people? You may think it is an easy thing, "All you have to do is see those within your church who are always negative and trying to destroy the church and boot them out!" Sometimes, I wish it was as easy as that, but it is not.
So here are some signs to identify negative people before it is too late...
1. The Big Show... These are people who come across a little over-powering, as though they are saying, "I am in town, this is who I am, hear me!" There is nothing wrong with being confident in who you are and what you can do, but when it comes to one glorifying one's self above all else... I worry.
2. This is the way you should do it... These people will tell you from the very beginning how you should change your service, your way of pastoring, your life, etc. I usually ask myself the question, "Are there ways I need to change?" If you are real with yourself, there are always ways that one can better themselves. However, this "advice" is something that is better accepted over time... as you get to know each other. Usually, when someone comes to me, right out of the gates, with "advice" on how I should change, I usually say, "Thank you... we may not be the church for you."
3. My Opinion, before anyone else’s... We all have our own opinion on areas of life, ministry, church, etc. Usually, the right thing to do is to save your opinion until you are asked to share it. Toxic people have a way of just volunteering their own opinions whether welcomed or not. There is a big difference in giving your opinion and sharing your opinion in a humble and respectful manner, respecting and being compassionate to others.
4. Toxic people always want to be numero uno... These are the types of people who never ask questions, but always have something to say and never allow others to get a word in.
5. Toxic people have a negative history at other churches... I used to get together with area pastors for a time of prayer. Every once in a while, someone's name would come up and one of the pastors would say, "Oh, you have them in your church?" Most of the time, I give the individual the benefit of the doubt and realize that some people move from church to church, because they are trying to find a good fit. However, there are times I wish I would have heeded the warning and kept a close eye on the toxic person. Usually it is not someone who comes into your church with a plan to destroy it, but someone who wouldn't be happy of they were taught by Jesus Christ himself.
Please don't get me wrong, just because an individual displays a couple of the signs above does not mean they are negative or will become toxic to your church and life. However, if an individual displays a majority of the list, there is a good chance you will have problems with them in the future.
So, what should we do with people who are toxic? Well, first of all I set boundaries. I don't let them get too involved for several months. One of the things that I have discovered as a Deception Detectionist, is that one's true personality and character usually comes out over time. If I am wrong, then I will be the first one to encourage them to get involved.
The bottom line is… God's work, God's house and God's people are too important to allow toxic individuals, who are used by Satan, to move in and attempt to kill, steal and destroy. As a pastor, I will do everything I can to protect the vision and purpose of the church.
You see, we live in a day when Satan knows that he does not have much time left. He will do whatever he can to take as many with him as possible. God's desire to do not allow such thing to happen... this is my desire as well.
I am totally open to loving and caring for people who desire to move from a toxic behavior to a more supportive and Christ-driven attitude.
Blessings on you!
Pastor Todd Inman