In every church setting dragons lure. A dragon takes charge, full speed ahead. He or she believes that everything done is to better the church and its leaders. Coined by Shelley (1985) in his ground-breaking book Well-intentioned Dragons: Ministering to Problem People in The Church, this title speaks for itself.
As a church goer, I was recently a target of a dragon. My Christian walk is quite eclectic grounded in Orthodox Conservative Quakerism, coupled with Messianic and Charismatic teachings. I enjoy every community! My attempt here is not to discredit, but to bring awareness to some of the basic issues I face in my organizational role as a work psychologist.
There is large literature examining leadership theories in the contexts of both secular and spiritual organizations. Relating to the church, these studies have long been concerned with social settings, and how these environments connect individuals to their wider internal communities. Berger and Neuhaus (1977) introduced the term “mediating structures” to coagulate the many applicable programs and groups within these locales (Putman & Campbell, 2010). It is the hope of any Christian organization creating vibrant processes to bring individuals and families together– that ultimately, these programs will help to build stronger and more trusting communities. Yet, grounded in these very endeavors, dragons exist…
My dragon experience stemmed from a simple request to garner access to a program develop within a “mediating structure”. My request was granted, but yet it was escalated to a leader with blatant misinformation coupled with misrepresentation of my character. Even though I’m asked to work in organizations troubled by these behavioral patterns, I am still in shock that it actually happened to me, which warrants my acceptable concerns. And thus, the imperative of discussion.
“Dragons of course are fictional beasts—monstrous reptiles with lions claws, a serpent’s tail, bat wings and scaly skin. They exist only in imagination. But there are dragons of a different sort. Decidedly real. In most cases, though not always, they do not intend to be sinister; in fact they are actually quite friendly. But their charm belies their power to destroy.” (Shelley, 1985, p.11)
My dragon was charming, and appeared to eagerly help. I am quite sure that this individual’s intent was that of sincere servitude. I also contend that the behavior was not planned. The dragon just believed in helping me first and the church a few days later. Helping the church, by sharing garnered fictitious perceptions of me! Nonetheless, I cannot allow this human experience to surpass my spiritual one. As a leader of my organization, and a trainer of up-and-coming leaders, when engulfed in such unpredictable situations, well thought of and precise applications are necessary.
“He who cannot obey, cannot command”—Benjamin Franklin
When we are in the thick of a battle, let’s tidy up Christian leaders. Here are few simple steps:
- Live for the glory of God. Praise Him, communicate with Him, and intercede for others. Never stop!
- Validate complaint, then attempt to fix it. If the dragon is on your back, seek the guidance of your board members. If the dragon is a board member, consult with team leaders or a trusted confidante located outside your ministry.
- Care enough to gently confront the dragon. Is the dragon wrong? Is the dragon right?
- Care enough to forgive
- Consult with an organizational and conflict resolution professional if necessary
The intensity of the problem, may justify the modification of these steps. However, never negate the importance of help-seeking decisions and applications to withstand the dragon’s tongue. God honors you and your service to Him. He’s here to partner up to fight any battles, even the created wars of dragons. Remember to stay steadfast!
As for me, I move forward holding my Lord’s love near to me. His wisdom and His love edures.
Thank you most Heavenly Father!
Rev. M. Charlotte Oliver
Berger, P.I., & Neuhass, R.J. (1977). To empower people: The role of mediating structures in public policies. Washington, D.C: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy.
Putman, R.D., & Campbell, D.E. (2010). American grace: How religion divides and unites us. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster
Shelley, M. (1985). Well-intentioned dragons: Ministering to problem people in the church. Waco, Texas: Word Books Publishers.