Being in ministry has taught me a few things about people. Some people listen and do; and some people listen, antagonize, and then do. Yet other people listen, say they will do it and then don’t.
Then some antagonize and serve.
The definition of Antagonize is:
ANTAG’ONIZE, verb intransitive
To contend against; to act in opposition; to oppose in argument.
What does being antagonistic look like?
—Is it something that people wake up one day and say, “I think I’m going to church to serve and antagonize a few people today!”
—Or is it something that others see in a person?
—Or is it a combination of all or some of the above?
— Do people who want to serve to want to be combative or opposing in everything that their leaders put forth?
—I believe that few people wake up on the wrong side of the bed all the time. These people are very rarely serving because they don’t want to serve in ministry with inferior folks. Sometimes they fall through the cracks and make it into leadership.
Some become great doers for the faith, without having the faith.
I also believe that there are people who think they can do everything better than their church elders. This type of Antagonistic person will usually fall through the cracks sooner or later. Why? Because God will not be mocked. He is patient and loving even with the worst of His sheep. Yet, He loves all unconditionally.
I have two takes on this. The Bible tells us the qualities of anyone wanting to be in leadership.
1 Timothy(3:1-13) and Titus (Titus 1:5-9) explain all of it. I will take it up another notch. Anyone wanting to serve must meet these criteria too. Both letters speak of Leadership qualities that are very rare to find, even among today’s churches.
Why do I say this? Because God has stringent guidelines for his under-shepherds. Specifically, those that teach His word (James 3:1-2). As you may have noticed while reading the above scriptures, the helpers of the Church also have some rigorous qualification. There are tactical prerequisites in order to serve in ministry. Antagonists will always be weeded out.
Those people who antagonize fall into two camps:
Those that oppose for the sake of fighting anyone and everyone;
and those that are strong-willed who ask tough questions, not to battle or argue with others, but to gather as much information to think things through so they can make the wisest decisions in order to serve the Church better.
What’s the difference between these two types?
Sometimes, not much.
With today’s political correctness, church leadership in this country has also felt this strong influence. There are leaders in some churches who don’t want any questions being asked. Nor do some in leadership want to deal with those that are serving who are deemed as having too many questions and not enough of the doing things without questioning leadership.
I have seen both types of people in ministry, including pastoral staff elders.
As Christians, we know when we’ve crossed the line. No one has to tell us because the Holy Spirit lets us know when we have crossed that invisible barrier of being rebellious. These are the times that we must stop everything and ask forgiveness from those that have been affected by our mistakes.
Having said all this, I am one of those people that give as many chances as possible.
Why? Because I am also one of those people who are pretty strong-willed. Not to be malicious but one who asks why we do things a certain way. This again is not to antagonize, but to apprise others with a clear and straightforward explanation of what’s being asked of them.
I personally like strong-willed people who push the limits, not in antagonistic ways, but in their focused and strengths when asking me anything.
Some people will say that strong-willed people are antagonistic. I say that there is a fine line with putting a label on people in any circumstance. I have been told by others in leadership about certain people and how exasperating they are to serve with them.
When the “antagonistic” person comes into the ministry I am serving, I have found most have been mislabeled, and some have even taken steps to take on big projects that no one else will try. Some of my so-called antagonists have had great VBS weeks, Easter play victories and led in regional Youth events. I believe that God has used and blessed them because they asked and gathered enough information, even when rattling off twenty questions in a row. I just smile and know that whatever God has called them to do will be done right.
Before putting a label on someone, make sure that you have gotten to know the person in a personal manner. In today’s big church style of leadership, very few pastors get to know the people whom God gives them.
Again, I understand antagonistic people can drain the life out of a person or ministry. Those people need to be dealt with lovingly and with tons of gracefulness.
Most who may be deemed antagonistic, may, in fact, be the best blessing you may get, if only you ask God to give you patience, extra love, and grace in handling them.
Imagine the Apostle Paul when he contended with Peter and the with Judaizers who were bringing burdensome doctrines to the new Christian converts. In today’s day and age, Paul would have been called an antagonist!
Paul would be called an antagonist in today’s politically correct Church. Imagine Peter when being confronted, going back to Jerusalem and telling the est of the Apsotels to excommunicate Paul becasue he had hurt Cephas’ feelings? Paul spoke truth and Peter being filled with the Spirit, was convivted by Paul’s words. Yet today, this act would be called antagonistic. Have we modern day saints become so offended by strong-willed-strong-Spirit-filled men and women of God?
What about Jesus when He overturned the money changers’ tables? Was that antagonistic?
Imagine another instance when Jesus went into the Temple and started causing a stir by cleansing His Father’s House from dirty money and filthy lucre(Matthew 21:12-17)? What would a modern-day Senior Pastor and staff do if Jesus came and overturned their cafe’s and food courts? Would they kick him out for being antagonistic?
All this to say, we as Christians need to go back to doing the basics:
And praying some more.
Asking God to fill us regularly with His Spirit, His love and grace. There will be people who come into our lives to make us stronger in spirit, extremely patient in grace and challenge us to be like Christ, our LORD, and Savior.
We will reap the blessings in our walk when we allow all people no matter the background and emotional baggage they bring, to be like Peter when we are erring in our walk, and also to be like Paul where will have the best intentions for our fellow brethren by being able to lovingly admonish when necessary…