I’ve been doing pastoral ministry long enough to know that not everyone who darkens the door of a church has good and right motives fermenting in their hearts. Indeed, many who come to church are good Christians, or seekers wanting truth, or people who are simply hurting from the barrage of darkness in this evil world. Such people are welcomed, loved, and cared for in biblical, practical ways. But every now and then, a wolf appears…a Judas…a snake. They may appear charming and harmless. They may sound articulate and wise. They may be extremely likeable and charismatic. But dark, devious motives are fermenting in their hearts, ready to explode in hurtful, divisive ways. Below are the common (and not so common) snakes I’ve encountered over the years…I’ve listed these snakes from least dangerous to most venomous…Beware of the:
- Passionate Snake – This snake comes to church ready to recruit any and all to their cause. Of course, their chief aim is to win over the pastors of the church to their pet project(s). They may be truly passionate about any number of good things: fostering/adoption, clean water, their business, etc. But these snakes go one step too far and truly believe that if everyone is not as passionate about their specific calling, then such people are “unbiblical”, “lack vision”, or are “simply stuck in an inner-focused church”. Yes, these snakes project their calling onto everyone else and demand that everyone have the same calling/passion. Such snakes rarely stay long in the church, especially when they find that few people will jump on board their bandwagon of passionate causes.
- Political Snake – This snake usually presents himself or herself as a “lover of truth”. They may or may not be a conspiracy theorist, but boy oh boy, do they have a lot of intricate charts and graphs to prove that every political opponent/group is a threat to our democracy. Indeed, such a snake might be Democrat or Republican, but they truly believe that “standing on the truth” = standing on the right political issues. Such issues they seek to spread in a local church are many as they are either for or against…masks, vaccines, Trump, etc. These snakes usually only want a church family as cover for their real pursuit – political posturing. They’ll often read their own views into Scripture and demand that everyone else follow suit with their twisted interpretation.
- Music Snake – This snake is usually musically talented (which is awesome), but they also only have one appetite for one genre or way of conducting music. They may be full on traditional or contemporary, but they make it their aim to stir the pot with any number of repetitive comments that are meant to demean the current music style of the church and push the church in a new (and in their minds, better) direction. Such snakes will claim that their specific brand of music is more “holy”, or “wholesome”, or “biblical”, but in the end, “they want what they want because they want it.” As Paul Tripp once said, “Good desires become dangerous desires when good desires become demanding desires.” Many a church has been severely injured in the so-called “worship wars”, led by high level Music Snakes.
- Theology Snake – Ah! The most dangerous and venomous of all church snakes, let’s welcome into the octagon…the Theology Snake! Yes, listen closely…”Slither. Slither. Hiss. Hiss. Whispers in the dark…” This extremely charming and deceptive snake does not present themselves as the on-edge typical snake (i.e., the passionate snake, political snake, or music snake). Oh no, this snake appears to be a theologian…a wise student of God’s Word…a teacher. This snake will subtly infuse either flat-out destructive heresy into the church (i.e., prosperity gospel, charismatic teaching, etc.) or they will make their pet hobby theological issues major issues in the church. Using power/influence without major, formal responsibility in the church, they slither about spreading their specific brand of carbon monoxide – the silent killer. They may spread their divergent theological viewpoints from a public platform or in a secret Bible Study, but be aware such snakes don’t sleep long and are always on the hunt for their next prey.
I grew up as a pastor’s kid and saw my Dad get seriously hurt (many times) by these types of snakes. Following in my Dad’s footsteps, I now have my own fang wounds to show off. In the end, despite the dangers of snakes in the church, I still love pastoral ministry. I still love the church. I still love Jesus…Yes, I still love Jesus (the Serpent Crusher) and one day, I won’t have to be on the lookout for the next snake in the church, I can just focus on Jesus with unhindered safety and joy.