Matt Green sent me the above Youtube link that shows Ed Young, Jr., megachurch pastor from Fellowship Church in DFW, Texas, lamenting “Church Pirates.” According to pastor Ed, these Pirates join your staff and then have the audacity to go out and start their own churches after collecting a following within “his” church.

I am very hesitant to criticize any pastor. I believe that they have a very difficult job and are very often held up to standards that are not very fair. I have to make an exception in this case, however, as it reveals a confirmation of a stereotype that I have heard about megachurch pastors, namely, that they see the church as a business. I should also mention that pastor Ed invites blog comments. So…

I had a bad attitude welling up in my heart as I listened to this snippet as he is so negative about a person doing church planting without…. without…. without what? His blessing? The last time I checked I didn’t see any biblical injunction to avoid church planting because _____ (fill in the blank) didn’t bless it.

He (repeatedly) makes the statement, “You cannot do this in the corporate world…” as if starting a church in the shadow of a megachurch somehow breaks an unwritten monopoly rule. He goes much further and mocks the church planting “Pirate” for saying it was from the leading of the Holy Spirit. That’s a pretty mean spirited accusation.

He leans heavily on the word “loyalty.” That should be a scary word. Loyalty should be something given, not demanded. When pastors start demanding loyalty it’s an indication to me that they have already lost it. Do people belong to a church? Or… does the church belong to the people? This is a theologically challenging question to answer. I would not be as quick as Ed is to assume that the sheep belong to anybody but the Shepherd, regardless of where one worships.

I admit that I fear the megachurch pastor. When a pastor becomes so influential that they command a substantial following they begin to eclipse the priesthood of the believer. I know that there are great megachurch pastors out there. I am not philosophically or theologically opposed to the concept of the megachurch. However, my shepherd is Jesus.

If my pastor spoke like this (thankfully, he doesn’t) I would definitely be looking for the next pirate ship out of the cove.

5 thoughts on “Pirates!

  1. It seems you’ve missed the point. You should listen to more of Ed’s messages, his heart and his vision before assuming that he is “demanding loyalty” or that he thinks the people in the church are “his” sheep. Ed , above any other pastor I’ve heard, continutally points to Jesus as the head. That’s why when people (i.e. pirates) try to divide a church, he comes out and says something. He’s seen it happen too many times and he knows that it hurts the heart of Christ. Who wouldn’t want to stand up against that?!

  2. ab,

    Thanks for the comment! You are correct – I have not listened to many of Ed’s messages and I certainly am “correctable” on this topic. However, I really don’t think that Ed needs to be too concerned that Fellowship Church is somehow suffering because of church plants in his immediate area. It seems to me that the real issue is the loyalty issue. Pastors that demand or expect loyalty already have a leadership problem. I have seen the idea of loyalty abused too many times by leaders that spiritualize control. Is that what Ed is doing? I don’t know his heart, but I know mine – and it is saying, “Danger, Will Robinson, Danger…”

  3. Some would argue that Fellowship Church is a “pirate church”, an ecclesiastical version of Wal-Mart, siphoning customers from dull, boring churches whose pastors wear ties in the pulpit, whose buildings don’t have a cafe and free wi-fi, who don’t spend vast amounts of money on marketing and branding. Yes, I’m sure Ed would say that FC is committed to reaching unchurched people, but stats may reveal otherwise. The entire premise of churches like FC is that certain people have certain tastes in church styles, and FC has found a way to appeal to those tastes. So, why get bent out of shape when someone leaves your megachurch to start a church of a slightly different flavor? If you’re doing your job, Ed, those empty theater-style seats will be re-filled with people who love the taste of FC.

  4. interesting…Ed never once says that this is something that happened to him…watch again. This isn’t even about him or Fellowship…

  5. Actually, Ab, Ed does say that this is something that happened to him. He says, “I’ve lived it out. And if you’ve never lived it out, I don’t want to hear from you (on my blog).” It’s pretty obvious that he’s speaking about FC and his own hurt he’s experienced from these who have “betrayed” him.

    On the one hand, I agree with Ed that people should not maliciously “split churches by leveraging relationships.” Perhaps there is more to the (his) story that we’re aware of. Some sleeper cell / jerk in his church who acted like a moron. (More the reason for Ed to further clarify himself, rather than speaking in over-generalizations and make broad sweeping comment.) Nevertheless, my point…there may be some merit to Ed’s frustrations, i think I could feel the same way.

    I like Ed Young, however, after listening to his comments, I get this creepy feeling up my spine. It’s the tingling of self-appointed authority, peppered with a subtle arrogance, that exudes top-down leadership approval for the dumb sheep. His constant reference to the corporate world makes me think of Piper’s Book, Brothers, We are not professionals… “The professionalization of the ministry is a constant threat to the offense of the gospel. It is a threat to the profoundly spiritual nature of our work. …the love of professionalism (parity among the world’s professionals) kills a man’s belief that he is sent by God to save people from hell and to make them Christ-exalting, spiritual aliens in the world.”

    How about this… let’s stop correlating the church to the corporate world and get about the work of being the body of Christ, rather than making comments like “Pirates suck the people from the church to their church.” I thought we were the church. Maybe, if we were not in a posture of defensiveness and caution, there wouldn’t be so much “guarding” of what’s MINE and there would be freedom to celebrate what God is doing by way of raising up new communities to reach new people with the Gospel.

    I guess my gripe is not that Ed is frustrated, or hurt, or mad by someone he worked closely with who “betrayed” him, (that’s understandable), but it is the manner in which Ed implies an authoritative corner on the market of the office of the pastor and the authority of the church. – He speaks about “sheep” and “layman” in a way that sounds like the priesthood of the believer does not apply to them, separating professional pastors from those who just listen to gossip and victims. He notes, “don’t start a church around the church that built you and made you the person you are.” If I’m relying upon Ed Y. or FC to “build me and make me into the person that I am” – then I am a dumb sheep in need of a rope around my neck. Since when does my “church” “build me and make me into the person that I am.” That’s a pretty stretching assumption. My “church” (or community of believers) is a place that God is glorified and we serve one another, but the “church” is not credited for who I am. Trust me, they don’t want to take credit for me, I’m too messed up and in need of a savior, not a checked and balanced leadership structure.

    Ed’s valid points were washed away when he started sounding like The Donald sitting in Trump Tower.

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