There are similarities between a military officer and a warlord. Both command men. Both serve a cause. Both may enjoy the loyalty and admiration of their men. But there is one huge difference. An “officer” is just one of many others serving under a command structure toward a common goal. He has a cause that is greater than himself. A warlord knows no greater cause than himself. This fundamental difference alters greatly the way these two men operate.
The officer may hear that someone “higher than him” has decided to transfer one of his most talented men. He may grieve over the loss of this man’s talent to him personally but he won’t try to stop it because the man will still be helping “the higher cause”. The warlord knows no higher cause than himself. Therefore he will do all he can to stop a talented man from leaving his sphere of influence. He doesn’t care about any ultimate victory. He doesn’t care about any “higher cause.” He only cares about retaining the man in his control.
I see this “warlord” mentality invading Bible believing churches. Some pastors, although proclaiming loyalty to a “Higher Cause”, in fact know no higher cause than their own local church. Therefore when a good man expresses the belief that God has called him to go away to Bible college this “warlord” pastor does all that is within his power to keep him from leaving his sphere of influence. He tells him, “Bless God! I believe that only the local church should train men. Not a Bible college. After all. Why should some other pastor build his church with my men!” If the man persists in his desire to leave his church the warlord will “pull rank” and declare that his “pastoral authority” supercedes this man’s plans. If the man insists on leaving, the “warlord” will break fellowship with him and generally cease to help him. Maybe even blackball him. After all. If he can’t profit from the man’s talents then the man may just as well be dead. The man wasn’t “loyal” to him. He was loyal to the “Higher Cause” and it got in the warlord’s way.
Some warlords have invented new doctrines about the local church in an effort to add to their authority. All of these serve the warlord pastor above the “Higher Cause” of Christ. The warlord is only interested in keeping all the talent he has in his church and being the sole beneficiary of that talent…no matter what he says about wanting to serve Christ. Oddly, they will proclaim that “Bible colleges are unscriptural. The local church should train its own.” yet in every case they will humbly allow someone from someone else’s local church to attend their Bible institute.
If a man feels God would have him go work in another church the “warlord” will try to dissuade him. Yet he will accept and invite other men to join in his efforts. The door of a warlord only swings inward. The warlord will discourage his men from going away to Bible college because it might weaken his ministry but he will invite men from other churches to attend his. He doesn’t care if someone else’s ministry is weakened. He is his highest cause! A warlord dare never admit that someone else might be able to teach one of his men something better than he can. He’s God’s anointed warlord and therefore he is automatically more qualified than anyone else. (Pride can kill more than just its bearer.)
Bible colleges, mission boards, marriage partners and anything else that might hurt the warlord’s personal cause becomes “the enemy”. Anyone who ignores the warlord’s proclamations to “Submit!” is anathematized.
As a man rises in the military he is transferred by his “higher authority” to serve in many, diverse duty stations. He may love some and hate others. But he learns something new and valuable from each differing environment where he serves. By the time he becomes a general officer this diverse path has instilled into him knowledge and experiences that his “higher authority” ultimately reaps the benefits of. Even though an officer he temporarily served under suffers greatly from his loss. The ministry is the same way. A young man can learn new and diverse lessons from each different locations he serves in. Then he has a broader knowledge for the Lord to benefit from.
But the warlord can’t afford to have anyone leave his camp. Thus he realizes he has to provide the “full service” church. School, Bible institute, mission board, marriage partners; all have to be under his one roof, in his control. This leads to a closed system where his people never benefit from the influence of another ministry. (“Importing” an outside influence under control of the warlord through a revival service does not overcome this.) We all loudly proclaim the truth of the Second Law of Thermodynamics: “There is entropy (deterioration) in a closed system.” when arguing with an evolutionist. But we are creating that very same closed spiritual system with our “warlord” mentality. This is leading to “spiritual inbreeding”. Inbreeding produces offspring with “recessive” genes. Thus, our churches will grow weaker and weaker and gain more abstract doctrines in years to come because “the gene pool is too shallow.” But the warlord doesn’t care. He doesn’t care what anybody does as long as they remain under his authority. He knows no “Higher Cause.” He decides who is and isn’t called to preach. He controls all input. He teaches loyalty to himself even above loyalty to Christ. All the time espousing loyalty to Christ and the “Higher Cause.”.
When I pastored I had four families leave my church almost simultaneously. Three of them left for three different churches in which they began a ministry. One left the state to take a different job. We lost a total of twenty-five people. It was extremely difficult to lose such a wealth of talent and sizable group. Especially all at once. During that time I never tried to persuade one of those men to stay in my church. They were, and are, serving the “Higher Cause”, the same cause that I serve.
I also had some men leave our church to go to Bible college even though I had a Bible institute in our local church. So what! They learned and experienced things that they wouldn’t have if they had stayed and the “Higher Cause” of Christ has benefitted from it even though I and my church didn’t. Selfishness and warlordism will kill us!
We need to be officers and not warlords. We need to allow God to lead our men and to let them go and serve Him as He sees fit. We need to quit seeing only our own personal ministries as the highest cause we can serve. And we desperately need to quit going to the Bible for authority when we want to enhance our power when we fear we may lose a good man. It will hurt but it will help our “Higher Cause”.
But will we be willing to allow the Lord to call our men out of our ministries to serve elsewhere? I doubt it. A warlord simply has too much to lose by serving a “Higher Cause” than himself! We’ll just find a verse that further strengthens our warlord position and kill anybody that opposes us.
And suddenly Jesus Christ is the greatest enemy our ministry has!