The #1 Type of Person You Should Fire From Your Church Plant

The church has three types of creatures: sheep, goats and wolves. Learn to distinguish them and which to fire.

The church has three types of creatures: sheep, goats and wolves. Learn to distinguish them and which to fire.

We fishers of men are the only fishermen who don’t throw any back. At least not normally. … We once had a waterfront home on the South Carolina coast. The fishing was the best I’ve ever done. But occasionally while fishing for dinner, we would catch sharks. Sharks are edible, and in some cultures a delicacy. But you probably would not like it. We Americans like fish that doesn’t smell or taste like fish, and sharks really do.

Every church planter will eventually have to decide to throw a fish back over the side. It’s a sort of ecclesiastical catch and release. Many of the fishermen who actually fish for sharks carry a gun with them to dispatch the shark in the water before pulling him into the boat. A live six-foot shark can bite your leg off just as easily in the boat as out. So it’s best to recognize a dangerous animal and treat it accordingly before bringing it aboard.

A few years ago, when one of my church plants was fairly new, we were having an evening meeting. My wife and I arrived early, as did another couple. We were enjoying some fellowship in the foyer of our newly built facility when a man walked in and asked if we were having a meeting that evening.

When he heard we were, he was pleased and explained that he was looking for a church for his family. I greeted him kindly, at which point he launched into a tirade about the church he had been attending. The pastor was shallow … they were only interested in his money … they were unfriendly … there was a lot of theological error being taught.

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There was a time in my ministry when I would have done everything possible to retain that guy. But this was my seventh plant, and, having had sharks in my boat before, I knew what had to be done. I told him how sorry I was for his experience. Then I slipped my hand gently under his arm and slowly began walking him to the foyer door.

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Phil Spry
Phil graduated from the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, where his major was evangelism. He and his wife, Toni have planted eight new churches. Collective morning attendance is about 7,000 people. Today the Sprys make their home in eastern North Carolina where Phil pastors a another new church. Additionally, Phil is involved in CP consulting, coaching, and conference speaking that specializes in all aspects of new church ministry, with a special emphasis on outreach and marketing. With his Tellstart program Phil has partnered with 900 church plants in 48 U.S. States and Canada.
  • Roger Miskimmen

    That person was not a shark or a wolf, but someone who had been bitten by one. And you threw an injured HUMAN out of your metaphorical boat because he was hurting. By all means, tell him that you can’t have new members bad-mouthing church leaders. But the reality is that sometimes fallable mean do appoint unsuitable people into positions of leadership with a Chruch. This guy was reaching out for help, and you wrote him off as unhelpable. How can people trust the church whenever their leaders are more concerned about maintaining their own reputation? If he had continued to cause problems, then you may have had to ask him to leave. But you did not wait until that point. You ejected him because he was inconvenient to deal with.

    • jspessina

      Roger, you are right, but perhaps could allow for some understanding as well. The problem with this story to me is that the hurting person was not given a chance, but was immediately rejected. My sense is that, perhaps, he could find a place that would help him become healthy. Why was this church incapable of helping him through loving correction? Some churches can… while some are not yet very well equipped to do so. However, the fact remains that, generally, “hurt people… hurt people. ” So inviting or coddling unhealthy individuals (especially on the basis of what they can give to the cause!) can also be bad practice. For me, it’s more about saying, “Well, you can try us, but until you exhibit a humble and respectful spirit toward leadership, and are healthy (and less cynical), you’ll never find a place of influence of leadership around here.” Firmly accepting someone with issues seems also a viable, loving way.

      • Roger Miskimmen

        That was exactly what I was getting at. This person was not someone who was hurting the Church or preventing it from growing. He could have went that way, but we will never know. He could have also have had his faith restored and then became a valuable servant within that church, but he was shown that he was not wanted. This is essentially a church leader telling someone that they are not good enough to worship God with them based on a first impression.

        • Karl Henderson

          After seeing many in my last church leave with much criticism and gossip, I observed two things.
          Firstly, they poisoned as many as they could with very tainted and poisoned truth.
          Because it contained truth, many kept being swayed by it to the point where only a handful of people remain from a church of approx 300.

          Secondly, they kept pointing out weaknesses just like the critical man in this article and from a self righteous and pious attitude.
          If they were genuinely that ‘good’, they would have been able to feed themselves and others too, and HELP the church and pastor.

          Churches can’t help these self righteous people.
          Churches are FAR better-off without them.

          • jspessina

            Spoken from painful experience. I relate from much of the same experiences. Yet, it’s not necessarily good policy to generalize, or assume all hurt or unhealthy people are beyond healing or change. A church with a very solid core can help people like this. But woe to the church or organization that welcomes them and does not have a united core of committed and secure leaders.

          • Karl Henderson

            Good point jspessina.
            My last two comments at the end are a bit harsh.
            Yes, God doesn’t give up on people so I guess neither should we.

    • OneWingedButterfly

      Yes. I wouldn’t attend this “pastor’s” church either. This would be the second article where this “pastor” suggest to other pastors to reject anyone that might remotely cause trouble. This pastor is more occupied to maintain HIS church rather than God’s church. There seem to be a lack of patience and compassion from his part. I understand that this “pastor” may have had some experience with actual troubled people in the past but he gave this person no chance. He wrote him off immediately.

      “As we reached the door, I pushed it open and escorted the gentleman out.
      While doing so, I said, “You will not like our church either; you need
      to keep on looking.” Would this “pastor” have still done all this while Jesus was physically present? He seems more like a dictator than a “pastor” to me.

  • Wesley

    The writer displays utmost religious arrogance. That one man he discarded was the very reason the blood was shed on the cross. He is loved by Heaven and was treated like trash by the eyes of this distorted corporate way of labeling people and locking them into boxes. Can we go back to the Gospel?

  • Elizabeth Aouad

    It’s not ‘our church ‘ it is God’s church and families are free to come and go fellowship with whomever or wherever they like. Judas was treated as one of the 12 right up to the end. We need to be careful not to act out of fear. The wolves described in the Bible were men taking advantage of weak willed women, weren’t they? That’s a different situation.

    • TO77

      Actually the concept of wolf in the bible relates to people (usually leaders) who feed on the sheep. The passage you refer to includes that concept but the wolf imagery is not limited to preying on weak willed women. It is about people who take advantage of God’s people for there own pleasure, fame, prosperity. Under the biblical definition the author of this article is more likely a wolf then the man he escorted out of the church building.

    • Robin-Kelli Kirchner

      See posted bible study about wolves.

  • David

    Little is known about the person asked to leave – or the pastor who did the asking. It would seem more information would be in order before a complete and final judgment were to be rendered. We have all met the self-righteous, self-absorbed individual who believes it’s everyone else’s fault, and has no interest in personal change or a commitment to Christ. These people cause a lot of damage, and can even destroy a church. If this is the case, thank you pastor for protecting the call and people of Christ. If not, maybe you have a phone call and an apology to make.

  • Jaime

    Well I believe the minister as he said was enjoying fellowship sadly enough did not minister in this situation. Mathew 18:15-20 should of been taught by excusing himself from his fellowship and invited this lamb into his office for counseling express in love. This poor soul will continue carring his luggage from church to church, until he is ministered to <

  • Marshall Ackerman

    This article it just disgusting and shows a level of arrogance and ignorance that prevades the church today. I can’t believe they even let you write this garbage. If I keep seeing this stuff I will stop supporting this ministry.

  • Moses_Staff

    He who has an ear let him hear what the Spirit says.

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  • Robin-Kelli Kirchner

    Here is an excellent study on wolves by Pastor Wayne Holcomb

  • This visitor had just been shredded by wolves, and was booted out by another wolf, who actually did the poor man a favor.

  • Daniel Johnston

    Get back Satans!!!! Wow, just wow, thanks for telling me because I’d never go to a church like YOURS…… Goodness Gracious….. I get what he is saying about disruptive people in a church, I’ve been there, I’ve seen that, but I have news for him and anyone who is listening….They are in EVERY church, and a pastor who doesn’t know, can’t, or won’t, learn how to shepherd those people doesn’t need to be a pastor….. yes, on occasion, there is that person you have to ask to leave because they become like the visitor in this example, but that’s not the moment they walk in the door…. Pastor Phil, what you have really learned is you like it your way, and it’s easier to avoid the problem then address it…. You have yourself fooled into thinking it is wisdom…..

    I’m just grateful we have a Jesus that doesn’t do the same thing to us….. Praise the Lord….

  • Dominic Dummett

    This is just grimy… Look I understand there are people who are trouble makers, but what if Jesus got rid of Judas? He wouldn’t fulfill his purpose. I don’t know this man’s full life experience and it’s sad, because whom else have you turned away. BTW there are pastors who are grimy, who serve mammon, what if this man has been hurt and swindled of his money in the church and is looking for a safe harbor? So what if you have planted 8 churches good for you, I wonder what the people are like in that church. Hey I’ll stop maybe you have repented already. Be Christ Like.

  • Alan Philips

    WWJD?