I picked up this book called Well-Intentioned Dragons: Ministering to Problem People in the Church by Marshall Shelley. So far, it has been an enjoyable read. I hope to do a book review once I am finished.
He gives a short description of these dragons: “Within the church. they are often sincere, well-meaning saints, but they leave ulcers, strained relationships, and hard feelings in their wake. They don’t consider themselves difficult people. They don’t sit up nights thinking of ways to be nasty…. but for some reason, they undermine the ministry of the church…they are loyal church members, convinced they’re serving God, but they wind up doing more harm than good.” (pg. 11).
I wanted to highlight this second chapter since it gives a category and description for all kinds of dragons. It was personally convicting since I myself have exemplified these qualities before in my own life.
Here are Shelley’s list of the variety of dragons in the church:
- The Bird Dog: “Four-legged bird dogs point where the hunter should shoot. The two-legged Bird Dog loves to be the pastor’s eyes, ears, and nose, sniffing out items for attention.” “Why doesn’t the church do something about…” or “I’m just calling your attention to something important.” “[On the other hand,] those genuinely concerned will take up the challenge” and not just bring attention to it (pg. 38)
- The Superspiritual Bird Dog: “This purebred strain is more likely to point out things that always leave the pastor feeling defensive and not quite spiritual… These people like to give the impression they have more spiritual perception than anyone else.” (pg. 38)
- The Wet Blanket: “These people have a negative disposition that’s contagious. They spread gloom, erase excitement, and bog down the ministry” “If you’ve heard the phrase ‘It’s no use trying, you’ve probably spotted the Wet Blanket.” (pg. 38)
- The Entrepeneur: “The Entrepeneur is enthusiastic… Unfortunately, in addition to being enthusiastic about the church, he’s equally eager to sell them vitamins, bee pollen, or car wax.” Some end up leaving the church feeling victimized. (pg. 39)
- The Captain Bluster: “This is the person who … speaks with an exclamation point instead of a period. He (or she) is right, and everyone else is wrong… This kind of person is a steam roller who flattens anyone in his way with his overwhelming certainty that his is the only way to do it. Negotiation is dirty word…” (pg. 39)
- The Fickle Financier: “This person uses money to register approval or disapproval of church decisions. Sometimes he protests silently by merely withholding offerings.” (pg. 39)
- The Busybody: The one “who enjoys telling others how to do their jobs.” (pg. 40)
- The Sniper: The one “who avoids face-to-face conflict but picks off pastors with pot shots in private conversation….” (pg. 40)
- The Bookkeeper: The one “who keeps written record everything the pastor [or church] does that ‘isn’t in the spirit of Christ.” (pg. 40)
- The Merchant of Muck: The one who “breeds dissatisfaction by distracting others who know he’s more than willing to listen to, and elaborate on, things that are wrong in the church. (pg. 40)
- The Legalist: The one “whose list of absolutes stretches from the kind of car a pastor can drive to the number of verses in a hymn that must be sung.” (pg. 41)
“The distinguishing characteristic of a dragon is not what is said but how it’s said…. Often they have a spirit that enjoys being an adversary rather than an ally.” (pg. 41)
“Perhaps the greatest damage done by true dragons is not their direct opposition. It’s more intangible. They destroy enthusiasm, the morale so necessary for church health and growth. People no longer feel good about inviting friends to worship services. The air is tense, the church is depressed, and everyone is aware of ‘us’ and ‘them.'” (pg. 41)
He gives a helpful approach and attitude toward each other (which we can apply to one another in the body): “The church, indeed, every Christian, is an odd combination of self-sacrificing saint and self-serving sinner. And the church, unlike some social organizations, doesn’t have the luxury of choosing its members; the church is an assembly of all who profess themselves believers. Within that gatherings is found a full range of saint/sinner combinations. Ministry is a commitment to care for all members of the body, even those whose breath is tainted with dragon smoke.” (pg. 48).