I've been in church all my life. I've been on church boards and been a ministry leader. And yes, I've experienced those problem people in the church. Dare I say I might have even been one? (I hope not!)
You know those people. On the outside they look just like everyone else in the congregation. They are charming and friendly. They see themselves as godly people. They feel strongly and they honestly believe they are right. But they are dragons, albeit well intentioned dragons. They leave hurt and strained relationships in their wake. They end up doing more harm than good.
Sometimes they are involved in a play for power. Sometimes the delight in pointing out problems, assuring others they are more spiritual. Sometimes they are a wet blanket, seeing the negative in everything. Maybe they post an anonymous complaint on the church's website. Maybe they are lavish givers but demand to control the use of those funds.
If you are a church pastor – what do you do? Shelley helps you identify and understand dragons. He has suggestions on how to deal with them (even when they may be right). The goal is to make disciples of them not destroy them. It's important to have this essential attitude: “When attacked by a dragon, do not become one.” (72)
He has included lots of stories. It is almost depressing, reading about how some pastors have been mistreated. But the stories give validity to the fact that the dragons exist and can be dealt with.
Pastors, read this book. It will help you to know that you are not alone. Probably every pastor has encountered dragons. If you want to sharpen your dragon taming skills and dragon proof your church, read this book.
Even if you are not a pastor, you would benefit from reading this book. I truly hope you don't see yourself in this book (as a dragon). If you do, you'll get an idea of the harm you might be causing.
Note: this book was previously published as Well-Intentioned Dragons in 1985. That this book has been reissued, well, I guess that means there are still dragons out there.
Marshall Shelley is a vice president of Christianity Today International and the author of several books. He has a journalism degree from Bethel University and an Mdiv from Denver Seminary. He and his family live in Illinois.
Bethany House, 208 pages.
I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.