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Ed Young, Jr. on “Church Pirates”

Orginally published on Tuesday, May 27, 2008 at 4:22 AM
by Todd Rhoades

Ed Young, Jr. recently recorded this at a staff meeting at Fellowship Church in Dallas. What is a 'church pirate'? It is a person who serves on a church staff who suddenly decides to leave the church and start a new church 'plant' in the same city. Sounds like Ed may have been burned on this one a time or two. Take a look and let me know what you think.


For your response:  Have you ever had a church pirate on your staff?  Have you ever been a church pirate?  Let me know your thoughts on this subject!


This post has been viewed 5438 times so far.



  There are 147 Comments:

  • Posted by

    While I am unable to view or read Young’s remarks, I can almost say without equivocation that Ed, Jr. is a victim of the system he so steadfastly defends.

    When I was in bible school, the “Rule,” which was made up by some very insecure “pastors,” demanded a minimum distance of a 50-mile radius where a “pirate” was “allowed” to plant an new work. 

    Of course, no one ever questioned the fact that those who made the “Rule” had started their respective little fiefdoms well within the 50-mile radius.

    I’m sure Ed, Jr. has some friends who are “pirates,” who, like himself, are more concerned with turf wars than spreading the Gospel.

  • Posted by Steve Wulf

    I watched this video on Friday and this topic has been on my mind ever since.  Although I appreciate Ed’s comments and I somewhat understand them and even agree with them on some levels, I do have a few concerns.

    First, his statements were very broad and blanket like.  I don’t like blanket statements because I don’t think they paint the whole picture.  For example, I know of many very influential even “mega” churches whose beginnings don’t stray too far from Ed’s message. 

    Second, the term “stealing sheep” really bothers me because people aren’t property, and they certainly aren’t property of a particular church.  I don’t believe this terminology values the people that God has placed within our ministries, and perhaps that is why it’s easy for these “church pirates” to come in.

    Third, Instead of looking at pastor’s as pirates and people as sheep or property, perhaps those of us as senior pastors, ought to model a better attitude of giving in these kinds of situations. 

    I recently left a church to start one, and although I am starting the church over an hour a way from where I left, my senior pastor encouraged me to talk to as many people as I wanted to ask them to come with me.  Needless to say, we didn’t see eye to eye on many things and our leadership styles and philosophies of ministries are very different, but he realizes that having an attitude of giving will effect him positively and not negatively.

    Lastly, I’m sure that there are churches in Grapevine, TX that feel the very same way about Ed Young and would refer to him as a “church pirate” of which I don’t believe for a second that he is.  Let’s face it, we all want to build our churches on the lost, but in reality, there are always going to be people who come from other churches to be a part of ours...and I’’m not altogether sure that is bad.

  • Posted by Camey

    I thought the same thing about Ed when I watched the video yesterday. This is one of those topics I know about from a couple of different positions having been through church splits years ago, and then being approached about new church start here where we live currently.

    Hubby and I could not agree with starting a new church where the individuals were wanting us to. We knew the hurt and division it would cause… not might cause - would cause. We recently got a new senior pastor at the church we’ve been serving at for the last three years. We totally support him and pray for him and his family daily.

    This is where it gets confusing for some.. Is my husband looking for a church body to pastor? Absolutely. Could that mean starting a church at some point? If the Lord so leads.... It won’t be here in G-town though. And we’re good with that.

    For the record… I am thankful for Fellowship Church. I can remember when it was first started in the place where I had gone to movies at. They were doing a different kind of church than any thing that city had ever seen before. I am grateful for all the lives that have been changed as a result. While I was never a member of that particular fellowship.. we are all a part of the same Church.

  • Posted by Peter Hamm

    This is also why it’s KEY to hire staff who are totally sold out to your church’s vision and strategy. Otherwise, they come up with their own vision and strategy and move down the street.

    If you are planting a church that seems designed to grow by siphoning off members from the church you left… I agree with Ed, that is NOT God’s will.

  • Posted by kent

    We live in a highly commericalized church environment where people bolt for the new thing, or the service which touches them or where they can get feed or whatever. Ed is just dealing with a church culture where success is seen primarily in the size of congregation, and if you can jump start you thing with 3000 well there you are.

    But if you are not, in Ed’s words, a “major church” or a “phenomenal church” then this may not be your problem.

  • Posted by Clayton Bell

    I’m sure there are tons of people who, with malicious intent, enter into churches with the idea of taking people away.

    But what I’ve run into, as a young leader with young leader friends, are pastors who aren’t sure how to release the young leaders they’ve preached a vision to and raised up. Many of those leaders aren’t supposed to be second-chairs their whole life.

    How do we know the difference between a subversive leader and an ill-equipped top leader? It’s got to be case by case, and can’t be as sweeping as it’s depicted here.

  • Posted by Peter Hamm

    Clayton writes

    [How do we know the difference between a subversive leader and an ill-equipped top leader? Itís got to be case by case, and canít be as sweeping as itís depicted here.]

    A young leader who leaves a church and starts one down the road that either by design or circumstance pulls a significant number of people out of the church he left is subversive and, imho, not doing what God called him to do, no matter how much he claims.

    The young leader who goes to another town (hopefully one that is woefully lacking in the kind of church he is going to plant) and has success planting a church that reaches people who are un-churched more than siphoning from other churches is not. Yes there will always be some who bolt for the “new thing”, but if you’re designing from scratch to NOT pull people from other churches… that is, imho, the right way to go about it.

  • Posted by Paul

    Interesting.  Based on the title, I though the article was going to be about churches that “pirate” Christians from other churches.  I guess “church pirates” come in a variety of flavors.

  • Posted by

    I’m glad to see Ed Young be honest and admit that he sees church as a profit making corporation, which it is, and that anyone of his “employees” who deprives him of his rightful “profits” should be in jail just as in the corporate world.  If you would like another glaring example of christian profit and greed just open your bible and notice the copyright notice inside the front cover.  Copywriting the word of God?  How have Christians sunk so low?

    There may actually be some true believers in Jesus out there, but if so, there aren’t very many.  The only way to expose these profit making wolves in minister’s clothing is to stop giving money to the church, all churches.  Give your tithes instead directly to the poor as Jesus commanded.  When the cash flow dries up, then we will see who really believes and who is just in it for the money.

  • Posted by

    My response may be somewhat different than most.  I’m bothered by ministries who feel they “own” the church, or own the people in them.  We are not a pastor’s flock, nor are we characterized in the bible as called to loyalty to one individual, other than Christ.  In fact, Christ refers to the church as “my sheep”, not the pastor’s.  The church is an organism, and if I recall my basic biology class, organisms grow - often by cells dividing.  It weems a bit egotistical for us to believe God can only work through our church, or in our way of thinking what the church is.  We tend to forget that the church is more than just the local body of believers - although that group has a vital function as one.  But, the church exists to fulfill the will of the Father, which is to reach into the world with the gospel message.  Division in churches many times will present the opportunity in communities to reach more people than the one “mother” church may ever reach.  Jesus Christ is head of the church.  If he stirs in the hearts of people to move a different direction than the church is currently going, who are we to question it?  Perhaps, the need exists because the leadership isn’t leading people in the first place very well....food for thought.

  • Posted by Peter Hamm

    I almost forgot to say this…

    “we are the pirates we don’t do anything
    we just stay at home, and lie around
    and if you ask us, to do anything
    we’ll just tell you, we don’t do anything”

    Nothing like Cucumber humor on a Tuesday morning…

  • Posted by

    What i am seeing today is that the church that best appeals to the flesh gets the biggest crowds. Not always… but most of the time.

    Get in your Bible and read about the great falling away and the apostasy that will be emblematic of the Church in the Last Days.
    Are we already there? I think so.

  • Posted by

    Years ago in 1991 I was dismissed from a pastorate by my pastor of a church under our ministry. My Pastor fired me without cause, lied about moving me and my family to that church, made many promises none of which were kept and I was unceremoniously dumped from my position.
    I had the church board’s support but because he was the founding pastor of that church he overode their support of me, it was at this time I knew I could no longer remain a member so after enduring the pain, anger, & disappointment of how my leader fired me & through much prayer I knew it was time for me and my family to leave.
    When we left only one other family in our church knew about it & they only knew becasue we were close friends, we only told them because of our relationship & not because we wanted them to follow us.

    When we left my ex-pastor thought I was going to tell everyone why we were leaving but he needed not worry as a preachers kid I knew better than to “split” the church and take people with me that weren’t mine.

    It was six months before anyone knew (other than our friends who we told) that we were no longer serving in that pastorate or no longer members of our home church. To this day I thank God that when we left we left right, having forgiven my ex-pastor and walked away without being a “church pirate.”
    Since April of 1991, my wife and I have pastored for 17 years glorifying God every step of the way.

  • Posted by adam mclane

    My respect for Ed Young just went way down. This whole thing with him sitting down and “talking to his people” is completely his own soap box and not biblical at all. Notice he didn’t even have a Bible near him? Notice he used about 250 “Christian-ese” terms but no Scriptural support?

    He referenced people who had been with him for 20 years moving on and planting churches. And then he calls them disloyal? Maybe they were recognizing that the Sprit was moving them to be more of a leader than Ed was going to allow?

    I hope that he apologized to his congregation for this outburst.

  • Posted by

    I’ve been a Christian for over 30-years and 13 of those years as a full-time pastor.  My experience working for several mega-churches have given me the impression of several senior pastors that seem to be like Ed.  What I call “spin doctors.” Someone that can make anything look to their favor.  They whimper to their congregation looking for pity in a round about way.  They are so worried about the size of “their kingdom” that they have lost sight of God’s kingdom.  They will tell you they are not worried about numbers in public, but in private they stress their staff out about numeric growth.  They come across one way in public and a total different way towards their staff. 

    I don’t believe you can “steal” people.  People are not something we should look at with an ownerís mentality.  People have the freedom make their own decisions and sometimes they decide to move on.  Unless they are being deceived or lured away from the Lord Jesus Christ, then it’s really up to them what Shepard they desire to follow.  Jesus is the Shepard that we as pastors should make sure we point people to follow not any man.  We are to care for His sheep… which is temporary as He wills, not as we will. 

    Iím sure many of sheep have strayed into Edís pen from other local churches.

  • Posted by Gordon

    It grieves my heart to hear pastors make these kind of statements. We need to remember whose Kingdom we serve in. We need to remember whose sheep we feed. We need to remember the words of our Lord Jesus Christ to His disciples in Mark 9:39… Forbid him not… Who am I as a pastor to tell anyone else not to follow the Lord’s leading in his life. He is the servant of Christ. As a pastor, I do not “own” anything or anyone. Thefore no man can “pirate” me. Ed is missing a wonderful opportunity to have some Timothy’s and Titus’ in his life. No wonder Paul said that we do not have many fathers among us. If a man considers himself a “senoir pastor,” he should not forsake his call to pastor his pastors as well. Jesus is into sending… not sectarianism. When our Lord sends a man out from us, that is called multiplication.... not division.

  • Posted by

    If you’ve seen much of Ed’s teaching to pastors, this is his typical rant - disloyalty and betrayal.  His sheep, his staff, his ministry, his church… IMO, it’s almost cult-like.

  • Posted by Peter Hamm

    [I’m sure many of sheep have strayed into Ed’s pen from other local churches.]

    There is BIG difference between “sheep straying in” and planting a church with the intent, or with the only real plan, being attracting already-churched believers from other places. I encourage people all the time to stay in their churches and not come to our much bigger one.

    If you’ve ever been in a church plant, you know what I’m talking about.

    [When our Lord sends a man out from us, that is called multiplication.... not division.] And when a man leaves a church and plants another one down the street just like it and tries to pull people from that church (often intentionally) it’s not called multiplication. It’s called division, and it’s disloyal, and it’s just plain wrong. And it happens.

  • Posted by

    I can just say I am very disappointed in Ed Young Jr.  I went to his blog and it is very interesting that the comments on his are all the same flavor as his.  Unlike this blog where there are many who disagree with his thoughts. 

    I hate insecurity and I agree that churches nor pastors own people.  If the folks who are leaving were happy and content, do you think they would leave in the first place?

    Lighten up and chill out dude!  The woeth me thing really isn’t him.  It is God’s kingdom, God’s people, and there are too many lost people out there to whine about the fact that somebody took my church member.  waahhhhh!

  • Posted by Andy Wood

    In 2000 I was “downsized” along with 28 other people from a local megachurch because of a severe drop in attendance and finances.  I travelled and consulted for a couple of years, helped my wife run three restaurants, did some interim and bi-vocational work, and explored other avenues of service, including being considered by three churches in this area.

    Twice I was approached by someone about starting a church.  The first time was in an angry season, and the time wasn’t right and the spirit wasn’t good.  (Build a church around a bunch of angry people, and a year later they’ll be angry at you.)

    Two years after my termination, I was again approached, and after careful and serious prayer, believed this time God was calling me to do something I never thought I would do - start a church.

    On the Tuesday before our first Sunday, guess who came calling - offended, angry, and crying (in Ed’s language), “Pirate!”?

    I was greatly disturbed.  This was the farthest thing from my mind and heart.  I was simply seeking to be obedient to the Holy Spirit’s leadership, and believe that to this day.

    I went to every one of the men I had asked to serve as ad hoc elders, and will never forget the wisdom one offered - “Andy, it’s all about the money.  If they weren’t seeing the threat of a loss of money, it wouldn’t bother them.”

    Could it be that simple?

    I wonder if, when someone left Ed’s (or anybody’s) church, their attendance and offerings (both measurable and often ego-driven statistics) actually went up, we would have seen this video.

    Of course, there are manipulative, selfishly-ambitious, and deceptive people out there.  Paul dealt with such former associates constantly (e.g., Philippians 1:12-19).  But I don’t see him in prison hollering, “Pirate!” Save that for the devil, Ed.

  • Posted by

    Pretty arrogant to think one church in every town is all we need.  When you moved into Plano or Ft. Worth or downtown Dallas did you consider you’d be “stealing” people from other churches?  Or did you check everyone’s ID at the door and send them back if they came from another church?  I get the fact you’re talking about people leaving your church and starting something down the street, but aren’t the results the same?  You’re taking “sheep” from other places.  Talk to any small church located close to a mega-church and that pastor will tell you the mega-church is the pirate.  And why can’t four or five people meet at a church and be blessed with a calling to plant another church?  What is so wrong witht that?  Why do you speculate their hearts are full of deceipt and disloyalty?  You have several thousand attend every week and dozens of part/full-time staff.  Do you honestly think everyone has to fall in line forever?  Couldn’t God bless someone while they’re at Fellowship and then send them off on another adventure?  Even if that adventure is 10 miles away?  He/she may want to plant a church that God is calling him/her to plant.  And that will look different than Fellowship.  And so what if people from Fellowship go to that church.  Isn’t the main goal that people are going somewhere to grow spiritually?  Please don’t post any more staff meeting videos like this.  You’re not doing yourself or your church any favors.

  • Posted by Shawn Wood

    I think the point that many of you are missing is that Ed is not against starting churches. He is not even against people leaving Fellowship to start churches.  Ed left Second Baptist Houston to start fellowship and teamed up with a local DFW area church to do so.  The difference is that he did not intentionally plant himself in a church with the sole purpose of building a following and then splitting the church.  That is the issue at hand and that is what he is calling people out for.  If you have ever been a part of a church spit you will know that this is never a good thing.  I see many young leaders who want to build a church within a church and then split off.  What Ed is saying is “do it right”.  I am not sure that splitting a church is showing great leadership...just my humble opinion…

  • Posted by

    wow… there are lots of good insights here… i tend to agree with steve w’s perspective....

    in a recent situation due to a conflict of philosophies of ministry among our staff, i ended up resigning from my ministry, mainly for the purpose of “preserving the peace"…

    on the surface, the situation had the appearance of an “amicable split”, but i must say that in the aftermath, the temptation to begin a new ministry in the same town was significant… doing that would likely have caused even more hurt and division, and as i sought the Lord about it, it seemed more like something i wanted to do for my own gratification / vindication than it was a way to continue to serve the Lord ...  thankfully, i did not give in to that temptation…

    that being said, i still wonder sometimes if it would be so wrong for a new work to spring up right in the same neck of the woods that would (for lack of a better term) “challenge” the status quo of some dyed-in-the-wool ministries… kinda like putting a taco bell (not a burger king) next to a mc donalds…

    the fact is that some people who frequent a mc donald’s wouldn’t set foot in a taco bell, and vice-versa… so… what i am saying is that perhaps another ministry in the same neighborhood that does things differently would increase the spread and affect of the the gospel, and a church split might be considered a positive thing in some situations…

  • Posted by Brian

    Church = Body of Christ

  • Posted by

    I don’t doubt that there are people in Grapevine and the surrounding area who like the type of worship and teaching at Fellowship, but who for whatever reason want a smaller congregation and sermons delivered by a pastor who knows them by name.  In fact, I know a number of them.

    And frankly, since Fellowship has started building all of those satellites with video feeds you’d practically have to move out of state not to be “next door” to Young’s church.  Why is it wrong for a member of that community to decide to minister in his community when he sees that there is a need among the people he knows?

    My husband and I have been involved on some level in several SBC church plants, although never one of the founders but rather a church we found after a relocation.  In each case, the sponsoring church actively recruited members to move to the new church (with their tithes) to help establish it.  And all of these were done right in the same city, even neighborhood.

    I liked that statement above about “divide and multiply.” In fact, it’s how Young’s church was established back in the day.

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