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 5869 times so far.

  There are 147 Comments:

  • Posted by Peter Hamm

    Actually, I’ve never been personally hurt by this in a church i’ve been in, but I know those who have.

    I wasn’t watching Ed through the lens of one who has been hurt, rather, I was appalled at what seemed to be some comments by people who might actually think joining a church with the intention of building a following and then splitting the church might be a wise idea. THAT is what Ed was talking about. Watch it again.

  • Interesting that “me” wasn’t brave enough to put his real name on his post.

    What Mr. Young is talking about does happen and it isn’t right. 

    But that’s also how things work in a fallen world.  Go home and complain about it to your wife or vent to your friend over lunch, don’t post a video on YouTube and ask for your staff to post to your blog.

    Man up!

    Read what Paul said about a similar situation in Phil. 1:15-18: “Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from good will:  16 The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains; 17 but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel.  18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice.”

  • Posted by DanJ

    I’m glad John the Baptist didn’t feel this way about his disciples.  Jesus “pirated” quite a few of them, if I recall correctly.

  • Posted by

    Re” I was appalled at what seemed to be some comments by people who might actually think joining a church with the intention of building a following and then splitting the church might be a wise idea.”

    I didn’t see anyone suggest this.

    Apart from the “divide and multiply” when you are actively sending out members to help new pastors establish plants even in your own neighborhood, typically there isn’t anyone left for a plotter to lure away.  Those who are adventurous or inclined to do something else have already left, but in a positive way.  And sometimes, once the new work is established, they come “home.”

  • Posted by

    Some said somewhere, if a person is trying to leave your church, do an inventory, find out what you could have done, if anything to change it.  But if they have made up their mind; they are going to leave.  You response then-open the door and let them out. People belong to the Lord, believe me, I feel his pain only in that trying to develop and build a church for God’s glory is no small endeavor.  Furthermorem, people go where they want to go.  You cannot do anything to change that-only God can. You know to some extent this is like the pot calling the kettle black.  I see Fellowship and others like it like a Walmart.  They come in and offer all of this “ministry stuff” everybody who is not able to “franchise” their church platform feels guilty others try to immulate or imitate what is being done some with some success others with little or none.  I have watched as these ecclesiastical Walmarts show up, some of them very impersonal I might add.  What kind of Christianity are we offering when you all you need to do is project yourself through an image i.e sattlite campuses.  Maybe people want a more personal experience.  Maybe they want a little less commercialization and more community.  Maybe they want a little less fluff and a little more fellowship.  Do not call people pirates.  Some of the pastors in downtown Dallas may feel that way.  Instead see them as you saw yourself.  See them as people who saw an opportunity to serve a community who thought they were not being served and have found a place where that can take place.

  • Posted by

    Thanks for sharing from a senior pastor’s point of view.  My husband and I have pastored for many years and have witnessed and experienced the pain of the ‘pirates’--once from our own family member whom we brought on staff because no one else would ‘give him a chance’ (we know why now).  The damage that was done was not only to the church, but to our family.  We have forgiven (we’re neighboring churches), but some pain lingers, especially for our children.

    We spoke at a church years ago and the pastor drove us by his church late in the evening and the lights were on.  He told us his associate was having a meeting there.  He went on to say ‘he’s getting ready to split my church and my hands are tied.  I’ve had to leave it in the Lord’s hands.’ A couple years later, we received an invitation to a pastor’s conference and one of the workshops was conducted by this associate--it was entitled ‘How To Begin A New Church’ I purposely attended the workshop--and it was amazing.  The associate said ‘all you have to do is put a large ad in the paper and let the people know ‘who you are’ He went on to say, ‘I did that and I had 300 the very first Sunday’ Wonder why?  The good news--the senior pastor’s church has recovered and is growing.

    You are right that many associates or staff seemingly take on the ‘victim’ mentality.  What the associates seemingly do not understand is that it is the senior pastor who has promoted them so the church will accept them.  As senior pastors, we have brought on some who are inexperienced, trusting them and training them for ministry.  As time goes on and the staff person does not have the ‘spotlight’ or recognition he feels he deserves (or the Lord is truly speaking to the person to move on out of their comfort zone and the person doesn’t want to move), then the staff person seemingly feels justified to begin to share weaknesses of the senior pastor never realizing how the senior pastor has overlooked and covered the weaknesses of the associate/staff.  Then when enough people are drawn to his side through half truths and inuendos, suddenly the staff person feels ‘called’ to be begin a ‘new’ work.  And the senior pastor almost always looks like the ‘bad guy’ regardless… What confusion this has brought to the body of Christ. 

    I believe there is such a thing as ‘true’ church planting BECAUSE IT IS THE SENIOR PASTOR’S VISION.  Then the staff person is sent forth with the church blessing.  Church planting should build the body, not divide the body.

    There is a call for ethics among the ministry and it is time to speak out.  From one senior pastor to another, thanks for your courage to be honest!

  • Posted by

    Dedicated wrote:
    “changing the constitution to be what he wanted to protect his job forever, making elder rule, changing the location, the chairs, the time of worship, the leadership,and running off anyone who dared challenge his position. “

    You mention changing the time of worship and fussing over chairs… those don’t sound like such big deals to me.  Also, did he change the constitution on his own or did the congregation vote on it?  And elder rule sounds like a pretty scriptural structure to me. 

    Frankly, it sounds like you felt you were in a position where you could control the church to some extent, even to the point of holding some authority over the pastor’s job, since you resent the fact that his position is now “protected.” It sounds like you were used to getting your way and now you’re not, and you don’t like it.

    The fact that you say “we had to fight...” is scary on it’s own. Why do you think you should be the one to decide where the cross goes?  It does not sound like you tried to build unity, but encouraged division.  You speak of “challenging the pastor’s position.” How does that fit in with Hebrews 13:17?

    I’ve always thought that when God wants someone to be in charge, he puts them there.  (Romans 13:1) Evidently, he did not place you in charge in that church. 

    It’s good you left.  If you cannot submit to and support leadership, the gracious thing to do is to leave, and leave well.


  • Posted by Matt

    Ed’s just being ridiculous here.  He’ll regret this later.  It’s not like there aren’t 20 other mega churches in Dallas already.  not sure why he’s so bent out of shape over this.  The corporate analogy is paper thin and he’ll realize it sooner or later.

    My take is that, most of the time, it’s not the best option for a pastor to leave a church only to plant another down the road because, let’s face it, the majority of the time there’s just an issue of bad blood.  That’s the issue that needs to be nipped in the bud.  But if there is a significant orthodoxy or orthopraxy disagreement, I’d say it’s permissable.

    But have those hard conversations FIRST.  Seek some form of reconciliation FIRST.  Then follow wherever God leads.  While my feelings on Fellowship are conflicted, Ed’s got to be smart enough to understand this.

  • Posted by Brett Ballard

    I find this video very interesting.

    A bit about my context - I am a local church pastor just “down the road” in urban Fort Worth from a Fellowship Church “plant”.

    I use the term “church” very loosely.  The satellite church from Fellowship is a gathering of folks who receive teaching from Ed via a large video screen every week.  Not MY idea of a pastor / church experience.

    We have had no problem with Fellowship “stealing” our sheep.  No one even remotely interested in coming to a “live pastor” church would give his style a second thought.  Most of them just laugh about it.

    It seems that Ed is genuinely frustrated about a former staff member, but that his comments would have been better reserved for a private setting.

    Also, as mentioned before, it seems that he is describing himself at many points in his talk.

    For example, I’ve often wondered if Ed would be able to transform a dying traditional church or if he would be willing to “plant” a “church” where there aren’t alot of upper middle class, affluent white people.

    And, as has already been written, it seems that Ed is just a little stuck on himself.  What you see at Fellowship is really a live taping of the “Ed Young, Jr. show” complete with a live band and bookstore, with all of Ed’s favorites, his books or his recomendations.  It all seems a little creepy and a little ridiculous.

    Just check out his “video blog”.  Who really cares if Ed knows how to make espresso?

    Just my two cents....

    Ed is a great teacher and I believe, a genuine servant.  But, I’d like to see Fellowship plant churches with other pastors, not just a video feed of Ed.

  • Posted by Rick White

    Peter...I’m sorry to have inferred from your post that you had any personal experience.  I read your post wrong.

    As to your comments, I see two monumental problems with your dogmatic assessment of Young’s comments.

    1.  Regardless of how many times I watch the video, I don’t interpret it in the same way as you...and evidently, many others fail to see what you see as well.  Either you’re enlightened and we’re dull or...maybe we all read/hear things differently.  I maintained (and still do) that much of what Young says can not be understood outside the context of the situations he refers to in his opening remarks.  Which leads me to the second problem with your assessment.

    2.  While I’m not 100% sure, I believe I now know what primary situation brought about this video/message.  If I’m correct, then your assessment is either wrong, or it would make Young out to be a man that has grossly mischaracterized the situation to which he refers.  I prefer to believe the former rather than assume the worst of Young’s character.  If I’m wrong about which situation Young is referring to, then I suppose your assessment is as valid as anyone’s.

    Carole...good word.  I’m guessing you are privy to what this is all about.

    Matt...agreed.  I’m also conflicted.  Ed has always seemed like a good guy...Fellowship has done some really good things.  This whole video just seems unnecessary and bound to cause confusion and rabid and wild speculation that is not needed.

    Brett...I don’t think he’s talking about a church staff member, personally.  I think this is ALL about a friend of his...just like he said in his opening comments.

  • Posted by

    Well, it has taken me20 years to form this understanding. 20 years of full time ministry.

    10 years ago, I might not have totally agreed with Ed.
    Thinking that I had just seen a few “uncommon” situations with church “flock”.

    But 10 years later and senior pastoring for that time, I am in agreement with Ed.

    I don’t think it is something you can “totally get” until you have “been there and done that and have the T-shirt”.

    The church needs to be more Kingdom minded.  what is BEST for the Kingdom.  What is the big picture? 

    In “flock” moving many sheep get lost....

  • Posted by

    You are so right.  We’ve all been so blessed out from under the authority of this leader.  There was love for God, His word and for each other beore a spirit of contention came to visit.  There was a “family” of love.  Then behind the scenes familes were split, lies, innuendoes, threats and secret meetings, developed.  It was a relief to walk away.

    God was there and saw it all.  (Oh, the desire to block another study was to keep total control.) We are free.  We are to follow THE MAN, Jesus first.

  • Posted by Peter Hamm

    “people who get involved in a church, maybe in some leadership form or maybe they’re on staff and then they build this kingdom, and then they go down the street and start a church and they (loud “sucking” sound) suck the people from the church and to their church and then when you confront them about it they play the God card...”

    That’s Ed’s exact words. I don’t think he could have been clearer. If your church sends you out to plant a church, you’re not this person. If you are called, but your church disagrees and says, no you’re not called to plant a church down the street, which is God speaking to. In my experience, if you feel a call from God which is not confirmed by those who you are under the authority of in the church… it ain’t a call from God.

    I’m not aware of what events might have triggered this speech from Ed. On it’s face, I agree with his statement. Those who rise up in leadership in a church in order to cause a split are doing wrong.

  • Posted by

    ****Posted by Mark
    Tuesday, May 27, 2008 at 8:52 AM
    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....

    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. ****

    Agreed!!!  How many would be serving today if there was no pay as in His day?

  • Posted by Rick White

    Peter...that’s a straw man because nobody would disagree with YOUR point.  I hear the entire video differently and pick up on a completely different main point than you do. 

    This video is about loyalty and friendship and the messiness and hurt that comes when one successful friend sees another friend’s actions as disloyal because of perceived x, y and z reasons.

    Everything else in the video is a sub-text of conjecture and yet-to-be-proven accusations along with some snide remarks scattered here and there that are probably aimed at a particular person.

    This should never have been posted on Youtube.  I’m grieved by this.  As others have already mentioned, I imagine there will be regret for posting this at some point in the future.

  • Posted by Gordon

    I am shocked that someone would think that if a senior pastor does not regognize Gods call on a man then he is not called. Senior pastors are not always right. This is a slap in Paul the apostles face. Who sent him out at first? Jesus Christ did. At first, the disciples wanted nothing to do with him. Thank God for Barnabas! Even after this, Paul made this same foolish mistake with John Mark. He later calls for Mark and says that he is profitable for him. I pray that these men have a change of heart as Paul did and realize that just because they do not like what someone is doing it doesnt mean that God is not leading them.

  • Posted by David Huff

    I too, disagree with Ed’s rant.  I was a layman in a local church in a very rural area but finally left it because I wasn’t getting anything out of attending.  We eventually ended up starting a church here in the same town.  We started one because there wasn’t any church in our small town of 12,000 that we felt we could invite our unsaved friends to without them being bored to death.  We started the church to meet an unmet need, not to steal people from the older traditional churches here.  We continue to seek those who don’t know Christ, we do not seek those who attend other churches.  However, when a church starts becoming successful at ministering to and reaching the lost, it attracks the attention of other Christians who also share the same burden and they want to be a part of it.  While we don’t seek out other Christians, we certainly won’t turn away those who share our burden and are willing to help share Christ.  If my church or any church for that matter, isn’t effectively ministering to the lost and discipling the body of Christ, then people should leave it.  As a church, our primary focus should be to promote Christ, not our particular church.  Which church Christ’s followers attend, mine, the local SBC or the local AG church is, for the most part, irrelevant.

  • Posted by Peter Hamm

    Rick, I’m confused, I quoted Ed directly. I watched the video again, and I’m mystified as to how you could interpret his “rant” as anything other than a statement against people who attempt to split a church from within. When is that ever right?

  • Posted by

    David Huff,

    God blesses those who lift Him up.  If your church continues to preach His words, I believe people will run in the doors.  The world is hungry for Him and His word...not performance, programs, petitions, policies, pastoral edicts, etc.  That’s why we started one, too.  Unfortunately, it got siderailed for the timebeing.  Glad to see such a positive note presented. 

    It is no wonder God told us not to judge as we really don’t understand the issues sometimes that brings a person to the place God has Him for the need He wants Him to do.  May God go with you all as you keep on serving Him.

    THANKS TODD for this forum.  I don’t visit often but this one really hit home.  God bless you for using a medium whereby God’s children can spout, pout, and rebound.

  • Posted by Dan

    I can’t say I agree with Ed.  Sure sometimes there are people who come in with bad intentions from the beginning...but it’s hard for me to believe that someone came in and was bidding their time for 20 years, before splitting the church as a “church plant.” Sounds to me more like a senior pastor who never knew how to promote, release and bless a younger leader.  Think of how much grief Saul would’ve missed if he knew how to celebrate David’s gifts and victories.

    I have two convictions that I minister by… 1) God has called me to pastor the city, not just my congregation.  2) I can’t do it alone.  Those two convictions have led me to give away people to new church plants that we haven’t even started.  Even if they do meet down the block.  Why?  Because every congregation that is started in my city helps me fulfill God’s purpose. 

    Maybe Ed’s city is different, but in our city we have less than 20% of the people in church on any given weekend.  We need all the congregations we can get.  I’ll even let them use our building.

  • Posted by

    I was on the staff of a large church and they also had a “our kingdom” mentality.

    After four years on being on this church staff I made a decision to never be in the ministry again…

    It has been a long road back to ministry three painful years.

    When I was a pastor of a small church for ten years, all we did was for “the kingdom” not “our kingdom”
    I personally believe that too many mega churches get in over there head financially and then their goals change. It turns to power and greed…

    I certainly agree with Ed about a guy coming into a church to pull a group out is not correct. But how many of those guys are doing a work on God anyhow?

    God Bless,


  • Posted by Chris Forbes

    I rarely comment on blogs, but I think the it takes a lot of temerity to make a speech like that and post it on the web. That looked little too much like a betrayal speech from Hamlet to me. He should have held a skull the whole time. grin

    I am still waiting for someone to do the elongated soliloquy about “major” churches that get started in church-saturated markets by guys leveraging their parent’s name brand recognition (or by merger-acquisition) and grow by siphoning off members of smaller less “phenomenal” churches.

    I lost count of the church starts I have seen that have been educated and funded by denominational money, that “betrayed” their denomination when their support dried up or if they couldn’t see how cooperative missions could benefit their church in some way. Instead of thinking symbiotically and supporting mission giving, they create their own fiefdom-sized mini denominations.

    They usually say they wanted out of the denomination to get away from programmatic approach of the bureaucrats there. Then they head off and create uber-programed tightly-branded franchsies of their home church.

    This speech has been made already by denominational leaders that have had their churches drained by leaner stealthier organizations. They had no way to react to the “market share” tactics of “phenomenal” churches who came in and drained their members, because they were too large and too bureaucratic to manage rapid change. These groups always played the “God told me to card” as they parlayed their gains into rock star status. “What comes around goes around.”

  • Posted by Dave Andrus

    I can feel personally what Ed is saying.  Three years ago I met with our then youth pastor and outlined four issues that he needed to work on for further success within our church.  I learned later that he went out and began seeking employment in the community and then shared with other individuals that he was being forced to quit.  He finally faced me five months later after he had secured a job in the area, left our church, encouraged at least six families to leave our church also. 
    This is happening all the time.  It is a sad commentary on the character of men who say they are serving God.

  • Posted by

    I didn’t agree with all that Ed said, but he does address a problem that arises far too frequently within the church.  I’ve seen this happen many times within churches-a staff member is hired, but he/she has other ideas, and actively seeks to start his/her own church by recruiting members to go with him/her.  This is far more than a pastor growing dissatisfied with an aspect of the church’s teaching or direction, but often reveals a dishonesty about one’s real purpose for joing a chuch’s staff in the first place.  This individual, rather than supporting the vision and ministry to which he/she is hired, actively works at sewing discord and disharmony by undercutting the senior pastor and other staff members through quiet but constant criticism.  This type of person has honesty issues, and works to split the church, and to get others to follow him/her..  Anyone who has been in ministry for very long knows that not all in ministry are honest or trustworthy individuals.  I believe that this is the situation to which Ed is referring-where a staff member joins a church staff and, with the intention to quietly, actively, and dishonestly undermine the ministry and the leadership.  I’ve seen this happen more than once, and the wounds it produces are long-lasting.  The situation I’m thinking of as I write this has lasted over 35 years.  The pastor who intentionally joined a staff with the intention of starting his own church, actively recruited people to go with him, and to leave the ministry to which he had been hired.  His church and the denominational church he used to “jump start” his church, which he had been planning to start for several years before joining the former chuch staff where he was hired, that schism has yet to heal.
    So, it isn’t about stealing congregants, it’s about creating dissention and disharmony to achieve an end.  The pastor I mentioned above was hired on at one of the churches with some of the wealthiest church members in town.  Plus, these were the people he worked to create dissatisfaction, so that they would leave with him.  His motives were what were being questioned here, and Ed might have been referring to something like this without mentioning any specific names.

  • Posted by jimmy

    My pastor actually hires associates with the intent of them building a team to start a church plant.  It sounds like we’re doing it all wrong according to Ed.  I’ve been on staff long enough to see two of these church plants.  Each time our attendance has actually gone up immediately after the plant occurs.  How’s that math for ya?

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