Silencing Antagonists


Backstage | Jimmy Dodd

Jimmy DoddAntagonists are nothing new. They are everywhere. While some antagonists can be overbearing, many find great pleasure in working behind the scenes quietly creating discontent. They appear at the little league baseball game, the neighborhood association meeting—and the local church. Antagonists are by nature living disoriented, discontented, displeased lives. They seldom experience any measure of contentment. They quickly drain joy from everyone in sight.   

Nehemiah 3:6 reads: “Joiada the son of Paseah and Meshullam the son of Besodeiah repaired the Gate of Yeshanah. They laid its beams and set its doors, its bolts and its bars.” 

The passage is powerful, not for what is says, but for what it doesn’t say. The previous verse reads: “And next to them the Tekoites repaired, but their nobles would not stoop to serve their Lord.”

Here’s the story. Nehemiah is leading the Israelites in the enormous task of rebuilding the walls and gates of Jerusalem. A brilliant manager, Nehemiah breaks down an overwhelming task into 41 smaller projects, assigning teams to each section of the wall. The section of the wall from the Fish Gate to the Old City Gate was to be repaired by the Tekoite team. Verse 5 tells us that while several members of the team worked to repair the wall, the ranking Tekoite leaders refused to work.

Nehemiah did not allow the agenda to rebuild Jerusalem to be derailed by antagonists. Verse 6 does not read, “Let’s temporarily shut down the building project while we form a study committee to explore exactly how the Tekoite leaders have been offended. Let’s discover what we will need to do to satisfy their demands and get them back on the job.” Nehemiah was determined not to focus on those who were unwilling to serve. He didn’t get bitter or waste any of his time trying to corral a small fraction of unwilling to work. Nehemiah refused to allow antagonists to dictate the agenda for rebuilding Jerusalem.

No amount of money given to a church (or any organization) buys anyone the right to become an antagonist. Likewise, no amount of time anyone has volunteered earns them the right to become an antagonist. And no amount of influence anyone carries in the community has earned them the right to be an antagonist.

Here are some warning signs that you might be an antagonist: you believe you are owed control; you regularly wave the red flag; you are hypersensitive; you seldom give others the benefit of the doubt; you are easily offended; you go out of your way to make demands; you regularly attack others; you are a poor team player and you seem to have a slightly different vision for everything. As Nehemiah experienced firsthand, there will always be antagonists who refuse to carry their share of the load. 

Skillful leaders demonstrate compassion toward the antagonist knowing that there was likely something in their past that has caused them to live an angry, defensive life. Leaders ask antagonists to share their story. But leaders do not allow them to set the agenda. 

Silence antagonists by allowing the Holy Spirit to set the agenda for the local church, refusing to surrender to the demands of antagonists.

Jimmy Dodd
Jimmy Dodd

 Jimmy Dodd is an author and founder of PastorServe. He serves a number of additional ministries including Cross International and Unite KC.