Dethroning a Fiefdom in a Church


Understanding and Dismantling Silos

I have dealt with many church members who have built their fiefdoms inside the local church throughout the years. Sometimes it is a church boss or a well-meaning volunteer, but always a person who has taken their spiritual eyes off what is essential in the church’s life—serving God by serving others.

While fiefdoms are often associated with medieval times, it is seen more regularly in modern times in the local church. A fiefdom overseer oversees an area inside the church and claims ownership of the task or space as their territory, left unchallenged; these gatekeepers create disputes, disruption, distraction and death inside the local church. 

Fiefdoms in the church are not new. You can probably think of one or even several church members in your local church that has taken leadership to the extreme. These dedicated men and women have given their time and talent to help the church, but far too often, harm not help the church over time. What started as a ministry became a fiefdom for their wants and desires. 

The last seven weeks have been challenging in my church as I tried rather unsuccessfully to navigate a fiefdom in the sound booth. What should have been an easy fix became a drawn-out process with deadlines missed and questions left unanswered that created tension and strife. 

When a power surge hit the church, it knocked out technical systems which were password protected. The volunteer in the sound booth controlled all these passwords and procedures and would not turn them over to me or anyone else that asked. The church member and I had always had an amicable relationship. So, I was shocked when he delayed, denied, and ignored my pleas to hand them over so the church could get a company to come in and fix the issues. Leading me to remove him from his volunteer post, and he, in return, threatening to leave the church and call my church superior.

There are four things I learned from dethroning a fiefdom in the church.


When fiefdoms take hold in an area, it encourages disputes to build over time. Ignoring fiefdoms as a leader only empowers the gatekeeper to keep pushing others away. When a new person tries to help the gatekeeper instead of welcoming them, they feel threatened and chase the help out. Sometimes it is through ignoring or even being rude to the person offering support, which creates friction between the gatekeeper/helper/pastoral leader. Addressing disputes is the first step in cutting off the power of the gatekeeper. No one likes to have those hard conversations, but the gatekeeper keeps Christ out, and challenging discussions move Christ back in and egos out. 


A gatekeeper uses disruption because they want to throw off the normal flow of service or inner working of the church so that the leader comes to them to solve the issue. Typically the disruption will enable the gatekeeper to gain valuable time or even look like the hero. But I have wondered, who are they hurting when the gatekeeper tries to stop the church’s work by disrupting the normal flow in the church because someone is encroaching on their territory? Ultimately, they are hurting their relationship with God. Disruption while a diversion is a telling sign of a member’s spiritual struggle. When you disrupt the opposing forces, you reinstall God at the center of the church and not man.  


For seven weeks, I was distracted by the delays and kept praying, hoping, and wondering would the codes and work ever get accomplished. I even brought in a third-party church board member to help defuse the situation. Still, even that backfired because he chose not to share any information gleaned from the conversation except handing me a sheet of paper with the codes on it. Even then, he never spoke. He just walked up, gave me the codes, and turned around. The flesh in me wanted to yell at the top of my lungs, but I could not allow the devil’s distraction to get me caught up in emotions. Instead, I just prayed and released it to God. That very night, twenty-five teens poured their hearts out at the altar at the church and reminded me that the church is in a spiritual battle against forces we cannot see. 


How many people have come into a church intending it to be their church home, only to be run off by the gatekeepers of the church? Too many healthy-looking churches on the outside are sick on the inside. All because the leadership has not addressed the fiefdoms in their midst. Challenging and busting through the gates of fiefdoms is not easy but is needed if God’s church will be God’s church. Churches controlled by carnal members and not Christ-like followers will tear down and divide the church until there is nothing less, and the only one who gets glory in a dying or dead church is the evil one. Pastors can not be afraid to take a stand for God’s house. If a person or family leaves because of the stand, then bless them, and release them. You can not control them, but you can manage your ability to help the church move forward in Christ. 

Do yourself a favor. Do your church a favor. Overrun fiefdoms and take back the territory for God’s glory. 

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From Outreach Magazine  Living Your Calling Courageously