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Antagonists in the Church

Definition of an antagonist: someone who on the basis of non- substantive evidence, goes out of their way to make insatiable demands, usually attacking the person or performance of others; these attacks are selfish in nature, tear down rather than build up, and are frequently directed against leadership. (p. 27)

Kinds of antagonists: hard core (usually irrational, unreasonable). Major antagonist (possible to reason with them, but they will not be reasoned with). (p. 28)

Ability to Work With

Level of Conflict


Impossible situationIntractableDestroy Opponent at any cost to them or me
Very difficultFight/FlightHurt opponents or get rid of them
ToughContestsWin, put others in their place
EasiestProblem to solveWork out a solution

Identifying Antagonists

1. Is his/her behavior disruptive'

2. Is the attack irrational'

3. Does he/she go out of h/h way to initiate trouble'

4. Does h/s make insatiable demands'

5. Are h/h concerns minimal or fabricated'

6. Does h/s avoid causes that involve personal risk/suffering/sacrifice'

7. Does h/h motivation appear selfish'

Red Flags To Watch For:

1. Previous track record

2. Parallel track record (antagonist at work, school, club, etc.)

3. Nameless others: “At least 24 others feel this same way.”

4. Criticism of predecessor

5. Instant buddy

6. Gushing praise

7. “I Gotcha!” Asks leading questions, tries to trap you.

8. Extraordinary likeability

9. Church hopper

10. Liar

11. Uses aggressive means: extreme, combative, unethical 12. Flashes $$$

13. Takes notes at inappropriate times

14. Sarcasm, cutting language

15. Different drummer, always doing things their own way

16. A pest—incessant phone calls, questions, etc.

17. The “cause”

Early Warning Signs:

1. Chill in the relationship

2. Honeyed “concerns”—“Dear pastor, I have a concern about ...” may mean “I’m angry!!”

3. Nettlesome questions

4. Mobilizing forces, pot stirring

5. Meddling in others’ responsibilities

6. Resistance

Later Warning Signs:

1. Sloganeering

2. Accusing

3. Spying

4. Distorting

5. Misquoting scripture

6. “Judas kissing”—“I’m your friend, but I have to say...”

7. Smirking

8. Letter writing (don’t respond with a lengthy, reasoned answer)

9. Pretense

10. Lobbying

Preventing Antagonism:

1. Follow established policies

2. Functional feedback channels

3. Job descriptions

4. Broad base of responsibility

5. Discipline that works

6. Anticipatory socialization—let people know plans

7. United front within leadership

Relating To Dormant Antagonists:

1. Act professionally

2. Keep your distance

3. Be accurate, don’t guess, estimate

4. Avoid excessive positive reinforcement

5. Tighten the reins

6. Don’t seek sympathy from others

7. Don’t form a committee to look into accusations, this only appears to give credibility to their charges

8. Don’t call for a vote of confidence

Public Communication:

Don’t use public channels to combat antagonists. This only gives them attention and credibility.

From “Antagonists in the Church,” by K. Haugk

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