“For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.”
As Paul was concluding his extended ministry in Ephesus, he met with the elders there to give them warnings and exhortations. One of his warnings had to do with the possibility that, after his departure, men would arise from within the congregation speaking perverse doctrines contrary to the teachings of Paul, in order to draw away disciples after them. He referred to these as “grievous wolves.”
Let’s think for a moment regarding the nature of wolves. First, they are predatory. They feed off of other healthy animals, such as sheep. They are also cunning. They wait for their moment of opportunity when the sheep are undefended. They are also rapacious and without empathy. They will, without a moment’s hesitation, tear an entire flock of sheep to pieces, young and old alike, to satisfy their appetite. Paul warned that this is exactly the mindset of men who will come into a healthy church, and proceed to divide and destroy them in order to draw away disciples after their perverse doctrines.
I witnessed this firsthand in a church where I served as an associate pastor for nine years. When I was hired, the church was premillennial in their doctrinal statement and among the elders. The senior pastor and myself were graduates of the same premillennial seminary, and there was unity in the congregation in this regard. Then, one by one, “closet amillennialists” lied their way on to the elder board. I will call them Rod, Dave and Jared. I have not changed their names, because I have no interest in protecting the guilty. True shepherds of the flock should be in the business of protecting the innocent and exposing the guilty. That is why the Apostle John called out Diotrophes and Paul called out Sergius Paulus and Alexander the coppersmith. Grievous wolves need to be singled out and exposed, in order to protect the innocent.
Each of these “grievous wolves” were educated and articulate men. They had a superficial charm and were able to ingratiate themselves to the senior pastor. As each one was interviewed for the elder board, they expressed less than wholehearted support for the eschatology (last things) section of the doctrinal statement. They were coy as to the exact nature of their concerns. Once all three of these men were approved for the board, it became obvious that they were meeting secretly between elder meetings. They came to the meetings ready to advance their agenda, and were always in perfect sync on all the issues. I also noticed that the annual practice of having each elder sign a statement of agreement with the doctrinal statement was discontinued.
The senior pastor admitted to me that these men all had amillennial beliefs and that he was very concerned about it (Amillennialists do not believe in a literal future millennium, with Christ present and reigning on the earth for a thousand years; Instead, an amillennialist believes that we are currently in a spiritual millennium, with Christ ruling over the earth via the church. This is a convenient view for power-hungry individuals). The senior pastor knew that amillennialism was diametrically opposed to the church’s premillennial doctrinal position. However, these amillennial oligarchs were all his buddies so he did not do what was necessary to correct the problem – remove them from the elder board.
They succeeded in firing me first, over vague issues of “job performance.” They knew that I was not only premillennial, but that I am also pretribulational and dispensational in my views. Awhile after I left, the elders discovered some moral problems with the senior pastor and had him removed as well. The way was now clear for them to hire an amillennial pastor. Once they got their man in the pulpit, he began advancing amillennial “high church” positions such as a church membership covenant (which requires members to sign a statement of submission to the elders). They also renamed the lay elders as “pastors.” Finally, they changed the doctrinal statement of the church to accommodate amillennialism.
As they were doing this, discerning members of the church started leaving. They also forced out the remaining premillennial elders, labeling them as “divisive.” The church is much smaller than it was before these “grievous wolves” invaded the flock. Such matters are not important to these men. What is important to them is CONTROL and POWER.
Now, as I revisit the area of this former pastorate, I contact some who have left for other churches in the area. There are many such families. These folks are the victims of “grievous wolves” who arose from within the fellowship, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. These men do not care about the harmonious church family they tore apart, scattering victims to various churches, and so traumatizing others that they have forsaken the local church. They only care about being incharge!
The church where I now attend, and where I teach a Senior Adult Sunday School class, requires every elder, deacon and Sunday School teacher to annually sign a statement indicating their complete agreement with the Doctrinal Statement of the church. This kind of measure is absolutely necessary to prevent the kind of “inside takeover” described above. I suggest you ask your pastor if this is the procedure in your local church.