Dave Page Sifted

Dave Page is a church planter, coach and currently the Director of Church Planting for the Evangelical Free Church of America – West District.


Has a friend ever betrayed you?

Perhaps the most famous three words in literature are “Et tu, Brute?” (Even you, Brutus?). This phrase represents the ultimate betrayal by one’s closest friend. Jesus experienced such a betrayal in the form of a kiss from Judas, one of his core team.

Church planters experience betrayal from those very close to them, sometimes even from those who help start the church. Our church plant was just four years old when I was devastated by the death of my five-year-old daughter, Jackie.

While I was attending to the needs of my family, a staff member who had helped me start the church was conspiring to turn other staff against me, unbeknownst to me. This was a staff member I had handpicked, befriended, trained and trusted.

He urged me to leave my position in light of Jackie’s death, but I assured him that God had not called me elsewhere. I realized this staff member wanted me out, and my suspicions were confirmed when my associate pastor confessed this had been going on for months, but the staff didn’t want to share it with me because of what I was going through. He was soon let go.

As in many cases like this the member went one city over and started his own church. He rejected our attempts at reconciliation and asked for no further contact by us.

Lessons Learned

Realize that most church planters experience betrayal and the loss of close friends early on in their church plant. It hurts, but you don’t ever want to get to a place where it doesn’t hurt when a friend leaves your church. Truth be told, the people you begin the church with are not normally the ones you grow the church with.

Forgive the offender. Easier said than done. I was angry and felt my trust had been violated. I learned that forgiveness and reconciliation don’t always happen together. Paul said, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live in peace with all men” (Romans 12:18). It’s not always possible, but always strive for it.

Take responsibility for my part. My controlling attitude and pride made me part of the problem, and I didn’t have clear (written) expectations for the staff. I was not a good servant leader. I thought it was the staff’s job to serve me instead of me serving them.

Don’t let anger give the devil opportunity (Ephesians 4:26-27). My anger and the staff member’s anger were toxic and gave the devil a foothold to wreak havoc in our church. Satan goes for the jugular, so be on watch anytime there is a tragedy, crisis or transition in the church.

Always do background checks. I didn’t do a background check on the staff member because a mutual friend had referred him. If I had done one, I would’ve discovered problems in his former church and never hired him.

Accept help from others. I was in a coaching network for pastors at the time. I was temporarily in need of volunteer help because a few others had left with this staff member, so a fellow pastor provided help during this difficult time. After such a betrayal it was comforting to know that I had a group of peers I could trust.

Take the high road. Don’t defend yourself; let God defend you. I regret that I didn’t help this person start his new church because it would’ve been a great opportunity to lend a helping hand after a falling out, not to mention a good witness to the community. I needed to learn to pray for their blessing and have an attitude like Paul who said, “Whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice” (Philippians 1:18).

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