Dr. Mark Rutland once said, “The greatest idol in the American church is our relationships. We will not correct or rebuke or keep accountable those we are in relationship with even if they are wrong or in sin. We allow them to destroy or gossip about pastors and ministries. We even leave the house of worship because we would rather be loyal to the relationship."
I'm not surprised about the power of relationships. God made us to be relational with each other and with Him. What I do see is a trend that Dr. Rutland emphasizes in his quote. Putting others before Him.
I have seen husbands refuse to correct their immediate family members because they would rather, "keep the peace".
I have seen whole families turn on a pastor or church - defending the sin of another family member or friend.
I have seen gossip go unchecked and when confronted used to punish church leadership for it.
I have seen associate pastors start churches and take members from their previous churches or neighboring churches without permission or consideration.
I have seen churches damaged and ruined by influential people whose word was never challenged or questioned.
So what can you do to keep this from happening to you?
#1 - Your relationship with Jesus is the most important relationship that you have. Let it govern all other relationships in your life.
#2 - Your family and friends relationship with Jesus is their most important relationship in this life. Help them obey Christ and follow the direction of the Holy Spirit. Not the opinion or influence of others.
#3 - If someone is gossiping or criticizing a church or church leadership - use 1 Tim 5:19. Don't entertain an accusation unless there are two or three witnesses. In other words, separate the facts from those who are just disgruntled.
#4 - Don't go on a crusade (witch hunt). That always end badly.
#5 - For associate ministers who are starting churches - Don't pull people out of the church you served in or from neighboring churches unless you first have the pastors permission. But more importantly, ask people to pray about what God wants them to do. God may or may not want them on your team (God does know best after all). Then you pray about it - God will let you know. I guarantee that you will have to tell some people - NO. Remember, their relationship with Jesus is more important than their relationship with you.
#6 - Don't assume that confrontation will always end up badly. Discipline is painful for a little while - but profitable for a lifetime.
#7 - If someone has a "history" of going from church to church because they are disgruntled - stay away from them. It's just a matter of time.