First Stage: The Independent Spirit
The independent stage is so subtle that most people do not recognize it for what it actually is - disloyalty. When a person belonging to a group, ministry or company develops an independent attitude, he sort of becomes autonomous within the set-up. The rules of the organization no longer control him. Such a person is still a part of the church but does what he wants to do, in spite of contrary instructions.
For instance, the pastor may say, “We are all fasting on Friday.”
But the person with an independent spirit would think, “I’ve already decided to fast on Wednesday. So that’s what I’ll do.”
Watch out for the Independent Ones
Pastors, watch out for deacons and leaders who have independent spirits. You may call for several meetings, but a person with an independent spirit decides to attend only those he feels are important. Such a person obeys only certain instructions - the ones he thinks are really important.
For example, Malaysia is independent of the USA, whenever there is an American holiday it has no bearing on Malaysia. Malaysia and America are two countries in the same world, but independent of each other. When Malaysia declares a holiday, America takes no notice of it because America is independent of Malaysia.
If you are unfortunate enough to have choristers who have independent spirits, you may experience something like this. You would declare prayer meetings, rehearsals, and outreaches, but an independent chorister would decide, “I think I’ll just attend the rehearsal.” Once again this individual is doing exactly what she thinks should be done.
There is nothing wrong with being independent. I believe in independence and we thank God for independent people. However, if you are a part of a denomination, group or company, you are not independent.
When you begin to exhibit a spirit of independence within an organization, be it known unto you that you are becoming disloyal. If you belong to an organization, you are not independent of that organization. Therefore, you cannot just do what you think is right. You must comply with directives that are coming from the head. If you feel you want to be independent then you should resign.
Pastor Joab - The Independent Killer
Were there independent people in the Bible? The answer is yes. Throughout the second book of Samuel, Joab is noted as someone who did what he wanted to do. He was part of David’s army. He was part of David’s ministry team, if you like. He was one of David’s managers! You could say he was the Prime Minister or David’s right-hand man. He was so powerful, yet he had an independent spirit. This independent spirit manifested itself many times.
The first example of the independence of Joab was in the murder of Abner, a commander-in- chief of another section of the armies of Israel. David as the head of government, decided to make peace with Abner after years of conflict. The king even called for celebrations of this peace agreement by feasting with him.
So Abner came to David… And David made… him a feast…and he went in peace.
2 Samuel 3:20,21
But when Joab heard that this man had been entertained in the palace, he was furious. He chased him, caught up with him and requested to speak with him privately. But Joab tricked him and killed him.
And...he [Joab] sent messengers after Abner, which brought him again…took him [Abner] aside…and smote him…
2 Samuel 3:26,27
When the King opted for peace, his right-hand man decided to do otherwise. Although he was supposed to submit to the wishes of the king, he went ahead with his own plan. People like this are dangerous. Joab could have plunged an entire nation into war through his independent actions.
There are people like that in church. The founder or head pastor is often the vision carrier. He leads the way because he is the head. All associate pastors and leaders in the church are supposed to flow with his vision. An independent “Pastor Joab” will only bring confusion and strife to the church. Take note of such people in the church, because they are only a few stages away from open rebellion.
The second incident to notice is in Joab’s handling of Absalom’s coup d’état.
Rev. Joab Moves Independently Again
Absalom rebelled and actually ousted his father David from the throne. Absalom was now in power and David was faced with the bizarre circumstance of having to fight against his own son.
In the midst of these extraordinary circumstances, David specifically instructed that the army should not kill his son Absalom. He wanted to spare the life of his son.
And the king commanded Joab…Deal gently for my sake with…Absalom...
2 Samuel 18:5
Thankfully, the battle turned in the favour of King David and Absalom had to flee. A certain man reported that he had seen Absalom hanging by his hair on a tree. Joab immediately blurted out, “Why didn’t you kill him? I would have rewarded you handsomely.”
But the man said,
...Though I should receive a thousand shekels of silver in mine hand, yet would I not put forth mine hand against the king’s son: for in our hearing the king charged thee…saying, Beware that none touch the young man Absalom.
2 Samuel 18:12
This unnamed person was part of King David’s set-up and was obviously loyal to him. But here comes a man with an independent spirit and look at what he did.
Independent People Do What They Want to Do
…And he [Joab] took three darts…and thrust them through the heart of Absalom…
2 Samuel 18:14
Independent people do what they want to do inspite of the instructions emanating from above.
Ironically, Independent People Don’t Leave
Notice that Joab never really left David’s camp. Such people have not decided to leave. They will stay around but will do what they want to do! That is the independent spirit and it is a degree of disloyalty.
You must always notice independent people within the congregation. Some of them are leadership material but because they are independent of the leader and his vision, the leader must not work with them.
One day a pastor asked an independent church member, in whom he saw leadership potential, to join their Bible school.
Quite characteristic of an independent person, he said, “I have been in the church since it began many years ago. I have heard all of your messages.”
He went on, “Pastor, what else am I going to learn in this Bible school?” That was the end of the matter. He didn’t attend.
At another time, he was asked to become a fellowship (cell) leader within the church. He told the pastor, “Pastor, I am already conducting a fellowship in my home.”
The pastor asked, “Who are the members of this fellowship? Are they members of our church? Do you consider this to be a church group?” “Oh no!” he answered. “They are my personal converts.”
This brother could not be a cell leader within the church because he was building his own private cell group. He had no intention of defecting from the church. He was within the church but independent of everything going on around him.
Branch Pastor Joab Threatens a Take- Over
The next example of Joab’s independence was when he fought against the royal city of Rabbah on behalf of King David. When victory was in sight he sent a warning message, “You better come and participate in the war otherwise I will get all the credit.”
Now therefore gather the rest of the people together, and encamp against the city, and take it...
2 Samuel 12:28
He wanted David to be there himself! What he was saying in other words was, “I’m no fool to do all the hard work only for you to take the glory.” As is said in Africa, “monkey dey work, baboon dey chop”. (In other words, the monkey does all the hard work whilst the baboon benefits from the reward.)
Pastor Threatens to Change Church’s Name
Joab went on to threaten that if the king did not get involved as he was suggesting, the city could be named after him instead of David.
...lest I take the city, and it be called after my [Joab] name.
2 Samuel 12:28
How can you send such a message: “Come quickly otherwise I will change the name of the church”? Such a pastor can take over a branch church and rename it. Such a person can convert a cell group into his personal church. This is the reason why some pastors don’t believe in cells or branches. They fear that they will have Joabs as leaders.
The last example of Joab’s independent spirit comes at the end of the king’s life. David made it very clear that he wanted Solomon to be the next king.
Independent Pastor Helps the Opposition
There was another son named Adonijah who wanted to be king in the stead of Solomon. To do this he needed the help of some perfidious characters. Once again Joab, who knew David’s wish, went contrary to it and helped Adonijah.
Then Adonijah…exalted himself, saying, I will be king...And he [Adonijah] conferred with Joab …[who] helped him.
1 Kings 1:5,7