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Today, it seems that many churches are losing church members to other churches because they are being stolen away by other churches! Should churches be stealing other church members?

Thou Shalt Not Steal

The Ten Commandments contain the command “Thou shalt not steal” (Ex 20:15) but does this apply to churches sending in their members to other churches to steal that church’s members? I believe it does and here’s why I say that.   I had lady who was very concerned about this who wrote me and she said the following:

“Pastor Jack only you alone I could speak.  I want to tell this thing to my pastor…but he is so very busy so I don’t want to bother him.  I and a group of my church members came out to spread the good news including in the hospital where we visited patients in the last few months as part of our Christian efforts but the problem is, there are another bunch of unscrupulous missionaries who came to our church and are silently fishing some of our church members and a few of them already jumping to the new church. So I am asking Pastor Jack, are they guilty or not, should they do such a thing?”

My answer would be for her would be to talk to her pastor about this right away.   He needs to know.  Yes, I am sure he’s busy but I would sense that he would deem this important enough to take the time since he needs to know about this.  It’s too important not to tell him. To me, trying to steal other church members from a church to bring to theirs is a very underhanded way of doing things.  If anything, churches need to be cooperating with one other in serving the community in getting the gospel out into the city or town.  They should be joining together, not robbing one another, and working for a common cause and purpose and that is to expand the kingdom and seek those who are lost…to bring light to darkness.  There is not one biblical example anywhere in the Bible that these “church stealers” can stand on.  It is deceitful to send their members into other churches, like spies, and then try to steal their members to build their own membership.  This is what cults typically do and so any church that does such a thing is doing what God never intended. This is not their church. Jesus is the Head of the Church and He places the members where it pleases Him and as He wills and purposes. Each member of the body, like members of a human body, plays special and unique roles that make up the completeness of that local church.  They are really stealing from God because it is His church and not theirs.

Biblical Evidence for the Church’s Uniqueness

1 Corinthians 12:28 “And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues.”

Imagine trying to steal some other churches members and by doing so, they make the church that they steal from imbalanced.  They take those with gifts of teachings, helps, or the gift of mercy and throw that local church’s body out of kilter.

1 Corinthians 12:17 “If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?”

Imagine stealing “eyes” or “noses” from a human corpse.  What a disgusting body that would be where one would be missing an eye, a nose, or an ear.  How tragic to steal, essentially, “body parts” (members) to supplant them into their own church.  Paul, I am sure, would agree as he wrote in 1 Corinthians 12:19 “If they were all one part, where would the body be?” It would be a freak of nature, it sounds like.

New Testament Church Examples

If you look at the examples of the churches that Paul planted, there is no occurrence, even once, of a pastor or someone else from another church going to another church and trying to convince other members to come to their church. This stealing of church members is something recent and unique to the church today, for the most part.  When Jesus spoke to the churches in Revelation, they were all distinct, different churches that were unique in each and every way.  These churches were not mix and match like you would someone’s wardrobe.  In 1 Corinthians 12:18 Paul says “But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose” so God arranges or plants or puts “each one of them” as we see fit? No, it is as God’ sees fit. Here is more: Romans 12:6 “We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith” and so on.  It is not for us to determine which members with their own God-given gifts should be…this is the decision and choice of a sovereign God.

God Distributes, Not Man

1 Corinthians 12:11 says that “All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines” not as someone else thinks best.  When you mess with the church you mess with Jesus because it is His church; not mine and not theirs.  The point is that each member has a unique, important part to add to the church. Like a human body, the balance has to be right. Each church needs two eyes, two hands, one mouth, but only one Head and that is Jesus.   The Head of the church makes the decisions for only He is qualified to make these choices.  When other churches steal members they are really acting as the head and they are actually robbing body parts of Jesus’ own Body because the church is called the Body of Christ and they are committing surgery or butchering Jesus’ body.  By taking parts from one body, as we read in 1 Corinthians 12, as it pleased God, and then placing them where they see fit is contrary to the biblical model of church functionality.  They are operating on His body without a consent form!

Stealing Sheep

Yes, this is like stealing sheep and since they are disobeying what God says, they might well be false teachers or apostate pastors from the Enemy. Clearly this is wrong; they should not be robbing other churches because the pastor is only an under-shepherd to the Great Shepard, Jesus, and I have no doubt that He’s angry at those who do such things.


If this has happened to you in your church or you have heard it happening elsewhere, please comment so that we might learn more about how this subterfuge is taking place in the churches in order that we might guard against it.  God says “Thou shall not steal” and stealing other church members is no different in my opinion that stealing from God and we know that no thief will inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor 6:10) and as for the kingdom of heaven, “Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life” and that includes thieves (Rev 21:27).

7 Responses

  1. anonymous

    I really enjoyed this article. We had an incident where we ordained someone into the ministry who became our youth pastor. Over time he and his wife and son caused a split in our church. But before they left he used the youth ministry to convince some of the youth’s parents to place their tithe in the youth account. He and his wife caused great conflicts at a couple of board meetings just before they left and took those families who were placing their tithe in the youth ministry account with them. The church treasurer then tried to tell the board those funds should follow that pastor’s ministry because those tithes/offerings belonged to his ministry. Then, then the errant pastor’s wasn’t happy enough with trying to destroy our church in this manner but she began calling members or our church asking them to attend their church. This caused many to wonder what exactly was going on in our church. When these hirelings first left they became youth leaders at another church who, after a couple or years at that church, the Pastor left to be an associate pastor at another church and the church folded up. The “youth pastor” (who had caused so maniy issues in our church) set up a new church along with his groupies right around the corner from ours. After a period of time, through extenuating circumstances, the building was no longer available for lease and as far as I know “they” are not meeting anywhere now. After being a spectator of how this all went down, it appears to me that God doesn’t bless a mess. And He will never bless any ministry this arrogant pastor attempts to do until he repents and apologizes to those he’s wounded along his ministerial road, especially an apology to the Padtors.

    • Tim

      I have had this just occur within the church God has me pastoring. A member answered the call to preach and our church has supported him the way God has directed. He just accepted a pastor position at another church. He has approached one of our deacons and asked him to come fill a position in that church. This saddens me because either he is starting off his new ministry in error, or he is a false preacher and working for the enemy. The deacon says this answers his desires to teach. This deacon has not spoken to me about it yet. I am praying that if the preacher/pastor is true then God will teach him with this and if he is false, God will bring it to an end without and damage to members of either church.

  2. Mid Toombs

    Not being mean, however, I think if they were getting what they needed from their church they could not be stolen! If a person meets someone and become friends with them and are invited to another church and they like it and stay, that is not them being stolen, it is them find a church that better fits them. We all have friends that we have invited to our church. Some stay and some go back to their church. I say this because, I have a really hard time finding a church that fits my needs and my families needs. Because of the way I was raised and certain things I believe differ quite a bit from the way my husband believes as a baptist. Every church we visit we are looking for something we can both get get out of the services and the church itself. We have visited several and have finally settled on one, however seeing as how it does not “fit” everyone if we were invited to another church and felt like it did “fit” us both we would stay there. Just my experience and opinion.

    • Toby

      I am curious as to where in the Bible is says not to Steal Sheep? People come and go on their on will, this is not stealing. If someone is trueIy getting what they need from a Church there is no one that can get them to leave. I have even experienced people who know that they are in a Church that is not really feeding them and yet they still stay. I would like a definite Scripture to say that someone should not ask someone to come visit their Church that goes to a Church already? Any Scripture that is not with unbiblical commentary. I am not saying this because I do this or the people from my own Church does this, I am asking because there is no Biblical reference to this anywhere in the Bible. The above article is really pulling Scripture out of left field and adding commentary that is unbiblical to it. So please do not reference scripture out context, and what was described by this woman is, I admit a bit weird that people are doing this. I am also curious as to why this woman is so afraid to call the Man who is supposed to be sheperding her? If he is such a great Sheep hearder why is he not in contact with her? Pastors need to Pastor not just preach on Sunday and call themselves Pastors. Where is the person she is connected to in the Church? Why did she write here rather than deal internally with her local Church? Lots of questions we have to ask ourselves. Biblically reference without opinion on this matter would be great!
      Thank you

    • Alex

      This saddens my heart that a believer of Jesus Christ who holds on to His biblical teachings would have this mindset. I pray Brothers and Sisters that you serve Jesus through your church. We should never “look for a church that fits our needs”. We are called to find a church where we are needed! God has a purpose for all of us.

  3. KC Masa

    I am currently going through a similar situation. My husbands close friend started a church (we’ll call it church B) but he used to be a young men’s (18-30) group leader at church A. Church A found out the he started church B and accused him of stealing sheep though it is only composed of two or three from church A and mostly close friends, many still go to church A on Sundays since church B meets on Fridays because they don’t have a building yet. Church A secretly got staff to ask questions of those who wanted to attend church B and then told the pastor of church B he was no longer welcome at church A unless he dissolved his church which he felt he was called to start for years before this. I am conflicted about who is right or wrong. Pastor of church B did not mean in any way to “steal sheep” and encourages his members to go to church A still or anywhere they like but to stay if they like church B.


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