29 So he answered and said to his father, ‘Lo, these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends. 30 But as soon as this son of yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him.’
31 “And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours.
I just finished a tremendous book called, "The Prodigal God," by Tim Keller. My friend Keith Decker gave me the book as I left FL this year. He served on staff there and told me that this book reflected a lot of the culture we dealt with in South Florida. I wondered what he meant by it. The book delves deeply into the psyche of the elder brother.
As I read this book several thoughts occurred to me about ministry. We are in search of the prodigal sons (seeing the lost saved), but it is the "elder brothers (those in positions)," that will destroy your ministry, relationship or organization. Elder brothers are hard to deal with but easy to notice. We often put a lot of emphasis on discipling the "prodigal son," but the prodigals will not cause problems; it is the elder brother that will cause the most problems.
Elder brothers will destroy the movement.
Elder brothers are those in your ministry or organization that have attitudes which will eventually become a cancer to the whole.
They are marked by:
1. Jealousy: The elder brother was jealous that his younger brother had a party. "Elder brother's" will always want you to do for them (or more) what you have done for someone else. They need the same or more attention. They secretly despise those who may need your time or who you choose to spend time with. Jealousy is a prime attitude.
They are also very jealous about position and gifting of others.
2. Entitlement: The elder brother felt entitled to what the younger brother had. He felt like the father owed him a party because he had been there and been faithful.
Elder brothers in your organization will show symptoms of entitlement. They will bring back to you what you did for someone else and how they "deserve" that as well. They will use tenure as a motivation.
3. Competitiveness: The elder brother felt like he was "competing" for the love of the father. It was a big competition. Elder brother's will often compete with other leaders in your organization. They constantly compete for attention, love and affection. They are on a path to be the most loved and adored. Their service is "tainted" by this skewed motivation. They don't want to live in anyone's shadow.
You have to deal with the elder brother the same way this father did. He simply stated the truth in love. Elder brothers are in desperate need of love and approval. They are trying to get love and approval from everything else. Keep reminding them that you love them and they are unconditionally loved by God. As you do this, call out these 3 symptoms. Help them by showing them what attitude they are displaying as well.
How do you identify and deal with elder brothers?