Bishop T.D. Jakes communicated a poignant message on Friday, warning pastors and leaders about betrayal.
Hoping to help those attending the 2011 Pastors and Leadership Conference in Orlando not make the same mistakes he did, the influential Texas pastor and entrepreneur cautioned that there is likely a Judas in their church or business.
"Every major ministry that has collapsed, collapsed from somebody on the inside," Jakes told the conference crowd of thousands. "Your enemy is never on the outside. Your enemy is on the inside."
In line with the conference theme "What You Don't Know Can Hurt You!" Jakes vehemently urged leaders to choose their teams wisely.
Even one Judas could destroy the entire ministry, he warned.
And he's been there.
"I've been lied on, I've been hurt, I've been betrayed, I've been rejected, I've been ostracized, I've been alienated ... things got so bad I thought somebody put a spell on me," he said.
Yet he's not the only one. People are constantly being betrayed, he noted. People are taking money, contracts are not being honored, churches are splitting, and marriages are failing.
"You can preach your head off ... but if you have people in the ranks who are working against you, undermining what you're trying to do, it won't help you to get the breakthrough you need," The Potter's House pastor said. "If you have a corruptive, corrosive environment that you're working in, you will never be able to do what God is calling you to do."
It's a warning he often gives young pastors.
Pastors and other leaders who are just starting out have the weighty responsibility of building a team of people who can carry out the same vision together. But for pastors who are starting from scratch, it's a difficult and even dangerous task.
"Having to put people into positions of influence that you don't know is the most dangerous part of starting out," Jakes pointed out, because conclusively, "you are no better than the people you put around you."
A trustworthy and effective team is especially important today when the culture is constantly changing and the church has to put in place new strategies to reach more people.
"I am concerned for you because many of us are using yesterday's pattern to build today's ministry," said Jakes, who leads some 30,000 people at The Potter's House in Dallas.
"Today, people shop for churches like they shop for cars."
For ministries that have been successful, the charismatic preacher cautioned that success can be deceptive, just as it was for Blockbuster, which filed for bankruptcy.
Taking a cue from the downfall of the video rental chain that had once stood on nearly every corner and the rise of Netflix, a DVD mail rental program, Jakes told leaders not to become grandiose in their ideology and to watch the changing times.
"You can either spend the rest of your life trying to get somebody to come into Blockbusters and get a DVD or you can get a Netflix ministry and be effective and reach the world with the power and the influence of God," he stressed.
"This is good news for the church today because it's not about who can afford Christian television [anymore]. You can reach as many people over the Internet at a fragment of the cost ... if you understood that the generation that you need to touch today is no longer even watching TV."
But again, in order to even build an effective ministry, you need an effective team. And that includes sniffing out the enemy and bringing on board team players who can do the job even when you're not looking, he noted.
The three-day Pastors and Leadership Conference, which concluded Saturday, was designed to help prepare leaders deal with the dynamics that comes with running a church or business in today's climate. The event featured such speakers as John Hagee of Cornerstone Church, Bill Hybels of Willow Creek Community Church, Paula White of Without Walls International and Joshua Dubois of the White House Office for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.