Rom 16:17-18 I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. (18) For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.

I have been naïve in my life more often than I would like to admit to myself. Smooth talk and flattery have duped me until, I hope, I have finally learned. In my 40 years as a pastor, these smooth-talker-flatterers have come along quite often and in the end, caused immense pain and harm in the church. They cause division. They work to gain a following for themselves and thus lead people away from Christ and His true people. They rise to lofty position in the church.

And then, when they have the power and control handed to them, they show themselves to be the demagogues that they are.

I could tell you many stories about these kind who I have experienced and been harmed by, and I suspect many of you could tell your stories too. Let me give you a scenario which I will draw from several cases which I have seen.

Here comes, let’s say, Larry. Larry has heard that a new pastor has come to the small church in his community, or perhaps even a brand new church is being started. So there is Larry one Sunday morning with his family. Everyone is pleased to see some new faces and afterward Larry is sooo excited. The sermon was soooo spot on and biblical – nothing like the old church he came from. And it turns out that Larry is a bit of a figure in the community. A professional in a respected career. “My wife and I are eager to help. Just let us know how we can.”

Before long, Larry is a mover and shaker in the church. He volunteers for the treasurer position. He has community contacts. Need something done – just call Larry.

But no one has ever really talked to Larry about the Christian life he professes, other than to hear him say that he is a Christian. Things have been rushed. Adequate time has not passed for Larry to be tested and his profession of Christ to be observed. It isn’t long before Larry has a bit of a following in the congregation. “What does Larry think,” becomes a common phrase to hear. Larry even volunteers to put his name on the line as a co-signer for a building project mortgage, and Larry’s reputation takes a big leap ahead.

But then comes the day of reckoning. Larry and a few of his loyalists come to a church board meeting and express “concern” over the pastor’s preaching. “It is our job and your job as a board to be certain that the members of this church hear sermons that they want to hear.” (That very statement was one which “Larry” actually stated as an attack against me at a board meeting).

Now I shall speak in the first person. In response to Larry’s evil takeover plan to control the church and me as the pastor, I announced – “I have been preaching just like I always have, and no one is going to dictate the sermons I preach. I will preach God’s Word and I will not compromise.”

And here is one of my main points and one which most of you will be able to identify with because I suspect it happened to you. Not one single person on that church board backed me up. Not one. After the meeting a couple of them came to me and said “we agree with you, pastor.” Oh, really? Then why did you not stand with me in the meeting? Crickets.

It was not long before the Lord made it plain that He was going to take us out of that false church and lead us to a new ministry. What of Larry? Well, to this day – over 30 years later, Larry is still running the show. Larry is just the greatest, you know.

This is the very kind of person the Apostle Paul is warning us about – these smooth talking flatterers who creep in among us. We must be wise to them, but that wisdom so often comes through hard and painful experience. One day Larry will be called to account and his smooth talking flattery will be of no avail to him.

2Ti 4:14-15 Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. (15) Beware of him yourself, for he strongly opposed our message.

**RASN = Reviler, abuser, sociopath, narcissist