Beware the Church Mafia: 4 Ruling Families

by Jon Acuff

I want to go out on a limb, I want to expose the secret society that has long held sway over churches around the world. I want to talk about the Church Mafia.

The Church Mafia is a loosely constructed, by tightly wound, syndicate of four ruling families. Modeled after the Italian Mob of the early 1920s, they are the ones pushing and pulling for political power within the church. They control everything from the quality of cookie you get at Vacation Bible School to which people get elected to the Pastor Search Committee. Even mentioning they exist could get me black listed from the sarcastic writers religious speaking tour. But it’s a risk I am willing to take. I am sure I will remix this post later, possibly covering each family individually, but here they are at a high level:

1. The Elderati
Although they would never admit this, the Elderati is the strongest of the ruling families. Their influence is not often direct and visible, but is instead quietly woven into almost every decision the church makes. Once you make it into the Elderati, you can never really leave. For although your official “term” might end after a year or two, you will constantly be called into conversations and decisions long after you actually attend an Elder’s meeting. It’s rumored that they all have a small letter “E” tattooed on their ankle. But since members of the Elderati never wear shorts, it’s impossible to prove.
Also known as: “The only people the pastor fears.”
Nemesis: The Deaconistas
Signature sentence: “Have you cleared that with the Elders?”

2. The People from the Old Country
This group of people has always been with the church. You know this because they will regularly tell you, “I’ve been coming here for 42 years and I’ve never seen anything like that.” Even if your church is only 38 years old, it doesn’t matter. They probably came to the field where they predicted the church would be planted and sat in the grass in the spot where their favorite seat would one day be. Their faith may be well seasoned, but if you do something offensive to them, like accidentally park in their spot or try to add a praise song to your hymns, they will cut you.
Also known as: “The OGs” or “Original Gangsters”
Nemesis: The Changeleones
Signature sentence: “We’ve always done it this way.”

3. The Changeleones
The Changeleones are dedicated to changing things at church. The particular thing doesn’t matter, they simply want to do something different. They are constantly suggesting a change in direction, a shift in mission, a new vision statement, anything that will help the church “reach more young families” or “connect us with this generation.” They are often big on words and small on action, suggesting radical changes and then fading back into the shadows to let other people actually do the work.
Also known as: “The Fadorinis” for their uncanny ability to jump on the latest and greatest fads.
Nemesis: The People from the Old Country
Signature sentence: “We gotta shake things up around here.”

4. The Old Minister Mob
Occasionally, for a variety of reasons, a minister will leave a church. And when he or she does, the Old Minister Mob springs into action. They will regale you with tales about how amazing the old minister was, creating lavish examples of his awesomeness. “The music was just better with the old music minister. He did something with the piano and triangle that few people can. I’m not getting fed the same way with this new Family Life minister. We should bring the old minister back to speak sometime.” They will mount a verbal campaign of grouch and forget all the things they didn’t like about the old minister when he was here. They often suffer from a weird mix of “ex-girlfriend syndrome” and “small Goditis.” They look back on the old minister with rose colored glasses and doubt that God is big enough to use the new minister to whatever purpose He ultimately has in mind. Deep down, they are a good hearted family, but if they channeled the time and energy they spent grumbling, they would have a ridiculously cool impact on the church.
Also known as: “The Grumpilucas”
Nemesis: Any new minister.
Signature sentence: “I fully support the new minister but … .”

It should be noted that the families are not bound by age requirements. Sometimes you’ll find someone from the Old Country family that’s 15 and a Changeleone that’s 82. And it’s possible to have a great Elder. But all of that is starting to change. There is a new family on the scene that is starting to shake things up. A new group spilling into the church that is threatening everything the ruling families hold dear. I am of course talking about the Young Bloods.

The Young Bloods are a new generation of Christian. Whether they just came to faith recently or are having a quiet faith renewed in a loud way doesn’t matter, the results are the same. They are exploding from the inside out. They are walking into churches and coffee houses and colleges across the world and they are changing the face of faith as we know it. They don’t play by the Mafia rules, they live by grace. They don’t get caught up in the politics, they’re too caught up in the passion of God to notice they’re even there. Their faith is messy and fresh and not restricted by a desire to do things differently or do things the same way they’ve always been done. They’re not mounting a revolution, they’re giving in to a surrender. They’re rolling up their sleeves and sharing scars and stories and the overflow of a love that is too big to contain or hoard in one person. And if enough ever get together, if the Young Bloods keep coming, the Church Mafia will never be the same.

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