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Antagonists in the Church: How to Identify and Deal with Destructive Conflict

Video:  “Antagonists are real.” Firsthand accounts by five people who learned how to deal with antagonists through this book.

Who Are Antagonists?

Antagonists are individuals who, on the basis of nonsubstantive evidence, go out of their way to make insatiable demands, usually attacking the person or performance of others. These attacks are selfish in nature, tearing down rather than building up, and are often directed against those in a leadership capacity. (from chapter 2, “What Is Church Antagonism?”)

The Purpose of This Book

The purpose of the book Antagonists in the Church is to equip church staff and lay leaders with the knowledge and skills to confront antagonists, put a stop to the kind of conflict that harms God’s people and their mission, and prevent antagonists from attacking in the first place. With that knowledge and skill comes hope for congregations and their leaders—hope for ministry to thrive throughout the church, without fear of being disrupted by antagonism.


What Readers Are Saying about Antagonists in the Church

Read what pastors are saying.

“This book really opened my eyes! It showed me that typical conflict management tools and techniques don’t work with antagonists—it takes a totally different approach to deal with them.”

Rev. Lynn Upchurch | Charlotte, North Carolina

“Whatever questions or problems you have in dealing with an antagonist, Antagonists in the Church will give you the answers.”

Rev. Doug MaGinn | Fairfield Glade, Tennessee

“Dr. Haugk broke new ground in the field of conflict by acknowledging the existence of antagonism and giving sage advice on how to counter it. Antagonists in the Church is a lifeline for church leaders.”

Rev. Alston Johnson | Shreveport, Louisiana

Antagonists in the Church is not only a great how-to book—it’s also a great why-to book.”

Rev. Noni Porter | Sun Lakes, Arizona

“If you ever have an antagonist in your church—and I pray you don’t—this book will tell you what you absolutely need to do.”

Rev. Robert Price | El Dorado Hills, California

“I’ve been doing conflict mediation and transformation work with congregations for most of my ministerial life. With Antagonists in the Church, I’m able to offer churches an established method for handling extreme kinds of conflict.”

Dr. Gordon Myers | Rocky River, Ohio

Read what lay leaders are saying.

“A fantastic book—both as a preventive learning tool in peaceful times and as a strong defense when facing an attack.”

Sarah Barber | Blue Springs, Missouri

“The techniques and skills in this book can be used anywhere. It’s a real treasure!”

Victor Matthews | Novelty, Ohio

“Antagonism needs to be handled with as much wisdom as you can possibly muster. Antagonists in the Church gives you that wisdom.”

Laura Denham | Houston, Texas

Antagonists in the Church is a powerful tool to help the church become healthier, more joyful, and more loving. I’ve given a number of copies of this book as a gift to other leaders in my church.”

Donna Grovesteen | Bloomington, Illinois

“The words ‘Silent people kill churches’ really struck me as I read this book. In the past, I wouldn’t have said anyting. Now I will.”

Jeni Smoot | Colorado Springs, Colorado

Antagonists in the Church is a great book for reading and discussing with a group. When everybody is on the same page, you get a broader perspective and strength in numbers.”

Barb Holzhauer | Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Learn More

Frequently Asked Questions

Does this book take a “tough love” approach to antagonists?

Antagonistic individuals require a firm response. Because of this, one of the subjects discussed in this book is the need to confront the antagonist. This does include what people often call tough love, but it’s tempered with care and hope. The steps you take in dealing with antagonists are indeed done out of love—love for the antagonist and for the entire congregation.

Do people give this book to someone who is dealing with an antagonist right now?

They do. One pastor wrote us: “A friend from seminary gave me a copy of Antagonists in the Church because he knew I was under attack. It spoke exactly to what I was experiencing and gave me practical advice and hope that I could make it through.”

Passing along a copy of this book is a great way to help when a friend or colleague is suffering from an antagonist’s attacks.

Do churches ever use this book before an antagonist strikes?

Yes—in fact, that’s the best time to use this book! When church staff and lay leaders become fully aware of how damaging antagonists can be, they use this book—especially the chapters on prevention—to create an environment where antagonism is much less likely to occur in the first place.

What makes this book groundbreaking?

Before Antagonists in the Church, people simply didn’t talk about antagonism. Books and articles on conflict resolution didn’t address the reality that with some people, reaching a peaceful solution was impossible. As a pastor and clinical psychologist, Kenneth Haugk heard countless stories from pastors, lay leaders, denomination officials, seminarians, and their spouses who saw firsthand how antagonists grievously wounded individuals, marriages, families, and congregations. Recognizing a real need, he researched the subject extensively, conducted workshops on church antagonism, and interviewed many pastors and lay leaders to develop Antagonists in the Church—which brought the painful subject of antagonists out into the open.

Does this book present a one-size-fits-all approach to dealing with antagonists?

No. Kenneth Haugk recognizes that different situations call for different approaches, so he provides a wide variety of practical methods for dealing with antagonists, as well as ideas for handling people whose behavior is severely antagonistic, somewhat antagonistic, or somewhere in between. You can adapt the ideas in the book to fit your own style and strengths—and your particular situation.