In my last article, I offered a real-life example of dysfunction in a church. In case you thought I was speaking about your church, it was a collection of situations I faced, witnessed, or heard about over many years. Some respondents to the piece mentioned the scenario was very real and current to their setting. They understood that the fate of the church was at stake.
Indeed, dysfunction in a church can be deadly. I was member of a vibrant, healthy, growing, missional church during my college years. I could hardly believe that when I returned for my 25thcollege reunion the church had been closed for many years. What could have happened? I was told dissention raised its ugly head. Fights ensued because some wanted “their way or no way”. People gave up and left. The church closed.
Those who responded to part 1 agreed that it was important to confront individuals who regularly oppose the pastor or the church’s decisions. Many said it would be uncomfortable, but for the sake of the kingdom, the person(s) needs to be confronted. One wrote, “Most of my life I would not confront an issue, hoping someone else would speak my thoughts… I learned through experience and study of Scriptures that was not what Christ did.”
When I think of the reasons why we do not confront others, most have to do with our own personal fears: bad experiences, rejection, anger directed at us, not having the right words, failure, not being important enough; fear that we might get angry or cry.
God answers these fears, removing the excuse. “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand (Isaiah 41: 10 NIV).”
That is why prayer must be the first step in confronting another person. The second step was mentioned by many responders. The other person must be approached in love and grace. Many who wrote to me said they would take the time meet with and listen to the individual. Why is this person so afraid of change? What drives their contrarian spirit? Can the person see the effect it has on the church?
Respondents agreed that the contrarian person must be reminded that the church is not theirs. It belongs to God. As such, we must all yield to his will, even when we do not like it. As a Baptist, I believe that God does not speak to his church through only one individual. Rather, the Holy Spirit speaks through the corporate body of the church. This means the vision and mission is discerned and expressed through the body as an entity. That is why members of the body must pray, speak, imagine, listen, debate and decide together what the Spirit of Jesus may be saying.
In the end, it must be God’s will that prevails, for the good of the Church. The body must not fear those who forcefully challenge the decision it makes. Reading the New Testament, we know the church is called to seek and live in unity. We will achieve this when we learn to speak into and listen to each other’s lives, promoting openness and the presence of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes, this may mean confronting someone who brings dissension and division. When we pray, prepare ourselves, listen, speak gently with grace and love, resist attacking and taking personally what is being said, and seek unity and peace, we are working towards God’s desire for his Church.
Suggested reading: Ephesians 4.