Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Problem with Church

It seems like the longer I am in ministry, the more I run into people who have been  hurt by the ministry.  It bothers me that I become associated with a group of people who have hurt others, whether it is by just wearing the name "Christian", or being connected to a group of people close to the wounded.  Everybody seems hurt these days, by the very people who are supposed to bring a message of love and healing.

Some of the causes of this hurt in the church include:

-Hurt feelings: feeling "slighted" over decisions, looked over for ministry positions, or just not being listened to.

-Differences in opinion: whether it's about what color the new paint will be, or how money is spent, or decisions about direction in the church, hurt can ensue when common ground cannot be reached.

-Differences in style: worship, preaching-style, what cookies are served after the service, etc...

-Gossip:  unfortunately there are many "talkers" in churches, and this sin runs deep and rampant.

-Bad theology: sometimes members are made to feel guilty that they are not doing enough, not giving enough, not contributing matter what you do, it is never enough.

-Personality differences:  a church is made up of every different personality known to man (and God).  When you have to work alongside people who may rub you the wrong way, you want to run.  It is hard when these people might be in leadership in the church you go to, because you already may not like them very much, yet they may make decisions that impact you and your family.

-Genuine abuse:  unfortunately in some churches, real abuse happens - whether physically, sexually, emotionally or spiritually.  People hurt in this way may never want to go back to a church (ever), and for understandable reasons.  But God can still heal even our deepest wounds.

If you feel you have been hurt, can you narrow down which of these areas you were hurt by?

There are also generally two types of people in churches: givers and takers.

The givers get involved and contribute, may be involved in small groups, in leadership of some type, and are hopefully excited to be there.  Being a giver is not always better than being a taker, because sometimes we give out of our own selfish needs for approval.  We don't know when to say "no." Sometimes we get involved in ministry when God might actually want us to rest.

The takers come and sit.  They watch.  They may need healing and time, which are good.  But other takers just come and criticize.  They talk to others about it.   They complain.  They are never happy and they are not really interested in contributing anything good.

The fact is, we have all four types of these people in our churches today:

Givers who give with pure hearts; givers who should be resting instead.
Takers who are healing their hearts; takers who are critical and negative.

Which type of person are you?  It is easy to point the finger at the others and say they are the ones causing the problems.  But really - which one are you?

If it is a time to rest, then rest.  But don't get too comfortable. We need you, but only after God has started to heal your heart.

If it is a time to work, then work with all your heart.  Do it for the Lord, not for others. Because I'm telling you right now, that others will disappoint you.  People in the church are just as broken and sinful as those outside the church, and you will get hurt.  I guarantee you.  But what will you do with that hurt?  Will you be bitter and broken forever?  Or will you turn your eyes back on Jesus and let him heal your heart?

The church has no hope if we continue to keep our focus on each other.  We are broken and bruised, and we hurt each other. Our only hope is to keep our eyes on Jesus, ask Him to heal our hearts and not become bitter, and allow him to use our brokenness for His glory.

Lord, help us not to become the hurt or the hurters.  For we do not often know what pain our actions may cause others.  Let us not focus on ourselves and our own pain, but on you and the pain you endured so that we could have the privilege of worshipping you.  Help us to have your perspective, God.

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