Please note: This message is not for those who are in leadership, starting a church, preparing to start a church or who are in ministry and unable to go to a church every week, or for those who are in-between churches and waiting for the Lord to reveal to them where they need to go. It is also not for those who are dealing with genuine church hurt or abusive leadership. This is for those who truly do not believe they need to be a part of church at all, in any context.
And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him. –Colossians 3:17 (KJV)
And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men – Colossians 3:22 (KJV)
I was not planning on writing anything today. I have been working on a website remodel/update and I want to finish that, and anyone who does anything having to do with web design knows how incredibly time consuming web design can be. I am observing things, however, and I can’t be silent. I have to speak about what I am seeing because I wouldn’t be a leader if I didn’t. Already for too long, we are going silent on these matters. We are letting them fester and infest and go further and further until they have infected the church so severely, we are now divided on matters.
It would appear that, if we look at Facebook, YouTube, other social media sites, and often our own churches, that it is impossible to have a conversation about anything church-related. I believe the reason for this is because we, as a church, have wandered so far away from the order and authority we are supposed to have, none of us know our place anymore. We believe that because we think we can hear from God (note I said “think we can hear from God”– I know too many people who think God’s voice sounds a lot like theirs” that means we have the right to quarrel and argue, defending what we think we know,when all-too-often, the loudest noisemakers are those who do not know anything at all.
I am standing in the center, looking around, as raging debates representing extremes are found all around me. Nobody steps back and tries to see a balanced viewpoint or maybe come away with a different perspective; they just want to further their own…whether they can back it up, or not.
To which I ask why – and unto who – do you do what you do?
One such debate I recently saw that quickly escalated out of control was one that started over a picture that gave a sentence or two as to why the individual quoted is no longer going to church. There was no context given to the statement in the picture. Those of us looking at it have no idea what really happened to the individual in the picture, nor did it let us know the entire story behind the statement. Those who commented under the picture in agreement stated similar reasons for their own justifications for not going to church: abusive leaders, feeling like they didn’t fit in or were not welcomed,disagreement with teaching, feeling like the pastor played “favorites,” and the major gold-mine of the debate: the belief that somehow the pastor’s “interpretation”of teaching was incorrect, and the pastor did not align with what the individual thought was true. There was no respect,nor honor, for leadership in this discussion. These individuals clearly felt that because they didn’t get their way,they weren’t going to go to church anymore. Instead, they were going to stay at home and “figure” it all out on their own, what was true and what was not. They were going to “do it right,” whereas the entire church world has it all wrong.
Nobody suggested maybe we should pray for those hurt by the church or by authority in the church. The debate was totally over whether it was acceptable or not to stop attending church.
When someone came into the debate and argued that we do not have the right to just disconnect from the Body – and affirmed that it is understandable to be hurt, but that does not mean we can just do whatever we want on our own – that individual was met with Bible verses taken out of context, including those that speak of not fellowshiping with non-believer sand coming out from Babylon and being separate. People also provided their “laundry list” of things that they defined as“fellowship” and how much better those things were than church.
But…this is not Babylon…this is not non-believers…this is Church…um….I agree the church is not perfect, but, really…if you stay home long enough, nobody’s going to measure up to where you think you are.
And, while I am on it….You’re not having fellowship with “non-believers”because you are supposed to be “separate”…well who decided you were the one that is “right” and needs to separate? Is it at all possible that you are causing division in the Body and maybe…oh my God…YOU are the one who is wrong?
I must admit that I knew at least four of the people involved in the debate and at least two of the four were totally unqualified to stay at home and “figure” out the Word. They are not called to ministry, they are people who need leadership ina serious way, and the evidence of that was this discussion. Two of them I’d reached out to in non-Church related “fellowship” and for whatever reason, both of them bailed on me – so they don’t get to “complain” as far as I am concerned. In my experience, I didn’t throw them out or tell them they didn’t measure up, they pulled away to justify their own isolationism (because they knew if they get in the room with me, suddenly all the stuff they think won’t be so “right” anymore).
There is nothing wrong with authority. We need to stop acting like there is something inherently wrong with acknowledging God gifts people differently,leadership gifts are gifts, and that some people are leaders, and some people aren’t. If you’re not a leader, you can have a personal relationship with God, you can learn from God, you can hear from God, but you are not qualified to decide what’s true for the entire world. You are not in a position to decide, all on your own, what dictates “light” and “darkness.” That’s not your job. If you really feel something that’s taught is in error, it is your place to go to your leader and ask for clarification or show clarification, not throw a big fit on the internet. Maybe instead of sitting in the pew, angry because other people get promoted and you don’t, you should show some loyalty and knowledge of the Word and offer to do something to help out. You don’t get to run the church from the pew; that is just not going to happen. And as I recall from the Word, it’s a humble heart and a right spirit that proves whether or not you are ready for promotion, not an arrogant one that demands your own way. Maybe the reasons you are running into problems in church has nothing to do with doctrinal differences, but simple pride.
I’ve been a leader for seventeen years and I assure you, try it for a few days and let me know if you still view your leaders the same way. I am sure that after dealing with some of what we do, you would be quite content to just sit in the pew and be respectful and obedient.
Instead of blaming the reason you are distant from church on leaders, maybe you need to look inside of yourself and ask why you can’t find anywhere to attend that measures up to your own standards. It’s not that you are anointed or so special,it’s that you are just out of order.
I don’t question that abusive leaders exist, but I think we need to step back and re-evaluate just what it means to be “abusive.” Promoting people who show they are ready for promotion and not promoting trouble-makers and other individuals who just don’t act right because they aren’t getting their way is not abusive. It’s not abusive to train those who are competent for leadership and not train you if you are acting all kinds of incompetent. Being a leader means sometimes we have to make difficult decisions and while I am truly sorry to all of those who feel somehow slighted, I speak on behalf of all leaders when I say that it is irresponsible to let someone who thinks they know everything run wild with what is taught or what is done in church when there is no such evidence they are qualified to do so.
It’s also very easy to play “a verse for a verse” and feel you have a verse that proves something wrong, with no context or understanding behind it. Instead of using the Word as a weapon, maybe it would be wiser to step back and listen a little bit to gain some context.
Lastly, if you are unhappy at the church you are in or have attended, there isn’t a shortage of ministries and churches to attend. Find something else instead of being distant from the Body. There really isn’t an excuse for such an attitude. I don’t believe “church” has to be all about a Sunday service. There are church services, Bible studies,groups, and beyond – perfect for any situation that exists out there and for any type of search. There is no excuse for staying at home, all by yourself, and interpreting things however you darn well please.
God has put us in the Body of Believers for our own benefit:to keep us together, unified, on the right path, and in His purpose and plans for us. The Body of Christ is a socializing experience: where we learn about others, where we are to grow and change, and where we learn, just as in any family, that we don’t always get our own way all the time. I have certainly been in places where I did not feel welcomed, and I made a point to go on to a place where I did find that feeling of welcoming. Churches, ministries, studies, etc. are still full of people and that means they don’t always act right – but it also means that we go on to a better answer, we don’t just stop everything all together and sit around by ourselves.
So, to those who aren’t going to church because it’s not going your way – why do you go to church in the first place? Are you going to worship God, or are you going to be seen of men? Maybe this debate reveals more of your own hearts than it does the issues in the church. If you are going for God, if you are a part of this for God, then you will find somewhere to go because God will guide you. You will be open to the Spirit’s voice and let Him guide you. Let God arise…and do what you do unto Him…instead of trying to be seen of men.
© 2014 Lee Ann B. Marino. All rights reserved.