I’ve Got A Friend: Whose Been Burned By Church
Is it possible to spend one’s life in the church and not be disappointed in someone else in the church? Or, worse yet, to be deeply hurt by someone in the church? As of this writing I am 72 years old and have spent 53 years in professional ministry. I have served as a youth minister, a church consultant, a Christian University professor, an Associate Minister and, for 32 years, a Senior Pastor/Preacher. A church I lead in Ohio grew from about 700 to over 1600 in seven years. Most of the churches I dealt with had 400-600 attendees on a typical Sunday morning. I am safe in saying that I have known 1000s of people in my ministry. Did we have some very, very difficult people to deal with? You better believe it. I doubt that anyone could cook up a scenario that I have not seen once or twice in various churches I have served. I will also say this: the very best, gracious, kind, generous, loveable people I know have all been part of the church.
Monday…Are there some hypocrites in the church? No…not in the real church, the Body of Christ. Yes…if we mean by the question that there are some who fake it and actually attend, but inside where it counts they do not know or follow Christ. This is a crucial difference in dealing with people who have been hurt by a church or church member. I doubt that one could find a single Christian who has not been disappointed to one degree or another by another Christian… or one who at least wears the label, “Christian.” Remember that the book of Jude and II Peter 2 and a great deal of Acts 20 was written to warn Christians about the incursion of people into the church who were/are up to no good. Do not let this discourage you! And, if you have a friend who has been hurt, remind them that the Devil is active in counterfeiting!
Tuesday…We live in a time when people are ‘offended.’ To be ‘offended’ is taken as some great tragedy. I am saying this: if someone is allowing a so-called ‘hypocrite’ to come between them and God…then the ‘hypocrite’ is closer to God than they are. I know people have legitimate gripes and concerns, but I have little patience with those who criticize everything and everyone else without noticing their own problems and sins. (I think I just corrected myself!) Let me be very serious: sometimes we have to remind people that the universe does not revolve around them and their feelings are not reliable and certainly not any reason to drift from God. See Matthew 11:6 and remember that Jesus went to the cross for you and for your friend who may have an issue with another church member.
Wednesday…Are there toxic churches? You bet there are! Some of the cults come to mind, especially Scientology which has been under the microscope as of late. The Methodist church is slowly drifting into serious Biblical problems as they capitulate on the whole issue of ‘gay’ clergy and ‘gay marriage.’ These churches, along with the super legalistic churches are quite capable of hurting feelings. My advice: get out of any church which does not strictly adhere to Biblical teaching and understand the balance between truth and grace. Matthew 24:35.
Thursday…A youth minister told me recently that a few people in his youth group were offended when he spoke against premarital sexual activity. Guess why they were offended? Can the Gospel…the truth of God’s Word offend people? Sure can. Can the messenger of Christ be an offense to those who insist on their sin? Sure he/she can. In this scenario, your friend who is angry or hurt in some way may have an obvious recourse: repentance. I John 1:9.
Friday…The church…the true church…is under attack and at war. The Devil is real and he knows that the church is God’s institution through which people can hear the truth, be delivered from their sin, have fellowship with Christ and His people and eventually be taken to Heaven to live with Christ for eternity. No wonder the Devil hates the church! No wonder he invites people to look for reasons to be hurt, upset, angry and dismissive of the church. Christians must stand strong. And we must help those who have been hurt in some way find their way to forgiveness, reconciliation and joy. by Dale Holzbauer