Devil BookcoverHere are Part 1 and Part 2 of this three part series.

Most people avoid and dislike controversy. Some thrive on and live for it. When disagreements crop up in church, most all will side with those they’ve known the longest: their family… neighbors… those they do business or work with/for, or owe… regardless of truth or the facts. That’s just the way people are. No sense raging against the wind. In the book under review it is debatable who the congregation functionally sided with.

Case In Point: In one church I served, letters were circulated making unfair and untrue accusations toward two staff members. Petitions were taken to Sunday School classes to make them resign. Opinion leaders were told they must address the people causing dissension since I was early in my tenure, but they didn’t though warned of disastrous consequences for the church. Eventually problems boiled over and the deacon body was addressed asserting how the situation transpired was not as important as what should now be done in obedience to the Scripture. If reconciliation wasn’t sought to restore one another in love through repentance, forgiveness, compassion, grace, and mercy the Gospel had been compromised in the congregation and community… and everyone should resign from positions of leadership. It was offered to talk to anyone, anywhere, anytime and answer any question about anything they had been told… beginning that night (No one asked questions… no one requested to meet. Those I contacted refused to discuss anything.). The Deacon officers wanted reconciliation but the Personnel Team refused. The Chairman of Deacons was told, “We don’t want reconciliation or restoration… we want them gone.” Sadly, reconciliation and restoration was not possible, and will eventually bear fruit one way or another (Tomorrow’s post will present a journey of forgiveness).

What should people in the congregation do when their Pastor or ministers are attacked? Joe McKeever suggests they should FIND “The Devil In Pew #7.” Consider what he suggests would be appropriate actions to take:

He begins by recounting a time when as a Pastor he engaged one who was a thorn in his side. To God’s glory the result was good and the threat to the health of the church was stopped. But then Mr. McKeever continues with suggestions for church leaders…

The worst thing members of the congregation can do when a devil sits in the pews is to ignore him, hoping he will go away.

If this is left to the pastor, you’re sunk.

No person should attempt to resolve this alone.

In the first visit, the leadership duo goes with a single question: “What is wrong?” Then, the leadership duo enlarges their team.

If one does not have the courage to step up and speak truth to power–whether that power runs the community or preaches from the pulpit on Sundays–he should decline when nominated for high office within the congregation.

If one is not willing to do everything in his power to protect the ministry of the servant of God and the health of the church, if he wants high office in the congregation for the prestige, let him apologize to God and resign so someone faithful can fill the position.

Church leaders must always be on the alert. They must listen to reports as to what is being taught in classes. They must pay attention to idle chatter in the foyer or hallways prior to or following worship. They should monitor the attendance, the offerings, and other signs which could possibly indicate disaffection within the membership.

Let me add: If your pastor calls on you to address a contentious person or group in the church, do it lovingly for the purpose of reconciliation, restoration, healing, protection of the church, The Gospel, and God’s glory. Otherwise I agree with Pastor McKeever, resign so someone who will be faithful can fill those responsibilities.

More than once I have asserted that unless leaders and people IN THE CHURCH confront “Devils in the pew,” the Spirit will continue to be quenched and Ichabod (“The glory of God has departed” {1 Sam 4:21}) will continue to describe many congregations in America. Church leaders from top to bottom MUST seek for all involved to be restored (Gal 6:1-2), reconciled (2 Cor 5:18), and forgiven (Eph 4:32) in love for God’s glory. Otherwise the name of God will be blasphemed among unbelievers. Tomorrow’s post will conclude this series with a personal journey of forgiving.