Yesterday I posted about churches and some of the problems I know… some problems I’ve heard of… and some I’ve experienced. Readers from yesterday may wonder why I didn’t give the other side of the story about ministers who conduct themselves improperly. Well, those are pretty much widely known, so I took the approach of being “equal time” in my post.
Yet the question arises… How should difficult church/minister relations be handled? At this point I’d like to make a few suggestions… from experience and observation. First the Scripture…
1 Timothy 5:19 Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses.
Galatians 6:1 Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
Romans 2:24 The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.
Paul writes in 1 Timothy 5 that there must be… EVIDENCE. Not hearsay, not rumors, not gossip… EVIDENCE that an Elder (Called minister of the church) has committed some act that is worthy (explained below) of being disciplined or… as happens in many churches… forced to leave or terminated. The EVIDENCE must come from TWO or THREE who have WITNESSED the event in question. Now let’s take that a step further…
In America the accused has the right to be confronted by his accusers. He is also presumed innocent until proven guilty. He also has the right to give his side of the story about the event or situation. Yet it has been my experience (Did you catch that… “my experience“) that the accusers prefer to manipulate the system. “Wtinesses” don’t want to step up and go public with their accusation. They prefer to not put all their cards on the table. They don’t want or seek reconciliation or restoration, they want their way regaardless of Scriptural mandates. They prefer to work behind the scenes with threats rather than bring everything (!) into the light. That attitude and practice is an affront to God… Christ… and the Scriptures. Not only that, it just ain’t right! Shouldn’t the church AT LEAST practice the same as the world when it comes to accusations… in other words be able to confront those accusing them, be presumed innocent till proven guilty, and be able to give their side of the story?
Aside: What are offenses worthy of dismissal? Sexual Immorality, Embezzlement, and Doctrinal Heresy. Excluding those, I’m of the opinion that all others can be worked through and settled without causing undue harm to the Name of Christ… the Christian Faith… and the reputation of the local church in question. The eventual conclusion may mean a change of ministry positions, but not without attempts to help restore the minister and rectify the situation.
In Galatians 6 Paul gives clear direction regarding ATTITUDE when difficult situations arise. The goal is RESTORATION. And it is to be done GENTLY (Which is very rare in church situations). Not only is the meeting between two parties to be gentle rather than confrontational or accusatory… those confronting the minister must have first examined themselves (“Keep watch on yourselves”). In what way should they have gone through self-examination?
They need to make sure there’s not a log in their own eye before they accuse someone else.
They need to contemplate if they are part of the problem.
They need to determine if there have been attempts to help the minister prior to the “final option” of firing him.
They must have a godly motivation to HELP the minister rather than getting rid of a problem.
They must make very sure that what they do is being done in keeping with the Scripture and admonition of love.
They must make very sure that their goal is to glorify God in what they are doing.
They must make very sure they are willing to help the minister (“Bear one another’s burdens”).
After going through this check list diligently, only then can they prayerfully approach the minister with respect.
But all that takes work doesn’t it? All that seems to be too hard… right? After all, “Can a leopard change his spots?” No… but God can. Remember, “With God all things are possible.”
My hope is that somewhere, somehow, sometime, SOMEONE will read this and at least think through how they deal with difficult church/minister relationships. After all, if they aren’t handled in a Godly manner, the name of God is blasphemed (Romans 2:24)…