Speak the Truth in Love

I've been thinking more and more about my recent conversation with my minister. My last post focused on my reactions to it. I was more confused and frustrated with church afterwards than I was going in. Later, I prayed earnestly about it and gained some (much needed) perspective from God on it, but I've thought more and more about what he said during that lunch.

He shared about his frustrations in getting help. I was critical of his being a one man show and he felt like he's been trying to get people involved and get their opinions, but has gotten little back. Now, I may disagree on how well he's sought that input, but I could see how he felt he was and how it was frustrating to him. I realized since then that I've been critical of his shortcomings, but I haven't been trying to help him overcome them like I should. He has weaknesses in terms of communication and confronting people. That's what I've been critical of him for, and rightfully so I think. But I realized that he's kind of been alone in that folks don't come challenge him on this kind of stuff much, if at all. If they do speak up, they (like me) may like to complain and attack, but they don't go to him and confront him on it and work with him to help him change it. When he and I talked, I heard a man who loves God and His church and who's trying to figure stuff out too. He's trying to lead, but without a real support system, just folks like me throwing rocks (or talking behind his back). He's got weaknesses and needs folks to confront them. I've apologized to him for my critical heart and I've decided to be that person for him.

On a bigger picture, I've realized that our church has developed a 'hands off' culture. Where we in the ICOC used to be intimately involved with each other, we no longer are. I've seen people hurting with no one stepping in to comfort them, stand by them and help them or help them find help. I've seen situations where two people have a disagreement, but there's no resolution. They complain about it to others, sometimes anonymously and sometimes not, but when told to go try to work it out they don't want to. In other cases, it's one person seeing the sin of another, complaining about it or even gossiping. But when told to confront the person, they will not go either. In both situations the people involved say that it's not worth it to confront. It will turn out badly or it hurts too much to deal with. I've told brothers before that I'll go with them, back them up, but they still won't go. I know that it hurts to think about confronting someone and about how badly it might go, but the damage to individuals and the church his enormous when we don't. The feelings fester and grow and destroy what God has given us. Worse, it cultivates a culture of judgment, distrust and disunity, all enemies of God's church.

On the other hand, when we gather up the courage to go and confront a difficult and painful situation, amazing healing can happen. In fact, the outcome is usually so much more than we can imagine that we are left to only stand in awe of God. What was an adversarial situation or a distant relationship can turn into best of friends. What was divisive become uniting. I've found that most of the time, when I confront someone who loves God on their sin, they are so amazingly grateful that I cared enough to challenge them that I'm left to wonder why I was so hesitant. They are longing, desperately it seems, to have someone speak the truth to them in love (Ephesians 4). Sometimes it does go badly, and it hurts. But even then, I can be somewhat satisfied and content because I did something.

I wish I knew how to change this culture in my church. I suspect know that there is no magic switch. We can teach on this and instruct people (and need to more, I think), but it will take a decision on each individual's heart to pursue this change. What I can do is commit myself to lovingly confronting the sin I see in my brother's life, address the hurts with those who have hurt me and aggressively pursue reconciliation at all times. In that, hopefully I can make a difference.


4 Comments

Wonderful words, Salguod. After a recent family problem between one of my siblings and my parents, my other sister and I decided to start praying for different things for our family.

I started to pray for forgiveness in our family and my sister decided to pray against pride in our family. What is interesting about this is that in the end, I was led to realize a need for me to forgive some things and my sister was led to her own pride. As usual, God is telling us, "Remove the log from your own eye, before trying to remove your neighbor's."

It's human nature to be able to see so clearly someone else's sins, but ours aren't always as transparent to us. That is something that I think all congregations struggle with because some people aren't as self-actualized as yourself.

I would also like to say that it is likely that being a pastor is often very isolating. It is always good for him to have that one good friend who will stand up alongside him and offer support and maybe give him another perspective.

In this day and age, few people are willing to do anything more than the minimum of what they can get away with, but thankfully, there are those people like yourself who can see beyond and are willing to step out onto the ledge and take a risk.

Your comments are moving. I really appreciate your constant searching of your own heart, and checking your own placing. The scripture says to not think of yourself more highly than you ought, and to put the needs of others above your own (paraphrased). I deeply am caring about you and the things that go on there in Columbus (as you may well know), and am grateful for your blog. I too face a situation where the members of the fellowship (in general, not each individual) don't really deal with their heart at all. From the pulpit, sin is ignored, unless it is false doctrines (of which he magnificently preaches). In several occasions, I have pointed out sin to an individual, and you'd think that I was walking around with out a head or something. Then, I'd bring it to the elders attention, and then it would stop right there. I have approached several people on sin confession, and have gotten mixed responses. One said, yes we need to do that, while the other admonished me and said that sin confession is how gossip and factions get started. Yikes. Anyway, I see that my only option is to love, and PRAY. It is God's battle. It is He who will change the hearts (if it is His will, and if it is not, ask Him to change His will, Abraham did it) of his people. It is His battle. Yes we need to constantly water, plant, and so on, but it will always be God who makes it grow. I think about the situation of your relationship with your minister. Sometimes we just need to pray that the Father wil lift the weights off of our eye's and heart, as well as yours, and you are both sure to succeed spiritually. It's all about the relationships!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Paul,

Thanks for your kind words and encouragement. I think that the situation there, as you've described it here and in our other conversations, sounds different than the one here. In you fellowship it seems that there is a desire to not talk about or be confronted on sin. Here, I get the impression that folks long to deal with it but that we aren't. We used to, but it was not out of genuine love, but duty. Now that the obligation is gone we have to figure out how to foster the genuine love that will bring this about. It's a generalization, but seems to ring true.

Good article, Doug. You are the coolest.

I have found similar things with the minister of my church and the leader of a small church in another city. I think the worst thing I had to sit through was a meeting where twelve people tried to tell my minister how to preach a sermon. Brutual.

In most places of the former ICC, I truly believe that the hands-off culture is firmly entrenched. This presents all kinds of issues like you describe - in particular, leaders become more isolated. It used to be that they tended to be isolated AND insulated. Now, they are just on their own and completely alone.

In some places, I don't know how they do it. Ministers that I know outside the ICC have told me how lonely their jobs are, so it doesn't surprise me it's happening with 'us'.

Still, dealing with sin is a touchy situation anywhere and members are just as prone to be hands-off. It seems folks are aware of how 'not'to confront sin, but not really willing to do it the right way.

The hardest thing for me, is to find a place to be able to deal with my sin without making myself or others codependent in order to deal with sin. In other words, I've been given a duty for so long, it is tempting to find someone that will expect it to be my duty again because it is what I know and understand.



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  • Good article, Doug. You are the coolest. I have found similar things with the minister of my church and the leader of a small church in another city. I think the worst thing I had to sit through was a meeting where twel...

  • Paul, Thanks for your kind words and encouragement. I think that the situation there, as you've described it here and in our other conversations, sounds different than the one here. In you fellowship it seems that the...

  • Your comments are moving. I really appreciate your constant searching of your own heart, and checking your own placing. The scripture says to not think of yourself more highly than you ought, and to put the needs of ot...

  • Wonderful words, Salguod. After a recent family problem between one of my siblings and my parents, my other sister and I decided to start praying for different things for our family. I started to pray for forgiveness...

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