On this Veterans Day, I want to especially remember my father who served as an electronics technician on the destroyer, USS Robison, during the Vietnam War. While many tried to avoid military service during the Vietnam era, my dad volunteered. My dad was not a big guy, nor was he (physically speaking) the toughest guy, but there’s a lot to praise about my dad – and not just his military service. More than any other individual, my father taught me the virtues of family, sincerity, patriotism, sticking up for what’s right, facing your fears, and honoring one’s commitments. He’s with the Lord now, having departed this life at the young age of 49 back in 1992. I miss you, Dad. You and Mom will always be my heroes!
According to the book of Genesis, God created the “heavens and the earth” (and all life on the earth) in six days. He then rested on the seventh. Several atheists have mocked this biblical claim, saying that an all-powerful God shouldn’t need six days to create anything, no matter how complex it might be. Therefore, they argue the Bible is ridiculous and God probably doesn’t even exist.
An example of this line of reasoning is Yahoo Contributor REPuckett who, in 2010, wrote “Top 50 Questions Christians Can’t Answer.” I don’t know REPuckett (that’s his Yahoo name) personally. He may be a great family man. He may be a compassionate person with a big heart. He may be quite smart. In no way do I mean to insult him personally, but the reasoning he employs in his article is comical at times. His “logic” hardly rises above first grade level, and that’s probably an insult to first graders everywhere. Quite frankly, I wish REPuckett’s list of questions were the toughest questions Christians had to try answering. Evangelism would be so much easier were that the case.
One doesn’t need to read very far into REPuckett’s article to see what I mean. In fact, the very first question is among the finer examples of the shallow, childish, fallacious reasoning he employs. His first question: “If God is omnipotent (all-powerful), why did he take six days to create everything? Why not speak everything into existence all at once?”
If REPuckett were alone in asking this, we could safely ignore it, since it really isn’t a serious objection to Christianity. But REPuckett isn’t alone. Yahoo! Answers which (sometimes disturbingly) illustrates the questions and topics on the minds of many Internet surfers has quite a few people asking the same question. One words it this way: “What sort of pathetic all powerful being needs 6 days to create the universe?” Given that this question is on the minds of at least some folks in worldwide cyberspace, we’ll tackle it here in this blog.
Did God Need Six Days to Create the Universe?
There’s of course considerable debate over how to interpret the “six days” of Genesis. But even if you are among those Christians who reject Young Earth Creationism (YEC) and its adherence to the traditional interpretation of Genesis, the objection behind the question remains. If God used evolution (or some form of evolution) to mold the universe and then the earth over billions of years (instead of six days), then the question becomes: “If God is all-powerful, why did He need billions of years to create the universe?” So, let’s work with the six days in our answer, which is…
Just because Creation took six days doesn’t mean the Creator needed six days. If an author takes six months to write a novel, does that mean she needed six months? Perhaps, with enough motivation or with making the right choices in her schedule, she could’ve finished the novel in six weeks – or even in six days. Maybe she wanted to take six months because she wanted to enjoy the process of writing and not rush through it. This would be similar to someone who takes a half hour to eat a steak, savoring each delicious bite, rather than scarf it down in sixty seconds! There could be any number of reasons or factors why a person takes a certain amount of time to create or do something. One need not conclude the only reason for the time spent was the inability to complete the task sooner.
That God took six days to create the universe hardly demonstrates that He needed six days to do so. God most certainly could have created the universe in six seconds – or six milliseconds! God chose to take six days to do the work.
Why Did it Take God Six Days to Create the Universe?
Many skeptics will then ask: “Well….why?” If God didn’t need six days, why did He take six days to create the universe? And many Christians will foolishly jump to the defensive, believing they have to provide an answer to this. They don’t.
The truth is we don’t know (nor do we need to know) why God took six days to create the universe. The Mosaic Law refers to the six-day Creation process and God resting on the seventh day as the basis for the six-day work week. Was this partly the reason for God taking six days and resting on the seventh? Perhaps. In fact, one might even say “Probably.” Was it the only reason? Probably not.
But here’s the most important point: Just because we don’t know why God took six days to create the universe doesn’t mean there isn’t an answer, nor does it mean God is without His reasons. And it certainly doesn’t mean God is a myth! I don’t always know the reasons why the President does certain things that he does, but this doesn’t mean there aren’t reasons. It certainly doesn’t mean the President is a myth and doesn’t exist!
I tend to think God took six days to create the universe, because He wanted to! And that’s all I need to know. I really don’t care why God took six days. It’s His call. He’s the Creator. If He wants to take six days…so be it.
The bottom line is God is all-powerful and that means He can do what He wants for His own reasons. Our ability to understand those reasons and/or His decision not to share said reasons with us has nothing whatsoever to do with the truth of God’s existence or His role in the Creation process.
Anyone who disciplines his or her mind to adhere to a positive outlook on life and a deep and abiding sense of belief and faith will experience greater success and happiness than those who live in doubt, fear, or anxiety. This is something which is true for every person in every part of the world, regardless of the specific religious belief system he or she embraces. It’s true for Christians, Deists, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, and even atheists and agnostics. It’s also true for those who don’t know what they believe when it comes to God or religion. Belief has great power in and of itself. Some Christians have denied this, while others have suffered a faith crisis upon realizing it. The purpose of this article is to show that neither response is justified.
The Power of Human Belief
Those with strong belief and/or faith will generally go much further in life and enjoy that life much more fully than those without such faith or belief. This is true even if the object of their belief and/or faith is in themselves, other people, a cause or country, or an inanimate object. And this truth has been affirmed for centuries by so many philosophers, religious teachers, leaders, authors, and everyday men and women that it’s foolish for anyone today to try to refute it. Nevertheless, a good reminder being in order, here are some quotes on the power of belief:
- “What we are today comes from our thoughts of yesterday, and our present thoughts build our life of tomorrow: Our life is the creation of our mind.” -Gautama Buddha
- “Our life is what our thoughts make it.” -Marcus Aurelius
- “We can’t have full knowledge all at once. We must start by believing; then afterwards we may be led on to master the evidence for ourselves.” -Thomas Aquinas
- “The outer conditions of a person’s life will always be found to reflect their inner beliefs.” -James Allen
- “In any project the important factor is your belief. Without belief there can be no successful outcome.” -William James
- “By thought, the thing you want is brought to you. By action, you receive it.” -Wallace Wattles
- “Man, alone, has the power to transform his thoughts into physical reality; man, alone, can dream and make his dreams come true.” -Napoleon Hill
- “If I have the belief that I can do it, I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it even if I may not have it at the beginning.” -Mahatma Gandhi
- “You become what you think about most of the time.” -Earl Nightingale
- “You must understand that seeing is believing, but also know that believing is seeing.” -Denis Waitley
- “Beliefs have the power to create and the power to destroy. Human beings have the awesome ability to take any experience of their lives and create a meaning that disempowers them or one that can literally save their lives.” -Anthony Robbins
Disclaimers being unfortunately necessary in this day and age when people so often respond without taking the time to understand, let me make very clear that, with the exception of Thomas Aquinas, I don’t subscribe to the religious creed or worldview of any of the above individuals whom I’ve quoted. (Anthony Robbins has claimed to be a Christian, but his teachings are closer to New Age Thought or Deism than biblical Christianity. The others either hold religious views unknown to me or are contrary to my own).
Unlike some of my Christian friends, I believe we can learn some wisdom from non-Christians. When I go to the doctor, for example, I want a diagnosis and treatment to the illness or health issue with which I’m dealing. While I care for my doctor’s eternal soul, when it comes to my medical treatment, I care more for her competence than her spiritual faith or her belief in the Bible. I feel this same way when it comes to business, economics, sports, etc. as well as (to some extent) matters of entertainment and/or general philosophy. For this reason, I can agree with Buddha when he says that our life today is greatly influenced by our thoughts and beliefs of yesterday, even while disagreeing with many of his other teachings. I can learn some things about mindset, business performance, etc. from folks like Tony Robbins, Brian Tracy, and Denis Waitley without endorsing (or even fully understanding) their religious views. The idea that we can only learn from and should only listen to those individuals with whom we agree fully on every point is ludicrous.
With that disclaimer stipulated (and hopefully understood by all my readers), most religions and most self-help and personal development thought leaders from all of human history agree that there is inherent power in belief (in and of itself). And they are right…even if we’re not talking about Christian belief specifically.
Consider, as but one example, the power of the placebo. The so-called “placebo effect” is when patients have experienced noticeable improvement in their health as a result of treatments which they believed would be effective, even though the treatments (in and of themselves) contained no scientific or medical properties to make them effective. The placebo effect, of course, cannot boast a 100% success rate, but there are too many instances of real success to dismiss it as mere coincidence.
The fact is that belief itself has real power.
Does the Inherent Power of Belief Undermine the Uniqueness of Christian Faith?
Many Christians are uncomfortable with (and some are downright resistant to) this idea that Belief = Power. This is unfortunate and it betrays the fact that many people today are incapable of or unwilling to engage in critical thought and analysis. There are different forms of belief and different levels of success. When it comes to successfully asking someone out on a date, doing well on a job interview, raising money for a business venture, or even (more generally) developing a positive outlook on life, belief indeed has power! No Christian should deny this. A non-Christian with a strong sense of self-confidence and a disciplined, positive mindset will do better on a job interview than a Christian who believes in God, Jesus, the Bible, etc. but who suffers from a poor self-image and has a negative outlook on life.
When Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, he based the logic of the Founders’ reasoning (which was their explanation and justification for rebelling against Great Britain) on the “Laws of Nature and Nature’s God.” Specifically, he referred to “rights” and “self-evident truths” that stem from said Laws. If we agree with Jefferson (and a great many other social and political philosophers) that there is such a thing as natural law, then we accept that God has woven into the fabric of reality itself certain laws, like the Law of Gravity, the Law of Causality, and (to some extent) the Law of Attraction. Want biblical support for the Law of Attraction? Look no further than the book of Proverbs. Here are just three verses from Proverbs which address its basic premise…
- “For as [a man] thinketh in his heart, so is he…” -Proverbs 23:7a
- “Death and life are in the power of the tongue…” -Proverbs 18:21a
- “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.” -Proverbs 17:21
I find much of what has been written concerning the “Law of Attraction” to be bogus, especially the idea that we are responsible for everything that happens to us (as some purveyors of the Law of Attraction maintain) and that there’s this universal, impersonal Force (ala Star Wars) which guarantees the effectiveness of this Law of Attraction.
What is true about the Law of Attraction is that people can and do influence the circumstances around them as well as the attitudes and behavior of others via their own thoughts and attitudes. In this way, we do tend to attract (to at least some extent) a kind of life that reflects what our minds consistently think about and dwell on. This is common sense and, in no way, does it undermine Christianity. On the contrary, it affirms the teachings of the Bible itself. But the Law of Attraction is not the only level of belief or success.
When it comes to getting into Heaven, I would never encourage readers to look to Buddha or Tony Robbins. Strong belief in and of itself may have some power in helping you increase your income, get a better education, or live a better life on this earth, but belief(s) in yourself and/or in others and/or in some human cause can’t dictate spiritual reality.
This is true for everyone. Sometimes, professing Christians are the worst when it comes to extolling the virtues of Faith and Belief. Frank Turek, co-author of I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist, bemoans the fact that many Christians cite their faith as a reason for why they know God to be real and the Bible to be true. Turek says (correctly) that a person’s faith (in and of itself) “does not change a thing about the Bible.” He’s right. Faith (in and of itself) is not enough to settle the important issues of reality, the cosmos, God, Jesus, the Bible, or salvation. Faith, even if we’re talking about Christian faith, doesn’t make God real or the Bible true. These things are true (or not), regardless of your faith. What faith does, explains Turek, is “appropriate the salvific content [of the Bible and Christianity] to you.” In other words, God calls us to faith (Hebrews 11:6) and therefore we must choose to believe in and trust in Him in order to be saved and enter into a relationship with Him (Romans 10:13; John 3:16). In that sense, faith has power, but it does so, only because of God’s actual existence and His call to us.
This is true not simply when it comes to spirituality or eternity. It’s true in this life. Belief and faith (in and of themselves) have power, but their power is no match for the power of God Himself. And while God has built into the universe a relationship between cause and effect as well as thought and reality, God still reigns – not some impersonal Universe or Force. And as a Christian, I recognize there’s far more power and effectiveness in prayer than in positive thinking. And when I pray, I’m not “speaking to the Universe” or “communing with Nature” or “meditating on the Divine” (all phrases used by some popular New Age practitioners and Law of Attraction gurus today), but rather I’m communicating with the all-powerful, all-knowing, very personal and very real Creator of the Universe.
Yes, belief has power. And, yes, belief is important. And for that reason, when it comes to believing, make sure you are believing in the right things and (most importantly) in the right people. In that spirit, nothing is more important than God Himself or having a relationship with Him.
We live in the Age of Political Correctness. There’s growing pressure in our society today to sanitize our behavior and actions so that we not offend anyone and that we, to every extent possible, safeguard our self-image as well as the self-esteem of everyone with whom we come in contact. Evidence of this exists all around us, and there are many reasons for us to be concerned, since political correctness and the freedom of speech (not to mention, religious freedom) cannot peacefully coexist for long.
But for today’s post, I want to take a lighter look at the subject by posting some examples of how people particularly sensitive to political correctness should adjust their words and change their patterns of speech. Here are some examples, courtesy of The Mammoth Book of 10,000 Zingers (edited by Geoff Tibballs):
- “I am not stupid; I suffer from minimal cranial development.”
- “I am not lazy; I am energetically declined.”
- “I am not clumsy; I am uniquely coordinated.”
- “I do not eat like a pig; I suffer from reverse bulimia.”
- “I am not weird; I am behaviorally different.”
- “I am not short; I am anatomically compact.”
- “I am not overweight; I am gravity-enhanced.”
- “I am not late; I have a rescheduled arrival time.”
- “I am not unemployed; I am involuntarily leisured.”
- “I am not a lousy cook; I am microwave-compatible.”
Once again, the above list is courtesy of Geoff Tibballs’ The Mammoth Book of 10,000 Zingers. I cannot recommend all the zingers in his book, since more than a few are considerably off-color and inappropriate for Christians to use. But some of the “zingers” are indeed humorous.
Have a great day!
How NOT to Leave a Church: Some Advice on How Christians Should Leave Churches When the Lord Leads Them to Do So
Serving as a pastor has been among the greatest joys and privileges in my life. There are times, though, when it can be frustrating and even painful. Most pastors will tell you that one of the greatest causes of personal pain is when members leave the churches they serve. Pastors can’t help but to take it somewhat personally, because we are, biblically and practically speaking, the leaders of the church. And, in many ways, the pastor is also the “face” of the church. What’s more, in smaller churches, the pastor usually knows the families or individuals who leave. Quite often, he’s invested a lot of time into those families or individuals. For these reasons, it’s tough when members leave and pastors can’t help but be affected by it.
Pastors of course must realize that members leaving is an inevitable part of ministry. Floyd White, one of the founders of Fair Oaks Church (where I was ordained) and a long-time deacon, has likened a church to a train. “Some people get on and some people get off,” he says. “But the train must keep going down the tracks.” It happens. If God Himself couldn’t maintain perfect harmony in Heaven (as was the case with Lucifer and a third of the angels) and Jesus couldn’t hold onto all of his disciples (see Judas and even, for a short time, Peter), then no pastor should expect consistently unanimous and enthusiastic support from all of the members of the church he serves as pastor. After all, we pastors are NOT Jesus. We are sinners. We are imperfect. We make mistakes. We let people down. We mess up. And, thus, quite often, when people leave, it’s our fault. Yet even if we were perfect (which we aren’t), we would still lose people, because….well…so did our Lord. It’s the nature of the fallen world in which we live.
It isn’t only painful for pastors, of course. Members also must deal with pain when they leave a church. In many cases, they’ve been a part of a church for decades – sometimes most (if not all) of their lives. And then something happens or a series of “somethings” happen, and they find themselves leaving a church that’s been such an integral part of their life. Let’s face it. When people leave a church, it’s painful all around. The pastor can get hurt. Other leaders can be hurt. The departing members can be hurt, and those members who remain can be hurt.
Sometimes, though, leaving is necessary, no matter how painful it might be. Paul and Barnabas were close, devoted friends and partners in ministry. Yet there came a point when they had to part ways. This was undoubtedly very painful to both of them. But it would have been more painful for them to continue together in ministry. Such was their sharp contention. They chose to part ways, so that each could carry on the work of the Lord. As a result, there’s every indication in Scripture that their friendship endured. And it’s this example, I believe, to which we should look when it comes time for us to make similar choices.
There are right ways and wrong ways to leave a church. I would like, in this article, to list out what I believe are the wrong ways to leave. I’ve broken this list down by groups — specifically group types. I offer this humbly and respectfully.
These are the Christians who leave as loudly and as (metaphorically speaking) “violently” as possible. They want to cause as much damage as they can on their way out. I know of a pastor who, upon feeling “led” to leave the church he served, chose to preach a scathing sermon to his congregation. He chastised them from the pulpit for how they had (from his point of view) mistreated him, pointed out that he was a “gift” to them, and then resigned “effective immediately” at the end of the sermon. To make matters worse, he had made calls to various members ahead of the sermon – families he believed were supportive – and asked them to leave the church along with him. He caused a great deal of damage to the church on his way out. While there may have been some merit to a few of his points, this was the wrong way to leave. It isn’t only pastors who’ve done this, however. I know of members who left churches while furiously stirring up as much antagonism as they possibly could against the pastor or the leadership or other families.
When we’ve been wronged (either in reality or via our perceptions), it’s seductive to believe that we’re justified to exact revenge on those who have harmed us or wronged us. But there are several problems with this line of thinking. First, we are presuming that our perspective constitutes Absolute Truth. Many times, our perceptions are NOT reality. We only know our side of things. This is why the book of Proverbs warns us not to answer matters before we fully hear them, and why our Lord tells us to go to our brother (and not 20 or 30 other people) when we’ve been offended. But even if it’s true that we’ve been wronged, we’re still not called to vengeance. Paul says that vengeance is the Lord’s. It’s not ours. And James warns that the “wrath of man” never brings the “righteousness of God.”
Godly people don’t leave a ministry or a church tossing metaphorical hand grenades at those they resent or those with whom they have a disagreement. Godly people leave in a manner that reflects..well…God. They don’t commit slander or gossip or engage in personal attacks. They leave with dignity and in the spirit of love.
Closely related to the “Bomb Thrower,” the “Pot-Stirrer” is one who works more behind the scenes and with sometimes (quite often actually) a smile on his or her face. They don’t throw bombs. They spread seeds of doubt, mistrust, unrest, uncertainty, anxiety, and so forth. Whereas the “Bomb Thrower” will come right out and tell you what he or she is thinking, the “Pot-Stirrer” would rather have other people speak forthrightly. They want others to throw the bombs and cause the trouble. Their tool of choice is manipulation. The effective pot-stirrers will come off as super spiritual, even humble, making it appear that they are, in fact, trying to “protect” the church and preserve unity. When, in fact, the “pot-stirrer” is often the one initiating the conversations that lead to so much unrest in the first place.
Our Lord says to let our yeas be yeas and our nays be nays. (At least that’s what he says in the King James Version ). As a pastor, I actually have more respect for a bomb thrower than a behind-the-scenes manipulator. Read the Bible and all that it says about how we are to conduct ourselves in the house of God. You’ll never find manipulation or stirring up the brethren as something we should engage in. On the contrary, the sowing of discord among the brethren is identified in Proverbs as one of the sins God hates the most.
“Now you see me…now you don’t.” One of the most famous magic acts around is, of course, the disappearing act. Many Christians are masters at this. When they leave a church, they don’t want anyone to know. They simply want to disappear. They don’t want anyone to call them, check up on them, see how they’re doing. They just want to disappear. This of course reflects a complete non-biblical understanding of what church is all about. The Greek word behind the English word “church” means “assembly.” To have a meaningful assembly, one must…well…assemble. It astonishes me that many Christians want to sit on the rolls and never come. They want to hold onto their official membership, but they refuse to come. But that’s for another article. Don’t get me started on that. For this blog post, I’m talking about those church members who wish to simply “fade away” from a church rather than formally resign their membership or make clear their withdrawal from the fellowship – and move on with their lives.
Some of you reading this may feel this isn’t that big of a deal. And perhaps with a larger church, it’s not. But with a small church (and that’s been the majority of my experience), this is a big deal. A good church is one made up of members who love and care for one another, who support one another, and who pray for one another. This entails everything from hospital visits, food assistance, prayer request lists, Sunday school classes, counseling, and so forth. I’m only scratching the surface. When you leave such a church, you are removing yourself from that mutually supportive community. The courteous thing to do is to make clear to the leaders and your fellow members that you are, in fact, withdrawing from membership and moving to a different church. People now know not to pester you for certain things (like helping with volunteer ministries, programs, etc.) and not to expect you in church. Otherwise, people start to wonder “Where’s John? I haven’t seen him in a while. Is he okay?” And if you haven’t had the kindness and decency to let people know you’ve left, you’re leaving them with all kinds of curiosity as to why you left. People start to wonder “Was it something I said?” or “Did we not support them enough?” In some cases, people don’t know whether to reach out, because (frankly) the circumstances of some members’ departure is such that people have no idea what “minefield” they may step in if they reach out. It is basic courtesy to let (at least) the leadership of the church know when you’ve decided to move on. And, in some cases, this gives the members the opportunity to give a proper, loving send-off to the families who are leaving.
In a roundabout way, depending on how the “Magicians” leave, they can become “Pot-Stirrers.” Silence is honestly, in some ways, a very effective tool to stir the pot in a church. People wonder why a certain family left and, as the speculation builds, people’s imaginations run wild. Sometimes, this is very intentional on the part of the “Magician.” They want discord and uncertainty to spread.
Whatever your motives may be, if you’ve decided to leave a church, the courteous and honest way to go is to tell the leadership that you’re moving on. Make it clear that you are actively looking for another church or that you’re moving or that you’ve already found another church or whatever your situation might be. Be honest. Be up-front. The Bible says that sin loves darkness rather than light. It’s best that we operate within the light — the light of love and honesty.
“The Rear-View Mirror Drivers”
Some Christians will leave a church, but not leave. These folks will get upset over something and stop attending or change churches. In some cases, they’ll be “Pot-Stirrers” or “Magicians” or “Bomb Throwers.” But what makes this group distinct is that they’re always looking back. They never quite leave. They will continue to criticize the church they’ve “left” or stay in contact with members from the church with the sole or primary goal of trying to win them to their “side” in a conflict that’s very much in the past. (At least in the past for everyone else).
Let me give you a couple examples. My previous church (the one in which I was ordained) has a reputation for (very) loud music. Many people left the church because the music was too loud. Some of these people are undoubtedly still talking about how loud the music is at the church — even though they’ve not been back at the church for years! Here’s a hint: If you’ve left a church and you’re still criticizing that church years later, then you need a new hobby. And you’re a “Rear View Mirror Driver.” It’s time to move on. If you left a church for various reasons, then stop criticizing the church for those reasons — and move on.
There’s nothing in the Bible that encourages us to look in the rear view mirror. Paul says he presses toward the mark and that he forgets those things which are behind. That’s our model. If you’ve left a church, then move on. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t still love and pray for the people in your previous church. You should. But you need to stop the criticism and stop living in the past. It’s time to move forward.
“The Bitterness Bunch”
These are the Christians who hold onto grudges, past hurts, and anger – and never let go. They may also be members of any of the above groups, but they belong in this group too, if they continue to harbor anger or animosity over past wrongs or past pain. These Christians refuse to soften their hearts and quite often refuse to participate genuinely or honestly in any meaningful effort at reconciliation. They are bitter. They are angry. And they are going to hold onto that bitterness and anger…come what may.
There are so many Bible verses that deal with this that I don’t know where to start. Time and again, the Word of God tells us to be humble, tenderhearted, kind, forgiving, patient, etc. Yet, many of us refuse to obey God in this area. We feel that we’re entitled to our anger. Thankfully, God showed a lot more love and grace to us than many Christians show to each other.
If you’re angry at people within your church, you need to follow Matthew 18 to work that out. If that process fails, then you need to look to Paul and Barnabas as your example – and lovingly move on with your life. We will never experience full justice and reconciliation in this world. We must accept this. We should do our best, but realize that, sometimes, our best will not be enough. When that happens, we must “shake the dust off our feet” (as our Lord says) and move on with our lives.
How to Leave a Church
I don’t believe Christians should leave a church for (to steal a phrase from our Declaration of Independence) “light and transient reasons.” We have too many “consumers” in our churches today — people who pick churches and leave churches based on music preferences, nursery decorations, carpet colors, and so forth. Or…people who have completely unrealistic and non-biblical expectations of the church or pastor. Check your expectations! The Bible is clear on how we should evaluate a church. Is the church elevating Christ? Is the church teaching the truth? Is the pastor living his life according to the qualifications of an elder in I Timothy and Titus? Are people getting saved, baptized, and growing in Christ? In other words, what’s the fruit of that ministry?
And when the church falls short in some of the above areas, rather than simply find fault and move on, perhaps we should look in the mirror. To paraphrase President Kennedy, don’t ask what your church can do for you; ask what you can do for your church. According to the Bible, you are the church. And you’re not supposed to be a consumer. You’re supposed to be a servant.
Will the church have problems? Yes. The reason is that it has people. You’ll never find the perfect church (or the perfect pastor). Any church contains people, and thus is made up of sinners – like you and me. No matter what church you go to, if you stay long enough, you will encounter things that frustrate you, hurt you, and disappoint you. That’s the nature of church. It’s imperfect. But…
A good church, though imperfect, serves a perfect Lord. And if we keep our eyes on the Lord, we can enjoy the kind of church God wants us to have.
If things reach a point where you have a “sharp contention” (as Paul and Barnabas did), then you should follow Matthew 18 to try to resolve that difference. Lovingly confront those with whom you have a grievance. If that fails, bring in God-honoring, Bible-believing witnesses to help in that process. This may take several meetings. In fact, each stage of Matthew 18 usually does take several meetings. The whole thing should be bathed in prayer and clothed in humility. It takes time, patience, love, and discipline. And if at the end of that process, you’re unable to resolve the contention, then it may be time to move on. If you prayerfully decide that it is time to move, then do so with love, grace, and humility. Share with the leadership that you’ve made your decision to leave and why – and then move on. Take the high road out of your church — not the low road.
Life is too short to hold onto bitterness, anger, and resentment. It’s too short to let petty things rip apart churches and friendships. We must look to Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our Faith. Only in Him can we find true unity and peace. Until then…let’s err on the side of grace, humility, gentleness, and forgiveness in our churches and relationships. In so doing, we’ll at least get close to the character of our Lord and Savior.
God bless you and your church.