When (Differently) Gifted Pastors Destroy the Church (Rather Than Build it Up)

This was a church conflict that never should have happened.

One man was excellent at vision casting, capturing the excitement and motivating people for great things in the name of the Lord. The other was an excellent teacher. Working in harmony they could have accomplished so much for the Kingdom. Instead, frustration and anger plagued the work of the church. Staff members quit their jobs; members left; blame-casting began; and soon both of the pastors were looking for new calls.

The use and misuse of spiritual gifts are major causes of conflicts in the church. Paul seeks to bring some order to our understanding of the use of gifts in the church as he corrects the Corinthians and urges them with these memorable words:

“Since you are eager to have spiritual gifts, try to excel in gifts that build up the church.” 1 Corinthians 14:12 (emphasis added)

There are four main reasons why church conflicts often emerge due to the misuse of spiritual gifts:

  1. Jealously
  2. Criticism
  3. Blindness
  4. Lack of Appreciation

Consider how jealousy destroyed the relationship between these two gifted pastors. Rather than rejoice in God’s gracious provision of gifting for His glory and the benefit of His work, these men competed with one another and envied the “advantages” of the other. Their jealousy lead to critical judgments of one another whenever they perceived a lack of support or excitement for “their” passion and vision (and gifting). Of course, foundationally, they both had extreme cases of spiritual blindness (a topic that Tara and I tackle at depth in Chapter 8 of Redeeming Church Conflicts). Rather than see and humbly acknowledge their weaknesses (and then compensate for their weaknesses by enjoying the strengths of one another), they tried to be fruitful in areas where their particular gifts were lacking. And all of these conflicts were fueled by a consistent failure to appreciate and encourage one another.

Rather than working within their areas of giftedness and appreciating the unique contributions each man was making for the advancement of the Kingdom, these leaders misused their gifts. Their relationship was doomed as a result and their church was terribly damaged. This could have been avoided if they had heeded the counsel of the Apostle Paul to “try to excel in gifts that build up the church.” Yes, the specific context of this argument applies directly to a distinction between prophesy and tongues as gifts, but earlier in Chapter 14, Paul provides the direction and goal for the use of all spiritual gifts:

“…for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort (1 Corinthians 14:3) …so that the church may be edified” (1 Corinthians 14:5).

All appropriate uses of spiritual gifts have these common goals:

  • Strengthen the believers,
  • Encourage the believers,
  • Comfort the believers, and
  • Edify the believers

No gift is superior to another; no gift is to be overlooked because all spiritual gifts are for the edification of the church. As one body, united in Christ, we share one calling: Build up the church! We do that best when we build up each other. That is why the Spirit has poured out his gifts upon living stones…we, the church. There is no room for jealously, criticism, blindness, and lack of appreciation when it comes to our mutual joy of unleashing the gifts of the Spirit that have been poured out for the sole reason of building up the church. Such foolishness and sin is immature and destructive and we ought to pray that our churches would never have conflict due to the misuse of the abundant spiritual gifts God has given his people.

Paul ends chapter 14 with this warning (verse 20):

Brothers, stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults.”

How do we think (and live) as adults? We avoid the works of the flesh as listed in Galatians 5 (including, of course, enmity, strife, jealousy, rivalries, dissensions, divisions and envy) and we manifest the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control).

“If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.”Galatians 5:25

For the Glory of the Lord and His Church,
-Dave Edling

(This article was originally published in 2012.)

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Two Elements of Redeeming Church Conflict: Intentionality and Contentment

Q. How can I maintain an “eternal perspective” given the harsh realities of this church conflict?

A. It is one thing to give mental assent to the concept of living from an “eternal perspective,” and quite another to actually fit life’s temporal events into that larger framework. But, as Christians, that is what we are called to do. One of my seminary professors, Dr. John Frame, famously wrote:

“Scripture makes it clear that those who are unable to apply God’s Word do not truly understand it.”

Our call and our challenge is to apply what we both know and believe to be true from God’s revealed Word (His will) to every aspect of our lives; every trial, every suffering, every disappointment, and every conflict.  Of course we still struggle to consistently practice what we believe in a manner that both mentally embraces and practically demonstrates a consistency of what I call “faith-belief-life.” If I truly believe that the greatest portion of my existence will be spent apart from my physical body and away from this temporal world, then shouldn’t that present belief also presently define how I deal with the harsh matters of this temporal life?

Having tried to live as consistently as possible with what I believe, I confess, it is not always easy. (What an understatement!) Actually, I have found that it is impossible! That impossibility is what makes the Gospel “good news.” God has graciously revealed that it is not by human effort that I can rightfully anticipate a glorious future spent in an eternal paradise with Him forever. That is what faith in Jesus Christ has accomplished, but even more, I can rightfully now anticipate that thorough God-enabled and God-directed effort I can live in this present world as His eternal child. I can do that because he is all about conforming me, and conforming you, to his noble and eternal purposes (see Romans 12:2 and 2 Timothy 2:21). That reality should make a rather significant difference in how we are able to live day-to-day while still clothed in this flesh.

Two practical elements of living from an eternal perspective are embodied in the biblical concepts of intentionality and contentment.  These are practical terms and concepts that, for me, put content to eternal perspective living.

Intentionality

The biblical basis for intentionality is Philippians 4:9, 1Timothy 4:15, and 2 Peter 1:10:

  • Whatever you have learned or received or heard from meput it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:9
  • Put into practice: whatever is true; whatever is noble; whatever is right; whatever is pure; whatever is lovely; whatever is admirable; anything excellent or praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8).
  • Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. 1Timothy 4:15
  • Be diligent: receiving everything God created as good; rejecting godless myths; holding promise for both the present life and the life to come; setting an example for believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith, and in purity; devoting yourself to reading Scripture and to preaching and teaching; not to neglect your spiritual gift (1 Timothy 4).
  • Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall. 2 Peter 1:10
  • Do these things: make every effort to add to your faith goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love; avoid becoming ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of Jesus Christ; avoid becoming nearsighted and blind by forgetting that you have been cleansed from past sins (2 Peter 1).

Contentment

The biblical basis for contentment is Philippians 4:11, 1Timothy 6:6-7, and Hebrews 13:5:

  • I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be contentwhatever the circumstances. Philippians 4:11
  • Learn to be content: whatever the circumstances; in need or in plenty; well fed or hungry; living in plenty or in want; learning the secret of being content by doing everything through him who gives strength (Philippians 4:10-13).
  • But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 1Timothy 6:6-7
  • Godliness with contentment: food and clothing are enough; rejecting love of money; pursuing righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness; fighting the good fight of the faith; taking hold of the eternal life to which you have been called (1 Timothy 6:8-12). 
  • Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ Hebrews 13:5
  • Be content: by loving each other as brothers; entertaining strangers; remembering those in prison and those who are mistreated; honoring marriage; living free from the love of money; being content with what you have; remembering your leaders in the faith (Hebrews 13:1-7).

When we know what practices we, as Christians, are to be intentional about, and those intentions are set within the context of contentment in our present day realities, we can have great hope and assurance that our efforts are God-enabled and God-dependent even as each day passes in this rapidly departing world. Intentionality and contentment reflect our faith in Christ, that He is subduing all things under His control. And even the tragic events we all experience take on meaning beyond their immediate consequences. Looking beyond the surface of our sorrows and conflicts, we are bolstered by thepurposes that all life situations have. Purposes that are eternal purposes, rooted all the way back in the throne room and very character of God Himself. With our hearts fixed on eternity, we see beyond our daily conflicts (as difficult as they may be) and we fix our hopes on Jesus, the Author and Perfector of our Faith. God Himself is using all of our life events to mold us into his eternal children so that we will be useful both now and forever.  Imagine! How our churches would blossom with gentleness, patience, joy, and peace if only more and more Christians began to consistently hold an eternal perspective of faith – belief – life.

Of course there are many other Scriptural principles that call us to maintain an eternal perspective. I have shared two of my favorites with you, but I would love to know yours—and especially how you live your life in accordance with the verses that prompt you to live with an eternal perspective.

I will sign off with a profound quote by the great theologian, Yogi Berra:

When you come to a fork in the road take it!

We will, Yogi Berra! We all come to many forks in our roads every day. Hour by hour, minute by minute, we can intentionally choose contentment as we apply all of our faith and belief to all of our life’s decisions. Or we can go the way of darkness and folly—never putting up the good fight of effort, of intentional trying. No. Instead, we choose to live miserable lives of rebellion against all we claim to believe, all we claim to have faith in. One path leads to life. The other, destruction. Choose (intentional, contentment-filled) life!

-Dave Edling

(This article was originally published in 2012.)

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When to Leave a Church

A few weeks ago in response to my blog about church membership, member vows, and what might be a valid reason to leave one’s church, a reader wrote that she didn’t think I answered the question. She also expressed her opinion that when church leaders become abusive that a very good reason to leave one’s church exists. So, I thought I should write a bit more about what I believe about a church member feeling that circumstances may establish grounds for leaving one’s church.

First, I believe that this reader is correct in saying I didn’t answer the question, at least not in the way she thought I should. My purpose in writing here at Redeeming Church Conflicts.com is not to provide specific answers to specific questions that a person would then use to make a final personal decision, but rather to help questioners think through for themselves what should be the way of asking the best questions, at the right time, in the best forum, for the right reasons, and with the application of biblical truth driving every aspect of that process. (Please see Tara’s and my “About Us” page and our “Disclaimer” statement on this site.) Not only that, please remember Proverbs 18:17:

The first to present his case seems right, till another comes forward and questions him. 

In this format we cannot be expected to have all of the information from both sides relevant to any story or comment.

In this instance, our reader’s comment concerning her belief that a valid reason for leaving a church was when church leaders become abusive indicates that she is seeking an answer to confirm or deny that that reason is valid and one based on, in her opinion, biblical principle. She cited Ezekiel 34 as an example of unfaithful shepherds and how that provided her argument that that reason was a valid one for leaving one’s church. But, in my opinion, there are so many other better questions that should, and must, be explored first before closing the door on this important issue.

Let me rephrase what seems to be our reader’s core question: “Is it biblically valid to break one’s church membership vows and leave the church when church leaders become abusive?” This question can be further subdivided into:

  1. When is it biblically valid to break one’s church membership vows and leave the church?” and
  2. When can a church leader’s behavior be labeled “abusive?”

The second question may be one way to a potential reason or answer to the first so I am not going to go into the many potential forms of pastoral abuse here since the list would be very long (such as breach of a church member’s confidentiality, sexual abuse, counseling abuse, greed, failure to shepherd, intentional lying to protect self, not preaching the Gospel, etc., etc.). Those may all be valid reasons to label a leader’s behavior as “abusive,” but they may not all be valid reasons to leave one’s church. So, the first of our subdivided question becomes the key one on which to focus.

Breaking a vow, any vow, is a very serious matter. Breaking a vow of church membership is one of the most serious because it was one made as a promise to both God and God’s under-shepherds, and the people who inhabit the pews with you. Vows should never be taken lightly. My first question back to our reader may be something like:

“When you became a member of your church did you know everything you possibly could about how the leaders of the church would undertake their shepherding responsibilities toward you and others?”

I believe too many people make decisions too quickly about joining a particular church before knowing everything they can about it. That is why “potential new member’s classes” are so important. But, it also takes some time to see if what was taught in such a class is what is actually practiced in the church. A rash vow can be a dangerous thing (see the account of Jephthah and his daughter in Judges, chapter 11).

Because a church membership vow is so important it is also wise to think through, “what is the nature of this vow really?” That is:

  • Is it a unilateral vow where all responsibility for fulfillment is solely mine or is this a reciprocal situation where the church is also making a vow to me?
  • If the church breaks its vow to me am I free to break my vow in return?
  • What about my responsibility to quietly use my position as a member to seek to correct the breach?
  • If a church leader is not living up to his responsibility should I not seek to help this leader see that and change? (This is an aspect of accountability that many church members don’t embrace when things aren’t going as they should in the church based on a biblical standard and from a biblical perspective.)
  • What about those who have spiritual authority over church leaders? Can they hear your concerns and appropriately be brought into the situation so that errant leaders can have the benefit of correction? If you have joined a church where there is no meaningful accountability for leader behavior and practice you have likely not fulfilled your responsibility to take a vow wisely. Every church leader needs the benefit of being under meaningful accountability. That is a question of “polity” (church governance structure) and should be one of the most important subjects taught in a potential new member’s class and completely understood before a church membership vow is taken.

The question we are focusing on is a very difficult one to find a completely satisfactory answer to because God took his own vow one day long past that stands as a model for us of the severity of vow-taking. You can read about it in Genesis, chapter 15. Because God can make a binding promise on nothing higher than himself this vow is called a self-maledictory oath (it includes the punishment as part of the vow if broken). The best discussion of this vow that demonstrates how seriously God took his own vow is in Tim Lane’s and Paul Tripp’s book How People Change at pages 68 and 69:

What is going on in this strange encounter? Abram is struggling to believe God, so God helps him. He tells him to cut some animals in half. That night, a smoking firepot and a blazing torch pass between the animal halves. God was saying, “If I do not keep my promise to you, may what happened to these animals happen to me!” This is called a self-maledictory oath. God is saying, “If I don’t keep my end of the bargain, may I be ripped asunder!” Over two thousand years later, God the Son hung on a cross, crying out, “My God! My God! Why have we been ripped asunder?” God allowed what should have happened to us to happen to Jesus. We were the ones who failed, yet the triune God was torn asunder so that we might be united to him and to one another as brothers and sisters in Christ. The perfect love, unity, and joy that existed between the Father, Son, and Spirit were demolished, for a time, for our sake.

This is the ground on which we build all relationships. Every time you are tempted to shun another believer [be that a church leader, pastor, or fellow member],remember that the Father, Son, and Spirit were torn asunder so that you might be united. When you sin or are sinned against, you are to move toward your sibling in Christ aware that Father, Son, and Spirit were torn asunder so that you might be reconciled! If we approached relationships in the body of Christ with that in view, it would transform our friendships. In Ephesians 4, Paul says that to the degree you do this, you will be “built up,” “become mature,” “ attain to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ,” and “grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.”

I hope that all of our readers have a better understanding of vow-taking and vow-keeping in the church when they reflect on Genesis 15 and the words above.  To the reader who asked the direction question weeks ago:

Yes, leaders may be abusive and you should leave if that is true and you have no avenue open to you for holding them accountable for their abuse, but first take responsibility for the fact the fault may have been yours for taking the church membership vow in the first place. Did you agree to be in submission to these leaders without knowledge? Did you know if they were men under meaningful ecclesiastical accountability? If not, acknowledge your sin for taking a vow perhaps a bit too rashly. Humbly acknowledge that the fault was yours and try your best not to fall into the same situation the next time you join a church.

-Dave Edling

(This post was originally published in 2011.)

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Seven Reasons Very Active Church Members Drop Out

An article worth the read as you consider the importance of redeeming your church conflicts:

Seven Reasons Very Active Church Members Drop Out

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What should a wife do when her husband has conflicts with the church leaders?

Q. What do I do when my husband has called out a leader in sin (following Mt. 18); brought it to the church (1 Tim. 5:20); and the church is either in denial or is choosing to overlook it and now has attacked my husband (saying he’s in sin for publicly rebuking the leader)? They have unresolved issues with my husband but not one of them has made any attempts to seek resolution even though I have encouraged them to do so. Some of these people are my closest friends but they have wrongly attacked my husband and are protecting the leader. What does God’s Word say about what I should do as the wife? None of the leaders will have any communication with my husband but they are still willing to talk to me. My thought is that I should have nothing to do with them until they seek resolution with my husband (whom I am 100% behind for what he did). Is this biblical?

A. This is a series of questions so let’s break them out and see where God’s Word would lead us.

First, your first question should be restated as: “Was it biblically proper for my husband to publically confront and rebuke a church leader over his sin (I have to assume this was an ordained minister, elder, etc… someone in an official, visible position of authority in the church)? Rather than simply assuming that your husband acted properly let’s ask that question first. The verse that discusses most directly how to bring a charge of sin against an ordained leader is 1 Timothy 5:19, the verse right before the passage you mention as your husband’s basis for bringing a public rebuke (1 Timothy 5:20). First Timothy 5:19 says:

“Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses.”  

This principle is one mentioned a number of times in Scripture (see Deuteronomy 19:15 and 2 Corinthians 13:1, for example), and is foundational to the question of whether your husband has acted biblically or not. Of course, you should not merely stand by your husband if he has acted in a manner that calls for his repentance (more on that later). The multiple witness principle applied in what seems to be your case would result in not just your husband confronting the leader but at least two or three others who agree with your husband that this ordained leader is caught in a sin and needs the church’s help so that he may see it and become freed. Matthew 18:16 calls for a process where two or three are to become involved so that “every matter may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.”

Further, an act of church discipline (such as a “public rebuke”) is to be brought by the church (usually the elders of the church depending on a church’s polity), and a “public rebuke” is to be an official act of the church and not one taken by any one person. By saying in your comments that “They have unresolved issues with my husband…” makes me wonder: What about the other agreeing witnesses? Do leaders have issues with them as well? If only your husband stands as the accuser he has not acted biblically and he should repent, ask forgiveness, and express his concerns about this apparently sin-caught leader in a different manner… not making just this his issue but following the pattern of the Scriptures.

Second, you state that none of the leaders (apparently both the leader who has been confronted and other church leaders) has made any attempts to seek resolution even though I have encouraged them to do so. My question would be: How have you encouraged your husband to seek resolution by humbly owning whatever he has done to contribute to this conflict?

Even though these leaders are your friends you probably have more credibility with your husband at present then you have with them. Will you counsel your husband to think about the manner in which he has brought this accusation as discussed in the first paragraph of this answer? Even if other witnesses who agree with your husband are involved, an accusation of sin against anyone is to be brought “gently” (Galatians 6:1) and not in a manner that will create conflict (it would seem your husband may have created this conflict by bringing a “public rebuke”).

Helping another person realize their sin and then helping them to become unstuck is a ministry for the benefit of the one caught and, according to Scripture, is to be done with great care and gentleness. It sounds that you have been quick to judge others (“they have wrongly attacked my husband and are protecting the leader”) and such judgment is inconsistent with caring ministry.

Third, you ask “What does God’s Word say about what I should do as the wife?” I would suggest a more appropriate way to ask that question would be this: What should I do as a Christian to help gently restore my brothers in Christ to fellowship with one another? While you have a special relationship with your husband as his wife you have even a higher calling as a sister in Christ to him and the others involved in this conflict. To be able to really ask of this whole scenario “Is this biblical?” you will first have to come to an eternal perspective that frees you to look without bias at the biblical principles of peacemaking when you see ones you love trapped in conflict.

When you do that you open yourself and others to all of God’s wisdom concerning his high priority for peace between his eternal children. Ephesians 4:2 and 3 says:

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”

One way you can make that effort is to read more on this website from the various articles and links that Tara and I provide, especially on confrontation and conflicts involving leaders. Further, pray that God would give you an impartial passion to help your husband and all of these other fellow Christians to live at peace by trusting that God has given you and them this situation so that you might grow in your Christ-like character and closer to Him as you navigate this conflict for his glory.

Obviously, the implication here is that you should not cut off communications with anyone conditioned on what they may or may not do. You are not alone and I would encourage you to seek out wise and mature Christian friends who will walk with you through this peacemaking opportunity.

Blessings,
Dave Edling

(This article was originally published in 2012.)

Posted in Biblical peacemaking in the church, Conflicts involving church leaders, Conflicts with our youth pastor, Confrontation | Leave a comment

What should I do if our new youth pastor seems reckless and irresponsible?

Q: “My friend at church who has two teenage daughters in the youth program has come to me for advice. I am not sure what I should tell her since I don’t have first-hand knowledge of what is going on. She says that decisions are being made by the youth pastor that seem reckless and irresponsible. He is an experienced youth pastor who, while new to our church, had been on the staff at another church in our denomination where he supposedly had a successful ministry. How much should I get involved? What should I tell my friend to do?”

A: It sounds like your friend respects you and the wisdom you could bring to this situation. This can be a wonderful opportunity for you to model to her two things: (1) how Christians are to be meaningfully involved with one another (Gal. 6:1-2), and (2) how to use biblical principles to guide decision-making (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Since what your friend has told you indicates she has already evaluated the youth pastor’s actions as “reckless and irresponsible” you know you can help her by gently challenging her stance as one “judging” the motivations and actions of another Christian (Prov. 16:2). Biblical counselor Dr. David Powlison reminds us: “We judge others – criticize, nit-pick, nag, attack, condemn – because we literally play God. This is heinous. [The Bible says,] ‘There is only Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and to destroy; but who are you to judge your neighbor?’ Who are you when you judge? None other than a God wannabe. In this we become like the Devil himself (no surprise that the Devil is mentioned in James 3:15 and 4:7). We act exactly like the adversary who seeks to usurp God’s throne and who acts as the accuser of the brethren. When you and I fight, our minds become filled with accusations: your wrongs and my rights preoccupy me. We play the self-righteous judge in the mini-kingdoms we establish (Journal of Biblical Counseling 16, no. 1, fall 1997, 34).

While, as a concerned parent, your friend certainly should be actively involved in the events affecting her daughters, how she pursues interaction with the youth pastor will be a critical part of your counsel. You can remind her to be respectful, to speak gently, to be specific using concrete examples of those things she is concerned about, and to include others at the appropriate time should the youth pastor be unresponsive to her respectful appeal to him. As you counsel your friend it is helpful to remember your goal should be to help form in her personal character qualities that reflect the fruit of the Spirit (see Gal. 5:22-23) and not simply answer a narrow question. By modeling to her your confidence in Scripture and a gentle, loving spirit as a friend you will continue in a position in her life as one trusted to handle the concerns of life. Modeling such quiet confidence is more important than simply telling your friend what to do, particularly since you don’t have personal knowledge of the situation. Then, both of you are called to trust God. Your friend should be equipped to discern what she should do if she will carefully meditate on the Scriptures mentioned above by being more ready to distinguish sinful conduct from that merely reflective of preference or opinion, and the extent to which she should appropriately confront the youth pastor.

-Dave Edling

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Win FREE Church Conflict Resources

I’ve recently met a really special woman whose title is “missionary peacemaker” (!). How great is that?

She quoted me on one of her Facebook Pages (“Resolve All Conflicts”) so I did a little WIN FREE STUFF GIVEAWAY to thank her and also to introduce my Facebook friends to her Facebook friends.

It’s not too late to join in the fun! If you leave a comment by midnight tomorrow (Sunday, February 9, Mountain time zone), you will be entered in a drawing for ONE FREE COPY OF ALL OF MY RESOURCESPeacemaking Women, Living the Gospel in Relationships, and Redeeming Church Conflicts:

Leave a Comment HERE to Enter to Win!

(You’ll have to scroll down my page a bit to find the giveaway—I couldn’t figure out how to link to an EXACT Facebook post.)

Hope this is fun for you and that the resources encourage you that even our most hopeless FEELING conflicts DO have hope because God is a redeeming God. And sometimes (not always, but sometimes), He really DOES resurrect seemingly dead relationships. To the praise of His glory!

Much love and Happy Saturday to you,
Tara B.

PS
As always, NO Risk of SPAM! Our family will NEVER share your contact information with ANYONE for marketing purposes.

PPS
If you share the giveaway in any social media setting, just let me know and I’ll give you TWO entries. I think there is like a 1 in 10 chance of winning as of right now. So why not join in the fun? :)

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Five Really Bad Reasons to Leave Your Church

Worth the read!

Five Really Bad Reasons to Leave Your Church

(HT: The Aquila Report)

Posted in Disappointment in the church, RedeemingLINKS, When is it valid to leave a church? | Leave a comment

My church’s new fundraising campaign makes me uncomfortable—should I just leave my church?

Q: “Our church is in a building program and we are also seeking to expand the number and size of our outreach programs. While I think this is all good in theory it seems that realistically we won’t have the money to do everything our church leaders are planning. Lately, it seems like the major theme of the sermons and other teachings is about money and how we must give sacrificially. This makes me very uncomfortable. I know I am not alone because some people have left the church because of this new emphasis on giving. Should I just leave too? Or is there a better way for me to think through this situation?”

A: First, what would be the best way for you to ask the best questions about your situation? You have taken a membership vow to God and the leaders and other members of your church not to flee simply because something is taking place you may not personally agree with. That means you owe God and your fellow worshippers the benefit of your every effort (see Eph. 4:3) to craft your present concerns in a way that serves God’s interests and the interests of others in your church (see Phil. 2:1-5).

From God’s perspective, what best questions would He have you ask at this time that leave out your personal bias and unwarranted presuppositions? For example: “What does God’s Word teach me about the use of money entrusted to me?”, “What does God’s Word teach me about trusting him when personally in doubt?”, “What does God’s Word teach me about how I should tell my pastor about the discomfort I experience when his teaching and preaching seems to me unbalanced in light of all that the Scriptures reveal and all that the Gospel implies for my life as a Christian?” Try writing down every question like these in order to prepare yourself for a time of thoughtful interaction with your church leaders and other members. By approaching your “discomfort” in this manner you will demonstrate your spiritual maturity, trust in God, and honor Him by honoring your membership vows.

-Dave Edling

Posted in When is it valid to leave a church? | Leave a comment

My church is having HUGE conflicts over homeschooling vs. public vs. Christian education. How should I respond?

Q: “A huge conflict has been going on in our church for many months over the education of children.  Those who home-school their children believe the church should be investing more resources (money and  time and effort) in support of home-school programs  and activities that will help parents provide greater variety of experiences for their children.  Those who don’t home-school and have their children in either public school or Christian school don’t agree. They believe the church should be the church and not favoring one choice of education over another by using church funds to favor one group over another. Both sides have tried to recruit supporters to their position, even among us who don’t have children in school any longer. How should I respond when being asked to take a side in this messy situation?”

A: Your question is a good one: “How should I respond when being asked to take a side?” This is a question of process. Jesus was asked a similar question in Luke 12:13-15 when one brother asked Jesus to tell his brother to share the inheritance with him. Jesus saw through the apparent legitimate request by discerning what the real heart motivation of the one making the demand was (selfishness and greed). While we can never possess the ability to see the heart of another the way Jesus was able, we can practice wise discernment by asking those making demands on us appropriate questions that may reveal their motivation and intent.

When being “recruited” by either “side” to this controversy you could ask questions like: (1) “What do you desire the church to do? Is your desire for your favored outcome leading you into a James 4:1-3 situation that may contribute to conflict?” (2) “You know I don’t have children in school. Why do you feel you need my support?” (3) “What are you doing to understand better the interests and concerns of the parents on the other side of this question? How are you seeking to apply and live out Philippians 2:1-5 in this situation?” (4) “What are you and those who agree with you doing to ‘make every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace (Eph. 4:3)’ in the church while you search for a reasonable solution?” (5) “What are you doing to protect your children from the damage this controversy could have on them and the relationships they have with other children in our church?” Questions like this will show a larger concern for your fellow church members far beyond becoming entangled in the substance of their crusade by choosing a side. You will be reminding them of the importance of placing the priority God has for peaceful relationships among his eternal children ahead of personal agendas concerning secondary matters.

-Dave Edling

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