Don’t be alarmed by the title of this blog. The church is supposed to be a safe haven, isn’t it? Unfortunately, the church has been a place where people have experienced their greatest hurt and have developed wounds. Especially those who are active in ministry. Sometimes these hurts and offenses that happen in the church cause people to fall away from the faith altogether depending on the level of hurt, and contingent on whether restoration has even happened between the offended parties. The church serves as a sanctuary for believers to come to fellowship and worship, give service and learn about God. It’s a training facility, if you will, where believers come to get a filling of God’s Word so that we can take what we’ve learned into a dark, dying world to help others who may need direction, restoration, or to help share the love of God to people who don’t know Christ for themselves.
If you want some useful knowledge and wisdom on how to protect yourself as a believer from getting hurt in the church, read on…
Expectations! They will get you every time! Avoid developing unreasonable expectations of the people of the church. See Psalms 62:5, its says: ” My soul, wait silently for God alone, for my expectation is from Him.” You can not get caught up in expectating people to be the way you want them to be, respond to you how you want them to respond to you or come to every function or event that you expect that they should. When you have these expectations of people and they don’t perform to your level of standard, there will be disappointment.
Disappointment is: The failure to live up to one’s expectations. Many of the disappoint ments that we as believer’s face is when we have preconceived traditions/notions that we have associated people with.
Often times people get disappointed when the they find out the church can’t meet their need when they want their needs to be met, especially during crisis or emergencies. When their needs aren’t met people will go to the extreme of separating themselves from the church. How sad! It’s an unreasonable expectation to expect the pastor of a church to spend all his/her time with you, to attend every function that you send an invite to, or for him/her to constantly give you praise or recognizing you for something that you may have done well. Pastors who are busy doing the work of God may not have this time to cater to the needs of every individual in his/her congregation.
This is a big one, but here goes…. “Don’t place an absolute trust in people. “Thus says the Lord: “Cursed are those who put their trust in mere humans, who rely on human strength and turn their hearts away from the LORD.” <—( Jer. 17:5). People can let you down. We can be emotional, fickle and at times go back on our word. The degree of trust we place in people must be limited and it has to depend on their track record. The more we get to know a person’s character and the history of their behavior, we will begin to determine how trustworthy they are. Love and Forgiveness is granted unconditionally, but trust must be “earned.” We can, without a doubt trust people who have a track record of being consistent and loyal in actions and speech, but because people have the potential to fail because of our fleshly nature, it’s not wise to put infallible trust in anyone but God.
Another touchy area are our OPINIONS!
Avoid becoming highly opinionated. Opinions are our very own, personal interpretations and ideas, which if constantly pressed upon people, can cause hurt and division. It can also promote ungodly debates and arguments. (Romans 1:29). Naturally, we as believers will have our own convictions to various different things, but you if try to press your convictions onto someone else, conflict will emerge.
Since the church is composed of everyday people like you and I who have many imperfections, there will never be a such thing as a PERFECT CHURCH! My Pastor says this all the time when he acknowledges the new visitors that come to fellowship with us… He lets them know that “we are not a perfect church, we are out of the box [with our radical praise], but we are in The Book!” Expecting the church to be just like Heaven [which no one has seen fully and in all its glory] and having an unrealistic view of the church will cause you to be disillusioned and hurt. So keep things in the right perspective.
One of the functionalities of the church ministry is to help perfect the saints. Think of church as a spiritual hospital, where we go to get well. Instead of resenting people in the church who have wronged you, cut their eye at you, didn’t say good morning or didn’t say excuse me when they brushed past you in the hall…. be thankful that they even attempted to come to church to hear the Word and grow in Christ. Pray for them and mean it!
Have a humble and meek attitude like Christ ! (Matt. 11:29, Rom. 12:3) Dont promote yourself in vain conceit or strive to get an elected position to be recognized. God is the one who appoints and elects for such positions. Avoid that attitude of competition which creates conflict in unity. A competitive attitude compares self to others and strives to rise above that comparison. (2 Cor. 10:12) Whew! What a big NO-NO! Especially when believers are being competitive with gifting and talents that were given to them by God. The philosophy of Christianity is not to out-do one another, but to submit to one another and lift each other up, as told in Ephesians 5:12. We are to refer our brother or sister above ourselves. To compete with other believers in contrary to the Word of God and it divides our faith.
“I hear the Lord saying!” —Avoid the trap of presuming that your opinions are always divinely inspired or are indisputable. It’s quite fine to share your suggestions or ideas with the leaders of the church as well as other individuals, but don’t press in your own personal agenda. Sometimes people tend to feel like all their ideas come from God. They tend to use this “I heard the Lord say” or “the Lord spoke to me and said” to add clout to what they are saying. Indeed, God does speak to his children, but remember that you will not be the sole and exclusive source that God reveals himself to in a situation. If your opinions or things you want to share with someone really comes from God, the Bible says that others will bear witness with it, especially his pastor and leaders. (2 Cor. 13:1, 1 Cor 14.29). You won’t even have to use God’s name to validate what you are saying–they’ll know that the ideas came from God. In the Bible, Exodus 20:7 warns us about using God’s name falsely to get a point across.
Treat others as you want to be treated! We learned this in primary school and it’s still relevant today. As humans, we tend to reciprocate and reflect the way we are treated. That’s why Jesus, knowingly created The GOLDEN RULE: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” The way that most people interact with you is usually the way that you interact with them. If you have a mug on your face, you won’t get many smiles or hellos. If you are cordial and speak to people, people we will cordial and speak to you. (Proverbs 18:24). Some may even offer a hug. If you have a negative, critical attitude and it is made aware to people when you associate with them, people will have a negative critical opinion about you. Take a close examination at the way you say things, or even how much you talk and also to whom you talk to. (This goes to ladies in particular). “A fool’s voice is known by his/her many words” <— (Eccl. 5:3). Chck your attitude and make sure that you aren’t rude and overly aggressive, so that you don’t turn people away.
Don’t bad mouth or hinder the church! ‘”These 6 things the Lord hates, seven are an abomination to Him: A proud look, a lying tongue, hands that shed the blood of the innocent, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that a quick in running to evil, a false witness who speaks lies, and one who sows discord among brethren.” (Proverbs 6:16-19)
God dislikes those who create strife and division in the Body of Christ. Among those are gossips, backbiters and complainers. If you dislike the way something is going in the church, speak with the leaders and talk to them about it, pray about it, and if all else fails to go the way you want then you may want to consider relocating to another church that you can control and are happier with. Never should you stir up turmoil or become a source of hinderance for the people of God.
DO NOT BAD MOUTH THE MAN/WOMAN OF GOD! In doing so, you are asking for problems, especially if you are still doing so and you attend their church regularly. If a pastor or leader has done you wrong in some way, don’t incriminate yourself by responding in a unbibical manner. Don’t lash out at him/her by retaliating with rumors. You should confront that individual privately AFTER YOU HAVE PRAYED FIRST! Then at that time if they aren’t willing to be receptive, then you can take it to the wise counsel set forth in your church to mediate the situation. (Matt 18:15-17).
Be devoted to Love & Forgiveness! “He/she who loves his brother/sisters abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him.” (1 John 2:10). Christians can avoid a lot of problems and issues if they just commit themselves to loving people with the love of God.”If someone says to you they love God… but says they hate his brother/sister/ friend/co-worker, or whomever, How can they not love their neighbor who they can see and love God who they have never seen?” (1 John 4:20). I know that’s a toughie to swallow, but its in the Word of God therefore its truth!
Be quick to forgive and even quicker with releasing the hold of a grudge. *Ladies* Unforgiveness and bitterness is one of the main contributors to people leaving the church and falling away. If you don’t forgive others it prevents God from forgiving you. Whew! I know I needs his forgiveness on a daily basis! “If we forgive others of their trespasses God will readily forgive us, but if we do not forgive, our God in heaven will not forgive us.” (Matt. 6:14-15).
Don’t let unforgiveness set you back!
Don’t get caught up in the offenses of their people! It’s important that we care and share the burdens and sufferings of others. If we are consoling and encouraging friends that have been offended or hurt by someone we have to make sure that we do it from a neutral place. We have to make sure we show empathy without taking sides. This may be easy for individuals who are trained in counseling, but for those who aren’t, we have to make sure we operate in wisdom. Even praying before we allow someone to vent their frustrations onto us. Sometimes their hurt may be due to a misunderstanding, a difference of opinion, their own rebelliousness, emotional instability or he/she may be childish and immature. There are always two sides to every story and its is unwise to make an opinion without knowledge of all the facts. Sometimes the person who was offended is looking to vent to naive, open ears, pleading their case, pouring out their bleeding heart to whomever will listen. The aim is for you to coddle them, support their opinion, and take up their offense against the offending party. Bad idea! Steer clear! You should encourage your friend, offer to pray and by all means… do NOT take sides with all the details the release upon you. If you can’t listen to issues without taking them on as your own and developing negative opinions from information that’s been given to you, then you shouldn’t counsel others. You have to be able to counsel and give wise and godly advice from an unbiased place.
Lately, at church in our Christ Development classes, we are being taught on the role of the Holy Spirit and recognizing its functionality and need for the Holy Spirit in the lives of every believer. It’s the job of the Holy Spirit to personalize God’s Word so that we will use it to examine ourselves and search out our own hearts. Sometimes the Holy Spirit will direct the pastor to say something witty that catches our attention and speaks to what we need to hear and be made aware of, kinda like a tailor-made Word designed especially for us. Halleluia! The best position we can take is an objective one as we listen to God’s Word and take heed to his message. In every sermon, the Bible has a lesson for each one of us. We have to be open to whatever the Lord has to say, willing to accept his guidance and correction. Being on the defense to the things of God is usually a sign that we are being rebellious and resistant towards conviction. Open your ears, eyes and heart to the Holy Spirit so that you are led daily.
I pray that this blog entry helps you and encourages a healthy mindset towards other believers in your church and with interpersonal relationships with family, friends and people as a whole. If you have been injured emotionally in church and have strayed away, I pray that you begin to forgive those that hurt you, restore them and allow God to heal and seal those wounds. I pray that you mature and develop into a fully equipped soldier for the kingdom of God until his return, In Jesus name, Amen.
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Always Radiant Everyday