Wednesday April 9, 2014
Building People of Substance for Works of Power
It’s not the ceiling fans, Friend.
A younger pastor friend recently asked me if the pain of people leaving the church ever goes away. He had just had the “God is moving us on” conversation with someone he considered a devoted member. I think he assumed that because I am significantly more battle-scarred than he, I might offer hope that the agony of this ritual evisceration would someday be diminished. I didn’t offer much solace, but I did let him know about the ceiling fans.
Many years ago, a precious lady in our congregation left us for another church. She told me that she had to leave because our ceiling fans bothered her sinuses. These were the same ceiling fans under which she had camped since we opened the facility – several years – and I assume these were the same sinuses. Truth is, she had gotten offended over an offering to help our youth go to camp. She thought the little ingrates should learn responsibility by working harder and longer to earn money. Though I informed her that they were working, but that the funds were going to be inadequate, she got huffy. She began the dance of offence, gradually moving from the second row to the fourth row etc., and finally to the last row, which coincidentally was sunder a ceiling fame. (The front row was fan-free.)
So here are the take-aways for the Pastor:
1. The excuse is never the reason, so don’t take it personally. The reason is usually one of two things. Usually, they are offended about something or someone and have been chewing on it, sometimes for months, until they inadvertently find the ceiling fan. Voilà, ready-made excuse. Or, and this happens more than you think, they are living in some kind of disobedience that causes them to feel convicted around you and in the presence of God. Rather than repent, or seek help, they run and recriminate.
2. When they tell you about the ceiling fan, try to reach past your pain and speak truth with kindness. If they leave feeling valued rather than beaten they may very well come back. If this is where God wants them, He will not let them off the hook. Leave the door open.
And for the congregant: Never leave in offence. That is not how God moves people. His command is to forgive and reconcile. Do that, and if He then moves you to a destination with a Kingdom purpose, you can tell your pastor the plan and get his blessing. If you fail to heed this advice, you will find yourself in the same situation again. You get to repeat the process until you get it right.
Somebody Said: Let go of offence. Let go of fear. Let go of revenge. Don’t live angry, let go now! Joel Osteen
Scripture Reading: A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people. Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will learn the truth. (2Ti 2:24-25 NLT)
God does move people to other congregations, but not nearly as often as people move themselves. There are doctrinal issues and moral issues that may be too egregious to ignore (Wouldn’t it be funny if the pastor left every time he was appalled by a church member’s behavior or doctrine?), but when the departure is from offence, it always hurts someone. I pray for the meandering sheep that he will find a place of forgiveness, and for the troubled pastor that he develop a thick skin while keeping a soft heart.