I've been having trouble lately with the meetings we have in our small church with around 150 people attending services each week. A year ago the elders asked me to join the leaders-team due to them stating they 'felt it in their hearts to engage me in leadership'. After a few months I've had several experiences with strangers coming up to me prophesying that I'll be a part of getting this church in the right direction by pointing towards Jesus. Bear in mind that three complete strangers told me this on three different occasions and none of them could've known that I've been asked to be a leader in this church. So I did it and here I am, having issues with the way that things are going during monthly meetings we have with our 10 leaders.
In the past year, we have had 11 (!) meetings with roughly only two topics: 'What will we do when someone in our congregation turns out to be gay?' and 'do we really need a parttime pastor?'. Every time, I've been suggesting to pray for the things we talk about, however other leaders keep telling me that 'we're talking business, not faith'. Now tonight, something snapped inside of me when two elders were fighting (yelling, threatening) over money that has been spent lately on outreaching. I've been praying, working and every single time, I get disappointed by the way that things are going and the way other leaders speak to and especially over me. Now we're at a point where church attendance is declining rapidly and our congregation is asking us to (quote) 'get our shit together'.
I have the strong belief that it was God Himself that called me to be a leader and I have heaps of Spirit breathed ideas to get our church back on track and into a path of discipleship, however something is working against us/me and got us to a point where we're on the decline... Does anyone know what is happening and how I can arm myself to overcome this? You'll also be of help by praying for our church. Many thanks!
Bless you for your heart to serve in your community.
Ephesians 6 is coming to mind:
10 "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.19 Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should."
Please take note of verse 12.
"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."
Perhaps your other leaders need to be reminded of this important truth. Our fight is not with each other. Jesus prayed for us to be united:
20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me."
Imagine the impact the church (all true believers) would have.... However, please keep in mind these important truths as well:
Galatians chapter 5. Is about the yoke of slavery to sin... but how we're free from that now.
Talk to them about reconciliation and remind them that IN CHRIST we are a 'NEW Creation' The old has gone the new has come.
16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.17 For the flesh [g]sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you [h]please. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. 19 Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: [i]immorality, impurity, sensuality,20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, [j]factions, 21 envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God."
Remind them that everyone needs to hear the gospel. It doesn't matter what 'sin' has caused us to be in chains, we all need God's Love, Grace, Mercy and Forgiveness, we're not to withhold it from anyone. If someone in the congregation turns out to be gay--- would you love them any differently? Do they not deserve God's Mercy, Forgiveness and Grace? I think sometimes we can forget that it's the Holy Spirit who does the convicting of sin (John 16:8), and we begin to think it's our job. Our job is to share the gospel, serve and teach (disciple). That's how we love them well. The Holy Spirit will do the convicting. How would you treat someone in the church who has had or is having an affair?
You're going to learn some very valuable lessons going through this Chris. They will carry you in ministry over the years. Learn them well.
We Praise You Lord that you are in control. We thank You for Your Forgiveness when we repent of our sin and believe the gospel that Jesus died, was buried and rose back to life to defeat sin and death. You have given us victory over the bondage of sin. We Worship and Praise You Lord. You are Worthy to be Praised. Thank you Lord that You have made us new. Teach us to know and embrace our new identity as co-heirs with Christ to a Heavenly Kingdom. Teach us to focus on things that will have an eternal value, not on worldly things that will pass away.
Lord I pray for Chris now and for the ministry You have given him for such a time as this. I pray that he will teach and speak with power and authority that comes from only You. We ask that you would have your way with this congregation and with Chris in leadership as he guards your flock. Have your way Lord with all of the leaders in this church, lead them, raise them up or tear them down as You will so that Your work may be accomplished. Please send support and encouragement to Chris so that he will not become weary, but will have the courage and strength to carry on in his appointed ministry. Provide for him a confident whom he can trust , confide in and pray with. Secure this relationship with Your seal of approval Lord so that he will remain and this church will prosper in Your great work. I pray Chris will always remember that You alone are leading Him and that this is Your work for Your purposes for YOUR people and Your Glory. Have Your way Lord. We ask these things in Jesus name. The NAME above all other names. Amen.
Thank you so much Carla, means a lot to me!
That definitely is a tough one. When we're with others of faith, we have expectations (as we should) of how others are to behave. When they don't, it's hard to know exactly how to handle it. Should we just out & out be blunt & in their face - as I usually am but sometimes have to eat my words later? Do you play the humble role? Do you smile & stay all Christianese?
What do you believe the Lord is telling you to do? I'm not actually asking you this for you to reply to me personally. But, what do you believe in your heart He's telling you to do? If you don't know or He hasn't made it clear, Be Still & Know that He Is God. Stay in the Word as you can never go wrong with that & maybe pass a few Scriptures around at those meetings. Sounds like they've forgotten how to read.
This is a flippant opinion based on your post alone. I've been a member of many churches in my 55 years of life. I wasn't a church hopper but I went to a such & such church as a child. As I got older, I went to another one as a married woman, etc. That kinda church situation. Anyway, through those experiences what I've seen time & time again & way too many times is that Pride gets in the way of servanthood. It starts to become about ME & not Him. They start treating it like a business & act as if it's THEIR business. They forget who called them there or why. Their ideas are always the best ideas. Any disagreement with them means you're not aligned with the Lord's will. For them to say it's about business and not faith speaks volumes with added boosters. Everything we do as children of God is based on our faith. Without it, you can't please the Lord. So, for them to think their opinions even matter without the power of the Lord shows their walk. Nothing wrong with them bringing their life's experiences into the situation but everything should be backed by Him & His word.
The church membership getting smaller only exemplifies the leadership. Their 'business' is crumbling under their very feet but they fail to see it because they are playing MMA inside the conference room about money that isn't even theirs to begin with. We should be a good steward of His money but they also need to remember where the money came from & how quickly it can be taken away.
I've seen the biggest church in our town collapse. It started to crumble when the pastor started cheating on his wife. It got worse when they kept him & if I'm not mistaken, he was still cheating. Then pastor after pastor came in & went out. It was the only building in our area that was large enough & regulated per state's requirements to run a Private Christian School in it. They rebuilt their sanctuary in several years because it was exploding. When you go down the highway, you can see their steeple over everything as their beautiful water fountain flows out front. Today, I'm surprised they can pay their power bill. I haven't been in years but if they have more than 10 people on Sunday morning, I'd be shocked & those 10 are so close to the grave that 911 is waiting outside. Some of those are the faithful while the others are just stubborn & they won't allow anything to change no matter what. It's their way or the highway & everyone took the highway. Now, they have a pastor that doesn't try to reach out to the community. He's an arrogant, holier than thou, schooled to death pastor & they are just fine with that. He is THE MAN to go to if you need a good nap. Maybe the Lord will bring them out of the ashes one day or just close their doors altogether. It's really up to them. I've blabbered enough here. I'll definitely be praying for you & whatever decisions He has you to make. Keep us updated.
Thanks for your wisdom ;-). I do tend to smile and be humble, due to my calling. The dynamics in our team are unhealthy, to say the least, but I have the firm belief that we're on the brink of breakthrough. Carla said it as well but I think the fights and the way of practice in our team says it all: we're fighting evil here. Not that I'm saying that anyone in particular is the embodied evil, but I have a feeling that there is a lot at stake in our church right now.
It is almost 'funny' that you as well as Carla spoke about people having affairs, because our pastor has been having affairs here and there a year ago, it was a big drama and he got fired for it (also not admitting his wrongs, long story...). I often think that we're dealing with the aftermath of that whole situation here and I am almost searching for other possible explanations of why our meetings are so aggressive.
As I said, God spoke to me numerous times about our church and gave me heaps of ideas for our community and the way we can be church together, but when sharing those ideas I feel like I'm walking up against a wall... As in no response or aggressive response from other leaders. A few days ago I shared one of those ideas with the "guy that is in charge" (we really should put God back in charge, by the way), however he stated that 'we aren't creatives, we are businessmen and our business is this church'. There is almost no room for new practices and they won't bother having a look at anything new or exciting or even ask God for help with our problems. As you said Tammy, it is about THEM instead of HIM. Even when I suggest to pray before a meeting, there are sighs and groans from some of them.
It has been about a year since our pastor got fired and directly after that, one of the leaders hired him for his social work business. They became the best of friends and now this one leader keeps referring to 'the old': "what would our pastor say of this?", "What would he suggest?", etc... This pastor has left everybody damaged by what he did and now he is still having some sort of power in our midst? I don't understand... Well that was the update for now ;)
Again, thanks Tammy, means a lot to me!
Funny you mention praying. The very church I was telling you about, we were sitting in Choir Practice. My husband had just joined the choir because they needed the extra voices for the Christmas thingee. I forget what was going on in there - maybe confusion of what we were going to sing or whatever but it was something that was causing divisiveness. My husband spoke up & said, "I feel it would be a good idea if we stopped & prayed & let the Lord lead us." The choir director totally snapped at him & said, "This is my choir & my choir room. We'll do what I tell you to do." Needless to say, when we went out in the sanctuary, Tim (my husband) was nowhere to be seen. That choir director ended up leaving & I took over & I'm far from a choir leader but I did the best I could as the Lord led.
So as a young adult that just went through a GIANT church split, maybe I shouldn't speak to this. But I'm going to anyway, cause hindsight is 20/20 and sometimes young people can see different solutions that older people can't.
So the Bible talks a lot about reconciliation. And I'm learning through this split about how to do Biblical reconciliation. But first, a familiar verse,
Matthew 5:9, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God."
This one is the part of the Bible called the Beatitudes. My church used to call them the Be-Attitudes, like, this is how our attitudes are supposed to be.
Galatians 6:1-2 tells how we are supposed to go to someone when they are in sin, " Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted."
This is a very GENTLE response. Taking heed that you are also a sinner saved by grace is important. Remembering that you can also fall into this very sin as well.
The fruit of the Spirit is also a very popular verse for reconciliation. This is because it is always the Spirit that works through you to bring the reconciliation about. Galatians 5:22-26, " But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. Against such things, there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other."
When we all start living in the Spirit is when we get along, and when the Gospel gets spread most effectively! That is the whole reason we are down here on Earth to spread the glorious light of the Gospel!
Jesus prayed for us to be united just like Carla said in her post with John 17. Loving Jesus and loving each other is the most important task. Discipling/serving/evangelizing/such stuff like that will all come out of love.
I'm quite sure that God will use you to bless this church. Keep up the good work, Chris!