Saturday, 19 March 2016

The power of Peace

Why do men leave the church? I'm mainly talking to myself and my men friends here when I say, "don't be the guy who gets so many rocks and pebbles in your pocket that you get fed up and leave your church".  The reference here 1 Timothy 2:8

Don't be this guy!

Let me explain. I hope to present the problem here and suggest a solution or two. I call the solution the Power of Peace.

I have been in the same church (The Street City Church in Wellington, New Zealand) for 18 years now and, just like everyone else, there have been things about the church that I would have done differently and some of those things made me angry. Angry at who though? 

God? He is, after all, the overall leader of His church. 

How about the church leadership? They carry the brunt of the ire that is generated from people (like me) who, in a cruel irony, have set ideas about how 'church' should be done. How about the Head Pastor? Isn't he supposed to be the God-appointed leader who the buck stops with? 

I often found myself stewing over things that I had no control over and at the end of the day were really just 'Rocks and pebbles'. Rocks are big, substantial things that are sometimes due to real injustices that hurt us. Think child abuse or being wrongfully accused of a crime and serving time. Pebbles, however, are the small, personal injustices that are mostly acts of omission rather than commission meaning I am angry at the fact that someone DIDN'T do something as opposed to what they DID. Think about how many times you have been hurt because someone passed by you at church and didn't say hello or knew you were hurting and didn't offer any care or condolence. These omissions are simply what people didn't do or say when you thought they should. Pebbles.

Rocks carry absolute (yet only partial) responsibility on the part of the 'offender'. If your relative molested or abused you as a child then the relative carries the responsibility for that wrong and you have justification for blaming the relative. They acted wrongly in a sin of commission. Lets call this item a 'Rock'. However, if the relative just simply didn't call you when you thought they should or didn't send you the birthday card that they normally do well that is an 'act of omission' rather than a 'sin of omission' because we don't know what is going on with that person and it may well be that our not calling them at that point was a harsher act of omission. Everyone struggles. Let's call this item a 'Pebble'.

If you have rocks and pebbles in your pocket and jump in the ocean what happens? You sink to the bottom right? They key here is to get rid of the rocks and pebbles rather than hold on to them and be in danger of sinking! If you (or I) wind up throwing all our toys out of the cot and leaving our church then it is my fault (and yours) for not getting rid of the rocks and pebbles. At this point I can hear some of you saying, "my church has real issues though the leadership is not acting in line with how Jesus would have them act and the services are not teaching the Bible and x, y, and z." Some people may be right in leaving a church that doesn't have its act together. A Biblical model of church leadership is a good indication to make sure your church has it's act together with the right checks and balances with it's foundation in the Bible. Throughout the New Testament, principles of church leadership point to a central theme: plurality. The church is to be led by a plurality of godly leaders. By relying on consensual agreement of godly Elders selected from the congregation, the church creates a healthy checks-and-balances of leadership direction, financial accountability, spiritual guidance, and ministry implementation.

Most churches that have a Biblical model of church leadership (like mine) actually have the right checks and balances in place. Therefore, if I (or you) don't get rid of the stones and wind up leaving the church then it is actually on us to wear the responsibility for this decision...not on God or His church.

I mentioned at the start of this article a solution: how to get rid of the stones!

Firstly, be open to the fact that we are the issue. Not God. Not the leadership. Us.

If you (or I) are closed to the possibilities that WE are the problem then there is not a person on Earth that can help you throw the stones away. Be ready and willing to take full responsibility for the stuff you are thinking and you are on the right track to being able to swim through all the possible heartaches that come with being a human in a church. If you continue to put the blame for your wrong thinking on others you are sunk. Part of the good news is that the longer you live and stay in a good church the older and wiser you get and you by default you may be learning to throw the stones.

Secondly, use your God-given humility to approach your Pastor or Elder with your stone and let them know what it is you are unhappy about. The most likely outcome is that you will make a new friend or become a closer friend due to the fact that you have approached the issue in a Biblical manner (Matthew 18:15). You will also throw the stone away.

Lastly, use your stones to actually set up a bonfire to ignite your passion for His church! If you come out the other side with no stones in your pocket shouldn't the next logical thing be to put your own time and effort into building His church? If you find the power of Peace don't you want everyone to also find it...of course you do!

If you want relevance in your church -- Get involved! 
If you want to be involved in something bigger than yourself -- Get involved!
If you want a shot at greatness -- Get involved!
If you want to be challenged -- Get involved!
If you are looking for some different types of action, you want to be a leader, you just want some fun, you are looking for some brothers, just looking for healing. The answer to every one of these 2016 issues and goals is to get involved (and stay involved) in your local church. Just do it!

That is the solution.

In summary, if you make the decision to gather and carry your stones in your pocket until one day they weigh you down so much you decide to leave your church -- You alone have made that decision!

Lord, I pray for every reader to hear what I say in the right spirit: encouragement. Then decide to own up to the negative feelings and doubts they may have and take them to their leaders in a Biblical manner and, through this act of the will, be a better person and experience the power of Peace. Amen.