Wednesday, May 18, 2022

RESPONDING TO HURT IN THE CHURCH

 

The Bible presents the Church using beautiful and glorious word pictures. The Church is the body of Christ, which shares in the perfections of her head (1 Corinthians 12:20Ephesians 1:22-23Colossians 1:18). She is a building that is built on the firm foundation of Christ (Ephesians 2:20). She is also called a radiant bride, loved and purchased by the blood of the Son of God (Ephesians 5:25Revelation 19:7-8). These images are not only beautiful but reassuring. They, in a sense, present the Church in an attractive and alluring manner. That said, one does not have to stay long in a church to notice that beauty and glory are often a distant illusion. It’s in the church that many of us have experienced profound hurt.

The Church Is The People

The church is not the building or its programs. It is the people. And as we all know, people are often messy and hurtful. Hurt people hurt others.

If you are reading this and you belong to a local church, there’s a good chance you’ve been hurt before. This could be through neglect in time of need or some form of nasty treatment—actual or perceived. The reality is that by joining a group of sinners, you are almost guaranteed to be hurt in some form or shape. Thus, part of our sanctification is to know how to deal with hurt and the hurting among us.

Sources Of Hurt

These hurts come from various sources or in different forms. The first and most apparent is inter-personal conflict. These conflicts and quarrels come because of selfishness and sinful desires in our hearts (James 4:1-3). Unless they are dealt with biblically, these conflicts have a way of breeding hurt and will soon affect a congregation (Philippians 4:2). Divisions about doctrine, practice, or ministerial philosophy are also a source of hurt. Those who ‘lose’ the battle will often be marginalised or hounded out.

Another source of hurt in the church is abuse. This comes in many forms. Some have experienced manipulation from false teachers or leaders who are intoxicated with power. Sadly, we have even seen cases of sexual abuse. Another common source of hurt is the wrong expression of church discipline as well as how we respond to it. Going through such experiences will leave one emotionally and mentally hurting. Many of us have scars to show for it.  

Two Tempting Reactions To Hurt

When one has experienced any of the above hurts, or others, two reactions are instinctive.

The first is to retreat and let the pain simmer inside. These people harbour hatred and bitterness or resort to self-pity. They will often abandon the local church altogether because they cannot stand the pretence and hypocrisy. They figure they are better off alone. In some instances, they may have tried to voice their frustrations, but they were not heard.

The second reaction is to attack. Wounded people are often a danger to themselves and others. For we naturally desire to get even, and take the offensive. There is a desire to pay back and put people in their place. Hence, malicious slander and gossip ensues. But this sort of conduct is not befitting of God’s people.  

Whatever the reaction, whether retreating or attacking, we must remember that these reactions, though instinctive, are not biblical. In many ways, followers of Jesus must live counter-intuitively to their nature. One of the ways we can be set apart, demonstrating holiness, is in how we respond to hurt.

Make Christ Your Example

In order to respond differently to hurt, we will need the example of Christ before us. For the Son of God came down to earth to live among and die at the hands of the people he had created. What is even more remarkable is that at the very moment they were crucifying him, he was sustaining their lives and dying for their sins.

Therefore, Paul writes: “If there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:1-5).

How To Respond to Hurt

With Christ as our example, contrary to the ways in which we instinctively react to hurt, I will conclude with four biblical responses.

1. Pray  

One of the hymns we sing as a church family asks the following questions: “Are you weary, are you heavy-hearted”; “are you grieving over joys departed”; “do the tears flow down your cheeks unbidden”? The refrain, and the answer, is: “Tell it to Jesus”. We have an all-knowing, sympathising high priest who cares for our needs and knows about our struggles. Dear hurting Christian, cast your cares on the Lord (1 Peter 5:7). Tell him how you feel. Ask for grace and humility to handle the matter in a way that honours him and loves others.

2. Confront 

If someone has sinned against you, we have a Christian responsibility to point out the error of his or her ways lovingly so that they may repent (Matthew 18:15-20). This is part of our responsibility of growing one another. When we develop a healthy culture of confronting sin with the goal of reconciliation, we will, in turn, build one another up in our faith. It is through confrontation that those who are wolves in sheep's skin are exposed and expelled. It is worth noting, that failure to confront is disobedience to God's word and simply enables and encourages those who hurt others. 

3. Forgive 

Whenever a group of sinners comes together, it is guaranteed that they will offend and hurt one another. One sure way churches can live in harmony is by ensuring that we forego our rights to demand retribution. Instead, we must cultivate forgiveness and grace. Resist the temptation to hold grudges and harbour bitter anger.

4. Patience  

Change is a process. Individual Christian faith and maturity grow slowly. It takes time. This is also true of the broader Christian community. Therefore, as we pray, confront and forgive one another, we must exercise patience. Paul exhorts Timothy to teach with all patience (2 Timothy 2:24). As we deal with frustrations and hurts within the church, we must heed the instruction to bear with one another.

Note: This was first written for the Gospel Coalition Africa blog. 

https://africa.thegospelcoalition.org/article/how-not-to-respond-to-church-hurt/


 

Thursday, May 5, 2022

Four Temptations Young Preachers May Face


I started pursuing vocational ministry at a young age, right out of high school. And I was officially ordained for pastoral ministry nine years ago. I still draw looks of sympathy and shock when people find out I am a pastor at Faith Baptist Church. All that to say, I am still a young man. Thankfully, we have more young men desiring ministry and serving in different churches and organisations.  I have received numerous warnings during my time in ministry to watch my life and doctrine. “Be wary of the three big sins; pride, sexual scandals and love for money.” They would say. Of the three, greed for money and sexual immorality are emphasised partly because they are often prominent and easy to notice and prove. Pride, however, is harder to prove. Have you ever tried to confront a proud person about their pride? Or do you remember your response the last time you were confronted about your pride? You get my point, right? While what I say here can be true of everyone, my focus will be on the young ministers (both in age and newness to pastoral ministry). 

The pride of Impatience                                            

Youthful zeal and vigour are the blessings young people possess in abundance. They have the strength and always boiling to get things done. They want to preach people out of their sins and see everyone grow to maturity like yesterday. They want success now. They also have seen and admired the success of their spiritual heroes. They want to emulate their successes and enjoy the privileges that their heroes enjoy. They forget that their heroes have laboured for decades and are beginning to see and enjoy the fruit. The ministry is not like throwing popcorn in the microwave; it is like a farmer planting a seed in the ground and waiting patiently. Impatience leads to frustration and discouragement, which leads to joyless service.

Clamour for attention and platforms

Social media has made all of us into self-marketers. We have learnt how to package, parade and promote ourselves. We put ourselves out there and wait for the likes, shares and comments. We desire to take the word out, but we also want to be noticed and recognised. We clamour for attention and platforms. We want the big and famous to see and recognise us. We love the church, but we want a personal ministry venture by the side, which can be considered our initiative. So we look for praise and applause wherever we can get it, and we are shocked and unprepared when confronted, criticised or condemned. We deem ourselves experts on every issue and freely and strongly share our opinions. We will do anything to get attention, including attacking and slandering other Christians. After all, the more malicious and cynical our comments are, the more airwave they receive. We need to constantly remind ourselves that Self-praise and self-referential ministers do not point to Christ. 

An assumed holiness

One blessing of ministry is the gift of regular opportunities to teach, study and read extensively. Ministers get to answer questions and have conversations with people about all kinds of spiritual and biblical topics. With this comes the temptation to have assumed holiness. To think that because you have taught something, you have lived it. And to believe that you become holy by the sheer fact that you have read and taught something. As a result, it is not uncommon to find young ministers whose self-assessment of their holiness is far from reality and whose life is screaming louder than their words. This is the failure to learn and listen to those who have gone before us and assume we know it all. We behave like that single and childless seminary graduate who wrote his dissertation on “the five definitive principles of raising children,” his bold and assuming title underwent several revisions after marriage and children came; from “five principles to raising children” to “five suggestions” and last “, help me I am dying” after the fifth child! Teaching truth and even doing it well is not the same as living it out.

An argumentative and quarrelsome spirit

Young people are inclined to be argumentative and quarrelsome. It is partly because of the eagerness and because they are just beginning to learn principles and are not fully exposed. They see things only one way and are therefore narrow-minded. They are ready to jump into every fight and burn bridges—cue in social media, which unfortunately provides a platform for both the wise and unwise. Paul warns Timothy to pursue purity, and in this context, he is concerned about a quarrelsome spirit. Paul says that an antagonistic spirit comes from an impure heart.

            In our pride, we want everyone to be like us. We expect them to agree with everything we say and support all our ideas. They must fit our tradition, and we do away with them if they do not. That was the spirit of disciples when they stopped someone from casting out demons because he was not one of them. They forgot that the Lord can use anyone to advance his kingdom. We will mark and avoid them purely because they are not part of our tribe.

Conclusion

        When not dealt with rightly and humbly, these temptations and struggles make for some angry, discouraged, and envious young preachers. They blast, shout, complain and grumble about the church and everything else. They are often discouraged and do not experience the joy of their Christian service. They do not delight in the work because they do not delight in the Lord. Their angry preaching is mistaken for powerful preaching. Their self-pity attitude is spiritualised and called suffering in the ministry. Discouraged, angry and joyless people do not make for good shepherds, nor are they examples of Christlikeness. And so, young ministers need to learn to delight in Christ and find their satisfaction in him alone because he is more than enough. John’s declaration should be every minister’s declaration, “He must increase, but I must decrease.”

 

Monday, January 24, 2022

Satan’s Agenda for the Church

Mike Fabrez once challenged a group of preachers to prepare and preach with expectations that Satan is a foe who has an agenda for the church, the family, and individual believers. This reality should fuel prayer and passion in preaching. This tremendously challenged my perspective, and I thought I should share the truths I learned. So, what is Satan’s agenda for the church? 

1.                  To persecute the church

Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death. Revelation 2:10

2.                  To keep the church apart

But since we were torn away from you, brothers, for a short time, in person not in heart, we endeavored the more eagerly and with great desire to see you face to face, because we wanted to come to you—I, Paul, again and again—but Satan hindered us. 1 Thessalonians 2: 17-18

3.                  To promote conflict in the church

Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will. 2 Timothy 2:23-26

4.                  To oppose the church’s evangelism

But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles—to whom I am sending you to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me. Acts 26:6-18

5.                  To get people to depart from the doctrine of the church

Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer. 1 Timothy 4:1-3

 In view of Satan’s agenda for the church, preachers must heed Paul’s solemn charge to the young preacher Timothy—to preach the Word and not relent from doing so at any time. The congregation must be devoted to praying for the preacher and the preaching of God’s Word. Furthermore, congregations must demand that the preacher preach the Word so that they can be equipped to submit to God and resist the devil.

 It is instructive that Paul says to the Ephesians believers that when members are equipped, they do the work of ministry and the church is built up and is able to withstand the fiery darts of the devil (Ephesians 6:12-16).

 

 

Monday, January 17, 2022

Satan’s Agenda for the Home

The Bible makes it very clear that the believer’s life here on earth is a battlefield. We are at war and our enemy, the devil, is a formidable foe. What makes him formidable is the fact that he is a master strategist. He has a clear and specific plan for the church, the home and the individual Christian. It is therefore imperative that the Christian home be aware of the schemes of Satan in order for them to stand against his fiery darts.  Having highlighted Satan’s agenda for the individual last week, we now look at what the Bible says is his agenda for the home.

1.                  To usurp the husband’s leadership in the home- Genesis 3:6

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.

2.                  To promote adultery in the home- 1 Corinthians 7:3-5

The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise, the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

3.                  To promote sibling rivalry in the home- 1 John 3:11

For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous.

There is more that can be said as to what Satan’s agenda is for the home (i.e. misplaced values, disregard for the Bible, etc.). The ones listed here are merely representative. The goal here is to awaken us to the reality of the battle we have in the Christian home. We have to be vigilant and diligent in ensuring that our homes are embassies for the kingdom of God. Fathers have to be spiritual leaders and disciple their wives and children. Mothers have to be godly dispensers of God’s truth, and the children have to be obedient and seek to live out the truth of God’s Word. The Christian home should be a place where the Word of God is taught, lived out and proclaimed to the unbelieving world in order that Christian homes may withstand the strategic and deliberate plans of the Evil One.

 

 

Monday, January 10, 2022

Satan’s Agenda for the Christian

There are two extremes to avoid when it comes to the works of Satan in a Christian’s life. The first is the tendency to fantasize and see him in every shadow of life. This is the thinking of people whose minds are preoccupied with sensationalism that is more akin to a fictional Hollywood production. The other is the thinking that belittles the work of Satan among believers. Such a mindset betrays itself, is naive and denies the truth of Scripture that we do not wrestle against flesh and blood but with principalities and powers. It is, therefore, imperative that we are aware of the works of the Evil one among us and be clear about his agenda in his works. What is his agenda?

1.                  To make Christians turn against God

Then Satan answered the LORD and said, “Does Job fear God for no reason? Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” And the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” So, Satan went out from the presence of the LORD. Job 1:9-12

2.                  To make Christians rely on their resources

Then Satan stood against Israel and incited David to number Israel. So David said to Joab and the commanders of the army, “Go, number Israel, from Beersheba to Dan, and bring me a report, that I may know their number.” But Joab said, “May the LORD add to his people a hundred times as many as they are! Are they not, my lord the king, all of them my lord’s servants? Why then should my lord require this? Why should it be a cause of guilt for Israel?” But the king’s word prevailed against Joab. So, Joab departed and went throughout all Israel and came back to Jerusalem. And Joab gave the sum of the numbering of the people to David. In all Israel there were 1,100,000 men who drew the sword, and in Judah 470,000 who drew the sword. But he did not include Levi and Benjamin in the numbering, for the king’s command was abhorrent to Joab. But God was displeased with this thing, and he struck Israel. And David said to God, “I have sinned greatly in that I have done this thing. But now, please take away the iniquity of your servant, for I have acted very foolishly.” 1 Chronicles 21:1-8

3.                  To make Christians anxious and worried

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. 1 Peter 5:6-10

 4.                  To impede Christians’ sanctification

Put on the whole armor of God that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the whole armor of God that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints. Ephesians 6:11-18

Dear Christian, we have a formidable enemy, and he is on a mission to sift us like wheat. We dare not take him on in our own strength, for the arm of flesh will fail. We should, therefore, take heed to the words of Scripture and be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.