Burned by Church — Part Two
Responding to church problems and disappointments
Doug Britton, MFT
Expect church problems and disappointments
Are you bitter, cynical, angry or depressed because of disappointments or wounds experienced in church? If so, don’t let those hurts destroy your faith or drive you away from fellowshipping with other believers. Instead, ask God to help you deal with the wounds wisely, and then press ahead in your walk with the Lord.
Let’s review the five guidelines for responding to church problems in part 1 of this study. (Click here to read part 1 of “Burned by Church.”)
- Expect church problems. Realize that everyone is imperfect.
- Realize there may be more to the picture.
- Realize you may be wrong.
- Agree to disagree — courteously.
- If you are sure you are right about a concern, respond with love.
Church problems and disappointments — More guidelines
6. Look for the good in people. Focus on the positive.
It’s easy to slip into a critical mentality and focus on others’ faults. Yet people you are upset with undoubtedly do many things well. Don’t slip into a condemning or judgmental attitude. See their gifts and strengths.
Honor your leaders, even if you sometimes disagree with them. Be sure to voice appreciation much more often than criticism. Remember that they have thrown much of their lives and energy into serving.
When you go to church, go with the attitude of, “What can I learn today? How can I grow in the Lord? How can I be a blessing to others?”
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things. (Philippians 4:8)
Related: Love other people as-is
7. Look at insults, disagreements, and problems as opportunities to grow in the Lord.
Problems present us with opportunities to grow in love, patience and wisdom. If you are insulted or think you have been mistreated, thank God for the opportunity to stretch and grow in him. Learn to turn to the Lord for your affirmation, not to others.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:4)
8. Forgive others.
Even if those who wound us do not apologize, God tells us to forgive. Look at the example of Stephen. He forgave the crowd even as they stoned him to death (Acts 7:60).
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (Ephesians 4:32)
Related: Why should I forgive him or her?
9. Be part of the solution to church problems.
Pray for those with whom you are upset — and for your attitude.
… Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you … (Matthew 5:44)
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 saints. (Ephesians 6:18)
Related: God says to love your enemies
Identify needs and offer to fill them.
If you see a need in the church, volunteer to help with it. See if there is something concrete you can do to help resolve a problem or meet the need.
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:3-4)
Talk about church problems — respectfully.
Don’t bring up everything with which you disagree. However, when a problem comes up, be willing to talk about it with the appropriate person. Do so respectfully and lovingly. Be an instrument of reconciliation.
As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17)
If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. (Romans 12:18)
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. (Ephesians 4:29)
Leave the results in God’s hands.
Unless you need to take strong action (see below), once you have done what you think God has called you to do, put the results in God’s hands. Continue to pray, but don’t keep bringing the issue up.
Do not gossip.
He who goes about as a talebearer reveals secrets, But he who is trustworthy conceals a matter. (Proverbs 11:13)
If you think you need to take strong actions, do so gracefully.
It is appropriate to take action if someone joins a cult, embezzles money, has an affair, or engages in other serious sins. But even then, maintain an attitude of concern and prayer. Don’t give in to bitterness.
Related: Replace irritation with grace
10. If you leave your church, find another one.
It’s usually much better not to leave your church. Remember that you are a family, and sometimes families have to work through unpleasant times. However, at times leaving may be the best thing to do.
If you do leave, be sure to seek out and attend another church. We need fellowship, and we need to take advantage of the ministries God provides for our growth.
It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. (Ephesians 4:13)
Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another — and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:25)
11. Don’t give up on Jesus.
Don’t let disappointment in people cause you to be disappointed in Jesus. He loves you and is your best friend.
I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:17-19)
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About Doug Britton, MFT
Doug Britton, Bible-based Marriage and Family Therapist, has helped hundreds of thousands of people as a therapist, clinical director of a treatment center, seminar speaker, radio cohost, and author of over twenty books that show how to apply God's truths in your daily life. (Visit www.dougbrittonbooks.com.)
Copyright © 2020 Doug Britton. Permission granted to print for personal use. (Scripture verses are from the New International Version, copyright © 1984.) See reprint policy.