Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Using Tough Love

What if you are a new member (or even an older member or teacher) and learn that your church has those who do not accept the fundamentals of the faith? Then those infiltrators with a false message gain a strong position and threaten to take over. Tough love is paramount. Be firm but never unkind. Go slowly. You may be able to minister to the infiltrators. Keep in mind that some infiltrators are well-intentioned but misled. Some may even be longtime churchgoers but not Christians. They may be fragile people; if you bend them too fast they will break. Therefore, do not pound down their throats the Bible, the gospel, or yourself. Remember the words of Paul and show compassion, "kindness, humility, meekness, long suffering" (Colossians 3:12). Long suffering, or patience, requires time; be committed to the process, not to a quick fix. In these situations, quick fixes usually lead to delusions. Church divisions and potential splits can occur, but often, by following the above procedures, they can be avoided. We need to examine our own hearts. Are we trying to work in cooperation whenever possible? I think of Bernard and Shelly in this regard. They had been involved in two church splits. Moving to a different state, they joined a fairly large church. It wasn't long until they became critical of Richard, their pastor, who was teaching basic biblical truth. Bernard and Shelly were spreading dissension among the people of the church. So he went to Bernard and said he would like to begin to meet with him on a weekly basis. Bernard seemed open to that strategy. Before long, Richard's wife was meeting with Shelly on a weekly basis. Shelly revealed that Bernard had older brothers who continually put him down and told him he was worthless. His father yelled at him severely. Through much of his life he struggled with deep feelings of inferiority. It became apparent that the reason Bernard opposed church leadership was because people from his past had so wounded him. Pastor Richard's wife received permission to tell her husband about Bernard's painful past. Later Pastor Richard decided and Bernard agreed to draw some boundaries for Bernard, and the pastor warned him not to cross those boundaries. This helped Bernard see clearly what was right and wrong in his critical attitude, and he responded positively. Meanwhile, the pastor affirmed Bernard with love and discipleship by telling him of that love and of his commitment to seeing Bernard grow. A transformation occurred. The critical spirit gradually disappeared and in its place Bernard grew in his Christian life and thrived, like one of those olive trees in the Old Testament planted by a stream of water. For the last fifteen years Bernard and Shelly have faithfully served God in that local assembly. People are not always on the side of evil. More frequently, they are deceived by the lies of the enemy. Whether you are pastor or a member of a congregation recognize your opportunity to help those who create divisions. When godly men and women come alongside and win an opponent's trust by showing love and care, divisive people can often be turned around for good. Never write someone off simply because they're not acting the way you believe a Christian should. Sometimes they're acting that way because they simply do not know the truth. Dr. Ken Copley is available for counseling, conferences, and local church meetings.

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