Church Problems

Lies in the Church by Angela J. Kaufman
Members having church problems.


Many times after we have gone through difficult times it would be helpful if we reflected on what happened and why. Sometimes the events of our pain can come from one of three contributing factors.  First of all, our own naiveté in not dealing with problems as they arise can cause wounds to multiply.  Second, the action or inaction (sinfulness) of others always affects people in and around them.  We are not immune from the sinful world around us. And third, Satan is adamant about halting anything that helps the church grow and spread the Word. Sometimes this is considered to be “testing” from God.

The church is so much like society in our approach to dealing with lies. The church is just as good as anybody or any organization when it comes to glossing over, ignoring, denying and avoiding problems caused by lies. It is my opinion that we Christians of all people should be experts in the field of good and evil.  We must be the most “street smart” when it comes to identifying evil.  Since we know God, the ultimate good, why were we so ignorant of evil?  Are we so Bible illiterate we are bound helpless?  

According to an online poll by Christianity Today, almost 90 percent of people attending church today say they have been hurt by the church at some time in their lives. Here is what the numbers revealed.
Have you ever been hurt by the church?”
Yes, and I left that church: 47%
Yes, and I stayed at that church: 42%
No: 11%”
The yeses voice an incredible concern. What is going on? Where is the source of
this pain? What can be done about it?

This book, Lies in the Church, is not about those who can see the truth about themselves.  The lies we will be talking about are of such intense evil that we must deal with the problem and often there is nothing else to do but remove them completely from the body of Christ.
A word of caution is needed.  We have preconceived ideas of how an evil person looks and acts.  But M. Scott Peck, in his book, People Of The Lie, reminds us, they “were not crazy as we ordinarily think of the word.  They were not babbling and demented.  They were coherent and self-possessed, holding down responsible jobs, making money, apparently functioning smoothly in the social system, and hardly identifiable on superficial inspection as the least bit deranged.”
This certainly makes the task more difficult, but not impossible.

Church problems do not resolve without truth, but only intensify.  If there is not a change in behavior and you continue to say the same thing hoping to get different results, you are actually beating your head against the wall of resistance and may become tired of the effort, unaware of the pain you are causing your own spirit and body. Your God-based hopefulness may have caused you to insist on repeatedly trying to resolve whatever the situation may be, despite the lack of progress.

Consider what Philip Yancey in his book, Church: Why Bother? says about our pain.  “Hypersensitivity to pain can be a resource, an unexpected gift.  The same tears that break our hearts may also nourish us in ways that matter most to God.” We could even go as far as to say our life naturally will have problems and resistance if we are truly following and obeying what God wants us to do.

Two people having church problems by not listening to each other.

This next concept cannot be said enough: we do not have to agree to get along.  In fact, say it out loud when you talk. Practice this, say it, live it. We absolutely do not have to agree to get along.

Lest we get smug about another’s behavior, listen to what Philip Yancey said in his book, Church: Why Bother? He said, “I had a knew-jerk reaction against anything that smacked of hypocrisy until one day the question occurred to me, ‘What would church look like if every member were just like me?’” What if everyone reacts to problems like I do?  We have our differences and don’t have to think alike to be part of God’s family.

People need to realize that as long as all parties agree to continue talking, a resolution is possible.  If one group decides not to talk, there is not a chance in this world for a resolution. Think of all the relationships in businesses or families that dissolve because someone quits trying to communicate. What is the fear that stops us from walking through the pain?

If we do not learn from our pain, we will have to experience more of it until we start to see how God wants us to use our pain experiences to connect with and help others.  Sometimes it is our stubbornness and our pride that refuses to see God’s purposes in the gift of pain. 

One person having church problems by refusing to listen.
Stages of not confronting:

First, is the issue of denial.  People who are leaders may say, “ I don’t believe this is a problem (denial) for us.” Or perhaps even bolder, they might say, “It isn’t my problem.” Whether it be a case of domestic abuse within a church family or a case of abuse between a leader and a member of the church, these responses are not uncommon.

The second stage is acknowledgement of an issue after the problem has grown beyond containment.  At this point, people will admit there is a problem, but no one knows what the solution is.  It may seem that the consequences of inaction come in such rapid succession there is no way to halt the damage.  Eventually pain of any type will affect more people than the original incident.
Church Problems: One person pointing at another who refuses to listen.
Regret is the final stage which is often characterized by: “ I guess we dropped the ball.   I wish we had done something sooner.” Unfortunately, the cycle will begin again unless there is a confronting action taking place.

“This cycle does not bring about healing and growth if not combined with confrontational actions – such as seeking outside counsel (God’s guidance and outside consultants), repentance, an analysis of congregational needs, congregational involvement, proactive behavior modification, and a commitment to change made by the congregation as well as its leaders.”

Way too many times congregations sigh in relief after the final stage of regret.  They think the problem was so big it blew up and now it’s over.  There is nothing more to be done, it’s too late.  But even if we reach the stage of regret, we are not off the hook. There is where the real work must begin.  Shoving things under the rug will not result in healing.

Non-confronting is not the best approach; one avoids the issue.  However, if we tend to avoid problems, there are other indicators that accompany this behavior. First, we typically are unwilling to accept our responsibility in the conflict.  Second, we hide or withdraw from the person caught in the web of the conflict itself.  A natural consequence of this is that we now become isolated.  An invisible wall is built.  Third, we are actually afraid of a confrontation.  We fear there will be consequences or a dissolving of the relationship. When in fact, we must confront in order to save the relationship.

Arnold Glasgow states: “One of the tests of leadership is this ability to recognize a problem before it becomes an emergency.”

This concept is starting to sting, because again and again we are reminded not to deny or avoid the reality, but face problems with love and grace.

Or as Max Lucado states in his book, Facing Your Giants, “Give grace, but, if need be, keep your distance.  You can forgive the abusive husband without living with him. Be quick to give mercy to the immoral pastor, but be slow to give him a pulpit.  Society can dispense grace and prison terms at the same time.  Offer the child molester a second chance, but keep him off the playgrounds. Forgiveness is not foolishness.” 

Kendall affirms, “it is an injustice when certain people are at large who have done and can still do great harm to others.  This is why a person who is raped should testify in court; it is why a person who threatens the unity of the church should be dealt with.” We are not only responsible for our spiritual health and well-being, we are responsible for our brothers and sisters as well.


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Leadership, denominational accountability, mental problems, denial of problems, blaming others, narcissism

The Connection Newsletter, The Weekly Newsletter of Christianity Today International, Tuesday, August 7, 2007, p. 3. 

M. Scott Peck, People Of The Lie, The Hope for Healing Human Evil, Simon and Schuster, 1983, p. 121.

Philip Yancey, Church: Why Bother?  Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1998  p. 83.

Philip Yancey, Church: Why Bother? Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1998, 20–21.

Will Schirmer, Reaching Beyond The Mennonite Comfort Zone, Exploring From The Inside Out, Telford, PA: Cascadia Publishing House; Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 2003, 110-11.

George Sanchez “How to Resolve Conflicts,” Discipleship 8,” (March 1982): 3,

Max Lucado, Facing Your Giants (W Publishing Group, a div. of Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2006), 50.

R.T. Kendall, Total Forgiveness (Lake Mary, FL: Charisma House, 2002), 110.

Marshall Shelley, Well-Intentioned Dragons, Ministering to Problem People in the Church (Waco, TX: WORD books, ,1985), 105.

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