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The Problem with Church Problems

I have a big complaint with the church, we don’t know how to deal with problems. We go out and we do something about problems, but more times than not, we don’t do what is right in handling those problems. Because we don’t deal with things rightly, churches are splitting all over the place, pastors are leaving, church members are leaving and, most importantly, God’s name and work is besmirched. Part of the problem stems from our taking of worldly and fleshly ideas of problem solving, painting them up with “prayer” and “legitimate concern” or “compassion”, bringing them into the church and then attacking one another with those Godless notions We have only one single source of information that tells us how to deal with problems. We need to throw out all the worldly ideas, all our own ideas, and go back to Scriptures to develop a Biblical method for solving problems. In this article I am just going to give the outline of what the Bible says about handling conflict, sin or disagreements. In later articles I will be addressing the details of each point more fully. These points are in a loose chronological order. That is because some things have to happen before others, but they don’t all have to happen in the particular order I have laid out here. If there is a problem between you and someone else in the church (even if it is the pastor, his wife, staff member, deacon or some influential leadership) you must:

  1. Consider your own heart first- you must be righteous in your response, motivation and goals. (Galatians 6:1-3)
  2. Consider the issue from a Biblical perspective- some things that you have strong feelings about are not necessarily sins or even problems. (Romans 14:3; Hebrews 12:12)
  3. Pray carefully, honestly and earnestly about the issue- pray you will have the right perspective, attitude and responses; pray truth will be revealed; pray both of you will respond righteously to the truths of the Word. (Philippians 4:6; 1 Corinthians 4:5;
  4. Seek to know the truth of the matter- don’t just assume that your impression or opinion of the matter is right. There will always be at least two sides to every issue. (Proverbs 18:13)
  5. Be ready and willing to overlook a fault (1 Peter 4:8)
  6. If the problem is hindering your or their walk with God you must deal with it- don’t wait for them to come to you, you go to them. (Matthew 5:23-24)
  7. Go privately- don’t even think about talking to someone else until you first go to the person. If this person is the pastor or some other leader, you still go to them privately. (Matthew 18:15)
  8. Go graciously- the goal has nothing to do with you being right and them being wrong. The goal is to bring them back to a point of obedience to God and right fellowship with God and their fellow Christians. (Colossians 4:6)
  9. Be patient- If it is possible, give time for the Holy Spirit to work in their heart. Remember, very few of us are gracious enough to immediately respond righteously to personal confrontation. (Colossians 3:12-15)
  10. Repeat steps 1-8 as often as necessary to either reveal a heart that is unrepentant or
    help them through the process of change.
  11. Get off your high horse- the only reason you are talking to them and not the other way around is because your problem isn’t as readily known (or they are more able to overlook a fault than you are). You are just as bad as they are, and don’t ever forget it. (Romans 7:18)
  12. If the issue is sin and they repent, forgive- put the thing behind you and move on as if it never happened. Your relationship has a real potential to be better now than it ever was. (Ephesians 4:32; Matthew 18:21-22)
  13. If the issue is a misunderstanding or difference of opinion continue to treat each other as brothers in Christ, not enemy combatants- remember, you are each going to give account to God for yourselves, not for one another. (Romans 14:4-8)
  14. If there is sin and they refuse to repent, tell the matter to a couple others who that person respects (preferably church leadership) and go to them- still go privately, and don’t tell any more than those who are involved in going back with you. (Matthew 18:15-16)
  15. Remember, the purity of the church and the unity of the body is at stake. Don’t back off this process just because you “don’t want to be the bad guy.” That’s a selfish, pride filled motivation. (1 Corinthians 5:6; Philippians 2:3-4)
  16. Continue to go back to the one in sin, with two or three witnesses, until they will not hear you.
  17. When they refuse to hear you and the others who are pleading with them, take the matter to the church at large- let the church body plead with them and plead with God for their repentance. (Matthew 18:17; 1 Corinthians 5:4-5)
  18. When they come to the point of refusing to hear the church body, then you must remove them from the church- bringing someone in front of the church to vote them out only comes after they have refused to hear the church body. (Matthew 18:17)
  19. The goal is still restoration to righteousness and reconciliation to the body. (2 Corinthians 2:6-8)
  20. Maintain gracious actions and attitudes throughout this process- don’t get sucked into anger, slander, maliciousness, unkindness, hypocrisy or evil speaking. (Romans 12:21; Ephesians 4:29-32)
  21. If the disciplined one repents, there must be restoration and reconciliation. Removing someone from the church is not a sentence of bansihment for life from all our Christian love. (Romans 12:18-21; 2 Corinthians 2:6-8)
  22. If the disciplined one does not repent, we still must treat them with Biblical kindness and Godly love, while not overlooking the fact of their sin and their separation from the body of Christ. (Galatians 6:9-10)
  23. If someone responds to us sinfully, and even hurtfully, our response still has to be righteous- because they sinned first does not give any one of us the right to sin in response. (Luke 6:27-30; Romans 12:21; 1 Peter 3:9)

This process applies to all people in the church. The pastor must be practicing this with the membership. The members must apply this to their dealings with the pastor. The deacons and pastor must treat one another according to these Biblical principals. The members must each treat one another this way. Part of the problem in church problems is we have begun to define categories, situations or individuals to whom we do not have to respond in this fashion. Unless that definition is Biblically based, it is dead wrong. Deal with each other, no matter who the other is, Biblically.

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