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When church is difficult…

There is a well-known saying, ‘Going to church no more makes you a Christian, than sitting in a garage, makes you a car’.  How true that is!  And yet often we are surprised when we are disappointed by people we meet in church or if we feel our leaders have let us down.

The church is God’s idea and we, as His people, are the ‘living stones’ of the church.  And regardless of the circumstances, I believe it is important for each of us to be part of a church and to be part of the ‘assembly’ (as it says in Hebrews 10).  No man is an island and we all need that sense of community and accountability.  However, it is not always easy.  In a perfect world, church should leave us feeling fulfilled and built up.  Church should be a place where we go to meet with other like-minded believers, where we are free to worship and where we can hear from God and be made strong in His word. For me, personally, it is not about the style of the church or the type of worship, it is about the connection we make with God when we are there.  Church should be a place where we become aware of God’s presence, where we can get encouraged and also corrected, if that is what we need.

But for many, church is not like that and many people struggle within their church communities.

So how can we respond when church life is difficult?

The first thing to remember is that every church has a variety of personalities.  We all worship and connect with God in different ways and we also each respond to situations in different ways too.  However, when dealing with difficult situations, here are a few ways we can respond:

Deal with the issue, not the person

Personally, when dealing with difficult people and situations within church, I have always found it helpful to not point out flaws in the person, but to address the real issue, or in some cases, the spirit which is motivating the negative behaviour.  For example in Acts 16, Paul and Silas were being followed by a woman who kept shouting, ‘these are men of God, they will show you the way to salvation’.  That might not sound like a bad thing, but Paul identified there was a spirit at work.  Instead of addressing the woman or the personality, he addressed the spirit of fortune-telling which was motivating this woman and commanded it to leave.   He saw the situation through his spiritual eyes, not his natural eyes.

Commit to prayer

It can be easy to react to negativity, but we should always first of all, commit to prayer. Sometimes, there are no ‘quick fixes’ for awkward situations or conflict, but we should always commit to covering the whole situation (for however long it takes) in prayer.

God’s Word has the answers

I was in situation many years ago and a pastor approached me about a difficult couple in his church. ‘What should we do, David? he asked.  It would have been very easy to give my opinion, but the truth is, it is not my opinion which counts, but the opinion of the Word of God.   What does God’s Word say?  I believe if we ask God for a revelation and an answer, He will always give us a strategy or shine a light on a piece of Scripture which will give us hope for the future.

When all else fails

You might be in a situation where you feel you have tried everything but there is no clear way forward.  If that is the case, perhaps God has a different church community for you to be part of?  If you feel it is time to move on, then it is important to ‘leave well’. Pastoring a church is a difficult job and for many ministers, it can be a lonely experience.

When a person leaves a church, as a pastor, it is difficult to not take it personally.  So, if you are leaving, try to take everyone’s feelings into consideration and don’t slam the door on your way out.  Instead, do all you can to leave with a right attitude and on good terms.   If you are looking for a new spiritual home, the key questions to ask yourself are; ‘Do I fit in here?’ ‘Do I feel at home?’  What is their vision? Is it something I can give my heart, time and talents to?  Are the leaders really called to the mission/vision of the church?  Can I support their vision?  And finally, is it a place where I can grow?

It’s important for all of us, to be part of a church community which enables us to grow spiritually and practically, but also to be encouraged and strengthened in God’s Word.  Ask God to guide you to the right church home.  He won’t let you down.

DavidBlog-July2017

 

 

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Trusting God in the middle of turbulence

This week’s blog is a guest post, written by a good friend Alan Scotland, Chairman of UCB’s Board and Global Horizons.  Among many other responsibilities Alan is also a well respected Pastor to Pastors. 

I remember being on a plane to the US some years ago, when the pilot announced that we were about to enter a ‘corridor of turbulence’. I will never forget his words, ‘It is just a corridor of turbulence, it will pass. Don’t panic’.

The shaking of the plane lasted for about 25 minutes, although it felt much longer. At one point I thought I should try to contact my wife, to leave a message and say my goodbyes. But eventually, the turbulence passed and the plane landed safely.

Turbulence in any area of our lives is deeply uncomfortable. We think it will never end, we may even think that we won’t make it. But for the believer, our confidence is not in systems or technology or even politics, our confidence must be in the Lord and in His faithfulness. It’s not trite to say this, it’s the truth.

However, when we are facing uncertainty in the world, how can we respond?

Be certain of your certainties.

The world is shaking at the moment. From North to South, nearly every area of the world is affected by turmoil of one kind or another. For believers, this is a pressure test and we need to ask ourselves, what is our faith placed in? Is it our finances? Our health? The Prime Minister? All of those things, as we are seeing, can be taken away but God promises us that He will be faithful to every generation. This is a time for believers to be certain of what we believe in and to stand firm on those certainties.

Don’t join the symphony of soundbites

I am saddened by the turmoil around us, but I also feel grief at the many negative attitudes and soundbites which are getting coverage. As Christians, we need to bring stability with our words and we have to be careful that we don’t join the symphony of negativity around us.

We need to declare truth, hope in the middle of despair and model what it is to be human, but humans who have divine guidance. We might not like what is happening, but there is no doubt in my mind that God is moving and challenging us as people and as the church. In a time of despair, believers need to be saying boldly, ‘Yes the ship is at sea, but we have an anchor that is firm and secure’.

Learn to let go

My wife once took me on a big dipper. My response was to cling tightly to the bar and wait for it to be over. My wife said to me, ‘Let go Alan, stop gripping so tightly.’ In times of difficulty, it is very easy to ‘cling to the bar’, to cling to what we see and know. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, ‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart and don’t lean on your own understanding. One of our absolute certainties needs to be our unshakeable trust in God. He will not fail us or let us down.

Have a vision for the future

We need a vision for the future. We need to be able to see what God is doing, and what God is wanting to do next. Why don’t you take a moment and ask yourself, ‘what do I see?’ What is your dream for the future of this nation?

When I look to the future, I see a massive, unprecedented move of God. Not a move of God which is restricted to a continent or a nation, but a universal move of the Spirit, a move of God that is so big, that no one will be able to put their name on it. It will be God at work, increasing His Kingdom in a way that we could not even imagine.

My theology in days like these is shaped by hope. Even in the middle of turbulence, I see God shaping and preparing us for a universal, multi-national move of His presence. With that knowledge, we have nothing to fear. We have hope and those who trust and put their hope in the Lord, will never be put to shame.

Trusting God In The Middle Of Turbulence