*Disclaimer: This post will seem as if I am against the big "C" Church. On the contrary. I love the Church and desire for her to be the beacon of hope she was created to be. However, as a whole, we have forgotten our place. This is a reminder to all believers (including myself) to repent and realign our allegiances to Christ so we can have a greater impact on society.
In 2004, Paramount released a movie called Mean Girls. It was about a high school girl educated in Africa by scientist parents, who moved back to a suburb of Illinois only to discover how cruel, fake, and cliquish the girls of her school could be. Unfortunately, this could also sum up the atmosphere in many of our churches today.
I've heard from a number of people who have experienced similar circumstances in the past and today refuse to grace the doors of a church because of such nonsense.
I have known pastors who have been verbally beat up, discouraged, and dismissed simply because a few men and women of persuasion chose not to biblically pray for and support them, but undermined their God-given authority. Like a corporate CEO, these individuals aroused such negativity within the body there was no alternative but to remove the pastor. This ought not be.
I can only imagine what the Apostle Paul would have to say about these frequent happenings within God's places of worship. I'm sure his letter writing would go into overdrive as he admonished and challenged the leadership body to humble themselves to God's authority instead of allowing carnality to rule their reason.
But the greatest of my concern is what message this is sending to those who have never been to church. What is this display of misguided vindictiveness telling those who already have a jaded bent towards Christians and Christianity?
Let me blunt...it is doing a lot of harm and I believe those of us within the church will have to answer for the role we played, whether we were the instigator, naysayer, the complainer, or we were the silent pew sitter not wanting to rock the boat further.
So, why are there mean people in church? Aren't Christ-followers called to be different? The answer is sin. Yes, we are called to be different, but unfortunately there are moments when we revert back to our fleshly natures and we allow our pride and arrogance to get in the way of what God is doing. But let's break down this sin problem within our churches a bit more.
Pride - God said in Proverbs 8:13, "To fear the LORD is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech." He later says, "Pride only breeds quarrels, but wisdom is found in those who take advice (13:10)." Those of us in leadership positions should be quick to listen and slow to speak. We should pray daily for God to rid us of our pride and to convict our hearts when we begin to go astray seeking our own "wisdom" in situations involving the church and other believers.
Carnality - this lack of spiritual maturity and act of having a worldly mindset is addressed by Paul when he writes, "For you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way (1 Corinthians 3:3)?" Listen, church! We are to leave behind our fleshly desires and instead take up Christ's mantle of peace and holiness. Fighting and bickering and stirring up strife amongst believers is carnal and wholly unacceptable for those who carry the name Christian. This is a call to spiritually grow up.
Selfishness - When our selfish nature takes hold, we want the church to act and operate in a way which best fits our needs. James addresses this when he says, "For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice (James 3:16)." What we have to remember is our lives, our churches, our businesses, our ministries, etc., are not our own. We are placed in these positions to be the hands and feet of Jesus not to bring ourselves comfort or control. We must set our desires on God's will, God's ways, God's leading, God's teaching, God's control so in everything we do and say, it reflects the mind of Christ.
Unforgiveness - Nobody likes to admit to holding on to things, but we do...all of us. When someone says or does something we take offense to, we begin harboring bitterness towards that person, and it continues to grow and affect our outward reactions until we deal (or don't deal) with it properly. God said, "Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord (Leviticus 19:18)." Paul also wrote about this when he said, "Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you (Colossians 3:13)."
There are many other facets of sin within our churches and in our hearts we could look at, but these few, if we are sensitive to the Lord's loving admonishments, are enough to convict us of any wrongdoing we may have been party to.
Even as I typed this blog, I had to stop and ask forgiveness for sinful attitudes I have harbored against a certain few in my relationship circles. I have been wrong in my assessments and have unfairly labelled them simply because of personality differences. I fall short just as everyone else does, but thankfully, God does not allow me to stay in that sinful place and I hope He won't allow you either.
The Church is supposed to be a reflection of Christ. May we set aside those sins which entangle us and instead focus our eyes, our heart, our actions, our words, on Him and who He is. There is a world out there who needs to feel the love of Jesus not the bickering of His people.