Today is the exact day 5 years ago that our U-haul pulled up to our new home and new ministry. I know 5 years is just a drop in the bucket, but I’m already looking forward to my “top 10 lessons learned in the past 10 years” series where I can look back and see if these lessons need to be learned again. Things are still fresh here, but also feel like home. I’m celebrating one of the best 5 years of our lives in ministry, unsure of how the next 5 years will go. So, thank you for joining me on this journey. If you’ve missed, feel free to go back and catch up.
#1 Grow where you are planted (click here to read): Don’t wait for a big event in your life to happen to start implementing change.
#2 Who have YOU invited to church lately (click here to read): Don’t leave church growth solely up to your pastor. Invite your friends!
#3 When you do things God’s way, blessings follow.
Some time after moving here and as we got to know people, we got to see people’s “real side” more and more. I’m not sure if you’re aware, but some people put their best faces on when they are around you, but let their ugly side-show when you are out of earshot. It’s unfortunate, really. If they could just choose to become their fake selves, the nice one, the one that shows restraint (see lesson #1) I think they’d actually be happier people. But, the fact of the matter is people really want their pastor to only see this fake happy facade and it isn’t until something really goes wrong that we get to see their true colors. So in our case that took about a year.
Sometimes it’s just small subtle things, and you think you’re just rubbed the wrong way, so you dismiss it and move on. But sooner or later the real person will come out. And when they do, a mess ensues.
I’ve heard of Pastors and their families being run out-of-town by one person’s meanness and to be honest, I’ve feared it in almost every church we’ve been in. So when we received a call from a trusted friend telling us of what was going on behind our backs, our hearts broke. I won’t go into detail, but it was far beyond gossip, and had potential of not only ruining our reputation in town, but my husband’s career.
The lesson I want to present to you today is the reason this situation turned out as amazing as it did.
#3 When you do things God’s way, blessings follow.
First thing we did was pray. My husband didn’t stew over his hurt feelings, he came home, told me what had happened and led me to the couch to sit and pray.
Sub-lesson 1: ALWAYS pray first before you react, or let anger take control.
Next, we called this person for a meeting. Before we went to our friends with a huge tale of how we were wronged and how we felt about this other person, we went to the person.
Sub-lesson 2: Go to the person first, get their side. In our situation, we knew that the friend who had called us was telling the truth (he’s who you’d call to “go above the pastor’s head”). We had to confront the sin against us directly. This doesn’t always go well, but the Bible is very clear, this is how you do it. “If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back.” (Matthew 18:15)
Once this step is done, we still spoke to no one. It doesn’t state that you can confront then turn around and speak bad about that person. Of course we talked among ourselves. We were shocked. We didn’t know what impact this lie would have on our town and the ministry we were trying to do here. But what we did know is that God knew the truth, and that the truth will prevail. Somehow, this kept the hurt at bay. I look back and see that this horrible situation, this attack against me, my family, my church, this ministry wasn’t hurting me. I contribute that to God and our following of sub-lesson 1 & 2.
About 3 or 4 months later people began coming to us about the awful things that were being said about us. They were concerned that we were unaware of the lies (praise God they didn’t believe them) that were being said, and felt we should know. Although the person still attended church most Sundays, their desire to hurt us had not diminished.
It was sad, but we had to take the issues further and bring this to our church board. “But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses.” (Matthew 18:16).
I just wanted it to be over. I hated that we had to bring more people into such a bad situation. I dreaded it all day. But it was needed. The church would have hurt had we not followed through with this next step.
Sub-lesson 3: Stick with the plan God laid out for us. So many things went through my mind. Was this the right way to go about this? Exposing her might hurt her. Was it unloving? But as my godly, wonderful pastor pointed out… “It’s right there in the Bible!” You can never go wrong sticking with God’s plan book!
Although we never kicked the person out of the church, the person chose not to repent, and make things right. So they did, of their own choice, leave our church. The pastor felt he needed to protect the church from such slander and he felt he needed to protect me as this issue was mostly pointed at me. He followed up with a letter setting boundaries (no contact to me unless it was an apology, loss of church member rights… things like this). Nothing felt better than knowing my husband, with the church board’s backing, would protect me and my kids. NOTHING!
Sub-lesson for men: Have your wife’s back! Support her, trust her, protect her. Nothing will strengthen your marriage more than her knowing you love and support her and will go to huge lengths to protect her!
Sub-lesson for Pastors: Protect your church. Confront those trying to spread nasty rumors and lies. Pray and seek counsel and act quickly. Cancer can kill your church. Be faithful to the Word, trust that its techniques will work, and fight hard to show your church that you will protect its members.
This came at a time that we had others who were coming to pastor to “tattle” on a church member. So when Pastor advised that he go to the person first, he could say it with confidence that he lived this method as well. The pastor of Crossroads Church will never be party to a gossip fest in his office. He will stand up for you, direct the person your way, and will only take action when Matthew 18 is followed.
I don’t even want to imagine how this situation would have played out had we panicked, fought dirty, or backed away. As I look back at it, I’m amazed at how unphased we were by it all. It was horrible, but God blessed our obedience to His plan. Within 6 months of this incident we welcomed 16 new church members. These were not people who came because the person left (they didn’t even know this person). I don’t know exactly what drew them in (I don’t question those things!!!) But we saw great growth where death could have occurred. Our church is healthier because we dealt with the issues God’s way.
Pastor and I are not perfect. We can’t possibly run our ministry perfectly. But when it came to this situation, our desire was to please God in how we handled it, and to protect ourselves and our church. Looking back, I can’t imagine it going any better (well, aside from it never happening in the first place).
Now, to my final Sub-lesson (#4)– We have never once stopped praying for the parties involved in this incident. I pray daily for the person who went against my family. I feel I have forgiven, and if repentance were to take place and this person wanted to reconcile, that would be glorious in God’s eyes! I’ve often dreamed of how I would respond if they chose to come back to our church. I have to admit at first those dreams were nightmares. But now, it’s a dream of hope. I would love to share a pew with them knowing their heart has changed and that they are of one accord and of one mind with the church. I’m sure there’d be a time for building trust, but believe God would walk us through that together.
Sub-lesson #4: Don’t stay angry, hurt, or disconnected. Trust that God will heal your hurts and pray for love to take its place. Pray for those who sin against you. Pray they will come to a closer relationship with Jesus. Isn’t that the goal no matter what, anyway? Pray for reconciliation (but only when repentance has taken place).
Myth: Easy for a Pastor to say!
People are hurtful everywhere, not just inside the church. It stings a bit worse when believers hurt other believers, and our faith can be lost inside that hurt, if we let it. But, in every relational conflict of every person’s life, this strategy will work, God said it would. And mix that with every other scripture that talks about forgiveness, and what could have turned out horrible, can actually bring honor to God, and speak life into your heart instead.
If you are the one spreading hate… STOP, and that’s all I have to say about that…
If you’ve been hurt by someone else’s sin towards you, read Matthew 18:15 & 16. Follow it, pray for that person to draw close to God, and believe in the plan God has set up.
If you’re hurting, can I pray for you? email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please join us at Crossroads Church this Sunday at 10am! I’ll save you a seat.
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