AVOIDING CHURCH PROBLEMS
Reverend M. H. Cunningham
Jesus has said in the Sermon on the Mount that, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” Another word for blessed is happy. James said, “The fruits of righteousness are sown in peace.”
Someone has said the measure of our success is in what we build rather than what we tear down. Success, happiness and peace. Is it possible that we could have some among us who do not desire these wonderful attributes? They are so inter-related that you almost cannot have one without the other. Our happiness is in the role of peacemaker. The seeds of righteousness, which bring our success are soul in peace.
In as much as all ministers have the same goal, namely the accomplishment of the most that is possible for God, under the circumstances that the will of God has placed them. This becomes the ground rule. Anything that will deter us from this goal must be avoided. One of the greatest deterrents to our goal is church problems. How many times can each one of us recall churches that were growing, people being filled with the Holy Spirit, and the future looking very bright, then all of a sudden all this comes to a grinding halt because of church problems. The pastor changes from a happy and successful pastor to a sad,
bitter, and frustrated man filled with doubts, fears, and insecurity.
Let us take a look at some of the effects of church problems relative to our goals of reaching the lost of our
community and preparing for the rapture those who are already in the church.
II. THE EFFECT OF CHURCH PROBLEMS ON THE COMMUNITY
Have you ever heard the statement made, “I do not care what the people of the community think about the church? They are so wicked, and we cannot reach them anyway.” Of course, this is just not true. The community where we live is that world that Jesus gave us the commission to go, preach, and make disciples. I am sure that we all agree that the church has what the community needs. If this is true, then we must create an atmosphere that will not deter them from what the church has to offer. Have you ever heard the statement made, “If that bitterness and misunderstanding you folks are having in your church is salvation, then I do not want it”. Of course, we can say, “Oh, that is just sour grapes and excuses.” However, many times they are searching for just what we have to offer. It is ever more frustrating to us than it is to them because we are unable to complete our task of carrying the whole gospel to the whole world.
III. THE EFFECT OF CHURCH PROBLEMS ON NEW CONVERTS
I doubt if there is one among us who has not spent agonizing hours in prayer over losing a new convert to the world, wondering where we might have personally failed, or what was wrong that we could not create an atmosphere in the church that would sustain them until they were established in the truth. Perhaps if we look back on our own conversion, we might receive some insight into the problem. We were born into the body in love. We loved everyone. We thought every member of the church had love one for another. All of our old base thoughts and ideals had been washed away by that all consuming love called, “the love of God”.
Since the new convert learns so much at first by example, he is greatly affected by church problems. We can
easily see the sad effect of involving the new convert with people in the church embroiled in church problems. He hears one group speak against another. He might even hear someone attack his pastor. When this happens, doubts begin to assail him. The devil points out that church members have the same bitterness as the world. The disillusion is so great at times he turns back to the world. The end result being that church problems have prevailed over our vision and goal to prepare them for the rapture.
IV. THE EFFECT OF CHURCH PROBLEMS ON THE PASTOR
Our responsibilities have been defined for us in the Bible. Nothing good will come of our efforts outside of the will of God. Since every preacher wants to do his best for God, anything that deters him from that goal is of major importance. Needless for me to say how time-consuming church problems are, If that time could be spent in outreach, teaching, and personal devotion, how much more could be accomplished for God. Even of a more serious consequence is the effect church problems sometime have on our personality. They can change us from a man of faith with a burning vision into a bitter, fearful, and insecure man. The end result being he loses sight of his goal, feeds his ego by finding fault with everything and everybody,
and spends his time justifying the reason why his ministry is not successful.
As we begin to realize the broad effect that church problems can have, we also can see how important it is for us to make every effort to avoid them. The pastor is the key. He must lead the way. His action and attitude will be the deciding factor in avoiding church problems.
V. THE LEADERSHIP ROLE OF THE PASTOR
Let us examine the leadership role of the pastor, with the express purpose in mind, how does this affect church problems. Perhaps to understand the leadership role, it would be good to define the pastor-function, in the relationship between God and His church. The pastor-leadership role is of a secondary
nature. He is a channel thru which God works. He is subject to the leadership of the Holy Spirit. This keeps his ear tuned to heaven, “Speak, Lord, your servant hears”. His preaching is controlled by “thus saith the Word of the Lord”.
He does not make the policy. He only implements it, Therefore, any deviation from the divine program will cause us to have problems.
VI. RAPPORT WITH CHURCH
The role has been set for us by the Chief Shepherd. The implementation of His divine purpose is our primary responsibility. To accomplish this, we must establish rapport with His church which we lead by their consent. I know many will not understand the statement, “rule by consent”, but the truth is we do not have a captive audience. They do have alternatives, which they sometimes exercise in the form of church problems.
VII. DETERRENTS TO RAPPORT
One of the greatest deterrents to rapport’s is communication. Have you ever preached and later heard comments about your sermon which caused you to realize that you had been misunderstood? Our first reaction to this might be, “Oh well, they are just dumb. I made myself clear.” In reality, this does not help.
If we are totally honest with ourselves, we realize that we are at least partially to blame. We are especially susceptible when we speak to impress rather than to express. This phase of the problem is measurable. If we listen and observe, we can improve. Because the opportunity for problems is so great, we must improve on this most difficult problem.
Another deterrent to rapport is the false conception that no one has the right to question my actions, “I am the pastor, therefore, it is not necessary that I explain my actions.
Everyone knows that I am an honorable man.” Someone has said that, “You not only have to be right, you have to appear to be right.” Sometimes it comes down to the fact that we can explain our position or have some disgruntled person color it to our disadvantage. Happy is the man who has learned that it is not a threat to his leadership to explain his position. An informed congregation is a happy congregation.
VIII. THE DOUBLE STANDARD
Another problem that we are at times confronted with is the double standard. It has been said that “actions speak louder than words”. Our motives can be ever so honorable, and our teaching can be biblical; but unless we practice what we preach, we will never be able to establish rapport with the church. We will give the devil another opportunity to cause us problems. This is especially true if we must take a stand
against sin in someone’s life.
IX. PERSONAL PROBLEMS
It is an established fact that people who tend to become involved in problems usually have unsolved personal problems of their own. Have you ever wondered why certain statements seem to trigger our emotions and cause us to make decisions based on feeling rather than reason? This is usually caused by
unsolved personal problems. The avoiding of problems may then depend on the ability of the preacher to solve his own personal problems. We must understand our own problems and be at peace with ourselves if we are to have rapport with others. This at times can be a difficult task because some problems may be well
hidden and of long standing. The only outward signs we may have are unexplained resentments and guilt feelings. Continuing unsolved problems can have a very deteriorating effect on our personality showing up in the form of inferiority complexes, inhibitions, fears, and insecurity. Happy is the man who can
separate himself from his own problems. With no personal position to defend, he will be able to see problems clearly. His fears will not cause him to feel he must divide and destroy to lead. He can counsel in love with his only goal being the solution of the problem.
X. GETTING ALONG WITH OTHERS
There have been a number of interesting studies made relative to why leaders fail. The primary reason given in each of them was the leader’s inability to get along with others. There may be many reasons why we cannot have rapport with others, but love will find a way. The reason being that love never seeks its own, but is always willing to make the sacrifices that are necessary. Please be assured that this can
be done without surrendering right or principal.
XI. PRE-EXISTING PROBLEMS
Sometimes circumstances beyond our control may cause us to be placed in a field of labor where problems already exist. We could feel that since I had nothing to do with creating them, I will ignore them. If these problems are not dealt with, they probably will cause other problems. Some have even made the mistake of belittling the former pastor in an attempt to improve their position. This usually has the opposite effect
of making the church wonder what our attitude is going to be if they have a problem and must turn to us for help. We can never build on the wreckage of others. Our handling of preexisting problems can go a long way in helping us to avoid church problems in the future.
XII. IS IT WORTH THE EFFORT?
Most of us have spent long hours in study to improve our pulpit ministry. We have knocked on doors inviting people to church. We have spent many hours training Sunday School teachers in an attempt to improve our Sunday School. I know you feel the work of God is important because all this has taken time
and effort. Church problems can destroy more than we can build. Do I ask you now in closing, “Is it worth the effort to avoid church problems?”