Recently, my wife Mechthild asked the rhetorical question, “Does it really matter what we preach and teach?” It seems too often our hearers behave like the “kingless” children of Israel described in Judges, when “every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (17:6b KJV).
In over 35 years of ministry, I have sadly observed men and women making choices that go directly against biblical teaching as well as against all common sense. Witnessing first-hand the “spiritual train wreck” that results from sowing bad seeds is not a pleasant picture (see Gal 6:8a). I recall in my first church plant in Germany trying to ever so lovingly admonish an older brother who was known for being cantankerous and arrogant. During our come-to-Jesus meeting, he simply stated, “You remind me of Adolf Hitler in your dictatorial leadership style.” In the German context, this really hurt.
I read an article not long ago about another pastor who described different conflicts and fleshly behaviors such as church members losing their temper, being mean to other church members, and even some of his workers raging out of meetings when they did not get their way. I wonder sometimes about disgruntled church members who demonstrate a lack of respect in the body. What would happen if those same believers acted in a similar manner at work or among friends when things did not go their way?
You see, it does matter what we teach and preach! There is no alternative to proclaiming sound biblical truths in our church gatherings to men and women who live and work in a culture that is distancing itself ever further away from its Christian roots. Today, everything and everyone in our western culture seems to be tolerated and celebrated with the exception of men and women who hold to traditional biblical morality. Sad to say, we are becoming ever more familiar with being labeled homophobic, reactionary, bigots, and arch conservatives, just to mention a few terms thrown constantly around by the media. We are definitely not of this world, even though we live in the world, and we must choose to obey and honor God’s word.
There is hope for those who have strayed from the truth and fallen into sin. Paul reminds us in Galatians, “If someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted” (6:1 NIV). Watching out for ourselves as leaders is no easy deal, and perhaps it is a greater challenge than watching over the local church God has entrusted us with. Whenever Mechthild and I observe a “spiritual train wreck,” we acknowledge to each other our own imperfections. We are humbled to realize how often we have experienced the unfathomable grace of God in our own lives. Tim Keller expresses it well, stating, “We’re far worse than we ever imagined, and far more loved than we could ever dream.” Without God’s grace where would you and I be today? Joe McKeever points out, “That the church still exists, with all its human flaws, is proof aplenty of the grace and mercy of God.”
Being on the receiving end of God’s grace, we need not be bitter or disillusioned when unpleasant stuff happens in the local church. Nobody is perfect except the Head of the church and our Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ!
Since we as leaders have been touched and transformed by the grace of God, let us do all we can in His strength to help men and women find their way back to spiritual health. It is worth noting in Galatians 6 that Paul goes on to say in a very sober manner, “for each one should carry their own load” (v.5 NIV). Each one of us is responsible for how we live and react in difficult situations. Hopefully, those we minister to will sense the pleasant fragrance of God’s grace and forgiveness in our lives.
Let us not become despondent or depressed though the challenges for local church ministry will increase as we continue to be salt and light in as a Post-Christian, or should I say Anti-Christian, culture. Again, Brother Paul’s word speaks courage into our lives today, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Gal. 6:9).