Let’s face it, ladies- not one of us goes to a church that’s one hundred per cent spiritually healthy. Every church has its problems. Some, just a few; others, well… they’re more like “fixer uppers”. From the encroachment of false doctrine to women serving in improper places of authority to toxic personalities to sin being swept under the rug, what are we to do when we see things in our churches that conflict with Scripture? How can we bring about spiritual change without stepping outside the boundaries of biblical womanhood?
1. Make sure you’re understanding, viewing, and responding to the problem biblically
Are you basing your concern about the situation on a correct or incorrect understanding of Scripture? Is the problem actually a violation of Scripture or just something that rubs you the wrong way personally? Is it possible something you’re doing is contributing to the problem? Sometimes what needs to be changed in your church might be your incorrect understanding of Scripture, your behavior, or your heart attitude.
We are waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay (yes, it really does require that many a’s) underestimating the role prayer plays in our churches in general, but especially the role it plays in changing things in the church. Don’t blow prayer off as unimportant or a last resort. Pray for your church every day. Pray about the problems you’re seeing in the church and the people involved. Pray for wisdom for your pastor and whoever is in charge of handling the problem. Pray about it faithfully, fervently, and according to Scripture. It’s not just a biblical motion to go through. I’ve seen God change things in response to prayer time and time again.
3. Approach the appropriate person
If you’ve been praying about the problem and the people involved, and you’re certain you have a biblically correct understanding of and outlook on the situation, and you think you need to address the issue with someone, go to the appropriate person in humility, kindness, gentleness, and patience and discuss it with him or her in the same way you would want to be approached. (And use wisdom- in some cases it might be best for your husband or another man to approach the person.)
Most of the time, the appropriate person to approach first is the person at the center of the problem. A lady in your Sunday School class is a gossip? Go to her first, not the Sunday school teacher. The women’s ministry director is selecting materials authored by false teachers? Go to her first, not the board of elders. Hopefully, you’ll “win your brother.” If not, Matthew 18:15-20 outlines the appropriate subsequent steps to take when dealing with sin. (And, P.S., don’t stop praying. Pray more.)
4. Set a good example
Conduct yourself like a lady – a godly lady – whether you’re dealing with a problematic issue, worshiping, serving, fellowshipping, teaching, learning, or whatever you’re doing at church. Be a velvet covered brick. Strong, firm, and unwavering from Scripture on the inside, meek, gentle, kind, and loving on the outside. Be obedient to Scripture. Repent and seek forgiveness when you sin. Maintain a reputation that’s above reproach. People are watching you, even looking up to you.
5. Be faithful
As Christians we are supposed to be faithful members of the local body of Christ. That means you become an official member. You attend services unless Providentially hindered. You show up on time. You give offerings. You join a Sunday school/Bible study/small group class. You plug in and serve. You bond with your brothers and sisters in Christ. You get invested in the life of the church. You can’t be a strong, godly influence on your church or have people take you seriously when you address a problem if you’re lackadaisical in your approach to church or you’re only there half the time.
6. Be humble and willing
Sometimes helping to resolve a problem in a godly way might require you to do something that, while biblical and appropriate, makes you feel uncomfortable. Maybe you’re introverted and scared to death to address an issue of sin with a fellow church member. Maybe you’re needed in a position of service you don’t have much experience in. Maybe that sister at church that you don’t really like needs a friend. Are you willing to humble yourself, put your own preferences aside, and serve the body of Christ in whatever way is needed?
If you know how to properly handle God’s word and you’re able to teach, find an open position and get in there, whether it’s a children’s Sunday School class, a women’s Bible study, discipling a younger sister one on one, or helping out with the youth girls. Biblical illiteracy is absolutely and astonishingly rampant in the church, which means there are Christians in your church who don’t know how to behave biblically, which means issues of sin will arise. Prevent those issues before they happen by correctly teaching God’s word to as many women and children as you can. (And if you don’t know how, get trained.)
8. Put on your work clothes and roll up your sleeves
We can no longer go to church with the attitude that we’re going to just row our boats gently down the stream and if a problem arises and somebody else doesn’t deal with it to our satisfaction, we’re leaving. Church isn’t the buffet line at Golden Corral, existing only to provide us with multiple options and opportunities for a pleasant worship experience. Church is often more like being employed by Roto Rooter- it’s hard, hot, sweaty, unpleasant work. Don’t turn tail and run at the first sign of trouble. God may have put you in that church to be a catalyst for biblical change. Maybe the problematic situation at church is not about your comfort. Maybe it’s about you helping the body of Christ.
9. Encourage, help, and pray for your pastor and other church leadership
Pastoring (and other ministry leadership positions) is a tough, often thankless job. Your pastor, associate pastor, minister of music, elders, deacons, teachers, etc., can use all the support they can get. Be generous with your attaboys. Volunteer to help out where you can (teach, disciple, train others, help vet curricula and conference speakers, mediate, visit). And, again, pray. Pray for wisdom and discernment for your pastor and leadership. Pray that God will grow them in their understanding and teaching of the word. Pray for their marriages and parenting. Do what you can to support your leadership so they can be strong, healthy shepherds for the flock.
10. Keep your focus on Christ and trust Him
It’s easy to get so wrapped up in the details of a problem at church that we forget about God. Are you remembering that God loves and wants what’s best for your church and the people involved in the problem far more than you do? Have you stepped back, taken a deep breath, and recognized that changing people’s hearts and growing the church to maturity is on God’s shoulders, not yours? Are you acknowledging the fact that God is in control and is working in the situation even if you can’t see it? Do you believe that God is out for His glory and the good of His people even if visible circumstances suggest otherwise? Are you trusting in Christ Himself or are you trusting in a positive outcome to the situation?
No church is perfect, ladies. Your church has problems. My church has problems. Let’s work together with our brothers and sisters in the local body of Christ – humbly, lovingly, patiently, and as mature, godly women – to solve those problems and encourage our churches toward holiness and spiritual health.