Mailbag

The Mailbag: How can the problems in the SBC (or any denomination/church) be fixed?

I’m taking a short summer break this week. I hope you’ll enjoy this article from the archives. The annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention  also took place this week. Will you please pray that God will bring conviction of sin, repentance, and obedience to God’s Word in the SBC?


Originally published June 4, 2018

I read your article, It’s Time for a Reformation in the SBC – 3 Issues We Need to Set Right. In that article you only covered the issues needing correction, not the solutions. How would you suggest the Southern Baptist Convention, or any other church or denomination with similar problems, address those issues?

One of the reasons I addressed only the issues in that article is that a discussion of the issues and the solutions would have made the article extremely long. Another reason is that I know most of my readers are probably not Southern Baptist. Some of the solutions that first came to my mind would have been very “in house” to the SBC and would not have been of interest – nor made sense, without a lot of explanation (making the article even longer), of Southern Baptist polity – to those outside the SBC. However, the more I thought about the spiritual side of the issues, the more my perspective on the solutions changed. And addressing spiritual issues is relevant to every church and denomination.

As I mentioned in the previous article, the three most pressing issues I see facing the SBC are the sufficiency and authority of Scripture, false teachers/false doctrine, and disfellowshipping errant churches.

Because of the SBC’s commitment to the autonomy of the local church, I don’t think any of these things are going to be corrected from the top down with resolutions and studies and committees and appointed/elected leaders. I can only speak from my own perspective, and others may disagree, but I don’t see those things making any of these issues better, and in some cases they’re making things worse. I think turning the ship around is going to have to be a “bottom up” thing, starting at the church level.

So, what are some grassroots steps we can take?

✢ We’re going to have to stop giving lip service to prayer and actually start doing it. Individual prayer, yes, but what I’m really talking about is corporate prayer. Not “organ recitals”, not Bible studies or worship services that we call “prayer meetings”, but actual, protracted corporate prayer meetings where we concentrate on praying for the spiritual health of our own church, other churches, and our denomination at large. The problems we’re facing are, at their root, spiritual problems, and only God can change people’s hearts. It’s high time we started crying out to Him to do so.

I know it’s hard to get people to show up for actual prayer meetings. I used to be the Associational Prayer Coordinator for my local SBC association. Believe me, I get that it’s like pulling teeth. Pastors are going to have to get as many of their teachers and leaders as possible on board and start by praying with them. Next, we need our pastors to spend some weeks and months training their people in how to pray, why we pray, what we pray for, the importance of prayer, and what the Bible says about prayer. And then we’ll need pastors to proactively encourage people to be there. In my experience, corporate prayer has to be pastor initiated and led. If it’s delegated to a lay person or even an associate pastor, the rest of the church will see it as just one more optional program.

✢ We have to emphasize the authority of Scripture over every aspect of church life. Is the church considering buying a new piece of property? Sending messengers to the annual meeting? Joining with another church in a particular endeavor? Planning a mission trip? Receiving a new member? Having a potluck? Whatever is going on in the life of the church, the very first thing that needs to be brought to the table at committee meetings, business meetings, even just casual discussions or brainstorming sessions, is an open Bible and the question, “What does Scripture say about this?” I think many times we’re either assuming that most people already know what the Bible says about it, or we’re doing what we think is best without consulting God’s Word, neither of which is healthy. We need to make sure we’re doing what we do because the Bible says to do it, but approaching church decisions this way also trains individual members to think and act the same “What does Scripture say about this?” way in their own lives. That grows a healthier and more mature church body.

This helps drive home the concept of the sufficiency of Scripture, too. If your church is laser focused on “What does the Bible say?”, it’s going to biblically train your people how to find the answers they need for their own lives, and church life, in the Bible. Instead of “God told me” extra-biblical revelation, instead of taking polls and surveys, sometimes even instead of forming a committee or having one more meeting, the Body will begin to depend on God’s Word as its sufficient source for making decisions.

✢ Another way to emphasize the sufficiency of Scripture is to stop being so dependent on “canned” Sunday School curricula and Bible study books, workbooks, DVDs etc., and simply teach straight from the Bible expositionally (it’s cheaper too).

This scenario has played itself out in hundreds of SBC churches over the years: The women’s ministry committee gets together to decide what the next women’s Bible study will be. This author is suggested. That DVD series is suggested. Finally one brave soul pipes up and says, “Why don’t we just study Ephesians?”. The looks on the other women’s faces demonstrate that studying straight from the Bible is a totally foreign concept.

My husband is a minister of music. He was on staff at a small church many years ago that was in a budget crunch. Something was going to have to be cut. I suggested cutting out Sunday School literature and just teaching the Bible. They opted instead to slash my husband’s salary (which was pretty paltry to begin with).

When we’ve become so dependent on materials other than the Bible that church members have never heard of simply studying from the Bible or that the church would rather hurt one of its pastors than give up its literature, we’ve become too dependent on outside resources and we’re not viewing the Bible as sufficient.

✢ If and when we do decide to use a curriculum or a study, we must vet the study itself and the author(s). I know this is an unpopular thing to say among Southern Baptists, but I was asked for solutions, so I’m going to say it: LifeWay sells some materials authored by false teachers and some materials that contain false doctrine. You can’t just assume that because LifeWay sells it, it’s doctrinally sound. Get some discerning church members and put them to work reading the materials and comparing them to Scripture, and examining the fruit of the author’s life.

✢ We’re going to have to be good Bereans and stop being so flippant and laissez-faire about false teachers and false doctrine. Eradicating false doctrine and false teachers from the house of God is a major theme of the Bible. If it’s that serious to God, it should be that serious to us.

If somebody mentions that a certain Christian author, pastor, or teacher is a false teacher, don’t mock, insult, and blow that person off as “one of those crazy discernment people.” We don’t have to (and shouldn’t) just blindly believe her, but we shouldn’t just dismiss the allegation out of hand, either. Look into it. Do the research. Examine the evidence. Compare that teacher’s life and teaching to rightly handled Scripture, and if she’s not walking blamelessly and teaching what accords with sound doctrine, stop allowing her and her materials into your church.

✢ [Note: This part is more SBC-ish. Most other denominations have a process and governing body for dismissing errant churches. But because the SBC is technically not a denomination but a group of cooperating churches, the leadership of the SBC has very little ecclesiastical authority, including the authority to disfellowship churches.] As far as disfellowshipping errant churches goes, first, we need to make sure our church isn’t one of them. We need our pastors to exposit the Word, not entertain. We need to make sure we equip our membership in rightly handling God’s Word, prayer, evangelism, worship, and caring for one another. We need to make sure our church is biblically healthy.

Next, get involved with the local association and, whatever the procedure is, formulate a set of criteria for disfellowshipping errant churches, employ it when necessary, and pursue it to the state and national convention levels when possible. There are a variety of doctrinal issues that could be included (A couple I would suggest: disfellowshipping churches that violate tenets of the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 and/or teach any of the historic heresies {Arianism, Modalism, etc.}), but as I mentioned in the above linked article there’s got to be a higher standard than just giving money and being on the right side of homosexuality. We should be holding up the highest standards of biblical doctrine for churches who want the right to be called Southern Baptist, not minimizing and reducing our requirements to the least common denominator.

Pray long and pray hard. Build spiritually healthy and mature churches and church members. Get them involved at the associational and state convention level. Then send them to represent your church at the annual meeting. If God is pleased to change hearts, and if we get enough healthy churches and church members working together, that’s what will bring change at the national level.


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Church, Marriage, Ministry

The Mailbag: My husband is a pastor. How do we know when it’s time to leave a church?

 

My wonderful conservative, seminary-trained pastor husband is in such a battle against evil forces in our church. 

There are a few women members who are angry he doesn’t endorse their favorite false teacher, women preachers, or women teaching men. Another woman, who was actively involved in two previous church splits is stirring up division.

Praise God our church has attracted strong Christian men who have come alongside my husband, standing firm, supporting Biblical Truth. When does one know when it’s God’s testing or when He’s nudging to move us along? I don’t enjoy seeing my husband hurt. Do you have any advice?

I can definitely empathize with your situation. As I’ve mentioned in the past, my husband is a minister of music, and God has seen fit to send us to several…shall we say… “challenging” churches in the past. Most have been smaller churches in which the only staff members were my husband and the pastor, so my husband had more of a leading elder-type role than a minister of music in a larger church with several on-staff pastors might have.

We have also faced this dilemma of “We don’t want to give up just because it’s difficult, but maybe these difficulties are God’s way of telling us it’s time to shake the dust off our feet and move on to somewhere where we can be more biblically productive.” It can be a confusing situation to be in because you want to be pleasing to the Lord and serve His people, but the Bible speaks to both hanging in there through adversity and leaving people who refuse to be led as appropriate in various situations.

Like so many scenarios in life, there’s no “one size fits all” answer because every situation is different. But maybe we can look at a few basic principles that can help ministry wives (and even those whose husbands aren’t in the ministry) when church difficulties strike and you’re wondering whether or not to leave.

Take Off the Rose-Colored Glasses

If you’re new to being a ministry wife, you may have romanticized ideas of what it will be like. It’s no accident that God calls pastors “shepherds.” Shepherding is not like those pastoral landscape paintings you’ve seen where the shepherd is sitting under a stately, spreading tree on lush carpet of verdant grass by a babbling brook, happily petting a docile lamb. There are moments like that, but generally, shepherding is hard, hot, sweaty, often thankless, often underpaid, tireless labor. Sheep can be stubborn animals who have no idea where to go, what to do, or what’s best for them, and leading them is, at times, no picnic.

I don’t say this to discourage you, only to make sure that you’re going in to this thing with your eyes wide open. No pastor steps into the pulpit at a perfect, problem-free church. Every church has its issues. You need to be prepared for that, and you need to be prepared to roll up your sleeves and work, not run, the first time a problem comes up. The church isn’t there to serve you. You are there to serve the church.

Pray, Pray, Pray, and Don’t Jump Ship at the First Sign of Trouble

All of us should be praying for our churches daily, but we need to double down when problems arise. Pray for all those involved in the problem, including your husband.

We also need to initially approach problems with the desire to work through them and bring them to a point of biblical resolution. As a ministry wife, if you approach every problem that arises in the church with an attitude of despair, giving up, and wanting to leave the church, it’s going to discourage your husband. Now, not only does he have the problem itself to deal with, he has the added pressure of making his wife happy. Try to be part of the solution rather than an added problem.

Remember – and Be Thankful for – Your Position

When you’re a ministry wife, especially in a small church, it can feel like you and your husband are both in his ministry position. You’re probably helping him with various job-related tasks, you know all the problems and issues that are going on in the church, you talk together about possible solutions, you know about the big meeting that’s coming up, etc. It even comes out in the way we talk sometimes: “When we pastored ABC Church…” or “When we were on staff at XYZ Church…” (I finally realized I needed to be more careful about using that kind of wording so that people would not think I was a co-pastor!)

But, even though it can feel like you’re shouldering almost as big a load as your husband, you’re not. You’re not the pastor. You’re also not the husband. Be thankful for that because it’s one of the blessings of being a woman. You’re the helper. You do everything you can to help, support, and encourage your husband, but the burden and responsibility of making the decision whether to leave or stay is on his shoulders, not yours. Be grateful, and use that relief you feel to help you understand what enormous pressure your husband is under. He has to make the right and godly decision for the church, for his family, and for his career. That’s a heavy weight.

Not My Will, but Thy Will

Examine your own heart before attempting to help your husband. Do you really want what God wants in this situation, or do you want what you want? Will you be able to joyfully, peacefully, and contentedly stay at a church you want to leave or leave a church you want to stay at? Ask God to so delight your heart in Him that your desires will match His and that He will help you to pray rightly and act wisely and obediently.

Pray for Your Husband

Ask God to give him the biblical wisdom to make the right decision about staying or leaving. Pray that God will give him peace, strength, and comfort. Ask that He will bring the right Scriptures to your husband’s mind at just the right time. Ask God to make His will clear to your husband.

In one church my husband and I were on staff at :0) the situation was very 50/50 as to whether we should stay or go. We studied the Scriptures and found support for staying as well as for leaving. We really didn’t know what to do.

After much discussion and prayer, we decided we would stick with this church until God moved us. I began praying that if God wanted us to leave that He would make it impossible for us to stay. And a few months later, that’s exactly what happened. God orchestrated circumstances in such a way that it was impossible for us to stay at that church. It brought both of us a great deal of peace to know that we were not giving up just because it was difficult, but that God was answering prayer and moving us Himself.

Study Your Bible

In the situation I just described, my husband and I didn’t find overwhelming Scriptural evidence that made his decision a clear-cut one. That’s not always the case. Sometimes you will find clear biblical support for staying or for leaving.

Ask your husband if it would be helpful to him for you to search the Scriptures for passages that apply to the situation at your church. Be careful to rightly handle God’s Word in context, and discuss the passages objectively with your husband. Make sure you’re not twisting Scripture in an effort to sway your husband to do what you want him to do.

Be Your Husband’s Biggest Supporter and Encourager

Pray fervently for your husband, and let him know you’re praying for him. Affirm him by reminding him that you trust him, that he’s doing a good job, that you’re proud of him. When he’s under a lot of stress at church, do what you can to offer practical help, perhaps by running errands for him or taking over some of his household chores. Make sure he’s getting the amount of joyful physical intimacy he needs from you. Do what you can to make sure he’s eating right and getting the amount of rest he needs. Most of all, let him know you’re behind him and that you’ll support his decision about staying or leaving.

When we were trying to decide whether to stay at or leave the aforementioned church, one thing that helped take some of the pressure off my husband was that I told him, “If you decide we’re leaving, I’m ready to walk out that door. But if you decide we’re staying, I’m ready to stay and keep working.” Knowing he had my support either way helped him to be able to focus on what God wanted him to do rather than what I wanted him to do.

 

The decision to stay at or leave a difficult church is often tedious and stressful for pastors. It’s hard for us, as their wives, to watch them suffer at the hands of trouble-making people. Our position as helpmates is to do everything we can on our part to make things easier on them.


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Mailbag

The Mailbag: How can the problems in the SBC (or any denomination/church) be fixed?

I read your article, It’s Time for a Reformation in the SBC – 3 Issues We Need to Set Right. In that article you only covered the issues needing correction, not the solutions. How would you suggest the Southern Baptist Convention, or any other church or denomination with similar problems, address those issues?

One of the reasons I addressed only the issues in that article is that a discussion of the issues and the solutions would have made the article extremely long. Another reason is that I know most of my readers are probably not Southern Baptist. Some of the solutions that first came to my mind would have been very “in house” to the SBC and would not have been of interest – nor made sense, without a lot of explanation (making the article even longer), of Southern Baptist polity – to those outside the SBC. However, the more I thought about the spiritual side of the issues, the more my perspective on the solutions changed. And addressing spiritual issues is relevant to every church and denomination.

As I mentioned in the previous article, the three most pressing issues I see facing the SBC are the sufficiency and authority of Scripture, false teachers/false doctrine, and disfellowshipping errant churches.

Because of the SBC’s commitment to the autonomy of the local church, I don’t think any of these things are going to be corrected from the top down with resolutions and studies and committees and appointed/elected leaders. I can only speak from my own perspective, and others may disagree, but I don’t see those things making any of these issues better, and in some cases they’re making things worse. I think turning the ship around is going to have to be a “bottom up” thing, starting at the church level.

So, what are some grassroots steps we can take?

✢ We’re going to have to stop giving lip service to prayer and actually start doing it. Individual prayer, yes, but what I’m really talking about is corporate prayer. Not “organ recitals”, not Bible studies or worship services that we call “prayer meetings”, but actual, protracted corporate prayer meetings where we concentrate on praying for the spiritual health of our own church, other churches, and our denomination at large. The problems we’re facing are, at their root, spiritual problems, and only God can change people’s hearts. It’s high time we started crying out to Him to do so.

I know it’s hard to get people to show up for actual prayer meetings. I used to be the Associational Prayer Coordinator for my local SBC association. Believe me, I get that it’s like pulling teeth. Pastors are going to have to get as many of their teachers and leaders as possible on board and start by praying with them. Next, we need our pastors to spend some weeks and months training their people in how to pray, why we pray, what we pray for, the importance of prayer, and what the Bible says about prayer. And then we’ll need pastors to proactively encourage people to be there. In my experience, corporate prayer has to be pastor initiated and led. If it’s delegated to a lay person or even an associate pastor, the rest of the church will see it as just one more optional program.

✢ We have to emphasize the authority of Scripture over every aspect of church life. Is the church considering buying a new piece of property? Sending messengers to the annual meeting? Joining with another church in a particular endeavor? Planning a mission trip? Receiving a new member? Having a potluck? Whatever is going on in the life of the church, the very first thing that needs to be brought to the table at committee meetings, business meetings, even just casual discussions or brainstorming sessions, is an open Bible and the question, “What does Scripture say about this?” I think many times we’re either assuming that most people already know what the Bible says about it, or we’re doing what we think is best without consulting God’s Word, neither of which is healthy. We need to make sure we’re doing what we do because the Bible says to do it, but approaching church decisions this way also trains individual members to think and act the same “What does Scripture say about this?” way in their own lives. That grows a healthier and more mature church body.

This helps drive home the concept of the sufficiency of Scripture, too. If your church is laser focused on “What does the Bible say?”, it’s going to biblically train your people how to find the answers they need for their own lives, and church life, in the Bible. Instead of “God told me” extra-biblical revelation, instead of taking polls and surveys, sometimes even instead of forming a committee or having one more meeting, the Body will begin to depend on God’s Word as its sufficient source for making decisions.

✢ Another way to emphasize the sufficiency of Scripture is to stop being so dependent on “canned” Sunday School curricula and Bible study books, workbooks, DVDs etc., and simply teach straight from the Bible expositionally (it’s cheaper too).

This scenario has played itself out in hundreds of SBC churches over the years: The women’s ministry committee gets together to decide what the next women’s Bible study will be. This author is suggested. That DVD series is suggested. Finally one brave soul pipes up and says, “Why don’t we just study Ephesians?”. The looks on the other women’s faces demonstrate that studying straight from the Bible is a totally foreign concept.

My husband is a minister of music. He was on staff at a small church many years ago that was in a budget crunch. Something was going to have to be cut. I suggested cutting out Sunday School literature and just teaching the Bible. They opted instead to slash my husband’s salary (which was pretty paltry to begin with).

When we’ve become so dependent on materials other than the Bible that church members have never heard of simply studying from the Bible or that the church would rather hurt one of its pastors than give up its literature, we’ve become too dependent on outside resources and we’re not viewing the Bible as sufficient.

✢ If and when we do decide to use a curriculum or a study, we must vet the study itself and the author(s). I know this is an unpopular thing to say among Southern Baptists, but I was asked for solutions, so I’m going to say it: LifeWay sells some materials authored by false teachers and some materials that contain false doctrine. You can’t just assume that because LifeWay sells it, it’s doctrinally sound. Get some discerning church members and put them to work reading the materials and comparing them to Scripture, and examining the fruit of the author’s life.

✢ We’re going to have to be good Bereans and stop being so flippant and laissez-faire about false teachers and false doctrine. Eradicating false doctrine and false teachers from the house of God is a major theme of the Bible. If it’s that serious to God, it should be that serious to us.

If somebody mentions that a certain Christian author, pastor, or teacher is a false teacher, don’t mock, insult, and blow that person off as “one of those crazy discernment people.” We don’t have to (and shouldn’t) just blindly believe her, but we shouldn’t just dismiss the allegation out of hand, either. Look into it. Do the research. Examine the evidence. Compare that teacher’s life and teaching to rightly handled Scripture, and if she’s not walking blamelessly and teaching what accords with sound doctrine, stop allowing her and her materials into your church.

✢ [Note: This part is more SBC-ish. Most other denominations have a process and governing body for dismissing errant churches. But because the SBC is technically not a denomination but a group of cooperating churches, the leadership of the SBC has very little ecclesiastical authority, including the authority to disfellowship churches.] As far as disfellowshipping errant churches goes, first, we need to make sure our church isn’t one of them. We need our pastors to exposit the Word, not entertain. We need to make sure we equip our membership in rightly handling God’s Word, prayer, evangelism, worship, and caring for one another. We need to make sure our church is biblically healthy.

Next, get involved with the local association and, whatever the procedure is, formulate a set of criteria for disfellowshipping errant churches, employ it when necessary, and pursue it to the state and national convention levels when possible. There are a variety of doctrinal issues that could be included (A couple I would suggest: disfellowshipping churches that violate tenets of the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 and/or teach any of the historic heresies {Arianism, Modalism, etc.}), but as I mentioned in the above linked article there’s got to be a higher standard than just giving money and being on the right side of homosexuality. We should be holding up the highest standards of biblical doctrine for churches who want the right to be called Southern Baptist, not minimizing and reducing our requirements to the least common denominator.

Pray long and pray hard. Build spiritually healthy and mature churches and church members. Get them involved at the associational and state convention level. Then send them to represent your church at the annual meeting. If God is pleased to change hearts, and if we get enough healthy churches and church members working together, that’s what will bring change at the national level.


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Christian women, Church, Throwback Thursday

Throwback Thursday ~ 10 Ways Godly Women Can Help Improve the Spiritual Health of Their Churches

Originally published June 10, 201610 ways healthy churches

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.

2. Pray
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?

7. Teach
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.

Mailbag

The Mailbag: Should Women Take Church Concerns to the Pastor?

mailbag

My pastor says we should come to him individually with concerns instead of talking behind his back, so I have taken a concern of mine to him. Because a pastor can’t be alone with a woman, he had his wife at the first meeting and three members of the board at the second meeting. It then becomes a me vs. them argument with them saying, “Listen to the pastor, he’s always right.” Because he is the pastor and a man, should I not bring my concerns to him, even though he said we should?

Great question. It’s important that pastors and church members communicate clearly about any concerns that arise in the life of a church. In this situation, there are several things to sort out:

1. Any church member, male or female, should talk (kindly, lovingly, and respectfully, of course) to the pastor about any concerns. Your pastor is right to encourage you to bring concerns to him and to discourage gossip and backbiting. (There are some concerns that can be handled at a lower level initially, for example, going directly to a person committing a sin {Matthew 18:15-20}, or concerns that should first be taken to an elder in keeping with any existing church policies regarding this. This is not because of a male/female thing, but to keep the pastor from being overwhelmed. Kind of like the way Jethro told Moses he should get some elders to help him judge the people in Exodus 18.)

2. Your pastor is also right and wise not to meet alone with a woman. It protects him as well as the woman.

3. If the elders are literally saying “the pastor is always right,” that’s problematic. There are some things you’ll need to think about and ask about if that’s what they’re saying. Is it possible you misunderstood what was said or that the elder(s) misspoke? Is this their standard answer to every problem raised by a church member? Does the pastor know they’re saying this, and, if so, does he approve of them saying this or has he corrected them? If he knows this is the elders’ standard answer to people and he approves of it, that is not biblical. Pastors are not infallible dictators. Pastors are to be accountable to the elders; the elders are not to be a rubber stamp for the pastor.

On the other hand, you didn’t indicate what your concern was. Perhaps they were just saying the pastor was biblically right in your particular case. Perhaps you’ve brought a concern to the pastor that was an issue of personal preference instead of a biblical issue, and the pastor is going in a direction that is biblically correct but doesn’t sit well with your preferences. In those kinds of cases, Scripture does say that we’re to submit to our leaders (Hebrews 13:17). Maybe this is what they meant.

It’s great that you want to deal with your concerns in an above board, biblical way. Be prayerful about the situation and ask God to give you wisdom and a godly heart as you seek to work through the problem.


If you have a question about: a well known Christian author/leader, a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.