A story rests on my spirit today which i must share. It is something that I have seen play out so many times. It is a sad tale, a cautionary tale that is all too real in this day and age. Here it is:
There once was a small group of people, redeemed by the blood of Jesus, who gathered with great joy, celebrating their mutual faith, strengthening and encouraging each other. The trust was strong, the love was sincere. Faith was growing, and transparency was the norm. It was a close group of people, unified by the presence of Jesus. His spirit had freedom to move in and through each of these people. It was noticeable to those who visited from outside the group. There was a deep hunger to grow, or at least it seemed that there was a core of people growing and seeking answers from God.
There were many stories of grace, and of miracles. Healing of body, mind and soul was a daily occurrence, and the group was hungry to see what each day would bring because God’s Spirit was there and moving in power. Certainly the enemy would not like this.
One day one of the people began to wag their tongue, stretch the truth, manipulate information to benefit their own self. Nobody knew the pain, the sin or the scars that would rise to the surface in that moment because there was a deep trust among this group. Transparency meant there were sometimes hard things shared, but always based on truth, honesty, with the heart to grow and see healing. But that day the trust that ran deep began to erode. And as people began to hear these words they believed them. That is the nature of a trusting group of believers.
And the tongue wagging began to erode friendships, introduce rumor and speculation, and disturb the delicate and rare harmony and unity of this small group of believers. One by one, the formerly united people began to wonder, sensing a coldness when they gathered to worship their lord. And his words were still a clear invitation to love, trust and obey, but the living examples that surrounded them no longer shared that same mission. Friendly smiles were met with suspicion, and few words were exchanged because of an uncertainty of what is true, honest or sincere.
Deep friendships became uncomfortable. Common faith became cold. Hearts became guarded, defensive, questioning of each other. And God’s spirit was not able to freely move and breath in the group.
One voice was all it took to break down the unity. One word spoken to bring question, to bring challenge, to mock, or to question the respectability of another believer broke down that delicate trust.
Some of the group continued on as though nothing was wrong, yet others were deeply changed, sadly they could no longer live together in a harmony that was shattered by the careless words of another.
I tell you this story because it is played out throughout our nation, and it is breaking down what God wants to build up. It is His Church, and he will ultimately build it as he wishes. But small and seemingly harmless words can be like a spark of a match in a dry forest… it sets everything in its path on fire, destroying the beauty, and protection that we need as the church.
So what can be done? How can this be avoided, limited, or removed from a community of believers?
1. The health of the community is directly related to the spiritual health of each believer – we must be responsibility for our own walk, our own growth, our own communication. That means that each day we must seek the lord, spend quiet time to hear his voice and know his wishes for our life.
2. We must be the filter for problems – AS we begin to hear the rumblings of tongue wagging we must respond correctly – giving no room for that type of communication. Defusing when possible, or taking it to an elder if our efforts to stop it dont work. Some thoughts about defusing dangerous communication include the following:
- Direct the person with harmful communication to speak with only the person involved… if they have something bad to say about another they should discuss this directly with that person.
- Filter everything through the word of god. Is each word I convey going to be true, edifying, strengthening, grace filled, encouraging? If not, pray for wisdom and God’s leading on sharing it.
- When a situation is beyond your ability to stop, bring it to the attention of leadership – that is a ministry leader, pastor, elder. Ask they to go with you to speak with that person.
3. Don;t ruminate on the negativity that has been spoken. Instead, like a prisoner of war, take it to Jesus. Confess the struggle with the information and ask for this to be healed. Leave it there with him.
4. Practice Grace. Understand we all struggle, and allow a measure of understanding for others. Each of us are on this journey to heaven, and we all have shortcomings, struggles, challenges. A little bit of grace covers a multitude.
5. Pray for our church leaders to be strong, wise, and responsive. When the leaders are sensing and following strongly after the Lord these stories are less likely to take root and flourish .
6. Churches should be extremely discerning on how the leadership is chosen… wrapped in deep prayer, and following strong after the leading of God based fully and explicitly upon the Word of God, elders should be chosen to meet the criteria layed out in the word.
So you read this and said, “Hmm, that does not describe my congregation” – to that I say Great! Pray. Pray hard daily for your leaders. Pray daily for discernment, and for God’s Spirit to keep the unity and bind the work of the enemy in and through your congregation.
And perhaps you say “Wow, that sounds all too familiar… i am there. I honestly dont like going to church any more because of this situation.” To you I say steady on – pray and ask God for his wisdom. Remain willing to be open and transparent, but use discernment. If someone has sinned against you go to them, and call it out. If they dont receive your words and repent then go to a leader and together go with the leader to that person and confront them. If they still are unresponsive, allow the leadership to take over the dealing with that individual. If leadership is not responsive that might raise another alarm flag… and perhaps you might wish to seek the Lord for wisdom on what to do.
The mission of living for Jesus is challenging, yet when we as a community are unified the life we live is made easier knowing we do not walk alone. Sin can destroy everything in its path, and that also means it can disable people from the goal and purpose of their call by God. Lets ask for wisdom from God that we can see the power and fire of God flood through our church, that we can see the hope and healing that Jesus wants us to know.
Prayer: Jesus, the church is your work. You have said that it is built by you and that the gates of hell shall not prevail. But i confess that there are times when the church looks like it is being ripped apart by pride, lust and greed, and that the deadly sin of the tongue set about a fire that is from hell itself. We hunger for unity in your spirit. We hunger for strength in the leaders you ordain for us, and we hunger for a safety and transparency that allows us to seek you, grow in grace, and find our healing in you, and in community. May you be glorified in our lives as we seek you, hunger for you and yield our very core to your authority. Silence the tongues of sin, break the strongholds the enemy wants to set up, and remove the snares of deception, confusion and fear. May we see your church rise in power, reaching our broken world with the power of your salvation. Amen.