What is the church for if not to save us from all of our troubles? So many of us who are suffering, with nowhere to turn, think that the church will be the ones to see us through. There is nothing wrong with turning to the church, but what are our expectations here? I’ve seen so many hurt much deeper because their expectations of what they thought the church could and would fix were dashed.
Who Is The Church?
The church that we think of and turn to is typically the one within the four walls. We need to start thinking broader. The church is the body, not just the staff within a building. The building and the staff are great places to start your search, especially if you don’t have a point of reference. But, all believers that make up the body are the actual church. We all have our different gifts, callings, passions and personalities. We won’t mesh with everyone perfectly, and we won’t always have the same passions. If we did have all of the same passions, everyone would be working to “fix” one issue, leaving everything else neglected. Meaning, our passions and our callings are wonderful, and it’s okay for others not to feel as deeply about the same things that we do. That, however, doesn’t mean we should not work to inform others about the great issues of this world. The body has different parts and different jobs, but the brain makes sure to inform the other parts of the body what one is doing. My eyes can see what my hands are doing. My ears can hear what my mouth is saying. (1 Corinthians 12). So, we should educate each other on the needs that need to be met.
Is the Church Equipped?
Is the church equipped? The easiest answer is NO. The church and staff within the four walls of an establishment aren’t equipped for all of your problems. But, that’s okay. God never asked them to be, and we should put an end to our unrealistic expectations of what we think the church is, and what we think our pastors should be doing. This doesn’t mean that I feel as though it is acceptable for our pastors and church leaders to turn a blind eye to evil because that would be unbiblical. Pastors are called to be our teachers and shepherds. Yes, shepherds are supposed to protect and guide, but you guys, we have to stop expecting them (pastors and leaders) to be professionals at everything. Their jobs are to spiritually guide us, lead us, point us back to God and His truth in every circumstance. I go to a large church, but even in the smallest congregation, one man can’t solve the problems of so many. He can guide them to the One who can, though. Even when talking about God being able to solve all of our problems, we need to understand that God can send us practical help, but He also, at times, calls us to a patience that requires faith. “Help” doesn’t always look like what we want or expect it to. When it comes to being equipped, the only things you should expect of your leaders is a humility to let God guide in every situation, while knowing and teaching the truth of His Word. Don’t wait for them to be your psychologist, your lawyer, your doctor, your whatever because even if they try, they will let you down. They are not equipped for what you are asking them to be.
My suggestion for churches is to have lists of professionals to outsource to for as many issues that you can think of, and any new issues that arise, continue adding to that list. If you are able to walk through certain situations with people, by all means, do so. Disciple, mentor, lead, help carry burdens. But, don’t overpromise to later realize the mistake that has been made. You are overwhelmed, and the person in need now has another problem to add to their plate. It often causes more damage for those hurting than what they walked in the door with. The goal isn’t to know all and be all, but to be a good resource, a good prayer warrior, a good guide, and a good servant. You may have some of the resources needed, but remember, you can’t spread yourselves too thin. Being the one that points someone to the help is often just as good as being the source of the help (I’m talking the help God provides that is tangible, not replacing God as the Helper). Having many resources by way of ministries within the church is an amazing option as well. At this point, there are usually ministry leaders who things are delegated to when it relates to them. This also helps alleviate the pastors from having to do it all.
Are You Against the Church?
Many of us have, at some point, been hurt by the church or by many members within our churches. I know of so many people who profess to be Christians, but have sworn off church due to some deep hurt or offense caused by the church. My first response to this is to stop looking at the people within the church to be God. They are not. They are the same as everyone else, with very real sin, yet held at a scary standard because God knows the impact their words and actions have on the rest of His children. But, when a pastor or leader or respected Christian messes up and we lose our faith, we were never looking at or worshiping an infallible God, but instead at fallible man. We have to hold ourselves accountable to remember that our leaders are just as subject to making mistakes, being defensive, being selfish and getting it wrong as we are. If our walk isn’t strong, we would hope that our leaders would be wiser, but they aren’t always (and sometimes it ebbs and flows, just like the rest of the Christian population). Please understand that I am making no excuses for those who abuse their power by abusing and hurting God’s people. I believe they should be removed from their positions immediately. But, not every pastor or church leader is abusive. Some of them want to help so much, yet get in over their heads. I would count that as a misjudgment, but with good intentions. Sometimes they have to try and fail like the rest of us. The hope is that they learn and grow from these failures. At the end of the day, weigh how much responsibility they have, and put yourself in their shoes, they bear the huge weight of constant criticism and critique. That could easily break someone if they weren’t fully relying on God to guide their steps. Pray for wise, humble, Spirit-led church leadership.
How Do We Find the Help We Need?
If the church can’t help us, who can? Please don’t think that I’m saying that the church is incapable of helping those of us in need. It just can’t be one or two people carrying everyone. The weight of expectations, the weight of all of the problems, keeping the church running, etc. We have to be willing to accept outside help where it’s needed, and finding people within the church to walk through these aches, pains, trials, struggles, and traumas with us. We need balance. We need structure. We need boundaries. We need different perspectives. We need prayer at every turn from all different angles.
When I was facing the hardest time in my life, I gradually immersed myself back into church, knowing that I needed it. I had stopped going and stopped walking with God for about a decade. I started with regular church attendance. I then added a Bible study. During this, I was in counseling (a Christian psychologist outside of my church). At the end of my study, I approached a trusted, godly woman to be my mentor. As time went on, I continued to build more relationships within the church. I continued to focus on the only thing I could change – me. I now have a larger group of women than I ever could have imagined. They have invested in my life on different levels, but I know that I can trust them, and I can turn to them when I am in need of help, accountability, encouragement, prayer, so many things. They work together as a body. Not all of them know each other, not all of them go to my church. The point here isn’t to say that you have to do it a certain way or follow certain steps to get a perfect result. It just means that I worked to build relationships with godly women who have strong, personal relationships with Christ, and are at all different walks of life. Because of this, I had a built-in support system for the most recent hardest time in my life. I thought the first hardest time in my life was bad, but this second wave has hit me harder. But, God blessed me with a support system only He could have built. It took obedience on my part. But, not one pastor has had to get involved in my hard and painful situation. Not many of them even know what’s really going on, and that’s okay. The only reason I would need them to know is for prayer. But, other parts of God’s body have helped me with this burden, they have lifted me up, and they have encouraged me. I know this is intimidating and hard for some because they have been so wounded by the church and in relationships. Relationships wound, but they also heal.
Others will have their time to go through hard things, and it may even be at the same time you are. You will have opportunities to give back and serve, to be someone else’s support system in Jesus’ name.
The Church Still Has a Responsibility
The church as an establishment still has the job to not turn a blind eye to the things that anger and break our Lord’s heart. They need to receive the people with open ears, wise minds, and loving hearts. We need to stop letting things like dashed expectations and lack of communication cause a rift in the body. (Abuse, as well as other sin issues rooted in the church are not what I am addressing here. Please don’t think I am excusing evil masquerading as good). There are so many well-meaning pastors and church leadership that are in over their heads with trying to sort out our every issue. Our issues may be huge, but it’s not for us to lay on the shoulders of others, including our leaders. They aren’t here to carry it for us, but to show us how to lay it at the foot of Jesus, and to let us know that we are not alone. We need to let the church’s responsibilities remain theirs, but we must not add our own responsibilities to their to-do list. They provide the place and the teaching that draws the people, and it’s our job to get to the hard work to building the relationships that will sustain and refresh us.
[Please take note, one last time, that this post is not defending abusive or sinful behavior. A majority of this post is referring to well-intending church leadership that misses the mark at times. I believe that anyone with evil or selfish intentions and actions should be removed from all church leadership positions. Church leadership is intended to guide, teach, and protect God’s sheep.]
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