Shows Main Idea – One of the more common and often accurate complaints about a local church is the lack of openness among the people. This problem is not isolated to merely one church, but a typical struggle for many. The critical question in this podcast is how to redemptively respond to a group of folks you love and meet with weekly so you all can grow into a biblically communicating community. Here are four ideas.
In addition to what I’m going to share with you in this podcast, check out these articles and podcasts that I have listed for you. They will serve you well. The problem that you’re raising is not going to go away anytime soon. So take your time and work through these resources because they are practical tools to help you think about this common problem.
- The Most Perfect Relationship You Will Ever Have
- Leading Your Wife In Intimate Conversations
- How to Build and Enjoy Dynamic Community Life
- Why Do You Attend Your Church?
- Three Characteristics of a Fantastic Local Church
- The Main Thing to Look for When Looking for a Church
- What Do You Look For In a Pastor?
- The Second Most Important Question You Can Ask Your Church
- What Kind of Church to Look For: Here Are Six Models
- Is Your Church a Preaching Center Or a Discipleship Community
- How to Make a Decision About Anything
- How Do You Leave a Church
Point #1 Guard Against Self-Righteousness
I have yet met the disgruntled church member that was not sinning about the problem they were identifying if it’s been a long-standing issue between them and the church. In this case, we’re talking about an ongoing lack of transparency and biblical community within the local church. I don’t mean this unkindly at all, but it’s true, no matter how subtle it is.
Besides the reality of overt or subtle sin, it’s always biblical to start problem-solving by addressing the log in your eye (Matthew 7:3-5). Don’t be surprised by what you will find. And if this “community problem” has been longstanding, you will discover multiple heart struggles.
Most of these issues will connect with our old deadly foe, self-righteousness. The self-righteous person elevates himself above the folks that he is observing (Luke 18:11). The heart is self-righteous, and the behavior will usually be sins of the tongue, i.e., grumbling, complaining, gossiping, and other forms of corrupting speech that communicate how you’re not like them.
Of course, there are more subtle evil disrupters of the heart. It may look like impatience, smugness, cynicism, and huffing under the breath. Do not ignore these things. Do not dismiss them by jumping to my next point because the Lord will stop you in your sanctification tracks; He has a determined opposition to proud hearts (James 4:6).
An excellent remedy is to take Paul’s words to heart, practically speaking. He asked, “What have you received that someone did not give you?” See 1 Corinthians 4:7. Insightful query, aye? It does not matter who you are frustrated with; the problem is the same: you’re doing better than you deserve, and anything more than hell is a perk.
- Is your response to pull away from these people because they are not who you want them to be? If so, you could be taking an anti-gospel approach. At the heart of the gospel is going, engaging, and converting.
- Do you expect someone to learn in six months what took you two decades to grasp and apply? There can be a temptation for someone who learns a great idea, and now he wants to “rally the troops,” but the troops aren’t interested. And he becomes frustrated. Everyone is not at the same place in their sanctification. Be sure you’re patient with them, as you become part of the solution, rather than a dissenter.
Point #2 Have Community In Your Family
If you are in a relational dynamic already, make sure that you’re practicing what you want in that context. For example, if you’re married with children, you should have already what you wish the church to become. My point is for you not to skip over the more vital community, which is your family. Could there be a pattern in your life where you don’t have this kind of community anywhere?
Some Christians do not have a biblical community in their homes, and they are discontented because the church is not doing it either. You will never have this kind of koinonia in the church if your family is not doing it already. The church consists of families; the church is a reflection of families. Sometimes we forget this common-sense concept.
The church cannot be what the families are not. If your family is not doing this already, then being upset with the church is wrongheaded. The first order of business is to develop what you want in the church in your marriage and family, and then export it to your local body.
- Are you skipping this critical link in the chain: “I want the church to be what I don’t have in my family?” If this is true, do you see how it will be nearly impossible to have what you want in the church because you’re not exporting from your home?
- If you do have this kind of family dynamic, how are you engaging, envisioning, and equipping them missionally, to release them into your local church?
Point #3 Build With Whosoever Will
Now that you have addressed your heart problems and motives, and you have a relational dynamic that is modeling in your home, it’s time to infiltrate the local church. You want to penetrate your local body, identify “whosoever will,” and begin “feeling them out” to see if they are great candidates for this type of intimate interpersonal ministry.
Patience while vetting is vital. Remember: everyone is at a different place. Also, you don’t know their shaping influences. Perhaps they are a “casualty of war,” which can happen in different ways. Here are four that will inhibit a person from being open, honest, transparent, and vulnerable.
- Father – Mean or distant fathers build insecurity into their children.
- Parents – If their parents did not love each other well, they would develop insecurities.
- Abuse – Life experience is abusive, to varying degrees, for all of us.
- Church Culture – Some churches do not emphasize this kind of interpersonal relating.
Also, remember “your circles of relationship.” All your relationships land somewhere, but not in the same spot. Jesus had three “inside friends” with Peter, James, and John. Then He had nine others in the next circle. There were Mary, Martha, and friends outside that one. Of course, there were the multitudes further out. Lastly were the unregenerate, e.g., Pharisees.
- Are you inviting people into your home to “vet them?” Some folks would play the judgmental card right here, but it would be silly and immature. If you don’t discern every person you meet, you may find yourself in some horrible places. This “vetting idea” should not be odd. You’re not judging them; you’re discerning them, so you know how to help them while determining where they fit within your relational circles. Do you want a toxic person as a daily companion? Though you could be wrong in your assessments, which is why you “hold them loosely,” you don’t want to not have them.
- As you determine who is what, how will you help them mature in Christ? What is your plan? You won’t be able to be everything to everyone all the time, so you must have a way of assessing and helping while not exhausting yourself.
Point #4 Minister Where You Can
Some churches are harder than others to build the kind of community that we talk about within our ministry and resources. (See Graphic Below) Perhaps you will find that it is more of a twenty-year plan than a twelve month one. If it takes longer, it should not hinder your ministering to others, regardless of where that is.
The church culture may never be what you hope it to be. But this is where you need to be careful. You don’t want to be that employee who believes the employer should run the business according to your preferences. If the employer is not breaking the law and there isn’t anything glaringly wrong with what he is doing, it’s his business to run, not yours.
Churches are the same. Hebrews 13:17 talks about permitting the pastors to pastor you with joy, not with groaning. The question for you is whether or not you’re a joy for them to pastor. The way you do this by asking a couple of folks who have direct oversight and care of you. Perhaps it’s your small group leader. Maybe it’s the lead pastor.
- What did those folks say to you when you asked them if you were a joy to pastor?
- Are you a disrupting influence in your church or a redemptive one? How do you know?
- How do your efforts cooperate with the leadership of the church? This question is revealing if the church is not meeting your expectations regarding this “aspect of a community?” How are you making a positive difference?
Staying In the Church
There could be other things wrong with your church, not just a lack of community. Thus, you may want to leave to find another church. Or you may want to leave even though this is the only issue you have with the church. If you do choose to find another church, be sure your reasons are valid, and that you leave well. And before you make that decision, read or listen to the dozen-plus resources in these Show Notes.Ep. 223 How to Love the Rebel Adult Child In Your Home Ep. 225 Why Some Certified Biblical Counselors Harm People »