No local church is infallible.
Yes, God has ordained the local church as a primary means for education, edification, and evangelism. But what about the failures and abuses of the local churches and leadership?
I’m talking about the bullying, blackballing, shaming, and failure to even answer honest questions from the membership. I’m talking about the covering up of moral sin instead of dealing with it biblically. I’m speaking of failure in ethics, and refusing to deal with false doctrine. I’m talking about handing child abusers off to another ministry instead of bringing the law to bear where needed. The refusal to properly handle messy issues has hurt multitudes of sheep.
What about the lack of courage on the part of shepherds to “right the ship” under their watch? You can often tell more about a pastor’s leadership after he leaves than while he is present. How many churches have been devastated because leaders avoided correction, confrontation, and church discipline?
Consequently, those in leadership where the wounded sheep land are forever trying to help heal those who have been hurt elsewhere. Forgiveness is preached and encouraged. Countless hours of counseling are invested in those who have been “run over” in previous ministries. It seems the onus is always placed on the victims to forgive, rather than calling those who caused the hurt to repent.
I am fully aware that troubled people cause trouble, and there are many in the pews who sow division. There is no question about this. But the problem of church hurt cuts both ways.
Here’s a radical idea: should churches take responsibility and seek to right the wrongs which have been inflicted on those under their care? Where are the leaders, church boards, and shepherds who are willing to humble themselves, and seek to put things right where things have gone wrong? Where are the servant leaders who will wash the feet that have been dirtied by their failure to act?
This appeal is to those who have a functioning conscience: those who recognize mistakes were made and that restitution needs to be made. I’m not talking about questionable things, but those instances where ignorance, neglect, and the lack of courage damaged people.
Lou Sutera relates how at the beginning of the Canadian Revival a prominent pastor humbled himself before the other pastors in the city, and got things right. The people thought that if the pastors need to get right, then what about us? This was the beginning of a spiritual landslide of repentance and reconciliation that affected thousands and thousands of people.
Can you imagine the possibilities of grace in a top-down revival of corporate repentance and reconciliation? Can you even begin to envision the cleansing and freedom that would ensue? Years ago I was in a church where we had a real move of God. Several years earlier a church had split out of this church. The mother church got so revived that they sent a team to beg forgiveness from the split-off for their terrible attitudes! It was amazing.
Heaven is waiting for a baptism of humility on the part of all of God’s people, especially leaders, to move toward clearing of ourselves and our consciences.
Achan’s disobedience blocked God’s blessing from the camp. Severe action was required. God’s leaders took the drastic steps, and God’s favor was restored.
Poor judgment, incomplete knowledge, and bad decisions are part of our human limitations. But there is no substitute for obeying the call repentance, restitution, and reconciliation.
The Lord is doing a fresh reviving work in many, many places. However, when the Spirit is grieved, quenched, and resisted, there will be little blessing and eternal fruit. So let’s be sensitive to the voice of God and act on every prompting he places upon our hearts.
How much better to deal with these things on earth than face them at the judgment seat of Christ.