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13 entries from March 2023
We often say here at SUM that the very best thing we can ever do to help ourselves in our spiritually mismatched marriages is to spend our time looking at JESUS.
Well, this coming week is Holy Week. It's a week when the church the world over does just that: It commemorates the events that led up to the crucifixion, and glorious resurrection.
And so we're going to do the same:
Starting on Sunday, which is known as Palm Sunday, we are going to follow the footsteps of Jesus in the last week of His life.
We're going to have a blog post each day looking at what happened day-by-day in that final week. I have a couple of worship songs to include, and together I hope we can just marinate in that story.
For today, I'm going to start off by sharing my favorite rendition of the song 'Heart of Worship', which speaks of having a single-minded focus on Jesus ... I hope you enjoy that below.
And, I'll see you on Sunday with our first post of Holy Week.
'Water off The Otter', by Barb Twigg
March 28, 2023
Friends, today we have a treat: Barb Twigg, one of our long-standing community members is sharing a word with us. So without further ado, I will hand over to her:
I’m in school….with the Holy Spirit! I’ve not graduated, He keeps teaching me. I’m almost embarrassed to say why has it taken me so long to get all this? I’m not embarrassed, that’s negative talk and I don’t partner with the dark side ever! But why has it taken me so long to understand these verses? I’m certainly not saying I 100% fully understand but I’m starting to get it now.
For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. (Romans 8:3-8 NASB1995)
"Who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit" -- That’s it right there! We have a body, we have a soul and we ARE spirit. Once we said yes to Jesus Christ as our Savior our born-again status was awakened in our spirit. We are now spirit to Spirit with the Triune God! Our minds are now “set on the Spirit”.
Here’s how I walked this out last week. All of the sudden my husband started having bursts of anger. Now, I was going to complete that sentence with “towards me” but after a second outburst the Holy Spirit got my attention. Let me back up here. These last few years I’ve been repenting…A LOT! And that’s such a good thing because repentance means to turn from. It’s not just a “sorry I won’t do this again.” No, it’s “forgive me I don’t like this part of my flesh, change me from the inside out!” One of my areas of repentance has been don’t be offended and overreact. I felt the Holy Spirit is teaching me when I’m offended and overreact I’m trusting in my pride, which is another repentance area, and not trusting the truth. And we know who the truth is! Jesus!
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. (John 14:6 NASB1995)
Getting back to the outburst. When it happened the second time I grumbled to the Lord. “You clearly see what he’s doing. He’s not treating me with….etc”. You know what I’m talking about! But in that instance I had a thought:
“Let it roll off your back like water off the Otter. I’ll deal with him.”
HA! Say what? The Holy Spirit just shut my mouth and train of thought with that statement. “Water off the Otter” would’ve never come out of my mouth so I know it was Him. I laughed and told Him that’s pretty good! I continued the conversation because I really didn’t want to be treated poorly or be the one in the line of fire because of what he was apparently dealing with! I got the indication to take authority over this anger that entered my husband. So I did! I called it out, bound it up and forbid the spirit of anger to come around US! Next day I was reading a devo and the Bible verse was:
To grant [consolation and joy] to those who mourn in Zion–to give them an ornament (a garland or diadem) of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, the garment [expressive] of praise instead of a heavy, burdened, and failing spirit–that they may be called oaks of righteousness [lofty, strong, and magnificent, distinguished for uprightness, justice, and right standing with God], the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified. (Isaiah 61:3 AMPC).
Oil of joy illuminated off the page. I got up and blessed olive oil, rubbed it in my hands and anointed all things husband! I blessed him as I went through his areas. Knowing that God our Father hears me and sees my husband. I was expectant for the anger to be gone and it was! No more bursts. I figured out a possible cause with my flesh mind but more importantly my spirit was listening and receiving from the Holy Spirit. I needed to love him through this. It wasn’t personal.
My lesson was don’t react so quickly and take up immediate offense. That’s probably just good marital advice regardless! But instead ask the Holy Spirit what’s going on? We walk in the spirit so that should be my first reaction not offense which is from the flesh. The end of the Romans verse says those who are in the flesh cannot please God. Boom! There it is. I want to please God first! Now don’t get me wrong here. It’s not all fixed and now I know better and won’t do that again. No No! It takes practice. Just like working out your salvation, working on your relationship with Christ, your spouse, your kids! It takes practice to walk in the Spirit. I’m a willing vessel and God gets all the glory! Are you a willing vessel?
Water off the Otter!
Barb Twigg is wife to Rick of 33 years. They live in sunny south Florida and are enjoying retirement. She was born to teach and encourage. The Lord led her to the book Winning Him Without Words and she found her beloved SUMites! She loves to encourage in the Lord and operates in the gift of faith. If you have doubt, she’ll lead you to belief! She’s always willing to learn from the Holy Spirit and God's Word then teach it to others. She is active in her church and community to reach the lost and walk out her God given assignments.
Meeting Up in September
March 26, 2023
SUM Meet-Up, 26-29 September 2023
Well, we are continuing to plan our meet-up in September! It's so exciting. A number of you have already said you'd like to TRY to be there, and I thought it was about time I posted an update.
We first announced in January that we were planning this. So to start off, if you missed that original post you can catch up here.
I've now booked my flight so can confirm I'll be there, and Lynn is all set too -- It's ON!
Now I want to pause and encourage you at this point: Even if you feel it's impossible, in terms of money or your spouse's permission, ask God if He will make a way. In the past, God has done some very interesting things with these meet-ups of ours. And, if God wants you to be there, you'll be there.
I say that because when we had our last SUM conference in 2019 I thought 'How on earth am I going to get a plane ticket for that? And if the plane ticket were possible, how on earth could I ask Bryce?' It was completely impossible, especially as I was coming from New Zealand which is a twelve-hour flight and extremely expensive! For two days? For a conference for people who are Christians married to non-Christians? Yeah right ((laughing)). But you know, something like that is easy-peasy for God and, blow me down, I got there. Here's a photo from that day of some of us.
So with that said here's the plan for our 2023 meet-up:
Tuesday 26th September: We'll spend the day at Lynn's house in Rancho Murieta. If you want to look up her general location, she lives on Puerto Drive, in Rancho Murieta which is close to Sacramento, California. It's just going to be a nice, relaxing day together spent as friends. We'll have some food, will worship together, go on a walk .. and enjoy a day of fellowship.
The closest airport to Lynn is Sacramento International Airport, which is an hour's drive away, and you will have to find accommodation near Lynn - More on that in a minute.
Wednesday 27th September to Friday 29th: We will attend the Bethel 'Open Heavens' conference at Redding, which is 2.5-3 hours from Lynn's house. We can hopefully ride-share and go up in groups from Lynn's house, and we will drive up on the Wednesday morning.
The link to the Bethel conference is here: https://www.bethel.com/calendar/open-heavens-2023. When you're ready, register yourself as an individual. There is open-seating, and no group registrations, so just go ahead and register. There is an early-bird rate, which is available until 31 May.
You will have to find accommodation at Bethel, but perhaps you can liaise with some other SUMites to see if some of you can stay together.
After the conference, you could fly home from Bethel itself, as there is a regional airport 15 minutes drive from the conference location. That said, some of us will drive back to Sacramento after the conference, so there will be ride-sharing again.
To make your travel plans, it'll be good to liaise with each other so that we can ride-share and stay near each other. For that purpose, we have set up a private Facebook group for the event. Here's a link to that group: Meet-Up in California | Facebook
If you're not on Facebook, send me an email on [email protected] (if you haven't already done so), and what I'll do is send out a monthly email to everyone on my list regarding this event and our plans so far.
So, my friends, those are the details so far. If you have any questions pop them in the comments, and if you'd like to attend and would like us to join in praying for you put that in the comments too.
We love you and can't wait to meet as many of you as possible in person. Exciting!!
Ann and Lynn
'Dying To Self' When In A Spiritually Mismatched Marriage
March 23, 2023
Have you ever thought much about what it looks like to 'die to self' in your spiritually mismatched situation? This week in our live chat on Facebook one of our SUMites, LuAnn Wendover, shared some thoughts on that. Hope you enjoy this, there is some great wisdom here.
Finding a Church
March 21, 2023
Hello friends! Would you believe it, I still have more to write on the topic of Navigating Church. Are you still with me? Isn't it amazing that one topic can spawn so many posts!
Here are the posts on this topic so far:
When it's challenging to attend church
What to do when we feel offended by the church
What the spiritually mismatched bring to church
Friendships with Christians of the opposite sex
Now, today I want to talk about finding a church family. What do we look for when finding a church?
I've mentioned before that in 2021 the church I was attending closed. Yikes, what a thing to happen! The pastor simply lost his vision for the church and felt that we were meant to all disband. Strangely, I felt it was a God thing. God works unusually sometimes.
Something interesting happened next. As we disbanded, God seemed to show each person where they were meant to go next, and he put us into some quite varied churches.
One of us, for example, was a SUMite. She felt that God was leading her to attend the local mega-church, an enormous glittering presence in the inner-city of Auckland. Her response to that was 'Crikey, NO!' as she had formed a bad opinion of mega-churches. However, good on her for following God's lead because weeks later her non-believing husband gave his life to the Lord in the walls of said mega-church!!!
((Let's just pause and take that in for a minute)).
God knows best.
From all that, I say the key is to simply ask God 'What church do you want me in?' It's as simple as that. Ask him to give you a sign or two to help you figure it out.
It's all about where God wants you.
God will have a job for you to do in the church family of his choosing. Your job might be to care for the bruised and broken body of Christ in a less-than-perfect church, in which case you might have some differences with the church. Or, more comfortably, he might want you to go somewhere you are going to be nurtured because that's what you need right now.
When it comes to church, though, there is one deal-breaker for me, and I say this because I can't imagine God putting me in a church that was otherwise. It's this: The church must preach the Gospel.
By preach the Gospel, I mean:
The church must preach that Jesus is the only way to salvation
The church must preach that there is such a thing as sin, therefore we need the cross.
The church must preach the need for repentance and living a changed life; not choosing to live life on our own terms.
There is more to the Gospel; I mean the gift of eternal life is AMAZING! But in all seriousness, the above sentences are critical parts of Jesus's message; and, as our presence supports a church's mission, I can't imagine God putting us into a church that didn't preach the above. That's one thing, therefore, that I would look at before settling in.
On that note, God wants his church to become pure and spotless, not swayed by the world's morals. The church must be willing to be counter-cultural on certain difficult topics, because that's how we honor the cross of Christ, his blood shed for our sin. That means being gracious and truthful. We must be a church that frees people from the things that enslave them, and that involves being truthful about sin. Hard stuff.
The church is called to be very different to the world; and to be brave ... And that is all part of what it looks like to preach the Gospel.
Will the church ever be perfect? Well, we're a bunch of humans, so no. But our job as little SUMites, spiritually single and all, is to help our church be the best it can be.
That's a challenge I can rise to!
Ok, let's chat in the comments. What has been your experience of trying to find a church family?
Friendships with Christians of the Opposite Sex?
March 19, 2023
Are you ready to tackle this one? It's a good one:
How do we handle friendships with Christians of the opposite sex?
This one's tricky in a spiritually unequal marriage, right? It's not just about what is; it's also about how things look to others, and how our spouse feels.
For most of us, the minute we go near church we're not exactly going to be like a monk or nun, hanging out with our own gender. Actually, Jesus hung out with a group of women who loved him dearly (Luke 8:1-3), as well as his male disciples. And life in church means we do end up with people of the opposite sex who become important people of faith to us.
I've had a few of those: brothers in Christ of different ages who've been really important friends. Still, for our spouses' sake and our own we have to be mindful because we're human, and one of the ways the enemy could attack our marriages is by putting a Christian member of the opposite sex front and center and tempting us to look at them instead of our spouse. I guess we have to have some boundaries that we figure out in advance.
You know, one of the hardest things that's ever happened to me in my SUM was when a single man at church developed a strong desire to be a close friend with me and started texting me frequently. I was partly to blame because when I first met this man I behaved in a very friendly manner and shared my faith heart with him. I still do that with people. Anyway, the situation became un-comfy for me.
Honestly, that one became SUCH a difficult situation. There was Bryce, at home, extremely unhappy about my churchgoing; and there was this man at church wanting my friendship. During the week, my phone would pop up with messages from him. I felt if I addressed it, I would be turning it into something that it wasn't. So I let him keep on messaging me, and nearly fell over from anxiety about it all.
What I should have done is quite simply explained my boundaries to this man and said 'Because you're male and my husband's not a believer, I can't receive these texts any more, I'm sorry, please understand'. But somehow I found the whole situation so difficult I didn't, and instead got myself wound up into a state of anxiety. Oh dear!
We live and learn.
That experience taught me that the whole opposite-sex thing is something I have to navigate reasonably proactively. So now, I have a few rules in my head. For example, when working on the prayer team at church I won't pray on my own with a man my age. Even if we're different ages, I don't put my hand on a guy's shoulder when praying like I would with a woman. Well, sometimes I might ... It depends on who it is and the situation.
As a woman, I find that if a guy has strong boundaries of his own that feels instantly easier; and most guys who I come across in church circles do have those safety boundaries. However, we may find at church that not every person has good boundaries, and if a situation arises that makes us uncomfortable we have to be courageous enough to express our own limits.
Ultimately, from a spiritual point of view other believers are our family, and so I personally don't shy from connections with Christians of the opposite sex. I have brothers in the church, and they are exactly that: brothers. But I do tell Bryce about my friendships and connections, and his levels of comfort are a good gauge for me.
All in all, then, we connect with the Body, stay open-hearted in love, and do our best to stay in a place of integrity.
Now over to you in the comments: Have you had Christian friends of the opposite sex, and what boundaries do you put in place?
Love to you all!
That's My King
March 16, 2023
This one is a short 'n' sweet post, as this week I'm not well. Nothing too serious, I am just laid up on the couch in my living room with a head-cold, but I apologize for any emails that have gone unanswered -- I will write back soon to those of you who've been in touch.
In the meantime, I thought I would share a video that has been on repeat in my house ... I can't stop listening to this one. Enjoy, and have a lovely Friday!
This Principle of Faith is a MUST for the Unequally Yoked
March 14, 2023
Hi Sum Nation. Lynn Donovan here.
I’ve been pondering the spiritual principals of the Kingdom of God. There are spiritual laws that are unbreakable and cannot be subverted. Just as there are laws in the natural (physical) realm there are principals set down by God, that when followed, result in a powerful life.
For example, the law of gravity governs our daily life and cannot be escaped. Today, I want to bring understanding to the Kingdom Principle of Persistence.
Let me state some absolutes regarding this principle:
- The Principle of Persistence is real.
- This spiritual principle is powerful in two ways.
- It’s Biblical and was taught by Jesus.
- If followed, you will see results.
- It’s not easy. But anything worthwhile and powerful in the Kingdom isn’t for the weak of will or heart.
Let’s start with number one and number two. Persisting in faith, (faith = what you believe) is the key to breakthrough and powerfully answered prayer. Giving up is failure to see what you hoped and prayed for come to pass.
So, there is a positive outcome if we choose to remain steadfast in faith. And the opposite is true that our wishy-washy faith and belief will not accomplish much.
And my friend, this principle is available and at work in our unequally yoked marriages EVERY. SINGLE. DAY!
Take it from me, as I write to you today on my 31st wedding anniversary, my persistence to believe in Jesus and the Bible is what carried me through the early years and every struggle I have ever faced.
My bulldogged approach to faith, my bite down hard and will not release, give up, waver, nor backdown is what has led to my Promised Land years, where I now live and dwell.
So, today, it’s time to sit down with Jesus and ask for the gift of faith and belief and decide to stand in the Kingdom Principle of Persistence.
I would even dare you to post a prayer asking for this Kingdom gift right now in the comments. This sets a public statement to be read and I will agree with you. And it tells the demons that you won’t back down or give up.
Next time I share, I will show you where this principle is hidden, in plain sight, in the Word of God and what Jesus said about it.
Okay, right now go to the comments and make a statement of faith. I bless you in the name of Jesus to step into this Kingdom Principle today and to see the breakthroughs that will occur because you walk in faith. In the name of our Savior, Jesus, the Messiah, AMEN.
The Faith It Took, by Lisa MacFarland
March 13, 2023
When you think about the disciples, I wonder how hard their decision to follow the Messiah really was; the Faith it took to drop everything and go.
Most of them came from nothing, or even had shady backgrounds – they were living in situations where they needed a diversion or change. They left everyone they knew, dropped everything about their life, and walked away with a man they had only heard about in their Torah or teachings. It was easy to go along and follow Jesus when they saw the miracles and the good things that were happening, but to continue on this journey when they really didn’t understand the mission must have taken a lot of Faith.
But despite their Faith, what they were learning from Jesus every day and the miracles they were seeing, they still sinned and made many mistakes along the way. When Jesus was with them, He could easily correct and coach them, but when he was off alone, they argued, and questioned why they were there; what their purpose was. Twelve men full of their own ego, pride, jealousy, and opinions yet Jesus used them. He was walking with them daily, and it was hard to believe or feel like they were accomplishing God’s will.
So, how much harder is it for us to have that kind of Faith? We may not physically see Jesus but every day but He is with us; we are guided and directed by the Holy Spirit. In time, we will know God’s plan or the mission He has for us and when that time comes, we need to be ready to adjust our lives to align with the work He is doing.
His plan is always revealed to us at the right time – we just need to be ready. He doesn’t ask for perfection – just strive to be our very best for God; to love Him with all our hearts and to be a reflection of Jesus Christ. We only need Faith the size of a mustard seed – God will grow that Faith immensely when we just entrust our entire life to Him.
Even our prayers don’t have to be ominous or big words – just talk to God as we do our friends. He desires that friendship and relationship with Him – He wants to invite us to join Him in His work but are we ready? The closer you are to God, the better you know Him and the easier it is to see a situation where He needs to use you.
I don’t want to miss an opportunity to serve God in His work because I’m too busy, not listening, or questioning if this is really God’s plan or not. I want to KNOW when God is speaking, and I want to have the Faith it takes to let it all go for Him.
Love to chat in the comments!
My name is Lisa MacFarland and I've been in a SUM relationship for 35 years. We have 4 adult children, one grandbaby and 2 more on the way. We live in sunny Florida on the East Coast. I have been following the Spiritually Unequal Marriage ministry for over 10 years and am so privileged and honored to be a guest writer. I pray that you are encouraged by this post. Thank you for the opportunity to share.
What is the Gift of Faith? A Testimony
March 09, 2023
One of our long-time community members, Jan Bittner, joined me this week to share her testimony -- And it is such a good testimony. I will say no more, and will hand over to Jan. Enjoy!
A Family Has the Power of a Bomb
March 07, 2023
Sometimes I have a pre-planned idea of what I'm going to write about in a particular series, but then God completely interrupts my well-oiled ideas! Well, that is what happened yesterday with this Navigating Church series.
I was going to write next about how to handle it when we feel jealous of Christian couples at church, followed by a post on how our spouses respond to church. But instead yesterday I got an overriding phrase from God about all this. It was a phrase where God seemed to be saying 'Take a step back and look at it differently'. The phrase was this:
A family has the power of a nuclear bomb!
If that sounds a little weird, please don't give up on reading yet! Let me carry on a little:
I think what God is saying is that when the church behaves as family to each other, there is a spiritual power that comes from that that is beyond what we can even imagine. And, like a lot of spiritual truths, we can't see it but it is there. The unity of a church as a family unit provides a spiritual power that is matchless -- A power that can overtake anything in its path. Just like a nuclear bomb, except in a good way because it's the power of the Holy Spirit.
It's the stuff that Jesus talked about when he told Peter that he was going to build his church:
You are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.
And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven (Matt 16:18, NKJV)
It's like the ultimate bomb. A smart bomb.
On the other hand, if the church is not unified, and not behaving like a family to each other, they will be weak and powerless.
Now, this issues us a challenge: Can we approach the whole messy issue of 'church' in a way where our fellow churchgoers become to us like siblings, children, or parents? To do that we have to lay aside quite a lot of our own 'stuff', I think.
Yes, our church family and our blood family (especially our spouse) might not mix. So be it. But we are called to steward both things as SUMites.
For me personally, there's quite a lot more that I can do to be a good family member to those in my church. The thought of that simple action and attitude bringing power is awesome and interesting, and I am game for this challenge.
There is another scripture that alludes to this power that comes from unity. It's this one:
Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious oil upon the head, running down on the beard, the beard of Aaron, running down on the edge of his garments. It is like the dew of Hermon, descending upon the mountains of Zion; for there the Lord commanded the blessing -- Life forevermore (Psalm 133, NKJV)
I wonder why that scripture mentions Aaron specifically? I guess it is that Aaron, as high priest for the Israelites, had the powerful role of standing in the gap between people and God. Unity, then, brings an 'Aaron' kind of power: It's a power where God turns his ear to us.
So, if we take this word, that being a family leads to power, I wonder if we can pause now and consider this question: What does it look like to treat those in our church like family?
I would actually love to see your comments about that, so I'll pause here and see what thoughts spring to mind for you.
I think there are some complexities in it. It's not straightforward. Still, let's chat. I look forward to your comments!
What the Spiritually Mismatched Bring to Church
March 05, 2023
I had something sweet happen to me at church this past Sunday.
But I'll say this first: It's funny, I'm finding that because I'm writing this series on church, church memories are bubbling to the surface, including some of the harder moments in years past, and I've had a more difficult time than usual with church since I've been writing this series. It's strange. Sometimes I guess we live out the things we write about.
Anyway, this past Sunday at church a lovely young girl who I admire (age 20) bounces over to see me. We talk for a while about her life. Then she asks if she can pray for me. 'Do you need anything in particular?' she says. I smile: 'You just pray whatever God puts on your heart to pray for me. I'd love to hear it!'
So she closes her eyes and puts her arm around me.
Out of her mouth comes a beautiful, long, long prayer. She is speaking words about the various good things I bring to this church! On and on she goes about all those good things, elaborating on them in quite a lot of detail.
... Then suddenly I feel another arm come around me from the other side. It's one of our elders. So, these two are both standing there, arms round me, like a pair of family members.
The prayer finishes, and the girl says to me straight away: 'I love what you bring to this church, Ann. I love what you're doing here. In particular, I find you such a SAFE person.'
The elder nods to all that, adding in things. 'You're very safe.'
Safe -- hmm, that's interesting. I think us SUMites are safe people for others.
I thanked them hugely for those words. Honestly, it was just what I needed to hear.
Finally, I headed to the door to go home to Bryce, but as I did I hugged another girl by the door, hello and goodbye. 'Oh Ann, you make such a difference!' she said, not knowing anything about the conversation I'd just had.
Do you think God was trying to send me a message? ((laughing)). But seriously, to have that experience just after writing a blog post about feeling invisible and not properly part of the family, I thought "I really must take notice and know that I DO belong in this church family."
In that spirit, I'm including a photo from my church. That's me in the glasses on the far left of the photo. I sit alone in the pews without my husband. AND, I am part of the family.
I genuinely don't think the people who gave me those words this past Sunday had read my last blog post. People in my life don't read this blog even though they know it's there. No, instead I think it was all God: He wanted to bring perspective.
So, let's ask ourselves what do we bring to church, as SUMites? Do you think it would be true to say that we underestimate what we bring to the church?
What we bring is a unique, sparkling, shiny, glorious, hand-crafted set of gifts that the Father has placed in us. And beyond our unique personalities, we also bring some common strengths as a direct result of our unequally yoked marriages:
- We know how to pray.
- We know about spiritual warfare because we live with it.
- We know how to talk to people who are on the fence.
- We understand those who are on the periphery at church
- We have an uber-strong dose of faith -- Faith that has been tested like crazy.
- And, finally, we are SAFE people. Yes, we are safe!
So today I pray one thing: I pray that we all know, and settle in our hearts, just how valuable we are to the church, and to our church family.
For in fact the body is not one member but many. If the foot should say, 'Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body', is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear should say 'Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body,' is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing where would be the smelling? But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased.' (1 Cor 12:14-18, NKJV)
Navigating Church: When We Feel Offended
March 02, 2023
This week, Lynn and I had a good old chat live on Facebook, about what Jesus is doing in the world right now. It was fun! If you haven't seen it yet, you can catch up here.
In that chat, Lynn said something that I'm going to focus on today as we continue our series on navigating church.
She said: We have to let go of our offense with the church. It's really important that we do that.
Gulp. Big GULP. Can I tell you, that really convicted me? See, I still struggle with offense at the church as a SUMite. In my current church I feel lonely, like I'm 'Nelly No-Mates'. And deep in my heart I get annoyed because of that feeling.
Oh dear, this is going to be a transparent post isn't it? Is it ok to be this transparent as a leader? I think it is. We can admit a failing or a difficult emotion. But then we mustn't feed it. Admit it, but then try to change it.
Right then, let's elaborate on this, because I know many of you experience this: I get annoyed because I feel invisible at church. It's my SUM situation that makes it so: I don't fit the mold. I am not part of the singles crowd, but I am not part of the couples crowd either. The couples crowd is tight knit and have been friends for years. It takes many hours of time spent with someone to become their friend... I'm not there yet.
For all my annoyance, there are moments of deep connection in that church building. Still, offense still tries to hit me relating to how I feel within the family. The SUM situation is a big cause of that: It just makes me different. If my husband were there with me we'd have forged friendships by now. As it is, he's not, and I haven't.
Now, I mustn't feed this offense in church. It's a little demon, and if I do feed it it will get bigger. I could feed it by saying things like 'I have no friends here', or 'I don't fit in.' Or, I could overcome it and say 'NO, I'm not going there with those thoughts; nor am I going to say those things out loud any more.'
It's easy to get offended. Churches are flawed, but hey so are we! They're not good at a lot of things because they're a bunch of humans, but equally we bring with us our baggage and selfish needs. Through it all, the truth is that they are still our family.
The risk is that when we get offended we then are tempted to isolate ourselves. When we isolate we risk developing unusual ideas or make ourselves too susceptible to the enemy's attack. We so need to stay connected.
But we also need to keep our hearts free from offence while we're in those connections. Here are some ideas of how to handle it when offense at the church comes knocking:
- Say out loud 'I refuse to partner with offense'.
- Take some time to sit quietly and put ourselves in the shoes of the people at church who we're offended at.
- Ask God for help healing from offense, and forgiving
- If offence comes into our minds, straight away say 'NO!' and cast it away.
- Spend some time examining the beauty and positive things in our church.
If a church is particularly unhealthy there IS a place for asking God if we can leave and move into a different church. That certainly happens. But if we are in the church family God has put us into, our job is to steward that placement well, which includes honoring others and staying free of offence. It's a big task but a beautiful one. And what's more, God will love those efforts because that's what it's all about. God knows church is hard; the question is, how are we going to walk it?
This week, my friends, I am going to sit in church and reflect on some of those above bullet points. It will do good.
So that is my Friday thought. Perhaps we can be real in the comments: What have you been offended by, in the past, at church, and how might you overcome that?
Love to you all,