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,