Church Detox Initial Installment

This is the first installment in my personal blog. It’s about what evangelical churches in North America can do to become healthy churches, and less toxic to many of their members. I don’t write this as a hostile critic, but as someone who has been a part of the evangelical church for almost 35 years now.
 
This first installment covers a topic which is near to my heart, but is not often found in discussions of growing healthy churches. This is: making sure that communication in public ministries such as preaching, teaching and leading worship and musical ministries is truthful and loving.
 
The Biblical standard for communication within a growing church fellowship is ‘speaking the truth in love‘ (Ephesians 4:15). Unfortunately, sometimes during public ministries the public communication falls short of this ideal. Here are some things which I’ve seen happen over the years:
 
  • Someone uses public ministry as an occasion for taking surreptitious digs, potshots, putdowns or ridicule at someone else within the fellowship.
  • Someone uses public ministry to caricature what someone else said during the course of a private, often petty, disagreement.
  • Someone during public ministry reveals a confidence, even without explicitly naming a name.
  • Someone during public ministry passes on something that was said about someone else without either verifying the truth about that person or asking permission to share what was said in public ministry.

Above all, public ministry is a time to make sure that all that we say and the way that we say it is glorifying to God. To use these times to take swipes at fellow believers may satisfy a childish craving to ‘put another person in his or her place’ or to ‘win’ a childish and petty disagreement glorifies no one and diminishes everyone.

My suggestion is to have an elder regularly monitor public ministries for loving communication, and deliver a kindly correction. The things to watch for are:

  • Attempts to apply the Word which are ‘non sequiturs’ to the actual passage at hand, such as, ‘You should attend every public service of the church unless you’re sick or out of town’ when preaching or teaching on some other doctrine such as the deity of Christ.
  • Examples cited in the course of preaching or teaching with a gloating, mocking, angry, or superciliously triumphant tone.
  • Stories passed on without names as bad examples or something ‘that I’ve heard,’ with which the speaker is expressing disagreement.
  • Prayer requests which disclose personal information about another person’s health or other matters or which express ‘concern’ about that person’s mental or emotional state.

The cost of unloving and untruthful communication in public ministry is that it offends God. Certainly the Holy Spirit will only be grieved by, and not the sponsor of unloving and untruthful communication in public ministry. And certainly, the Lord who stated that account would be given to him for ‘every idle word’ will include untruthful and unloving communication offered during public ministry which is ostensibly done in his name.

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