- You need to get counseling about your grief issues.
- We don’t believe you are ready to take your ordination exams.
- Your church’s finances need to be audited.
- Your congregation must address the conflict before electing a new pastor search committee.
- The commission believes you need to re-write your statement of faith.
Part of being a community of faith is holding each other accountable. Exceptions: When the church itself is guilty of sexism, racism, abuse, or bigotry of any kind. But in those cases, you need a new church.
In my denomination/tradition, we have a commission that oversees church transitions and other ministry issues, and we have another commission that helps prepare candidates for professional ministry. Sometimes we have to tell people what they don’t want to hear. But it’s what we’ve been elected by the Presbytery to do. We have been elected to do these things on behalf of the whole body.
Churches have the reputation of being havens of pastoral support and unconditional love. Mostly this reputation comes from idealistic people who don’t know what they are talking about.
Yes, there are wonderful human beings in our churches and we might aspire to be a Christ-like community, but we are often terrible at being Christ-like communities. Many of us believe that following Jesus = being “nice.” And it doesn’t seem “nice” to hold people accountable, but this is an essential part of being a community.
I’ve found that some folks are shocked – shocked! – when their spiritual leaders remind them that
- they must keep confidentiality,
- they must not lie,
- they must refrain from gossip,
- they are expected to participate in the community, not as a transactional activity, but as a spiritual practice.
Many Christians expect to be coddled by their spiritual communities. They do not expect to be asked to change behavior that hurts themselves or others. They do not expect to be told “no.”
But church is not about being told that nothing has to change – either individually or corporately. We are called to worship, pray, serve, and break bread together. But we are also called to admonish each other when necessary, in hopes of becoming better equipped to serve God.
It’s never easy to hear what we don’t want to hear. It’s almost impossible to hear what we don’t want to hear when we don’t trust the source. And when we have the attitude – even in our spiritual community – that “nobody can tell us what to do” then I wonder why we are part of that spiritual community in the first place.
Question: Can you name a time when you’ve been told in your church community something that you didn’t want to hear? And how did it go?
One of mine: I was 28 years old and starving for friends my own age, so I thought I’d join the Tommy’s Tavern Softball Team in the town of my first call. But the elders told me I couldn’t because it wouldn’t look right for the pastor to be seen in Tommy’s Tavern. Made me unhappy.
What about you?