Hypothetical

What do you think about this?

Let’s say there is a person in a church, with a reputation for sometimes questioning the teaching and leadership who began an e-mail exchange with the leaders asking questions about some of the teaching.

After several exchanged e-mails, a meeting with the local leadership is recommended so that this person can express his concerns. When this meeting actually takes place, it is suggested to the questioner that perhaps this isn’t really the church for him.

At this point, the discussion turns to accusations of the person’s character. No longer a discussion of issues, it has become a church discipline issue. The questioner is now required to submit to a statement of surrender and commitment, which includes a confession of his rebellion.

However, in the midst of this process, the leadership conclude that the situation is unworkable and call the person telling him that he and his family are no longer welcome in the church.

What if the person goes to the church the following Sunday and is met on the sidewalk by the local police informing him that he isn’t allowed near the building. How do you help this person and his family while your friends are a part of the church that did this to him.

What would you do with a mess like this?

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23 thoughts on “Hypothetical

  1. While this person is hurting now, they are obviously going to be better off down the road. This church sounds like it’s not a church at all, and this person is sincere, and loves Jesus, they will have a much better experience elsewhere. In the meantime? Yikes. This is just plain ugly, hurtful, confusing and disappointing. And whoever helps them through, will have to let it be all of things for them without question. Love them through it and try to convince them of anything. The “friends still there” issue will have to be taken out of them equation. It doesn’t matter who hurt them, they are hurt.

    I don’t envy either those who were hurt or those who have to help pick up the pieces, but that is what gave us the true church for. To love and support one another and be Jesus in his absence.

    I don’t much about anything when it comes right down to is, but I do know how to pray, even if I am doing it hypothetically. :)

  2. This sounds pretty much unlike Christ to me. A person who has “a reputation for questioning teaching and leadership” the question for him would be: Is he submitted to Christ first and foremost?” The question for the church leaders is the same: “Are you submitted to Christ first and foremost?”
    The question about whether it is the church for him or not is a valid one but should be asked only from the context of what the person thinks by way of scripture is wrong with the teaching and authority of the church leaders.

    Accusation of a person’s character on this short notice and in this context appears wrong.

    These questions and more need to be assessed first before healing can take place. The person needs to forgive those who have hurt him and likely needs to confess some sin and likely has other issues that need to be dealt with from the past as well. There may well be deliverance issues as well. You did not ask about what should be done in regards to the church authorities at the other church but I assume the same (and much more needs to be dealt with there). It sounds like quite a piece of work and perhaps a bit of a toxic environment.
    There is my very short answer.

  3. What would you do with a mess like this?

    Grace, I’ll let you know when I am through it – again.

    I have yet to come across a local area pastor that is willing to be asked a few tough questions and take it with any patience or to just “agree to disagree” with me. It really is little wonder that my backyard here in the Pac. NW is one of the least churched areas in the country.

    I am a student of John Piper, J. Edwards, Augustine, Spurgeon and Tozer, so it’s not like my views are “out there.” Now granted, I have not made it easy for some leaders in the past and I have rightly been admonished and rebuked over some of my approaches, but I’m sick of constantly having to consider church shopping. That said, I often feel that I have no choice because to ask tough sincere questions in love is still an invite to be ostracized. Good post, apologies for the rant.

    Brad

  4. It is so sad to think that a church would function this way! There must be more to the story to this, right? I mean, police? At church? On a Sunday? That doesn’t make any sense at all. I’m so so sorry.

  5. Grace,
    I would like to ask a few questions, and hopefully you can answer them without having to open a new can of worms.
    * what is an apostle?
    * a “statement of surrender”? What does that mean?
    * The church involving the local police without a court order having been issued? If the church is in cahoots with the local police department and uses the police for trivial matters like this, then we have at hand a misuse of public resources. The city police department’s second man in command was a member of my former church, and I would not be surprised if such shenanigans did take place.

  6. Thank you grace. My questions called for long answers, and thank you for your patience in answering them.

    All those things raise serious red flags for me. I have problems with “teachers” being so highly elevated. The title of “apostle” seems to connote divine appointment, which flies in the face of what Scripture has to say about the priesthood. We are all priests before God even though we may have different jobs.

    It is funny to see that both charismatics and evangelicals originate from the whole Protestant movement which broke away to declare independence from the rigid and unscriptural hierarchial power structure of the Catholic Church. But now in each of our own little words, we have our own hierarchial structure with almost no accountability.

  7. Wow, Grace. That’s an intense situation.

    Unfortunately, in my experience this situation isn’t that far-fetched, even the use of police. Not that I’ve ever seen that happen, but I don’t have trouble imagining it.

    There’s nothing like good ol’ control freaks to run our churches.

    This makes me sad.

  8. what would I do? – pray, and pray hard. encourage relational reconciliation and forgiveness. not to sound overly spiritual, but we experienced something similar in our faith community about 7 years ago (no police) – it split the church, hurt people, caused lots of relational and ministry pain.

  9. rich,
    Thanks for hypothetically praying. :)

    inheritor,
    Great insights. Obviously something like this shouldn’t happen when people are submitted to Christ. It’s sad to see how things can be twisted though when false teaching is accepted by a group.

    Brad,
    Sorry you’ve been through similar things. It’s true that we should have a mature approach. There is no reason that questions, discussion, and disagreement shouldn’t be allowed in a healthy church community.I think that mature leaders would welcome and accept those with differing views, even if they don’t change their positions to that person’s expectations.

    Tracy,
    That is one of the reasons I posted this. I wondered if it sounded outrageous to others. I am especially wondering why no one involved is questioning this as being pretty extreme.

    David (warning, long answer),
    Apostle means “sent one.” In charismatic circles there has been a lot of teaching about apostles in the last ten years. During that time many men have been given this title by others or themselves.

    How they function depends on how their ministry has been set up, but the apostle is the top dog in a hierarchial structure.

    There are probably many sincere, godly men with the title of apostle who are pouring their lives into church planting, leading others, and spreading the gospel.

    Overall, I disagree with the teaching I have heard about apostles. It is usually geared toward professional ministry and a hierarchical structure of leadership.

    I believe we are all called to be “sent ones” and that the apostolic anointing of Jesus should be desired and available to all. There will be those, who by their willingness to SERVE, become apparent as leaders, but they won’t be looking for a title or position.

    A statement of surrender, something along the lines of, “Will you submit yourself to the apostle and his teaching? Will you submit yourself unquestioningly to the guidance and direction of the local leadership? Will you submit yourself to our counseling and deliverance ministry? Will you confess your rebelliousness and insubordination? Will you lay down your personal opinions and come into agreement with the leadership?”

    I don’t understand the police angle of this story. The problem with control is that you need a means of enforcement. I’m a little surprised they were willing to get involved, but it is a small town and there probably were connections with some individual officers.

  10. Grace,

    I would put my are around that person and say welcome to the true church! Let’s go worship!

    Then go to a ballgame, go fishing, bowling and build a strong relationship with that person… iow… be his friend and not judge him.

    I have seen this sort of thing over and over… and I would tell them to thank God that He has preserved them from something worse… being subjected to that leaderships teaching!

    I guess this hyopthetical is like lifeboat, only you’d want to thrown out. LOL!

    Blessings,
    iggy

  11. Grace,

    Situations like this are particularly tough, as we are in a culture that seems to require weighing in on one side or the other. Obviously the church has failed in responding to this person, but neither is it likely that their frustrations and issues are not founded in some element of truth. So, if I were to help this person work through this experience, it would be important to avoid demonizing the church. I’m not just talking about the blatant stuff, but also the subtle way we all use to attack others in very spiritual and “gracious” language.

    While the timing needs to be addressed, I would make sure that I was intentional about finding a way to address the persons experiences of being seen (justifiably or not) as contrary. I would affirm them in their value, making sure that their concerns are heard and processed positively first. If needed, later I might address the means and appropriateness of how these were communicatedd in the past.

    Not knowing the specifics, it is hard to say “how much” the church overreacted. Regardless of this, however, having police stop them at the door seems a huge over reaction. Unless you felt called or invited, it sounds as though you would have a difficult time playing mediator in this situation. Therefore, I guess I would focus on the person/people who were kicked out.

    Tough one.

    Peace,
    Jamie

  12. What would you do with a mess like this?

    Yeah, you’re right – it is outrageous. If I wasn’t a church-goin’ kind of guy I’d say it was unthinkable, impossible. Unfortunately, I know better.

    And what else can you do but try and bring some measure of comfort to your friend? The thought of some kind of reconciliation comes to mind, but then I see the cops at the door and think ‘why would anyone want to be reconciled to that’?

    Your second last line raises a question to my mind… are you sensing you’re about to become a way-station for wounded souls being cast aside from this ‘church’? Of course, I could be just reading wwwwaaayyy to much into that. Been known to happen.

  13. Grace –

    Maybe I’m just a rebellious, individualistic Californian-type who will someday learn that I have had it ALL wrong… maybe…

    … but – I would NEVER be able to commit to that kind of a church. NEVER. It sounds like a horribly abusive, controlling and power-hungry leadership structure.

    What would I do? Hypothetically speaking? Bite my tongue while I pray that God would show me if and what my role might be in that person’s life, what words would be appropriate in helping them, and how to possibly avoid sinning in my thoughts and language about that church…

    Hypothetically speaking, maybe I need to go pray a little about my own thoughts right now…

  14. sad post!

    When will we – the body of Christ- start acting with love and respect for each other. There can be unity in diversity IF we allow God to work in our midst.

    To call someone to a meeting on one pretext and then to turn it into a disciplinary meeting is unethical. As for having the police there- wrong, wrong wrong.

    IMHO

  15. Churches are recognized bodies by the government of the states. They are in essence clubs, they are allowed to meet and exist in the open because when they apply for their tax exemption and building permits, etc., they submit the nescesary papers i.e. charter, and then they gather. All clubs have their rules, if you don’t like them you should leave that club. True some clubs are stupid, like the one mentioned in the blog. Whatever you do as a follower of Jesus, do not confuse learning to be his disciple with what the clubs are doing.

  16. hey grace, my family and i are back from our more than 3,000 mile road trip…whew! and so i’m a bit late in jumping into this hypothetical situation.

    to me, that the guy in the story would drag his family to the doors of the church after the cultish attempt to intimidate him into submission is unnerving in itself. what was he possibly thinking? then, to have law enforcement there is ridiculous, unless of course our guy didn’t mention that he threatened to bomb the church or something crazy like that.

    i suspect our hypothetical man has need of professional counseling. he was willing to keep himself and his family in an abusive environment. This part of the story concerns me the most.

  17. I don’t know what to add to what everyone else has said, but sadness. Looks like another one bites the dust. I just don’t understand churches like this one.

    His peace.
    B~

  18. David,
    I think that moving away from hierarchial structures is one of the connecting points in the religious blogging conversation for people from so many different backgrounds.

    Lily,
    Good to see you. Yes it is sad.
    Control is scary even when it’s dressed up nice.

    trace,
    Sometimes I’m afraid the whole situation will explode, and sometimes I’m more afraid that it will just continue on.

    Iggy,
    It’s interesting when getting thrown out of the boat is actually better for you than staying in.

    Jamie,
    I won’t be in a position to be a mediator. I am uniquely positioned to understand many of the dynamics at work, but helpless to bring change.

    I am thinking about your other comments. It is true that in a healthy community even a contrary person should have an opportunity to be heard. But when a system has progressed to the point of being toxic and abusive, I wonder when that should be exposed.

    rhymes,
    You are right, there comes a point where you realize that reconciliation to something like that might not be the best solution.

    I don’t know what my role will be with those who are hurt by this church. There are many people I care about still there.

    chris,
    I think healthy community is a wonderful thing. I am at the point now where I don’t believe it is sinning to express that certain behaviors in an unhealthy community are wrong. I don’t think we’re supposed to be hunting for things to criticize, but I also don’t think we’re supposed to turn a blind eye to blatant abuse.

    l,
    I’m glad you posted. I stopped by your blog again and will mark it this time. I enjoy what you have to say.

    lorna,
    One of the reasons I posted it was to get some perspective beyond my own reaction. It still amazes me that while all of you can see the obvious wrongness in this, many who are involved can’t see it at all.

    anon,
    Great comments. The desirability of the club can be a strong pull, even beyond what it being taught.

  19. Pam,
    I think it was probably more a case of trying to get the last word in and resisting authority. I actually find the story quite believable until the police part. At that point, I keep wondering what details are missing.

    Bruce,
    I’ve spent a lot of time trying to understand and figure this out also.

  20. Hmmmm, When I began reading this post, I actually thought it was some kind of contemporary analogy of Christ and the pharisees. How tragic, instead, that it’s a modern-day example of religious zeal gone mad. And, no, I’ve never seen anything like it…unbelievable!What is a proportional response to such extremity? I’m thinking on both sides. Loving rebuke? A harsh one? Listening ears? Don’t you hate it when the easiest thing would be just to walk away (knowing you can’t). I’m an occasional reader of EG, first time posting a comment. I find it interesting that I first saw Jesus in a person I later saw…quite differently. Wonder what that says about me…!

  21. Hi!
    I have just quoted your post on my blog – http://www.trotank.se/blog. We are seeing more of this type of church in Sweden as well, even though the swedish mentality protects us somewhat from authoritarian leadership – we are much more into reaching decisions together. On my blog i just posted a link to this article that might be of some help to you: http://www.rjd268.com/spiritual_abuse.htm

    God bless! My wife and I have read your blog together, and we find ourselves in much the same situation as you do – we are going through a period of “detox” after being part of a toxic church for 10 years.

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