In addition to what I’m going to share with you in this podcast, check out these articles and podcasts that I have listed for you. They will serve you well. The problem that you’re raising is not going to go away anytime soon. So take your time and work through these resources because they are practical tools to help you think about this common problem.
I have yet met the disgruntled church member that was not sinning about the problem they were identifying if it’s been a long-standing issue between them and the church. In this case, we’re talking about an ongoing lack of transparency and biblical community within the local church. I don’t mean this unkindly at all, but it’s true, no matter how subtle it is.
Besides the reality of overt or subtle sin, it’s always biblical to start problem-solving by addressing the log in your eye (Matthew 7:3-5). Don’t be surprised by what you will find. And if this “community problem” has been longstanding, you will discover multiple heart struggles.
Most of these issues will connect with our old deadly foe, self-righteousness. The self-righteous person elevates himself above the folks that he is observing (Luke 18:11). The heart is self-righteous, and the behavior will usually be sins of the tongue, i.e., grumbling, complaining, gossiping, and other forms of corrupting speech that communicate how you’re not like them.
Of course, there are more subtle evil disrupters of the heart. It may look like impatience, smugness, cynicism, and huffing under the breath. Do not ignore these things. Do not dismiss them by jumping to my next point because the Lord will stop you in your sanctification tracks; He has a determined opposition to proud hearts (James 4:6).
An excellent remedy is to take Paul’s words to heart, practically speaking. He asked, “What have you received that someone did not give you?” See 1 Corinthians 4:7. Insightful query, aye? It does not matter who you are frustrated with; the problem is the same: you’re doing better than you deserve, and anything more than hell is a perk.
If you are in a relational dynamic already, make sure that you’re practicing what you want in that context. For example, if you’re married with children, you should have already what you wish the church to become. My point is for you not to skip over the more vital community, which is your family. Could there be a pattern in your life where you don’t have this kind of community anywhere?
Some Christians do not have a biblical community in their homes, and they are discontented because the church is not doing it either. You will never have this kind of koinonia in the church if your family is not doing it already. The church consists of families; the church is a reflection of families. Sometimes we forget this common-sense concept.
The church cannot be what the families are not. If your family is not doing this already, then being upset with the church is wrongheaded. The first order of business is to develop what you want in the church in your marriage and family, and then export it to your local body.
Now that you have addressed your heart problems and motives, and you have a relational dynamic that is modeling in your home, it’s time to infiltrate the local church. You want to penetrate your local body, identify “whosoever will,” and begin “feeling them out” to see if they are great candidates for this type of intimate interpersonal ministry.
Patience while vetting is vital. Remember: everyone is at a different place. Also, you don’t know their shaping influences. Perhaps they are a “casualty of war,” which can happen in different ways. Here are four that will inhibit a person from being open, honest, transparent, and vulnerable.
Also, remember “your circles of relationship.” All your relationships land somewhere, but not in the same spot. Jesus had three “inside friends” with Peter, James, and John. Then He had nine others in the next circle. There were Mary, Martha, and friends outside that one. Of course, there were the multitudes further out. Lastly were the unregenerate, e.g., Pharisees.
Some churches are harder than others to build the kind of community that we talk about within our ministry and resources. (See Graphic Below) Perhaps you will find that it is more of a twenty-year plan than a twelve month one. If it takes longer, it should not hinder your ministering to others, regardless of where that is.
The church culture may never be what you hope it to be. But this is where you need to be careful. You don’t want to be that employee who believes the employer should run the business according to your preferences. If the employer is not breaking the law and there isn’t anything glaringly wrong with what he is doing, it’s his business to run, not yours.
Churches are the same. Hebrews 13:17 talks about permitting the pastors to pastor you with joy, not with groaning. The question for you is whether or not you’re a joy for them to pastor. The way you do this by asking a couple of folks who have direct oversight and care of you. Perhaps it’s your small group leader. Maybe it’s the lead pastor.
There could be other things wrong with your church, not just a lack of community. Thus, you may want to leave to find another church. Or you may want to leave even though this is the only issue you have with the church. If you do choose to find another church, be sure your reasons are valid, and that you leave well. And before you make that decision, read or listen to the dozen-plus resources in these Show Notes.
Rick launched the Life Over Coffee global training network in 2008 to bring hope and help for you and others by creating resources that spark conversations for transformation. His primary responsibilities are resource creation and leadership development, which he does through speaking, writing, podcasting, and educating.
In 1990 he earned a BA in Theology and, in 1991, a BS in Education. In 1993, he received his ordination into Christian ministry, and in 2000 he graduated with an MA in Counseling from The Master’s University. In 2006 he was recognized as a Fellow of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC).