What keeps the Church from witnessing to unbelievers

photo from: manvsdebt.com
photo from: manvsdebt.com

What if the salvation experience of every new believer in the world was completely contingent upon the actions and behavior of church people?  Wow…we would really be in trouble.  But the Church’s relational conduct does have a tremendous impact on the world looking in.

Colossians 3:12-15 (NLT) reads…

Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.  Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.  Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.  And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.

Now, at first glance we can read this passage strictly from a generic view.  I think we would all agree that these are valuable attributes for all people to live by.  At closer examination, however, we see that Paul is writing to the church in the city of Colosse.  To the Church!  He’s reminding church people…you and I…to be kind, gentle, and patient with each other.  To live out genuine love and peace….in the Church! 

Why was he specifically talking to believers here?  And more important, why do Paul’s words continue to speak to you and I today?  I would suggest two points for us to focus on regarding these few verses.

  1. Paul knew that Christ’s Church would go through seasons of contention and division.  Look at his words as a daily multi-vitamin.  It is preventive maintenance.
  2. Paul also knew that any sort of ‘dysfunction’ in the church could negatively affect the witness of Christians to the unbelieving world looking in.  We see this even today.  There are masses of people in the U.S. who will not enter a church because they know someone who has experienced hurts there.

Read the above passage one more time.  How might our Christian witness change if the world saw in our churches what Paul wrote above?  What does this mean for those of us who serve in church leadership, and what should our approach be with our congregations?

Join the conversation.  What are your experiences?

Is your past restricting your future?

Relationships ALWAYS require work! This is true of marriage, friendships, family, co-workers, etc. Sometimes a situation occurs that tosses a grenade into the middle of a relationship leaving only pain & destruction remaining.

So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God. Matthew 5:23-24 (NLT)

Referencing Barclay on this passage, we cannot be made right with God until we are made right with the people in our lives. There really are no exceptions!

What do you do when reconciliation is NOT possible?

This is a question I’ve personally been wrestling with this week. Recently, I attended a leadership conference with my wife and 3 team members from our church. Now, the church we had served at prior to where we are at now endured a painful church split a few years ago. This was a result of the Senior Pastor resigning due to some integrity issues that caused there to be a complete lack of trust between he and the rest of the church leadership. I’ll spare you the ugly details. In over 20 years of church ministry, this was the first time I seriously doubted that I would ever serve in the church again. But God (how He does) had other plans for me.

Back to the conference.

My wife and I came to know that our former Pastor had relocated and is currently pastoring another church…..which just happened to be a 20-minute drive from our conference. Coincidence? I think not! God’s ways are not our ways, and I honestly think He gets a kick out of watching us react to His spiritual orchestrations from time to time. Don’t you? Well, to make a very complicated story short…we took action on the above verse. My wife and I (while basking in prayer) took time from the conference schedule and drove to his church, only to discover that he was not there. We were able to eventually make indirect contact with him via his wife…but he refused to meet with us to hear our apology and requested email communication. We emailed our short and honest apology, to which we received a 300-word reply that clearly indicated he had not dealt with any level of healing or repentance in his own life since then. Initially, the anger and resentment began to resurface inside me. But within moments God spoke to me, “Pray for him. He’s not benefited from the healthy church family that you have the last 2 years.” Boom! That’s what I call a God-smack.

I leave you with 3 spiritual truths:

1. We are not allowed to use the ‘what if’ factor as an excuse to not attempt reconciliation.

2. Our obedience, regardless of the outcome, will always lead to health.

3. Being at odds with another believer is never God’s best for us.

Do you need to forgive or apologize to someone in your life? Get prayed-up…take a breath…and move forward. God’s best life is just waiting around the corner for you!