Back in May, John Koessler had an article in Christianity today, entitled “The Gift of Disillusionment.” He quotes Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “Certainly, serious Christians who are put in a community for the first time will often bring with them a very definite image of what Christian communal life should be, and they will be anxious to realize it….But God’s grace quickly frustrates all such dreams. A great disillusionment with others, with Christians in general, and if we are fortunate, with ourselves is bound to overwhelm us, as surely as God desires to lead us to an understanding of Christian community.”
Men, how have you dealt with disillusionment in your church life. Many men have given up on church, but not Jesus. I spent 40 years as a parish pastor and now the last seven years as a laymen. “Church people” can be hurtful, mean and yes, down right evil. I used to say, “Look around, it is not going to get any better then this.” Who you see in church on any given Sunday are the folks that have been led to your church. Men, we don’t choose who will be your brothers and sisters in Christ. God will use some member as “sand paper” to deal with your rough edges.
Two principles helped me survive many relational “mine fields” and “broadsides” that suddenly popped up in church life. First, the determination of being a servant to others. This implies seeing myself as serving from “below.” “For the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). I intentionally try to put others above myself. The second principle embodied these words from Paul, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves” (Phil 2:3). I had to continually surrender my ego, my personal rights, especially when I wanted to defend myself.
Here are a couple of things I learned the hard way. First, church people will disappoint you. Give up your high expectations of “church people.” I guarantee you will be deeply disappointed. This is a hard pill to swallow if you have high ideals for the church. There will be times when church members will do what can only be thought of as evil. My advice is to accept the members of your church for who they are, sinner just like you.
Secondly, learn to live a lifestyle of forgiveness. I cannot stress this enough. There were times when I was angry with members of the church. On occasion I would have to ask forgiveness for my attitude. But that did not end the cycle of anger in my heart. I had to confess my anger often to my wife, who became my confessor. I must warn you, if you don’t forgive, it will begin to tear at the very fabric of your soul. You will become deeply disillusioned with the church. Some leave with a “bitter spirit.” Hebrews warns us, “See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many” (Heb. 12:15). A bitter, critical spirit will destroy a church.
One more important piece of advise for men. The spiritual health of your church depends on the attitude of the men. Above all, don’t develop a demanding, negative and critical attitude toward the leadership and other members of your church. Be a man of God!! You might have to endure some gossip and slander. But take your stand in love and humility. You could save your church.