How To Help Destroy Your Church (and Your Spiritual Life) in 6 Easy Steps
First, most every church – if they are doing the work of the Kingdom at all – is under attack all the time, not just some of the time. We are, after all, engaged in a titanic conflict that has been waged since the Garden. The entire Bible from Genesis to Revelation speaks of a spiritual war that is being fought in the unseen, and we are right in the middle of it. The very fact that a church is founded in the first place means that the Kingdom of God is advancing and setting up camp in a certain area, and the enemy will do his best to render that encampment ineffective.
Secondly, yes, we do need to pray. Prayer is an essential weapon in this conflict. But it does surprise me how many people pray and do nothing else. Prayer is supposed to accompany the work itself, not supplant it. Yet many of God’s people content themselves with praying while doing virtually nothing else in God’s Kingdom advancement. Or, worse yet, some people actually undermine the Kingdom conquest by unknowingly participating with God’s enemy and playing right in to his hellish tactics.
So if we were to make a how-to list of things that destroy churches (and your own spiritual progress) faster than anything, here’s a rundown:
I’m preaching to myself here, too, because I’ve been overcoming sensitivity most of my life. But the fact of the matter is that regardless of what’s happened to us in the past that makes our emotions raw, and regardless of how we are wired personality-wise, sooner or later we are going to have to put on our big boy and big girl pants and grow up. Being easily offended is a sign of internal problems, sin, and immaturity.
Proverbs 19:11 tell us, “A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.”
But I’m not just talking about overlooking people who are obviously in the wrong. I’m talking about examining why we get offended at certain things in the first place. There have been times in the past when people have approached me very soberly and sternly asking to speak with me. And upon receiving these coldly stated requests, I have thought to myself, “Oh boy, what did I do? I must have really blown it!” And then when I meet with some of these people, I am blown away by the pettiness of their complaints. I think to myself, “Really? THIS is what you’re so up in arms about? Sheesh! Grow up!” Of course, I don’t say those things, but that’s what I’m thinking. And then I hear second hand about conflicts other people have with one another, and I think the same thing. People get worked up and lose their peace about such silly things, and then wonder why they don’t have more victory in their lives.
People who are easily offended usually end up compounding their sins by taking the bait of Satan and doing his bidding in other areas that can wreck churches as well, such as those points in the rest of our list.
So the second thing to do if you are trying to wreck your church is…
This is perhaps the single most destructive force in any group, whether it be a church, office, extended family, or group of friends. It is demonic, plain and simple. One of the seven things that scripture records God hates and is an abomination to Him is when people cause division among the brethren (see Proverbs 6:19). Titus 3:10 says that a divisive person is “warped and self-condemned.” And one of the ways that people cause division is through gossip, and then sin still further by justifying their gossip by calling it “sharing.” “Hey, I just want to get your perspective on this, so let me share something with you,” I have heard some say.
Scripture repeatedly places gossip and slander in the same category as murder, hatred, adultery, homosexuality, bestiality, greed and every manner of perversion. That’s because gossip and slander is a form of murder: it murders people’s reputations and good standing in their group or community.
And as evil as gossip is, scripture also says that those who listen to gossip are equally to blame.
Wrongdoers eagerly listen to gossip; liars pay close attention to slander. –Proverbs 17:4
If you want to do your part in wrecking your church, be a gossiper, and eagerly listen to gossip.
Forgiveness is essential element in an effective prayer life (Matthew 6:5-15). And an essential element in forgiving is the willingness to talk things out with people. Jesus said in Matthew 5:25 to “settle matters quickly with your adversary.” He said in that same passage to not even bother coming to worship if you are at odds with someone. “First go be reconciled to your brother,” He said, “then come and offer your gift” (v. 24).
In chapter 18 of Matthew, Jesus addressed this issue again by instructing us to go to someone who sins privately and pointing out their mistake (v. 15). Rather than obeying this command, however, many people will stew over something for days, weeks, months, and even years, allowing vain imaginations and roots of bitterness to grow and destroy relationships. Hebrews 12:15 warns us to be on the lookout for roots of bitterness, because they can grow and end up defiling many people.
Oh, the spiritual trappings we use to dress up our sin so that we seem spiritual to ourselves and others, never having to face the ugliness of our inner corruptions.
So often people can easily focus only on the negative and fail to celebrate all that is right. Thus, they can nitpick a thing to death, never realizing that it is the smallness of their own hearts that is the real problem. It is usually the most chronic complainers who are the most unhappy in their lives, I have found. But the happiest and most fulfilled people are the ones who handle problems and conflicts with the most grace, and who actually roll up their sleeves and help resolve issues rather than complain about them.
The letter of Jude is a sobering look at those “whose condemnation was written about long ago [and who] have secretly slipped in among you” (v. 4). It goes on to say in v. 16 that they are “grumblers and faultfinders; they follow their own evil desires…”
Here is a simple instruction in how to conduct yourself in every situation:
“Do everything without complaining or arguing.” -Philippians 2:14
If you want to play a role in taking a wrecking ball to your church, then make everything about you, your viewpoint, your desires, your ambitions, and your comforts.
While everyone has a church body where they will fit in the best and be the most at home, the fact is that there is no perfect church where everything will be exactly to your preferences. And I believe that is by divine design. Not having everything to our exact liking allows us to grow in patience and endurance, and this is part of the refining process that chisels us into Christlikeness.
Most often the things people are tempted to feel disgruntled about are really so small in the grand scheme of things. People most often don’t get worked up over important matters like missions, ministry to the poor, doctrinal correctness, etc. It’s usually things much less important that people make issues about, and it all boils down to their personal preferences and ambitions. Things like how certain programs or ministries are ran or the color of the carpet when it’s time to replace the old is often what causes internal problems and church splits. A lot of it boils down to people not having the kind of influence or power that they want. Isn’t that amazing? Are we still in spiritual kindergarten? What’s wrong with us? These are side issues that have nothing at all to do with the mission to which we’ve been entrusted. We tend to major on the minors and minor on the majors, and that’s one of the reasons the American church has all but completely lost our influence in our culture.
If we can adopt the attitude that the Kingdom is not about “me,” but it is about the big picture of advancing the gospel and growing into Christlikeness in the process, then these little things that tend to vex less mature people will affect us about as much as a fly affects an elephant.
There seems to be a common problem among new Christians and more seasoned saints alike, and that’s the issue of not being teachable. But honestly, I see this more among seasoned saints than I do with new Christians. New Christians are typically eager to learn and are very accepting of advice and constructive input. Some of the more seasoned Christians, however, begin developing attitudes of spiritual superiority that hinder them from being able to accept advice, and that is especially true if there is a reprimand involved. Eventually, these kinds of people will usually not be able to receive from even their pastors.
I realize that some pastors are young and inexperienced in their ministries, and some lay people may have been around for a long time and accumulated a lot of knowledge, wisdom, and experience along the way. But as soon as someone takes on the attitude that they cannot be taught or instructed by another Christian, they are on very dangerous ground. And if they resist being reprimanded or corrected, that is thin ice indeed. It is these kinds of people who usually make the most noise in churches and thus undermine the work of the pastor. This can cause relational fallout and ultimately the death of a church if the issues are not resolved.
Let’s look again to scripture on this all-important point:
Let the godly strike me! It will be a kindness! If they correct me, it is a soothing medicine. Don’t let me refuse it. –Psalm 141:5
Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid. –Proverbs 12:1
He who ignores discipline comes to poverty and shame, but whoever heeds correction is honored. –Proverbs 13:18
He who listens to a life-giving rebuke will be at home among the wise. He who ignores discipline despises himself, but whoever heeds correction gains understanding. –Proverbs 15:31-32
The Living Dead
I’m not talking about zombies here. I’m talking about dying to the flesh even while you are alive in the body. It all boils down to the death of SELF. Self does not die easily, and that’s why the scripture say to CRUCIFY IT! It didn’t say to starve the old nature; it didn’t say to let it die a slow, easy death. It said to KILL IT! Drag it up on the cross and drive the nails through its hands and feet! Thrust the spear through its side and make sure it’s D.E.A.D, dead!
All six of the items on our list are all issues of SELF. People who are easily offended, for example, are full of themselves and have not yet died to self. Self is very much alive and well in those who cannot take constructive advice. Self is on the throne of those who have critical, judgmental attitudes about everyone and everything. And so on and so forth.
It seems that Self has killed more churches than cats have killed mice. And when I refer to a church being “killed,” I’m not just referring to closing its doors. I’m also referring to it drying up and dying spiritually and in its effectiveness in advancing the Kingdom. A church can be operating and full of people and yet be dead simply because it is full of people who are still in love with Self. Self is why people war against one another, because Self must have things “my” way. Self is why people react and over-react. Self is why people get angry over trivial little matters that have nothing to do with anything important.
However, a person who is truly dead in the Biblical sense does not react, because dead people don’t react. Dead people don’t get angry over nothing. They don’t lust, covet, envy, stew, or hold grudges. They’re dead! If you went up to a dead person in a casket and began poking and prodding that person while spewing forth every vile insult you could think of, what response would you get? None! Why? That person is dead! He doesn’t care what you do, because he’s dead to it. So when you find yourself acting or reacting in these various ways, it just means there is more of you that must die.
Maybe you have found a church where you feel like you could spend the rest of your life. Great! But watch out. As I said before, there is no perfect church, and if you are not careful you may fall victim to the mentality that it’s all about you and start focusing on what’s wrong with the church instead of celebrating all that is right, and then find yourself becoming part of the problem rather than the solution. When you are easily offended and start nit-picking everything and thus become divisive, you are now in the hands of Satan and have been taken captive to do his will against the church (2 Timothy 2:26).
Any church that is alive and vibrant is one that is full of dead people.