Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Healing for the Repentant Church

The Minor Prophets Speak to Today 


When Will God Heal The People of God?

Hosea 14:1-4 NLT
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The Lord says,
“Then I will heal you of your faithlessness;
    my love will know no bounds,
    for my anger will be gone forever.
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The Even Greater Silence

THE STORY OF TWO CHURCHES:


The young man took the role of co-pastor of a church in Texas. The role fit his skills, personality, and spiritual gifts. He enjoyed a wonderful year. Soon after a third pastor was hired as the youth pastor. A great and godly young man. However, the other co-pastor (senior co-pastor) spent a year in turmoil. Physical turmoil. Social turmoil. And growing tension toward him in the church.

Near the time when churches and pastors explore their relationship to one another, the senior co-pastor resigned. Shortly thereafter the youth pastor resigned (to go to seminary). The church elders, by necessity, began to review the structure of the pastoral staff. Then, suddenly the senior co-pastor withdrew his resignation adding more turmoil to the transition. The board accepted his action.

During this whole process, the board never got around to reviewing the co-pastor's service and ministry. In fact they never talked to him at all, individually or as a group. Finally, they sent a representative to tell the young man that he could stay on but he would have to assume the duties of the youth pastor well as the ministries he currently performed. Other smaller changes were mandated.

Unfortunately for the young pastor these were ministry changes for which he was not equipped and in which he felt no gifting or calling. When he relayed that message to the representative, again without talking to him, the board sent word that he was being let go. This last minute change without counsel left him bereft of income, a plan, a focus, or any other building block toward the future. He did not even know how to ask to be considered by other churches in the conference.

Turmoil followed.

But a month after a quick move to a dying church, at the yearly meeting of the denomination, one of the board members came to him and apologized. She admitted they had not treated him right and asked for forgiveness. Mind you she was not sent by the board, but her words brought healing and reconciliation and the church again prospered spiritually for several decades.

Several years later, this pastor, now well experienced, well trained, and with proven spiritual gifts accepted a call to yet another church. Here his ministry at first prospered and people remarked at the blessing of the Holy Spirit clearly present in the worship services. Unfortunately, his ministry of messages from God, and his leadership, were constantly eroded or criticized by the lead elder, a very insecure, controlling individual.

The former pastor also continued to meddle in the church through this elder and the two defacto ruled the congregation and began accumulating an unjustified list of accusations. Finally, God decided to test the church's dedication to his message versus keeping peace with the erroring elder.

The pastor suffered a physical crisis that lead to a medically induced major depression. Simultaneously the elder's daughter and a woman with severe errors in her beliefs wrested the worship service out of the Holy Spirit's control and ran the music program by formula, without advanced weekly sitting before God to determine the total oneness of the worship from the Spirit.

This meshing of music and spoken word into wholeness under direct guidance from God was the touchstone of the true worship the church was experiencing. They reasoned that God could direct them in a fifteen minute pray and preparation time and sanctify the music and scripture they plugged into their formula. Of course he can, but that does not mean he will just because some people want him to. Soon emotion and fallen natural worship took the place of the Spirit in the services.

The pastor made several errors while struggling with depression. God was testing their compassion, their trust of his plan, and their willingness to aid. Each issue they failed. The lead elder orchestrated a number of actions that deepened the depression bringing the pastor to a dire state of dysfunction. Finally he orchestrated several meetings punitive and demeaning to the pastor followed by going family to family in the church to garner support for letting the pastor go.

At the meeting to announce the termination, the lead elder listed judgment after judgement against the pastor, questioned the truth of his calling and gifting by God, suggested that the pastor had lied about the successes in his past, and disparaged every point of strength God had brought into the man's life. At the end of this listing of judgmentalisms, he asked if the man had anything to say in response.

Despite his emotional state, the Spirit helped the pastor to say, "No. You've already made your decision and nothing I say would change it." Several of the elders nodded in agreement. The pastor did say he wished the accusations had been brought to him one by one as specified by Jesus in the Gospels.

To this, the erroring elder responded with a passage from Paul as justification for not following the words of Jesus.

The pastor simply replied, "The words of Paul do not trump the words of Jesus himself..."

Over the following weeks the pastor, in an even deeper depression though now getting treatment, received several demands regarding his disengagement from the church. A termination agreement to which he was not party and that countered his signed contract with the congregation. And a shunning mandated by the lead elder.

Before all was said and done, he was sent into bankruptcy, was too sick to be gainfully employed, and experienced many other trials. With him out of their community, the lead elder lead a meeting to forgive the pastor, though again this was done in secret behind closed doors and never communicated to the pastor.

Over the ensuing years almost all of the positive growth, spiritually and in numbers, dissipated.  The meddling former pastor received and accepted a call to return to the community and more back stepping occurred.

Not one communication was made with the former pastor. Not one attempt was made to reconcile him with this portion of the Body of Christ. Tradition re-entrenched its deadly claws in the heart, soul, and workings of the church and while God did not let them die, they no longer prospered.

Finally, years later, the lead elder's wife, in an attempt to get the pastor's grown daughter and boy friend to attend a church function, admitted that she could see why the daughter might not want to come. They had not treated her father right.

That was the closest the church ever came to repentance of their faithlessness; healing and reconciliation still being shunned by the lead elder who remained firmly in control.

WHEN WILL GOD HEAL A CHURCH?


In the verse at the beginning of this post, God starts by saying, "Then..."

The stories of the two churches illustrate when. When then is.

Here is the rest of the passage - lead up to the "then".

Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God,
    for your sins have brought you down.
 Bring your confessions, and return to the Lord.
    Say to him,
“Forgive all our sins and graciously receive us,
    so that we may offer you our praises.[b]
 Assyria cannot save us,
    nor can our warhorses.
Never again will we say to the idols we have made,
    ‘You are our gods.’
No, in you alone
    do the orphans find mercy.”
 The Lord says,
“Then I will heal you of your faithlessness;
    my love will know no bounds,
    for my anger will be gone forever.
UNLESS WE CAN ADMIT OUR FAITHLESSNESS, WE CANNOT REPENT. BUT IF WE REPENT AS A CHURCH, GOD WILL HEAL US OF OUR FAITHLESSNESS.

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When does God heal his people? 

When does God heal a church?

When they truly repent of faithlessness.

This passage provides a template of just such true repentance.

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Is Your Church Able to Honestly Repent in the Presence of God's Judgement?

If so, in the comments, tell me about it.

If not, what stands in the way?



Photo Credits:
The Even Greater Silence by Dean Ayres, some rights reserved @flickr.com

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