The time of transition is painful for many people. A favorite preacher has left. The elders have made unwise choices — or no choices. People are gossiping and saying unkind, inflammatory things. The contribution and attendance are often down. In more serious cases, many have left for other congregations, started a new congregation, or quit public worship altogether.
People want others to change so they can be happy again. Somebody should talk to the elders to tell them to do their work properly. Someone needs to visit the people who left and get them back. Somebody must stop the loose tongues!
Why doesn’t everyone do what’s right?
Is there anything I can do when everyone else is making mistakes?
- Could I, should I talk with the elders about my concerns? Will I do that with compassion realizing they aren’t feeling great in the midst of turmoil in a group they’re leading?
- As an elder, can I listen kindly and with an interest in gaining more wisdom? Is it possible that an ordinary member who “doesn’t know all the elders know” can still have something to say and to teach me? Is this Christian who’s speaking to me one that I should esteem better than myself (Philippians 2:3)?
- Do I have a responsibility to show concern for people who are weak, discouraged, or in sin? Am I a spiritual person (Galatians 6:1)?
- Have I encouraged gossiping people by listening to them, reading their emails and Facebook posts, and saying nothing to them about delivering mail to the right address (Matthew 18:15-17; Proverbs 26:20)?
The apostle Paul is a good example of one who had horrible conditions but kept his faith and joy and remained contented. When he wrote to the Philippians, he was in a dirty, stinking, Roman jail.
John McRay wrote in Christian History:
Roman imprisonment was preceded by being stripped naked and then flogged — a humiliating, painful, and bloody ordeal. The bleeding wounds went untreated as prisoners sat in painful leg or wrist chains. Mutilated, bloodstained clothing was not replaced, even in the cold of winter.
Most cells were dark, especially the inner cells of a prison, like the one Paul and Silas inhabited in Philippi. Unbearable cold, lack of water, cramped quarters, and sickening stench from few toilets made sleeping difficult and waking hours miserable. Because of the miserable conditions, many prisoners begged for a speedy death. Others simply committed suicide.
In settings like this, Paul wrote encouraging, even joyful, letters and continued to speak of Jesus (Elesha Coffman, Christian History Connection (6-1-02), from Christian History (issue 47); www.preachingtoday.com).
How Paul Responded to Bad Circumstances which Were Not His Fault
- He was in jail. He used it as an opportunity to evangelize and encourage (Philippians 1:12-14; Philippians 4:22).
- Some preachers with unchristian attitudes were trying to make his deplorable conditions harder (Philippians 1:15, 16). He chose to rejoice because they were preaching Christ, even though they were insincere (Philippians 1:16, 17). He selected rejoicing both for the present and the future.
- He chose contentment. He didn’t like it the way it was, but he learned to be content instead of being upset over a something he couldn’t change (Philippians 4:11, 12).
When a condition in a group — family, church, business, or softball team — is chronic, and a person is disturbed and critical, it’s because he likes it the way it is better than doing what it would take to change it.
- Many refuse or neglect to try to change it because it would be painful and difficult. They don’t want to work that hard and suffer that much.
- When some realize they can’t change the situation, they don’t want to get an advanced degree in contentment (Paul said he learned it). They don’t want to work that hard and suffer that much.
- So — they suffer in lethargy, discontent, and criticism. There’s no escape to suffering (Job 14:1). We get to decide where we’ll invest our suffering.
This post is my summary of Family Systems. If you haven’t read the previous six posts, starting with March 8, 2016, read these and this post will make more sense: What (Who) Is the Problem?, The Identified Patient, Homeostasis, Differentiation, Extended Family Field, Emotional Triangles.
These are some of the opportunities of an interim minister to coach all to be more like Jesus during difficult times.