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Cancer in the Church

Friday, December 5, 2008

I’ve been in ministry now for 18 years and had the privilege of serving in several great churches as support staff and the past 5 ½ years as a senior pastor in a small town in the Ozarks of Missouri. 

Most of us have experienced the devastating effects of cancer either personally or through someone very close to us.  It’s tragic and it is no respecter of age, race, or gender.  I personally have lost several family members to this disease including my grandmother, and my aunt.  In addition, my father is a survivor – he’s been cancer free now for 6 or 7 years.

Without a doubt – one of the most destructive diseases I have ever encountered in the church is misuse of the tongue by fellow believers.  In other words – complaining – negativity – griping – gossip – slander.   Negativism breads more negativism.  One complainer has the potential to spoil the work of the ENTIRE ministry.  Negativism, complaining, griping, gossiping, all breeds discontent and destroys unity within the church much like cancer destroys the human body.

Paul has strong words concerning the importance of unity in Ephesians chapter 4 

1 Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. 2 Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. 3 Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. 4 For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. 5 There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 and one God and Father, who is over all and in all and living through all.

According to Paul, we are all different.  We simply aren’t going to agree on everything.  As soon as you pull two people together you have differences.  Therefore, the key to unity – (vital to a healthy church) is to focus on what unities us – not on our differences.  We are united because of Jesus.  We are one body because of Jesus.  But when the focus turns to differences it takes focus off of Jesus – thus disunity. 

As a pastor, let me just say that I – like all pastors - am not perfect.  I have and will make mistakes.  I don’t have a burning bush in my backyard through which God tells me what to preach or how to lead His church.  I do believe that I am called to do this work and that His Holy Spirit is in me and will guide me as I continually give myself over to Him.  And, according to His word I will be held accountable for my actions.

So, conflict is going to happen – you won’t always agree with your pastor – so what should you do when that happens?  Here are my thoughts;

*First, pray.  Not just say a prayer - but really pray.  Pray like you have never prayed before.  I would even suggest you take the time to do a three to forty day fast.  We should do everything we can to understand the implications of disunity and the devils scheme to create it within the body of Christ.  We should take this stuff so seriously - just like cancer it is a life and death situation!

*Secondly, ask yourself if what you disagree with is over something that is a morally wrong or personal preference.  If you believe your pastor is doing something morally wrong or going against what the bible specifically teaches then you should and must go to him and confront him in love – always in love. 

If your disagreement is over a personal preference then you should still go to him in love and explain why you personally disagree.  Keep in mind, God has brought you together as His body – you can and should compliment each other.  Your pastor needs to hear from you.  He may not agree with you but that should be okay. He can still learn from you and you from him.  Keep in mind what unifies you – Christ.

If you still can’t get over the fact that you personally disagree with your pastor then take another 40 to 80 days to fast and pray.  Set up a time to meet with him and pray together each week for 3 months.  Do everything you can to work on focusing on Jesus – His love – and His purpose for the church.  Because without unity – your church will not grow – it will die or remain unhealthy – lacking real biblical growth.


Scott Cheatham said...

I will agree with you Joe. As a church planter here in Denver, I've seen it more than I care to.

Good thoughts!
Scott Cheatham

Tony C said...

Wise words...very much in the manner Christ would say them.

Unfortunately, this is a problem in most churches. Taking the time to pray would eliminate most of it though.

Have a good weekend and a great Sunday.

Greg B. said...

Very, very good post--speaking on the cancer issue Joe, I would like to share with you a hub I made for Haley. There is also a link to her website there. Could you please share it with other prayer warriors please?

Thank you my Pastor, my friend, and my brother.
Love ya!

Leaving Breadcrumbs said...

wow! isn't it amazing that no matter how different churches look on the outside, deep down the same "things" exsist...20% of the people do 80% of the work, we can't get people to volunteer, and then there's the problem of gossip and negativity! but thanks for the words, we still get caught up in the "what's wrong with our church?" it's comforting in a sick kind of way to know that we are not the only one fighting this battle. of course, prayer is the first and most powerful means of defense. recognizing the true enemy in Satan, and knowing that the war's already been won!! we are praying for you guys. love you both!