Have you ever been disappointed by people in church?  

If not, then my guess is you’ve never been to church! Of course, I’m saying that facetiously, but the reality is that many people have been hurt and disappointed by others within the Body of Christ.  

My first ministry position was as a youth pastor in the church where I grew up. We were thrilled when the Church affirmed my calling to ministry, gave me an internship, and even supported me in attending seminary. After a year, the youth pastor I served with took a senior position, and my home church hired me to replace him as full-time youth pastor. I thought I was in heaven!  

Accepting the job came with a specific conversation with my wife. She reminded me of her desire to move back to Syracuse to be near family and to send our kids to Faith Heritage School. I promised (despite what James 4:13-15 says!) that after I had served for 5 years, we would move to Syracuse. 

For the first 3 ½ years, I didn’t know how I was going to keep my promise to Jen without breaking my heart. I loved those kids and their parents! It was such a joy to teach the Bible, build relationships, and be able to have a ton of fun! Then, the politics and manipulation started. Looking back, I could see attitudes and patterns that were warning signs. But I ignored them and kept serving.  

My older friend, mentor, teacher and prayer partner had also become our landlord. Not only that, but he served on church boards with my parents. Unbeknownst to me, he had been pressuring my dad to agree with him on decisions with the threat that he would sell the house out from under us if my dad did not vote with him. Finally, in a public way, he lost his temper, resigned his position, and said he would no longer be attending the church. He then told my dad and mom they had three days to decide whether they wanted to buy the house we lived in before the ‘For Sale’ sign went in the lawn.  

When I handed him my two months’ notice, I started to make the statement, “Based on the friendship we have, I thought this would have been handled differently.” But once I got out the words, ‘Based on the friendship we have…’, he replied with, “You mean had.” Friendship cancelled. Ouch.  

When we moved to Syracuse in the summer of 2000, I never wanted to be in ministry again. I told God I just wanted a ‘normal’ job! 

But even in that time of hurt, grief and disappointment, we never considered giving up Church. In fact, our plan was to serve and “make sure” the church was kind to its pastors. We knew that we needed to be with other believers on Sunday and throughout the week in life group, learning and serving in community.  

Why? Because we do not go to church. We are the Church. We are the Body of Christ on earth and each one of us has a part to play in how God wants to minister to, serve, love, and save the world.  

The Apostle Paul addresses this reality in 1 Corinthians 12.  He states that we, though many individuals, are one body through the Spirit. He further states that each individual plays a part in the body, and just like each different member of our body doesn’t look the same or have the same function, neither do we have the same function or visibility within the Body.  And yet, each member is important to the functioning of the whole. No member can say to another, “I have no need of you.” He says, “On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor… that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.” (1 Corinthians 12: 22, 23, 25) 

This status of being part of the Body of Christ gives each member inherent value and worth, independent of the outward appearance of the person or their position in the body. 

Dear Saints, the Lord has made you a part of the Body, whatever your role. He has given you value and worth and a significant part to play in His redemptive work.  

This does not mean we should throw aside all wisdom and good judgement in relating to people. According to Titus 3:10 and the Apostle John’s warnings in his 2nd and 3rd letters, we need to be discerning and guard against deceptive and divisive people. But through forgiveness and healthy boundaries, we can continue to serve freely in the Body of Christ, knowing that we are called to fulfill our role “so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him.” (Ephesians 3:10-12) 

Wow. That’s a significant work to accomplish! Dear Saints, let’s fulfill our role as Christ’s Body on earth.DAN STUDTAUGUST 31, 2020

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