What Story Do You Tell About Church?

design-21Anyone who has ever been a part of a church has a story to tell and the story we tell tells a lot about us.

Some tell stories of grace and support and growth.

Some tell stories of boredom and disconnect and departure.

Others tell stories of insult and offense and hurt.

The stories we tell are a narrative of our experiences. When we publicly share the events of our church history, we give a glimpse into our spirits. If our stories are sweet, it’s a clear indication that we had a good history in church and we are presently in a good spiritual place because of it. When our stories are bitter, our past has not been good, and our current spiritual condition is suffering as a result.

But anyone who has been part of a church has had both bad and good experiences in church. Upon which do we focus?

If your story features a crooked preacher, a lying leader, a gossiping deacon, or a corrupt Elder, you focus on the bad. In fact, through our stories, some of us reveal that we are deeply hurt, bitter and wounded. This is tragic. If your story features supportive leaders, honorable pastors, godly deacons and compassionate members, you focus on the good.

But interestingly, some who have been exposed to the same experiences tell different stories. Some who tell good stories have been brutally hurt in the church.

What’s the difference? While it is not good to compare ourselves to others, some choose to heal while others choose to remain hurt. And you can hear it in our stories.

You don’t necessarily choose your stories (some things happen to you) but you definitely choose the stories you tell.

If your stories reveal that you have been hurt – and we have all been hurt – find healing and the ability to forgive and move forward. Then your story will reveal a spirit that is whole.

What story do you tell about your church? It’s really more a story about your heart.

Our Church Has a Bad Reputation

design9“Our Church Has a Bad Reputation.” We’ve all heard the stories. A lying preacher. A stealing deacon. An immoral elder.

In the last few months, no fewer than a dozen pastors and church members have used the above phrase to describe their church to me. Like people, the church has a name among the citizens of the surrounding area. Our conduct has an impact on how people perceive us. Church leaders and members should remember that we represent the church. Unfortunately, many churches are paying the price of the misbehavior of the people involved.

So what do we do when our church has a bad reputation in the community? I have a few ideas:

  1. Don’t give up! Reputations can be repaired. In John 4, Jesus spoke with a woman who had a jaded reputation. She was living in sin and everyone knew it. But Christ forgave her, restored her character and actually used her brokenness to heal many others. Read the story in John 4:1-42.
  2. Do the right thing. Pay bills on time. Don’t gossip. Tip well at restaurants. Manicure the church lawn. All of these things help others to determine their attitude about your church.
  3. Sometimes you have to start over. New churches are planted every day because so many old churches won’t or can’t recover from a bad rep in the community. But let me encourage you – while God begins new things, He also specializes in reclamation projects! God’s Spirit made a valley of dry bones into a powerful army! (Ezekiel 37). Church revitalization is as important as church planting.
  4. Recognize excuses. While there is little doubt that some churches have been guilty of causing irreparable damage, this “excuse” can be manipulated. If you are a church leader or a member of a church, please don’t allow a checkered past to serve as your reason for not accomplishing something great for God. Job speaks of the potential of a tree stump. Even though it has been cut down, “at the scent of water it will bud and sprout again like a new seedling.” There is a time to get over a bad past and create a good future.
  5. Recognize blaming. Not every critic of the church is authentic or right. Some simply want to find fault with the church. When this happens, there is no need to try to defend the church – Jesus can handle that. But let’s not assume guilt for something that we haven’t done.
  6. Pray for, work toward and lead a renewal process. Assume responsibility for turning around the reputation of the church. Take ownership of the ministry (under Christ, of course). Throughout history, God has utilized men and women to influence the culture on behalf of the church. He can do that through you!

As a closing note, if you are a victim of a transgressing church; if you have been hurt or mistreated or injured by a church, a ministry leader, church members or a denomination, I sincerely apologize to you and pray for your healing and restoration. Hopefully you can find renovation for your brokenness. Please don’t allow bitterness to control your life. Jesus has healing for you.

Let’s pray for our churches and do all we can to represent Christ and His Church well!

Our Healing is Not Complete Until we Help Heal Another

images-98In my darkest hour, I received more help from a friend who had previously walked the same road that I was currently on. We were now fraternity brothers. And it somehow made me feel better to know that he got it.  He only said a few things, but they stuck – and made a difference. I have used the words he shared to help others.

If you’ve been through some stuff and made it, share it. The wisdom you gained by surviving can benefit the guy who is coming along behind you. It hurts to hurt alone. Reach out to someone who could use a pick-me-up and tell them how you got through it.

Not only will you help them, you will help you. Our healing is not complete until we help heal another.

If you got through it, you just gotta share it. Don’t hesitate to give what you know.

Jesus does that for us. He is close to you if you are hurting, He’s been there. He knows how you feel and can get you through.

you’d better guard your heart

I love the wisdom of The Proverbs. Tonight in our Community Group, we are reading and discussing Proverbs chapter 4. My favorite verse in this chapter is 23: “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” (NLT) It speaks of the priority of heart-health, and I don’t mean taking care of your ticker.

The reason we need to guard our heart is, it gets hurt. It gets bruised. It gets crushed. Normal wear and tear on your spirit can wear you down and your heart can really ache.

How do we get our hearts hurt?

People disappoint us. We get lied to. Someone proves themselves disloyal. We fail. Sometimes, you just get tired. Life is full of disappointments and let-downs. You get passed over for the promotion. A relationship ends. Someone you love dies. These are the painful realities of life. No one can completely avoid it – hearts are fragile and they break.

So it is vitally important for you to protect your heart. Don’t just offer it up for anyone to take pot shots at. Guard it.

Guard it by watching the right stuff and reading healthy things and listening to stuff that will build you up. And maybe most important: be sure that you have someone who is looking out for your heart. Someone who loves you and will do anything to protect you. Guard your heart.

Don’t try to be a hero and survive if your spirit is crushed – you are strong but you’re not that strong.   If your heart is broken and you allow it to go untreated, it will turn to stone. Self-preservation will take over and you will not allow others close enough to hurt you again.  Once our hearts turn hard, the pain only intensifies. You were not created to live with a crushed heart.

When (not if) your heart gets crushed, remember that God is close to those who have a broken heart (Psalms 34:18) and He wants to heal you (Isaiah 61:1, Luke 4:18). He wants to remove your heart of stone and replace it with a new tender heart (Ezekiel 11:19, 36:26).  He wants to love you back into wholeness.

Guard your heart…why? Proverbs tells us …”For it determines the course of life“.

Your future well-being is on the line. And God has some wonderful plans for you! Be sure that you are ready for it! Guard your heart!