Thursday, January 23, 2014

Attitude Check

Several years ago a disgruntled church member stormed into my office, demanding “satisfaction”.  Something had happened in the course of this person’s activities on a committee that had caused this member to just go ballistic.  “I’m right, and I know it!” the individual yelled at me.  “I’ve been in this a long time” they continued, “and (the person they were at odds with) is just wrong!  She needs to listen to me!”

The sad news is that the dispute was not over any matter of Christian doctrine or practice. It had nothing to do with heresy or obvious sinful behavior. This wasn’t even about the never dying controversy over worship music style.  It was nothing of consequence that would have altered our mission or ministry at the church.  It was all about a difference of opinion and interpretation on some minor issue of church policy.  In the vast scheme of things, in light of eternity, in light of lost souls around us, it meant NOTHING,

It simply came down to a matter of personal opinion.

 A few years ago, my son, Jay, was in a discussion with a couple of his staff members and seminary classmates.  I’m not sure exactly what the topic of debate was, but the discussion was lively and animated.  Jay’s 10 year old son, Quint, was also in the room and was quite accustomed to being around such conversations.  As this lively discussion went on, Jay asked Quint, “What’s your opinion on that, son?”

Quint stated his opinion and Jay announced, “Wrong!”

Calmly Quint replied, “No.  You asked for my OPINION and that is what I gave you - my opinion.  It doesn’t matter if it’s right or wrong.  It’s my opinion.”

The boy was wise beyond his age.

Many of us adults need to remember that our opinion is just that - an opinion.  Sometimes they may be right on a particular subject.  Sometimes they may be wrong. But we should never lose sight of the fact that they are simply our opinions.  The other guy is entitled to his just as much as we are to ours.  Sadly, often our opinions are based on preconceived notions, personal preferences, cultural and socio-economic backgrounds, limited understanding of the facts, and (for us Christians) limited knowledge and understanding of the scriptures.

The person who stood red faced and boiling in my office was intent on my backing them up, and offered a “my way or the highway” ultimatum if I didn’t.

Thankfully, the Holy Spirit brought a scripture to my mind immediately.  I took my Bible off the desk and asked that person to read this scripture out loud.  Here is what it said:

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.  Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”  Philippians 2:3-8

“Do you think you are showing the mind of Christ on this issue?” I asked the aggravated individual.  “Are you allowing Jesus' example to guide you in this?”

The individual stormed out of my office, left the church, and never came back again.

Now let me be very careful when I say this, and I hope you will understand what I am saying in the spirit in which I say it.

Good Riddance!

When we display an attitude such as this, we neither bring honor to Christ, nor His Church, and we certainly do not show God's Grace in our behavior.
Now please understand that I do not want to lose members.  Over the years in pastoral ministry I have spent an inordinate amount of time mediating disputes, soothing disgruntled sheep, and trying to encourage folks to focus on keeping the main thing – the main thing.  My point is this, however.  Our mission is to reach the nations with the Gospel of Christ. That is the task Christ left us. Pure and simple.

As the family of faith grows in number, there will always be differences of opinions and irritations over personal preference.  We cannot let those small, stupid, insignificant things obscure our mission to reach the lost, and to drive wedges in our fellowship as members of the Body of Christ.

Those who do, may simply be spiritually immature, in which case we need to patiently disciple them as much as possible and as quickly as possible.  However, some – who like the angry member in my office – “who have been in this a long time” yet have no evidence of Christlike behavior, and bear little or no fruit of the Spirit, and really do not care WHAT the Bible says, make me wonder if they have ever even truly come to faith in Christ at all.

When the focus of our attention as church members becomes a constant conflict over such small, non doctrinal, non missional things, then we’re practicing a petty version of “churchianity” rather than Christianity. Then the church becomes more of an “organization” than the living “organism” that Christ died to create.

Wouldn’t it be something if the church got as concerned over lost people, headed for a Devil’s Hell as some folks do over the color of the carpet, musical styles, outdated ineffective programs, creature comforts, the temperature of the sanctuary, or the toilet that didn’t get cleaned to our satisfaction?  What if we spent more time in prayer than we did in complaining?  What if we committed ourselves to sharing the Gospel with others rather than fussing about the things we don’t like?  What if we acted more like Christ than a pouting child?

Why, revival might just break out!

I’m ready for an attitude check in my life.  How about you?