SQJuly 17, 2012 1:08 PMI once read that it takes a new believer approximately 3 years before he or she pulls away from old friends and an old life and completely immerses in church--how wonderful and how very sad. When we die to our old life and ways, there are sometimes behaviors (and even people) who need to be pruned. But not always.
We worked at a church for a few years. It was a wonderful body of believers with a pretty controlling pastor. We regularly put in 14-hour days and had to be at every event--no matter what--and something was going on every day.
One event came up, and it was suggested that we all invite our neighbors. I thought to myself, "Neighbors? We don't have time even to speak to our neighbors because we're busy-busy-busy about 'God's work,' cleaning pews or attending meetings or mulching the flower beds or attending a spaghetti supper or whatever."
Now, those things aren't bad. They also offered opportunity for fellowship with one another. However, the Bible calls us to be salt and light. If we pull away from everyone who isn't in our immediate body, just to whom are we salt and light?
If someone counsels another believer to cut off a relationship, there had better be a situation where that relationship would compromise the believer's safety, integrity, or spiritual walk. It's should never be because tension might exist. And if someone counsels another believer to cut off all relationships outside the church--well, that sounds like the smoke of hell to me.
In the house of the righteous there is much treasure,
but trouble befalls the income of the wicked. Proverbs 15:6
Pressure to Serve
|"Broom and dustpan" drawn by 9-yr old Resident Artist|
SQ brought up one of the traps of a controlling or perhaps abusive church. In many controlling churches, there is a strong emphasis on serving in the church. Yes, of course, churches need help to keep the church going, programs manned, facility kept in good repair, clean and tidy, etc. But there needs to be balance. Is service expected? When there is a ministry or service need, how is it presented? Is there so much pressure that you feel guilty for not helping out? Have you had experiences like this? I'd love to read your story.
After BGBC, we attended a nearby church for 2 years which I call my place of refuge. I watched how the people served in the church. I saw their attitudes, interactions with each other and how they lived their life. Of course I cannot be completely sure, but in general, I saw that their acts of service did not hinder their relationships or that they were a burden to them. In fact, I saw that their acts of service only benefitted them and those around them. I wondered how this could be.
In this refuge church, I eventually felt safe enough to get involved in music ministry. When I began to venture into music ministry there, I was told very loudly and clearly that if for any reason I was not able to sing or play the piano, just say the word and I would be free - they would find someone to cover for me. They wanted to be sure that my heart was right before the Lord and that serving didn't become a burden. I so appreciated these words. It didn't feel controlling at all. They cared about my soul.
A glad heart makes a cheerful face,
but by sorrow of heart the spirit is crushed. Proverbs 15:13
The difference in the attitudes, the heart, the level of joy in serving was profound. If you belong to a controlling church, serving can become a strain, outside relationships can be hindered, it can become like a job - you do it because you have to or there is no one else. If you are serving in a thriving church, there probably won't be the guilt, the huge sense of obligation. There is a sense of responsibility that comes from the heart that wants to serve, but it's not burdensome. It's a pleasure to be around these people and their joy can be contagious.
I haven't read anything specifically on this topic and this is only my observation, but I have a hunch that the reason why the refuge church was so healthy is because their first priority was my soul, not my works or service. If my soul was fed, service would be a natural response. Makes sense to me.
All the days of the afflicted are evil,
but the cheerful of heart has a continual feast.