Per Fidem Intrepidus means "Fearless Through Faith". My courage isn't my own, it comes from the Holy Spirit, it's my faith in God and my personal savior Christ Jesus that calms my fears and allows me to move forward in this fallen world. Personally I'm afraid of a lot of stuff, but having the faith that Jesus adopted me as his little, sin filled, brother keeps me going.

Friday, March 29, 2019

How Does One React?

How does one react when you disagree with the a portion of a sermon? I'm not talking about a terrifying utterance of blasphemy, nor am I suggesting a honorific shriek of heresy so vile that Satan would rub his hands together in glee. Think of a disagreement with congregational policy that could never be construed as either biblical or unbiblical and hardly even political. It's just policy.

One might consider sitting down with the pastor for a little one-on-one time after hearing the entire sermon. Yes, the offending portion was spoken in a very Spurgeonesque manner (if I may coin a phrase) but could you tone down the passion a bit? My brother in law helped write that policy and my wife is quite upset, can you believe it? She actually thought it was a personal attack on her brother and... you'll talk to her about it? Thank you Pastor Ralph.

That's one way to handle it, another way would be to jump up interrupting the sermon, wave your bible in the air, attempt to make an impassioned but incorrect biblical connection between the policy and one of the Apostles, then storm out of the service, start arguing with the security people in the foyer so loudly that it disturbed people in the sanctuary, burst back into the sanctuary to express your displeasure, shout at the pastor's wife while you block her exit from an office, then at home start shooting off a barrage of emails to the church board members showing an unhealthy level of denial and anger, then resign from the church board, then rescind your resignation from the church board, and then it gets worse.

Unfortunately my friend "John" took option B when the pastor dared utter a policy matter than John disagreed with. Worse, as far as I'm concerned, this was my first month as church board Chairman. Handling the resignation from the board was easy - the constitution and by laws say what to do with a resignation, but not a resignation from the board. I, as chairman, am tasked to be the parliamentarian by the constitution and by laws, so I turned to that most dreaded of bibles: Roberts Rules of Order and looked there to find how to handle the resignation. Task done. Same with the resignation recision - Robert's rules says it's not in order. Task done.

But everything else - the board co-chair and I were buried under a mountain of emails and text messages from John, it's incredible how such a mountain of vitriol can be spawned by one fit of anger. And it's incredible how anger can blind a person to the consequences of their reactions. One email that John sent to all members of the board highlighted a link to a video of a madman attacking and stabbing a priest on the altar during the service. I immediately responded with a stern request to cease and desist, and in a conversation with John he claimed that he had no idea that a video of a priest being attacked in an email sent to a group of people he was dispute with could possibly be taken as a threat. He said it was a need to increase security in the church, which could also be taken as a threat with his state of mind.

So many meetings with the elders, and the board members, and church members, and my wife who is a friend of John's wife, and even with John. My co-chair and I had long meetings with John, several times we thought we had John "talked off of the ledge" and focused on a course of repentance and forgiveness only to have John fly off on a tangent of accusations and denials. Our co-chair has a very sick wife and a business to run, I myself am disabled, my wife is disabled, and I have a job that is very important to my company and our customers. Neither the co-chair and I could afford the time this took, nor could we afford the stress. But for the good of our loved ones, we couldn't let this drip. In my case the stress caused more than one medication I take to stop functioning.

In the end John resigned his membership, his resignation email to no one in particular was filled with half truths, denials of his own action, and acceptance of forgiveness that was never extended to him. We are sad for John and his wife because there were emotional issues that rose to the surface that need attention whether he stayed with us or not. Healthy people do not act the way John did, nor do spiritually healthy people. On the other hand, we are also relieved to see him go. John was an intimidating presence and people were concerned for their safety when John started waxing enthusiastic when tensions in the world rose. He foresaw crowds of angry muslims descending on small Christian congregations after the New Zealand shootings and how we should prepare for the onslaught.

 In the end I call on church leadership to go over their constitution and by-laws, make sure that every jot has been tittled (you know what I mean) and that the process of church discipline, repentance and forgiveness as taught to us by Jesus Christ in Matthew 18:15-18 is written out properly so if there is a John in your congregation you can handle him in a loving, biblical way.

Also - make it clear in your congregation that email and text messages are not a substitute for verbal, person to person communication. It is no act of contrition to hide behind a keyboard and type "Please forgive me", as I told John, It take a Christian Man to look you in the eye and say "I sinned against you in my actions, please forgive me."

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