(From the series ‘For the Edification of the Saints’)
“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2nd Timothy 3:16-17, NKJV).
I was deprived of fatherly guidance in my life and therefore, I looked to the church for leadership. You might ask, “Why?” Well, Psalm 27:10 says, “When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up.” Even as an immature believer, I understood that verse to mean that God, through the people in the church, would show me acts of kindness and teach me His will for my life. James 1:27 teaches that “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” However, I have not always received the care God requires me to receive, from those whom He has appointed as leaders in the church. I have also watched others not being cared for as Shepherds are called to care for the sheep, and it grieves my spirit. In trying to help, I wasn’t able to articulate my thoughts without expressing my indignation. My ‘good intentions’ were causing hurt to those I was trying to help. I was conscious that I was becoming a slave to my anger. I needed to address this anger from its root and find a way to deal with the situation in a manner that was pleasing to God.
I was at a very ugly place, experiencing rejection after rejection in various ways. I began to blame my father for not being in my life and causing me to depend on people who could only care for me on a part-time basis. Those people had their own personal families to care for and their own issues to deal with. They often had no time to spend helping me on a personal level. I understood that! Why should they take time out for one individual when they had a whole congregation to focus on? Why should they be burdened with responsibilities that were meant for my father to bear? He shunned his parental responsibility, why should someone else have to suffer the consequence? With those thoughts being processed in my mind I often felt that I didn’t have a right to the mercy of those leaders. Confusion reigned and I felt alone on my journey. But God’s instructions are clear and so I wasn’t expecting anything different from what God had instructed my leaders to do.
At times the feeling of neglect would become overwhelming and I would share with my fellowship; seeking guidance for the way forward. It was during those times of sharing that would leave me feeling dejected, due to individual’s publicly or privately negative responses. More often than not, I felt like an outcast! Yet the Word of God clearly states that when my parents neglect me the Lord will take me up. God is Spirit. He operates through individuals. We are His hands and feet here on earth. The church is the body of Christ. God will therefore, take me up through the church.
The lack of care from my leaders influenced but did not excuse my uncontrolled anger. Yet, I wanted to know that they loved me enough to lovingly correct me when I was wrong which would form part of the care given and be part of the teaching I received. Instead, I was either left to sink deeper into sin, or I would be openly rebuked as those rebuking acted like bullies. This manipulative approach sent out the wrong message that my leaders didn’t care about my spiritual development. At that point on my journey my anger grew even stronger, as I became angry with myself for having allowed my feelings to dictate my response and damaged relationships.
The church had a responsibility to help me. I needed to get to that place of freedom from depending on another human being to hold my hand and help me through the crises that appeared so frequently in my life. I needed help in making that move towards freedom. I needed instructions on how to be released from the chains that held me bound. Although, I have gotten this far on my journey, I could have been at a better place, mentally and emotionally, if the leaders in the faith communities I had been part of had just taken some time, out of their busy schedule, to sit down with me for a little while and truly got to know the person behind the face. In so doing they would have recognised why God had brought me into their presence and under their leadership.
The church still has a responsibility to help me. However, the longer I wait for the help to come, the deeper the root of resentment will grow. It only takes one seed of evil to be planted and nurtured for it to begin to grow and contaminate the body. I didn’t want to be that bad seed in the batch or to encourage the growth of this seed of unrighteousness to develop so I began to seek God for further direction and allow Him to lead me to other leaders who were willing to spend time in sharing the gospel and explaining the things I didn’t yet understand. I spent more time reading His word and allowing the Holy Spirit to reveal the mysteries within. I started to pray for specific leaders and specific needs within my fellowship. I fasted and God began to show me areas that needed attention. I would make suggestions for improvement in those areas but they weren’t received in the spirit of love. I was labelled a ‘complainer’ and I went into reverse mode. The path chosen for me, as is for any believer, is a difficult path to follow. I am still learning how to share with those I fellowship with; finding that I am less willing to be as transparent as I used to be which I don’t think is a good thing, as a long-term solution. However, I have found out that God is continuing the training programme He started when I accepted Christ as my Lord and Saviour and I believe that He is able to complete that which He has started in me and that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him. Otherwise, He wouldn’t be God and my worship would be in vain.
When I hurt, I cry. I then invite God to feed me with His Word to comfort me and put the broken pieces back together again. I sometimes feel a little depressed, depending on who inflicted the pain and where it stems from. Continuing to read God’s Word, I am finding more and more release for my pain. However, I am still facing arrogant and ignorant leaders on a daily basis and my heart goes out for those leaders. Some have been put into positions with no formal training of people management or even knowledge of how God instructs leaders to behave. Praying for those leaders have found me wanting to see the good in all leaders. I once stood in that awkward place and I believe others were praying for me too. God has given me the grace to forgive the leaders who have hurt me directly or indirectly. I have released the resentment I held towards those leaders for their lack of effective leadership in my life. I am now allowing God to turn those experiences of ineffective leadership (from my father through to my church leaders) into something beautiful by using my experience to remind our leaders why God placed them in positions of leadership, and how they are to utilise the gifts that God has given them.
Part 2 ~ Understanding the Role of Leaders in the Church
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