One Brave Pastor

I know of one brave pastor who made a bold move – in the name of love.

He loved his congregation – all of them. But, he realized they were all suffering, largely because of the actions of a few.

You know those few because they have visited (or taken up residence) in your congregation, too. They identify as Christians (and some of them are). They know what the Bible says. They’re always at church. Some are very involved.

But, there are Bible verses they ignore or think don’t apply to them or translate so loosely as to strip them of all practical meaning.

Bible verses like, Philippians 2:14 “Do all things without grumbling or disputing.”

Or 2 Corinthians 12:20 “For I fear that perhaps when I come I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish—that perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder.”

Or Romans 16:17 “I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them.”

Yes, Jesus died for us, paying the price for our sin. Yes, we are therefore forgiven, recipients of lavish, reckless grace. Yes, we are free in Christ.

But we are free from sin – not free to sin. Why cling to old rags when we’ve been provided robes of righteousness? Why engage in a lazy faith that receives the gift of salvation in Christ and yet denies that He then provides the power to change?

This pastor wasn’t eager to stir up trouble among his people. He wasn’t looking for a fight. He wasn’t judgmental or legalistic or conflict-hungry. He enjoys being liked as much as the next guy.

But, he read his Bible and believed what God says there.

In verses like Hebrews 12:15-16 “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal.”

Or Luke 17:3 “Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, “

Or James 5:19-20 “My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.”

This lone pastor became convinced that if he loved God and loved his congregation, then he needed to have conversations with people that may be uncomfortable or challenging.

He didn’t zoom in on sin or beat them over the head with rumors or verses, instead, he got to know them. He asked questions. He acknowledged their strengths. He spoke of God’s deep love for them. He spoke truth about areas they were disobedient or in which they needed to grow.

Some of those causing pain through their actions were simply immature in their faith. Through these conversations they grew, they changed their ways, they walked more secure in God’s love.

Some of those causing pain through their actions resisted correction, insisted they were fine the way they were, worked to stir up division about the pastor. The pastor and other mature believers persisted in their honest conversations filled with love, compassion, and truth. Most of those more in love with their ways than they were with God’s truth chose to leave.

The pastor wondered what would happen when those causing suffering humphed out the door. What would be the result of his act of faith?

The suffering of the people was alleviated. Love replaced fear. Honest conversations replaced gossip and backbiting. Repentance and forgiveness flowed freely. And the congregation began to grow – both in numbers and in their love for the Lord.

One brave pastor invited people for coffee and got to know them, learned to love them, and spoke truth into their lives. Some received the truth. Others clung to their hurtful ways, but they took them elsewhere (sadly, they likely found refuge in another congregation where others now suffer.)

Sometimes love is a hard conversation.

King David had many strengths and he loved the Lord, but he failed to speak with his sons about their sinful, hurtful ways. Because of this, his people suffered in ways that might have been avoided if David had been willing to speak words of correction, set boundaries, and stand firm on God’s truth.

Of course, the church has often gotten this wrong. We must walk in humility with our God. We must approach others armed with love, grace, facts, and gentle compassion. Galatians 6:1 says, “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.”

But, we only learn to do something by doing it.

One brave pastor believed God enough to act on the truth and now a light shines in his community and his congregation is a welcoming place where love abounds and honest conversations are daily fare.

May we all embrace the perfect love that casts out fear and speak truth that makes room for the light of the world.

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5 Comments

    The Conversation

  1. Linda Harris says:

    I think I know that pastor. May we all be that brave!

  2. Karen says:

    May we all be brave like this pastor and be filled with love and grace and kindness. I love the idea of conversations over coffee–even if the conversations are difficult. I pray I will never be one of those who is a complainer and disturber. May each of us learn the value of unconditional love and implacable forgiveness. Thanks Lori.

  3. Barbara Gold says:

    I think I know that Pastor too .

  4. Bruce Cunningham says:

    Good Word Girl!

  5. Lisa H says:

    I can so relate to this, as I walked away from a church 10 years ago…had been attending for 13 years, long story short, because of one individual who remains there to this day. I never became a member of the church, but grew to be heading in that direction, Was in the choir, wrote devotions…. that were published sporadically in the church’s newsletter. I think because this member was a lot older, and was an established member. His daughter (and her family) at the time was living in the church’s parsonage, even though she had no credentials of a ministry education. What she did do was make the church announcements during the start of each service. But back to her father, the instigator of my ultimate decision in leaving this church. He walked into the office of the secretary one morning and pounded his fist on her desk..announcing She doesn’t need to be writing devotions for this church. She is not a member here. I found out about this the same day. It was the icing on the cake. I left. I have visited there off and on, attending concerts, cantatas, etc…a few funerals of dear friends whom I had known and become close to. He is still there, but not in attendance as much due to his health. (He is 93 now). I have visited several other churches over the years, but have not found one yet that I feel comfortable with. No doubt, my experience with this church has permanently scarred me. Many Sundays I stay home and watch church online. One church that is in another State. Where do I go from here? Time will tell. Words hurt, and those spoken so long ago are embedded in my brain forever. Thank you for sharing this.