Critics, Devotionals, Faith, Life, Ministry, writings

An Imperfect Bride

I am a pastor. I realize that’s a major newsflash to many of you. Many of us think of a pastor as the guy or gal who teaches or talks on Sundays at a church building and does funerals. But as a pastor, my calling isn’t just to a particular congregation or local church, but to The Church, the collective of Christ’s followers, world over.

Can I tell you a secret? Promise you won’t tell: “Church People” aren’t perfect. In fact, they are incredibly flawed. No, I’m not revealing something private, no breaking of confidentiality here. It’s an open secret. No local church is perfect. The capital C Church isn’t perfect. Here’s why: The Church isn’t made up of buildings or pews or fancy windows or steeples. The Church is made up of people. People are broken and people are messy.

And because we’re imperfect, we hurt people. We hurt each other. There are countless stories that I’ve heard– and likely you have too– about “church people” saying or doing horrible things. Ranging from all kinds of abuse to simply being rude, the spectrum of pain inflicted by “church people” is broad and can be very deep.

I’ve been hurt by the church and I know that I have also hurt the church. Folks, well intentioned I’m sure, have hurt me and I have, I am certain, hurt people. Oh it’s rarely intentional: a careless remark here, a grumpy face there, a missed call that was forgotten, a special occasion missed. It happens. It’s not right or good, but the Church is an imperfect bride.

Bride, you say. Did I miss the invite to the nuptials? (And Yes, I’ve also caused pain by failing to RSVP.)

In Scripture, the Church is called to Bride of Christ. Jesus death on the cross was, in effect, paying the bridal price or dowry common at the time. And the price was high because Jesus purchased with his blood all who would someday call on his name and follow him. And like most spouses, he ended up with an imperfect bride.

I don’t endorse all Carlo Carretto said or wrote, but man, he hit the nail on the head when he wrote the following describing the imperfections of the Church:

How baffling you are, oh Church, and yet how I love you!

How you have made me suffer, and yet how much I owe you!

I should like to see you destroyed, and yet I need your presence.

You have given me so much scandal and yet you have made me understand sanctity.

I have seen nothing in the world more devoted to obscurity, more compromised, more false, and I have touched nothing more pure, more generous, more beautiful. How often I have wanted to shut the doors of my soul in your face, and how often I have prayed to die in the safety of your arms.

No, I cannot free myself from you, because I am you, although not completely.

And where should I go?

The God Who Comes by Carlo Carretto

But, Jesus isn’t content to leave us imperfect. Writing to husbands, the Apostle Paul says this in Ephesians 5:25-27 (ESV)

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

Friends, we’re not that Church just yet. Someday we will be. But until then, we’re broken people who tend to hurt others if we’re not careful.

And to my friends who have given up on Church but still believe in Jesus… Don’t allow the pain caused by broken people to prevent you from seeing God do something beautiful. Let me put it this way: you may love me, but if you despise my bride, we’re probably not going to be all that close, no matter how much you proclaim your devotion to me.

Yes, the Church, both local and universal is most definitely an imperfect bride. I am an imperfect pastor. And you, yes you reading, are also imperfect. Let us not excuse our imperfections, but may we ask the Lord to give us a greater love for imperfect people and healing for pain caused by them.

Just maybe, that’s the way He will remove the blemishes.

Critics, Faith, Life, Ministry

What About the Lies?

As the church where I serve, Mount Hermon UB, has grown, so has the amount of criticism that I and our church face. And while I’m all about constructive criticism, because I want to get better at what I do, there is one thing I don’t handle as well: lies about me or the organization I serve.

I’m not talking about differing opinions, or even differing interpretations of the facts. Those aren’t lies, those are opinions, and like bellybuttons, nearly everyone has one. And like bellybuttons, just because you have an opinion doesn’t mean you need to tell and show the whole world. Congrats. We get it.

But lies. What do you do about the lies? In our era of social media, they go viral, are shared dozens of times, or at least seen dozens of times by people before you even have time to see them for yourself, let alone react. Don’t we have a duty to correct, to rectify an injustice?

When the lie is about you, or even your organization, I’m going to say, under most circumstances, NO. Yes, that goes against every instinct we have. That goes against our pride, our righteous indignation. But it’s usually the right call.

See, getting into an argument with someone who is lying about you is like wrestling a pig. You both get dirty and only one of you is going to like it. Reminds me of the words of Jesus in Matthew 7:6, “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.” (ESV) I know that may not be the proper exegesis of this passage, it just reminds me of what happens when you engage a person spreading lies about you.


So what do we do? Here’s 5 STEPS to deal with lies and the lying liars who lie.


1.  Recognize This Isn’t Personal, But Spiritual.

“But Adam, of course it’s personal, they’re talking about me!” While technically correct, remember the words of Paul the Apostle to the church at Ephesus: “For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.” (NLT)
I know Billy Bob may be telling a lie about you, but the issue isn’t Billy Bob himself. It’s the forces of the enemy, Satan, trying to take you down or to discourage you. See, if the Devil can get you to give up, or to sin while trying to defend yourself, he wins. The problem isn’t the person who’s lying. It’s the underlying spiritual issues.
Is that person saved? Is that person going through some sort of traumatic life circumstance? After all, hurting people hurt people. I’m not saying that they have a pass to say whatever they want. No one ever has a pass to say whatever they want (including you). But the issues are deeper.

2. If There is a Specific Accusation or Attack, Refute It Once And Move On.


But if it’s specific enough, refute it ONCE. Don’t be constantly trying to defend yourself. Again, then you find yourself in an argument that you can not win. But if you refute it, then the people whom are closest to you can say, “Nope, Jane didn’t do that. She refuted that charge.” I believe that your character will show the truth, at least to those open minded enough to give you the benefit of the doubt.

We have to be very careful about continually insisting on our innocence, because it then becomes very easy for us to think we are fighting the battle. It becomes easy for us to insist on our own righteousness. It becomes about our justification.

And for the Christian, we recognize that a, we’re not always innocent, in fact we have sinned just as everyone else has. B, It is God who is to fight for us. Vengeance is His. He promises to deal with it. C, apart from Christ, we have no righteousness. Sorry but without Jesus you might as well be guilty of what they’re accusing you of. And lastly, your justification comes only from what Jesus did for you on the cross, not from the opinions of others or the reputation you or your organization enjoy.

3. If You Have a Personal Relationship with Them, Reach Out. 

Now this can be tricky. But if it’s someone you have had a decent report with in the past, someone whom you have been in relationship with before, try to reach out to them. Humility is key here. Don’t reach out with a “What the heck are you doing” attitude. But humbly, kindly, ask them what is going on. Do they have a misunderstanding of what occurred? Perhaps they aren’t mentally well, and are lashing out? Ask them to correct the matter to the best of their ability.

They likely won’t listen. But you have fulfilled your obligation as stated in Romans 12:18, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceable with all.”


4. Keep Going. 

If the enemy can get you distracted, he’s won. You’re likely getting attacked because you are doing something worthwhile. Keep reaching people for Jesus. Keep being kind to others. Keep making the difference in people’s lives.

In the Book of Nehemiah, there is a guy named (wait for it) Nehemiah who is rebuilding the walls around the desolated city of Jerusalem. And people don’t want him to continue. They try to discourage him by trying to scare him and his workers. That doesn’t work so they resort to telling lies. “Hey Nehemiah, come down from the wall so we can talk about all the stuff you’re doing.”

Nehemiah’s response is great: “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you.” (Nehemiah 6:3b ESV)
Did you catch that? “Sorry guys, I am too busy to play your game or get caught up in your little drama.”

Man, if more of us would keep going, imagine what we would get accomplished!


5. Bless Them.

 Yep, you read that right. Bless them. Jesus told us repeatedly to love our enemies. Bless those who curse you and lie about you. Why? Because that demonstrates the genuineness of our faith in Christ. It shows the world the power of God’s love.

Paul tells us to repay evil with good in Romans 12:14-21. In verse 20-21 Paul says, “To the contrary, if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by doing so you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

I hope I have given you some steps you can take when people say false things about you. It hurts. And it’s okay to hurt. But allow God to use this to shape your character to more reflect the image of Christ. He is for you. And you are never alone.

Be sure to share this post if it has helped you, and leave a comment.