WORDS FROM W.W. February 17, 2014
We shouldn’t expect it to be different from how it has been. The church has always had bullies. John wrote about one in his third letter. His name was “Diotrephes.” (3 John 1:9-10) He had a reputation for gossiping maliciously, being inhospitable, and keeping others from being hospitable. Diotrephes didn’t invent bullying. He just excelled at being one.
The Sadducees were bullies. They were also “sad, you see!” Sorry, reverted to my Southern Baptist childhood Sunday School class there for a moment!
In this age when there is a growing emphasis on “anti-bullying” in our schools, at our workplaces, on our sports teams, and in our neighborhoods, we must realize that churches have the worst kind of bullies. They are the worst because they clothe the bullying in spiritual language and act like Jesus has ordained their actions.
Churches are also the worst place for bullies because we believe strongly about grace and forgiveness. We’re suppose to love our brother…even the ones who will use that to intimidate us. As one person said many years ago: “Churches put up with people that no one else will.”
Adult bullies in church come in all legal ages. They are not gender-specific, or based on a certain level of income. They come in all shapes and sizes, some with frowns, but others with smiles that fool.
How do adult bullies in church do what they do? One vehicle that is used is making people think it’s all about the person instead of the mission of the church. Bullies think they are irreplaceable, that the church’s one foundation…is them! Part of their intimidation, strange as it sounds, is getting people to buy into that idea. When that happens other members of the church start saying things like, “We can’t afford to lose them. They give so much money!”
Money is a power play for much of our culture, but it should never hold that kind of sway in the church. Money is a way of showing gratitude, not getting people to follow what I want to do.
Adult bullies in churches use fear to keep themselves in power. Fear fosters spiritual immobility.
Other bullies in the church use their special talents to hold people hostage. “If she leaves who will teach the elementary age Sunday School class.”
“There’s nobody else to play the organ. Give him what he wants.”
Talents become a trump card, not a way of performing an act of service.
So what does the church do when adult bullies throw their weight around? Love them, but hold the door open for them also. The church is bigger than any one person. The mission is more important than any one threatening individual. The agenda of the Kingdom of God is more urgent than the preference of any “self-proclaimed king.”
There are times in any church’s life where it is essential for someone to step up and give words of conviction or exhortation. That’s not bullying, that’s motivating. there are times when a church needs someone to lead the charge. That’s not bullying, that’s spearheading a charge.
It is easy to forget that Paul compared the church to a “body”, where every person is a part, and every person is important. God’s plan is for a smoothly functioning Body of Christ. The reality is we often fall short. The reality is that there are periods where the Body is functioning smoothly, that there is a rhythm…and then long gaps of dysfunction.
May the Lord help us!