Wednesday, October 14, 2015

When others talk about your church

Several years ago a denominational leader asked if he could submit my name to a church that was searching for a pastor. I felt no leading to leave my church, and I knew the reputation of the church he wanted me to consider. It had a reputation for being tough on pastors, and I didn't want any part of that church.

A few months ago I met with the remaining members of a small church that wondered whether or not to keep their doors open. When I asked them about the reputation of the church in the community one individual admitted it was very poor. The church was known for being difficult, and the previous two pastors had alienated many of the people who used to attend the church, and the community had heard nothing but bad reports about the church for years.

Sometimes a church gets a bad name not for anything they've done but because other churches are jealous of them. I know of one small community with an abundance of small churches and one church that had grown dramatically in recent years. Some of the smaller churches are very critical of the larger church, but much of that criticism is unwarranted. The pastor of the larger church is a very committed Christian who preaches a sound, conservative theology. The larger church and its staff have done nothing unethical, unbiblical, or immoral in growing the church. It is jealousy that drives the criticism it receives.

What does a church do if it has a bad reputation in the community or is being unjustly criticized? The first thing to do is to evaluate if the criticism is justified. You may think your church is the "friendliest church in town," but if others believe it is unfriendly they may be right. You may need to take steps to improve the way you treat your church guests or even in the way you treat your members.

Of course, you want to take whatever steps you can take to improve your church's reputation. One church with a history of poor treatment of their pastors recently invited them back to the church to publicly repent and ask their forgiveness. The church took out large ads in the local paper admitting to its previous poor treatment of its pastors and asked the community to forgive them. Many of the pastors did return. The paper ran a front-page story on the healing service and interviewed some of the pastors about their response to the service. It was a very touching story that found its way into a national Christian publication.

If the criticism is truly unjustified about the only thing the church can do is ignore it. In Titus 2: 7-8 we read, "And you yourself must be an example to them by doing good works of every kind. Let everything you do reflect the integrity and seriousness of your teaching. Teach the truth so that your teaching can't be criticized. Then those who oppose us will be ashamed and have nothing bad to say about us." Continue to do the work God has given you and let Him deal with your critics. It may take time, but eventually you will overcome the negative comments and false accusations.

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